Saturday, 4 March 2017

Pacific Rim - new painting by Dean Bradley

Dean took this painting into Parker Gallery on Thursday. But not before I spent a good amount of time sitting, looking at it that morning. This is one of my favourites, and it can be hard to let them go!

Pacific Rim, by Dean Bradley

For more detailed views of this painting, and to see his other work, please visit Dean's website at

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Summer Constellations - new painting by Dean Bradley

Here's Dean's first painting of the year.
Summer Constellations, by Dean Bradley
Each of the outer segments has a different feel, which can be interpreted in a similar way to star signs. They express the different emotions and attitudes we experience at different times.

As shown in more detail in the image below, the one at '3 o'clock' looks to me like someone coming out ready to box and to take on challenges.

In contrast, the one directly beneath (at '4 o'clock') gives me more of a sense of passive acceptance of whatever is happening - letting things take their course.

The segment at '2 o'clock' has an bow and arrow-like shape, like the figure is aiming for a very specific goal.
Summer Constellations - detail 1

Summer Constellations - detail 2

Summer Constellations - detail 3

Saturday, 26 November 2016

All Day at the Movies, by Fiona Kidman

I will follow Fiona Kidman almost anywhere she chooses to go in her novels. I've read all of them, and at first I was a bit disappointed with her latest novel 'All Day at the Movies'.

Unlike many of her other novels, there isn't one main female character to really care about and engage with her journey. Instead, this novel follows the fortunes of a family, with each chapter leaping ahead in time and changing perspective to another member of the family.

These characters aren't particularly connected to each other, so it's a novel of loosely connected segments. However, reflecting on it over the past week, I've come to appreciate what the novel does achieve.

It's an exploration of life in New Zealand, and the forces that have acted on people living here over the past seventy years. The first character we meet is Irene. Her life was going well until her husband dies towards the end of World War II. With a widow's pension, she is not allowed to keep her job at the Wellington library and she and her daughter end up in Motueka, where she lives in a hut and works in the tobacco fields.

She meets a man, becomes pregnant with a second child, and then he dies in an accident. She is alone and vulnerable, and marries Jock Pawson, the foreman who has had his eye on her since she arrived in Motueka, even though she dislikes him.

The lives of her second child and the two of Jock's that follow are the main subjects of the remainder of the novel. After Irene dies they are incredibly vulnerable. They make some choices that work out, and others that don't. Overall, there is a sense that the quality of their lives is very dependent on who they encounter and how those relationships pan out, rather than being particularly self-directed.

In this way, it is an unsettling novel populated by a lot of unhappy people as well as a few fortunate ones. The themes stay with me much longer than stories of the individual characters.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Prosperous Heart, by Julia Cameron

In this book Julia Cameron encourages readers to look at their habits and beliefs about money, and change to a more deliberate approach to spending money on things that really do improve their lives.

She identifies four habitual spending types:

  • The Big-Ticket Spender
These people want to buy the best. Status symbols give this spender a sense of security to mask their actual feelings of insecurity and anxiety.

  • The Bargain Buyer
Quantity, not quality, give this type of spender a sense of security.

This shopper masks anxiety with compulsive bargain hunting. They rationalise their purchases because of the great deal they are getting.

  • The Monetary Miser
This is the shopper who doesn't make purchases, even when they're called for. "I can get by with what I've got" is this shopper's motto. The underlying belief related to this approach is a lack of faith in the future. 

  • The Enabler
These people often take responsibility for other people's debts and expenses. They are afraid if they say no to their friends' or partner's requests for money, they will lose the relationship.

As with many of Julia Cameron's other books (including 'The Artist's Way'), 'The Prosperous Heart' is structured as a twelve week course, with readers encouraged to write morning pages, take time outs, and walk regularly. In this book Julia also recommends avoiding spending money you don't yet have (apart from mortgages and big items like a car), and keeping a note of all spending throughout the twelve week course - just noting what you do spend money on, so that you can later evaluate whether there are alternative approaches which will work better for you.

Each chapter begins with an essay, and is followed by a series of writing exercises to bring to light the reader's beliefs and unexamined attitudes to money. The idea is to free you from automatic responses to your spending (or lack of spending, in the case of the Monetary Miser!)

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Fossil Ridge - new painting by Dean Bradley

​This painting, in red-ochres, chalk whites and burnt umber, strips the land back to its bones – reminding us the earth is shaped by geological forces that follow a far more ancient rhythm than human life.

Fossil Ridge, by Dean Bradley

Here are some more detailed photos of this painting.

Fossil Ridge - detail 1

Fossil Ridge - detail 2

Fossil Ridge - detail 3

To see more of Dean's work, please go to

Sunday, 30 October 2016

All Fall Down, by Jennifer Weiner

Reading this novel feels like walking with a friend, talking flat tack about what's happening in our lives.

Jennifer Weiner's voice sounds so like a friend of mine, it's as if my friend was in the room with me while I was reading this book. So, while this book is written from the point of view of a woman forming a huge addiction to painkillers, the tumbling roll of the writing style makes this a quick, breezy read.

It's easy to identify with Allison who is negotiating the stresses of work, motherhood, marriage and ageing parents, as she falls into a chasm of addiction. The power of this book is that it shows how easily anyone can slip from a successful job and family life into chaos. And that there is not much separating any of us - whether a heroin-addict on the street or a suburban mum - even if our lives look very different on the surface.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Secret Power of Middle Children, by Catherine Salmon and Katrin Schumann

Many books have explored the subject of birth order, but not one of them has been specifically about the qualities of middle children.

The good news discussed in this book is that although  middle children miss out on getting the most attention at home (not being first and experiencing the full focus of attention in the early years) or being the indulged baby of the family, the adaptations they learn as a result of their birth order gives them excellent skills as friends and partners.

"As children, squeezed between siblings at home, middleborns have to develop the ability to get what they want by being clever - rather than loud like the firstborn or cute like the last. They learn how to hold on to their friends by becoming good listeners, and being flexible and tolerant." (Page 163.)

Middles gravitate toward chosen family - their friends and partners - because they're not competing with them for attention based on the accepted familial hierarchy.

The authors state that "not only do stable, adaptable middleborns seem to have the best chances of making a marriage work, they also make dependable, lifelong friends". (Oldest children are better off marrying middles or youngest children. Youngest children are better off marrying oldest or middle children. In contrast, middles can also stay successfully married to middles.)

The downside is that in some cases middleborns can be too self-effacing or laid-back.

The book also notes that in terms of work, middleborns are great negotiators and often work in areas of social justice. They tend to choose their work based on internal motivation, whereas firstborns will be more influenced by family expectations.

The book finishes with an observation that there will be fewer middle children in Western countries in future, as families shrink in size.