Spine observations

I stumbled across this image in a typical Swedish interiors book. Full of  'miss-matched' furniture, stripped back wooden floors, classic scandinavian design, string shelves, novelty slogan posters and tea-towels. The book was titled 'Details', focusing on small well curated corners of apartments, and various 'quirky' items - such as a two-page spread devoted to toilet paper holders - intended to spruce up your home. Styling tip! It's all in the details apparently. My eyes latched on to this photo by pure chance - initially drawn to the beautiful chair-as-bedside table and rough white-washed walls, but on closer inspection was amazed to recognise the artfully stacked pile of books on the windowsill, realising them to be a collection of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's crime novels, written in the 60's and 70's, featuring the protagonist Martin Beck. I have my own collection of these at home (up on my string shelf in fact), trophies from extensive and dedicated rummaging through second hand stores. These were the first books I read in Swedish. I have a near compulsion to buy any copy I stumble across, including having managed to collect 5 copies of Roseanna, (two in English, 3 in Swedish) the first book in the series. I will make the claim that Roseanna is up there among the greatest novels in not just Swedish crime, but within the crime genre in general.

Sometimes it's not just about having the details, but noticing them as well.

Sundries - sketch

Sketch of cover for proposed publication 'Sundries'.

Described as following:

Sundries by Florence Wild

Various items not important enough to be mentioned individually.
Extras in cricket.

Sundries as an idea came to me from some pieces of advice my father gave me, via facebook chat, after I asked him if it were better to take the path of job as job, or career as lifestyle? Work to pay the bills and devote your free time to your interests, or make your interests into your career? 

The initial reply

“Follow your dreams and be true to yourself.”

-        -  That’s not actually that helpful


But he expanded on this cliché, and I realised that I should listen to my father more often.

yeah it is a hard question. You dont want to feel that you are treading water or sinking in to hole that you cannot climb out of. Exploit all of the things you do to find a direction or added value, like writing about travel for instance - change the creative direction to find a new edge.”


“Even writing about Sweden and publishing in NZ, or the otherway around, just sharing ideas with others and giving with sincerity not just for commercial gain.”

The two main points which struck me were to 'exploit all things you do to find a direction or added value – change the creative direction to find a new edge; sharing ideas with others and giving with sincerity not just for commercial gain. 

One idea for a physical manifestation of all of my different thoughts has been to create ‘environments’ for want of a better word – spaces with furniture, artworks and patterns I have created residing harmoniously together. Sundries is a two-dimensional manifestation of the same concept – juxtaposing texts, photographs and sketches into cohesive thought patterns over a series of pages. 

All of my areas of interest collide at one point – myself – as the generator of these ideas. I strive to create connections and patterns between these separate things. Exploit all of the things you do to find direction. Sundries offers a gateway into my thought process and enables a reader to create their own links through the words and images included. 

A series of essays or short texts primarily on my life in Sweden and thoughts around art. Texts I have written to accompany shows, and pieces from The Tally Ho. Failed proposals.  

How does that sound??


Literal flow

Set of open plan book shelves seen on small spaces - a tumblr with a serious case of indoor-outdoor flow, showcasing architecture and design that will make you want to vacuum, put things away, and wipe down table surfaces with a great feeling of inadequacy. Working in a library, I have a great affinity with shelving. Or at least, I feel that I ought to.
These shelves at common room - "a non-profit exhibition space that supports artistic experimentation and dialog in contemporary culture", and described as "bookshelves mounted between the wood studs create a bookstore and social bar on one side of the partition and a more private archive on the side of the artists space" are great because they are accessible from both sides - just like all good things (cloths racks, buffet tables, christmas trees), and provide incentive to collect volumes of books by which to fill out the space into a complete wall.

Sometimes there are so many inspiring things in our alternate reality known as the internet, it makes me want to erupt into a flurry of creativity and then destroy everything in the throes of self loathing. A bit heavy from just looking at a set of cleverly made shelves, perhaps. 

