Category Archives: Around Australia

A Wild Ride

Hang on, bearyone! It’s going to be a wild ride!

Sparkly Bear
Barkly Square

Little bears are on a wild ride with Gillie and Marc art around Melbourne.

Gillie and Marc have been called “the most successful and prolific creators of public art in New York’s History” by the New York Times. Not bad at all, considering they are from Australia!

Creating some of the world’s most innovative public sculptures, they are re-defining what public art should be, spreading messages of love, equality, and conservation around the world. Their highly coveted sculptures and paintings can be seen in art galleries and public sites in over 250 cities. They’re Archibald Prize Finalists and have won the Chianciano Biennale in Italy.

Gillie and Marc were commissioned to make the Barkly Square mascot, Sparkly Bear. The locals’ nickname for the square is Sparkly Bear. The sculpture is part of a heartwarming global movement by the artists, titled Travel Everywhere with Love. The artists’ are passionate activists, who use their work to raise critical awareness for the causes and charities they support.

“Without a definitive race, religion, or culture, hybrid characters like Sparkly Bear represent all people as one,” said Gillie. Sparkly Bear now stands in Barkly Square to let visitors and residents from all-walks-of-life know that they’re welcome there.

Sparkly Bear
Barkly Square
He Knew This Would be a Year of Good Fortune
St Collins Lane

For the Year of the Dog in 2018, Gillie and Marc created a sculpture of Dogman, holding a magnificent red apple. Next a cherry for sure 🙂

In Chinese tradition, when a dog enters a home it symbolizes the coming of good fortune. Dogs are loyal, clever and brave. Best friends to humans, they are known for having harmonious relationships with people from all-walks-of-life, and don’t discriminate against socio-economic status, race, religion, or orientation. The word for apple in Chinese is ping (píngguǒ), which is also the word for peace (hépíng).

“We combined the powerful image of Dogman with an apple in the hopes of inspiring the public to be brave in the pursuit of a better world,” said Gillie.

In the Chinese Zodiac chart, the dog and the rabbit are born to be a perfect pair. They understand each other by focusing on their similar traits, while facing difficulties with patience and open-minds.

He Knew This Would be a Year of Good Fortune
St Collins Lane
Early Morning Coffee
St Kilda Pier

Gillie and Marc are best known for their beloved characters – Dogman and Rabbitgirl – who tell the autobiographical tale of two opposites coming together to become best friends and soulmates. As unlikely animal kingdom companions, the rabbit and the dog stand for diversity and acceptance.

Dogman and Rabbitwoman are enjoying their morning coffee. Peacefully… sometimes…

There’s a bear in my coffee!

Early Morning Coffee
St Kilda Pier

Mine too… One must accept these things!

Early Morning Coffee
St Kilda Pier

The coffee drinker friends get around a lot! 🙂 and remind people everywhere to get together over coffee. A beloved motif in Gillie and Marc’s art, coffee warms the body and soul.

Dogman and Rabbitwoman Drinking Coffee
Pullman on the Park
Dogman and Rabbitwoman Drinking Coffee
Pullman on the Park
Dogman and Rabbitwoman Drinking Coffee
Pullman on the Park
Run for your life
La Trobe University, Melbourne campus

Now running wild and free on campus at La Trobe University, Run for your life was first exhibited in 2014 at Federation Square. Nearly 700 rhinos had been killed in South Africa in 2013 making it the bloodiest year to date for rhino poaching.

Gillie and Marc’s sculptures hoped to raise public awareness of the plight of rhino species in the wild. Now critically endangered, rhinos desperately need the active involvement from everyone to save their lives. Riding the bronze rhinos, you can transport yourself to the African savanna and be part of the real rhinos run for their freedom and life.

Run for your life
La Trobe University, Melbourne campus
Run for your life
La Trobe University, Melbourne campus
Run for your life
La Trobe University, Melbourne campus

A Proustian Moment

Time for a madeleine… or two… or three…

The madeleine is synonymous with France, as much as its wine and garlic or its baguettes and cheese. This small cake has been favoured by kings and peasants since the 17th century, and was cemented into French hearts and culture by the French philosopher Proust in the early 1920s.