Stills from the weekend

Film stills from 'Suna no Onna (The Woman in the Sand) /  newly acquired record rack (made in Sweden!) / pie / Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl
The weekends become increasingly more important as winter inches nearer, and the nights grow even longer, dusk now falling some time between 4 and 4:30 pm. By the time I leave work during the week, it has already been dark for about an hour, skewing one's perception of time. So I try to take advantage of my weekends, the only time I can go out and wander around Malmö without turning on my bike headlights. 
Saturdays are the best days for doing things. On Sundays nearly everything is closed, or at least feels that way. Sundays are good days for cycles to the beach, which is a rather soothing place when it is cold and grey. Last weekend when I saw an old man swimming - it was probably 6 degrees at best. I am sure he has been swimming in November for many years. Old people are very resilient, I find. 
Yesterday was a day of small achievements for me. I saw a fantastic film at Cinemateket, Suna no Onna  (The Woman in the Dunes) as part of the Japanese New Wave series they are showing this season. Though visually captivating, I was also able to actively engage myself in the narrative as my Swedish comprehension appears to have reached the level where I can easily follow Swedish subtitles. A small coup as I continue to attempt to carve out a life for myself here.
After the film I challenged myself to make a meat pie, including the short crust pastry shell. My culinary skills are pretty hit and miss (though somewhat improving) and I began to think I had bitten off more than I could chew. (this would literally, be the case when it came time to consume the pie.) I conveyed my fears to a pie maker of some repute, who told me it would be a success and that I was "excellent at making mince". The pie, I must admit, turned out better than expected. I even went back for seconds. 
Sunday I went to a second hand store, ostensibly hunting for a  gift for someone and naturally coming away with a few for myself instead, coming away with a near perfect condition record rack in handsome navy to house my slowly expanding collection of singles, and a lucky find of a collection of short stories by Roald Dahl, the blurb on the back cover proclaiming "If your taste is for the macabre, the sick, the outrageous, the unexpected, the horrifying - Roald Dahl will give you orgiastic delight. If not, you are going to miss one of the most sophisticated collections of short stories in print."
I look forward to some sophisticated orgiastic delights  from Roald Dahl, starting with my lunch break at work tomorrow.

Book pile

My pile of novels which I have on hand right now, including a few library books, which probably need to be returned. Two are in Swedish, and are children's books. One of them is the first Famous Five story. When I told some friends I was reading it to improve my Swedish, they laughed and said my language would most likely come out sounding old-fashioned. Can't say that's  a bad language quirk to have, to be honest.

Collection bound

One thing I would like to achieve during my lifetime is to collect all of Ngaio Marsh's 32 detective novels. I unashamedly call Ngaio Marsh my favourite author, and along with Raymond Chandler, Joseph Heller and Haruki Murakami, it is due to her amazing use of language. She uses some wonderfully obscure adjectives.
I am one who generally judges books by their cover. And I mean that literally. I try not to apply that phrase to people, but will stand by it when it comes to literature. There are some wonderful Ngaio Marsh covers, from the hand illustrated to the more boldy graphic as the editions move through from the 40's and 50's into the 60's. From the early 70's onwards, as photography was commonly used, the covers progressed steadily downhill.
So I am keeping my eyes peeled for striking covers that proudly proclaim the amazingness of the words which they contain. Above are some of the best. 

Dust settling

Dust Breeding, 1920, Man Ray

Man Ray's 2 hour long exposure of Duchamp's masterpiece The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-1923), covered in a years worth of dust.

I am at present reading Man Ray's autobiography, appropriately titled Self Portrait, published in 1963. My favourite passage so far concerns his first meeting with Duchamp, around 1915.

"Visitors continued to descend upon us, one Sunday afternoon two men arrived - a young Frenchman, and an American somewhat older. The one was Marcel Duchamp, the painter whose Nude Descending the Staircase had created such a furor at the Armory show in 1913, the second a collector of modern art, Walter Arensberg. Duchamp spoke no English, my French was nonexistent. Donna acted as my interpreter but mostly carried on a rapid dialogue with him. I brought out a couple of old tennis racquets, and a ball which we batted back and forth without any net, in front of the house. Having played the game on regular courts previously, I called the strokes to make conversation: fifteen, thirty, forty, love, to which he replied each time with the same word: yes."

The Large Glass is most likely the one work of art I ardently desire to see in the flesh in my lifetime. 

4 things


4 images that I have been really drawn to of late. Firstly a lovely colour page from my excellent book 'The Lore of Ships' -  the flags make me want to write out mantras to live by in a sort of drape-y semaphore as a hanging soft sculpture. A wonderful knotted sponge-like form, created by Jens Risch, twisting and contorting upon itself in painful confusion. TV series 'Psych' parody Twin Peaks, and include many of the original cast. Here Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer) and Lenny Von Dohlen (Harold Smith) discover the body of 'Paula Merrel' "wrapped in plastic". And fourthly, a very large palette with (in hindsight) a rather Audrey-ish looking girl) found in the wonderful image archive that is Old Chum.

Not in an empty room

Wise words from Agent Cooper:
Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it. Don't wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.

In my case, it could also be Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite's South Side Band - one of my favourite records, or LP's which contain some of my favourite songs (Deirdre by The Beach Boys, and 'You Better Move On, The Rolling Stones' version of the Arthur Alexander classic.)

It could even be sitting on the grass with a cold beer and a book by one of your favourite authors (Ngaio Marsh, Raymond Chandler and Haruki Murakami) after just having a swim.

These are a few presents I have treated myself to recently, to fill up sometimes lonely days with words, conversation, lyrics and music. 
Besides, there is something very comforting about reading Murakami when the times are tough - almost all of his main characters do little more than read, listen to music, drink beer or whiskey, and make mouth watering meals for themselves seemingly effortlessly. They are always alone, never lonely. And there is a comforting companionship when one follows another's solitude within one's own.

The Story of a Crime


Two book covers from the Martin Beck series, collectively titled 'The Story of a Crime'. Both covers are almost opposites, one a watercolour, the other and photograph; Roseanna showing just the head, while The Man Who Went Up In Smoke shows a business suit in motion, sans body - it wafted away with the title.

The writing duo of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö each wrote alternate chapters for every book, a sort of collaboration I find particularly amazing - the ability to create characters, from the brains of two people, and keeping a believable continuity to their personalities.

I wonder if you can tell which chapters are written by whom? Did Maj Sjöwall take the odd numbers, and Per Wahlöö the even? Did they switch that around every book, so as not to give the game away? There is something pleasingly rounded and symmetrical about the whole process, in the way I find happiness in every Tintin book being 62 pages long.

Great Scott

Three photographs taken by Robert F. Scott on his ultimately fatal expedition to Antarctica, racing the Norwegian Roald Amundson to the South Pole across the desolate and uncompromising, yet epic and sublime landscape. 

Scott was an amateur photographer taught the technical basics by the expeditions professional, Herbert Ponting, so Scott could document the final trudge to the Pole for scientific (and now, historic) purposes. A collection of Scott's photographs have recently been rediscovered and compiled into a book 'The Lose Photographs of Captain Scott' by David M. Wilson, incidentally the great-nephew of Dr Edward Wilson, member of the Terra Nova Expedition.

They make me feel an astonishing sense of loneliness and isolation that I have grown to associate with rocks, ice, islands and the colour white.

some brief descriptions of the above photographs, via The Guardian

1. Dr Edward Wilson sketching on the Beardmore Glacier, lunch camp, 13 December 1911

Wilson is seen here sitting quietly, sketching. He was one of the last artists in the great expedition tradition in which the pencil was the main method of making records. He produced many yards of accurate geographical drawings, as well as extensive notes and sketches of anything of scientific interest. Here he is drawing the mountain ranges along the Beardmore Glacier, from Mount Elizabeth (left) to the Socks Glacier and Mount Fox (right).
This panorama is the finest example of Scott's mastery of his camera, gained on the march in extreme conditions. The combination of action and repose – illustrative of Scott's unique pictorial understanding – encapsulates the contrast between the Antarctic's majesty and man's diminutive presence

2. Ponies on the march, 2 December 1911

As the pony column disappears into the distance, the "sledgeometer" on the final sledge clicking the mileage as it goes, the straggle of ponies becomes veiled in the icy wilderness. Many of the men in this image would return, but not all. None of the ponies would: within a few days they would be shot.

3. Camp under the Wild Mountains, 20 December 1911

Scott took this impressive image to capture the interesting geological features around Mount Wild. On the sledge in the camp, two figures can be seen sketching. On the left, Apsley Cherry Garrard is drawing the view towards Mount Buckley; on the right, Edward Wilson is making detailed sketches and notes of the geological features so clearly visible in Scott's photograph. The other figure that can be seen is probably Birdie Bowers, who died with Scott on their return from the polar expedition, just months later. Scott returned his camera to base with the First Supporting Party as they departed from the top of Beardmore Glacier towards Cape Evans. Critically, this lightened the sledge loads for the push across the Polar Plateau to the South Pole. Bowers, with his lighter camera, was chosen by Scott to become the photographer for the final pole party.




 Last week my friend Kah Bee posted a link to the post Cocktaildags: Vintage Swedish Books Covers - a collection of Swedish editions of popular crime stories.

My two personal favourites -

Raymond Chandler, Den stora sömnen (Original title: The Big Sleep), cover by Martin Gavler, printed 1963

John Bingham, Mord i månsken (Original title: Marion), cover by Per Åhlin, printed 1965

And from my own collection - 

Raymond Chandler, Mord, Min Älskling (Murder my darling) (Original title: Farewell, My Lovely), cover by Olle Frankzén, printed 1985

As my Swedish vocabulary slowly but surely increases, I have succumbed to the temptation of purchasing a few of my favourite 'deckare' (crime novels) in Swedish, in the hope that one day I will have become bilingual enough to make it further than the first chapter before I throw my hands in the air in despair and frustration. I recently stumbled across the amazing 1980's Swedish edition of 'Farewell, My Lovely' (Mord, Min Älskling) by Raymond Chandler in a second hand shop around the corner from my house for 10kr.

Judging a book by it's cover is surely one of the best things one can do on such occasions.

Items of Interest

Isamu Noguchi / My Name Florence Tee / Buoy Rope Bag / Ngaio Marsh / Lady Michael Balcon as Minerva by Madame Yevonde / Danger Man

Some recent items of interest and things that have caught my eye: portrait of Isamu Noguchi in one of his elegant chairs - one thing I would like to do with my life is make chairs; recently I bought this tee shirt from the Swedish shop weekday - ironically (or fatally) it was named the 'My Name Florence Tee', and after that there was no looking back; have started another art project knitting fishing line whilst probably diminishing my already failing eye sight, the main inspiration for this stems from various rope covers for buoys; I also recently completed reading Ngaio Marsh's autobiography, she will always stand as one of my favourite authors alongside Raymond Chandler, Haruki Murakami, Joseph Heller and Herge; Lady Michael Balcon as Minerva looking rather similar to a cover of a Chandler/James Bond novel, with shades of Twin Peaks thrown in for good measure; Danger Man, perhaps the precursor to 'The Prisoner' - I swoon every time John Drake says his token catchphrase 'I'm obliged' and wish I could incorporate this into my everyday parlance except no one else would understand what I meant by it. I also appreciate Danger Man's relatively realistic fight scenes, at least compared to other spy programmes of the time.

Cotton Anniversary

Portrait after having lived for one year in Malmö, Sweden. A small milestone!

Efter tolv månader i Sverige, har jag nu:

- mastered enough of the Swedish language to articulate my thoughts to Swedish friends and acquaintances in both sober and less sober states of mind, attempted to read my first Agatha Christie in Swedish, written short pieces of text about ABBA, Twin Peaks, and my old flat in Auckland, followed American TV shows by reading Swedish subtitles, watched an Ingmar Bergman film without subtitles, however the extent of my comprehension of that film is highly debatable.

- become a fully fledged cyclist about town, no other mode of transport can compare to the bicycle, especially after one has learnt the necessary cycle etiquette and rules, thus avoiding any awkward cycle faux pas or potentially hazardous accidents.

- been offered full time employment as a library assistant at Malmö Högskolas Bibliotek, the huge success after months of job coaching, awkward phone calls, applications I didn't understand and seemingly pointless business networking. Good things, do apparently, take time. Was told I had 'made a great impression and had really good references', so those must be the secrets to employment.

- not cut my hair for 12 months. It is at present the longest it has been in my life. The goal is to leave it that way at least until I can successfully explain to a Swedish hairdresser what I actually want in a hair style.

- travelled to more cities than I ever have before. Copenhagen, London, Glasgow, Berlin so far and counting. With the incoming funds from the above mentioned employment, hopefully this year the list will continue to expand.

- read an impressive number of  classic books, taking advantage of Malmö public library's excellent English fiction section. Titles include Rebecca, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Steppenwolf, The Remains of the Day, Pan, Nineteen Eighty-Four, the short stories of Truman Capote, all of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels. I hope this reading trend will continue, with high literature in English and low brow pocket detective fiction in Swedish.

- experienced my first northern hemisphere winter, and in turn seen my first snow. A truly magical experience, and now, after many snowfalls, the wonder of it still gets me in a bit of a tither and I feel the need to uselessly announce the fact that snow is falling. These thoughts and feelings are documented in a short text about my first impressions of snow.

(This Bird Has Flown)

 Toru and Naoko and Toru and Midori

Images from Norwegian Wood, an adaptation of Haruki Murakami's much cherished novel from 1987, released late last year. I am uncertain as to whether or not I would like to foray into the cinematic version, as I hold the novel so close to my heart. Along with Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, it is one of a select few books I can open randomly on any page and pick up where I left off.  I am apprehensive because I fear that Norwegian Wood will leave me with the same bitter after taste of disappointment as Mike Nichol's 1970 adaptation of Catch-22. The images I have built in my head, the sound of the characters voices and intonations and the environments they live in, will always seems more complete and real than any film. Perhaps, as a novel in one part about memories, it is best to keep your version of it inside your head.

However I am sure my curiosity will trump my well intentioned Murakami purist mindset, and if the opportunity arose I would watch it.

A Hazy Shade of Winter

[click images to enlarge]


A special parcel received in the post today travelled halfway across the world wrapped in paper adorned with colourful donuts. Inside was the eagerly anticipated publication made on the occasion of my great friend Ash Kilmartin's single-handed one day sculptural exhibit 'RAIN', situated in an abandoned lot in Melbourne.

Ash asked if I would contribute a piece of writing to accompany her exhibition as part of a small one-off publication, and I readily obliged. I penned a short piece about my first impressions of snow, (which is hopefully legible in the photo above) and thought about my feelings towards snow in relation to Ash's installation, delicate hand stitched fabrics draped over minimalist wooden frames.

The publication design is by another good friend, Claire Cooper. I am particularly partial to the horizontally bisected green hued centre-fold, opening out to reveal the text and various youtube stills.

A great project to be apart of and one which has already given me ideas of like-minded scenarios.