How could such a simple blend of sugar, butter, eggs, flour and a touch of lemon unleash the flood of memories that filled those volumes of prose À la Recherche du Temps Perdu? For Proust, the memories began one wintry day when his mother sent out for “one of those squat, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell.” With his madeleines, Proust drank an infusion of tilleul, a tea prepared from the dried blossoms of the linden tree.

Proust continued: “I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran though me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that had happened to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses.”

Proust wrote the many volumes of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu between 1909 and his death in 1922 at the age of 51. Throughout his life Proust was subject to ill health, its effect made worse by his resolute hypochondria.

In his biography of Proust, written more than half a century ago, George Painter includes an anecdote about the wedding, in 1905, of Proust’s brother Robert. Robert had decided to get married in winter, which Proust saw as potentially making him prey to every disease in Paris. To ensure he did not catch cold he had his tailor make him several overcoats, which he wore one on top of the other, like a Russian doll, leaving him so large that he could not fit down the side-aisle in the church. Paradoxically, it is this type of absurd sensitivity that makes him so great a novelist.

The novels portray the world in which Proust grew up. His father was one of the most successful doctors in France, honoured for his work. He invented the cordon sanitaire – the quarantined ring around an infected area – that helped prevent the spread of cholera, a curse in all European cities in the late 19th century. The upper-middle class Prousts socialised with the aristocracy and the artistic elite of Paris, and when Marcel started to publish his novels just before the Great War, those in his circle sought to identify themselves among the characters. Some were offended by their portrayals, others were wounded that they were not portrayed.

The novels were hugely influential on writers all over the world, in that they introduced the idea of writing about “streams of consciousness”. Through Proust’s ubiquitous narrator, they relay in great detail not just what is perceived, but also what is remembered, and the repeated and constant links between perception and memory. Even those who have not read the novels are aware of the journey of memory on which the narrator goes when he tastes a madeleine dipped in tea; it has become “the Proustian moment”.

Proust produced a grand tally of 1,267,069 words for In Search of Lost Time. Some think so highly of the work’s epic qualities, they liken it to Wagner’s Ring Cycle. And some are so disparaging, they liken it to Wagner’s Ring Cycle 🙂

The novels are full of in-depth character studies – not just of haughty aristocrats but also of preposterous exhibitionists, put-upon servants, and beacons of kindness and humanity in what appears to be an often unkind and inhumane world – which are remarkable. The period that Proust writes about was one of great upheaval in France, with the high-born people of his world dislocated after the fall of the Bonapartiste monarchy in 1870. The defining event of the era in France, the Dreyfus case, features in the narrative. Proust’s mother was Jewish, though he was brought up a Roman Catholic, and he went out on a limb by defending Dreyfus: yet his narrative is not free of anti-Semitic observations. The action concludes in the Great War, which Proust depicts as another world altogether. One of the many reasons to read these novels is the unforgettable picture they paint of Belle Époque France; a world that the war would destroy forever.

(In 1894, the French government had unjustly convicted Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus of treason. When new evidence came to light that would have exonerated him, the government covered it up. Emile Zola published a letter titled “J’Accuse!” in a city paper, in which he accused the government of anti-semitism and helped spread the news of the cover-up, and opened up the scandal anew. As a result, the case was reopened, and Dreyfus was released. An Officer and a Spy, to be released in Australia at some point next year, is Roman Polanski’s reconstruction of the Dreyfus affair, based on Robert Harris’ novel. It stars Oscar winner Jean Dujardin as Georges Picquart and Louis Garrel as Alfred Dreyfus. A French-Italian co-production, the film might suffer from Polanski’s poor personal reputation. Its inclusion at the Venice film festival this year caused additional drama.)

The novels have been translated into English twice – as Remembrance of Things Past and as In Search of Lost Time, a more literal and revelatory rendering. As all literature, they are best read in the original, because Proust’s French is miraculously clear and beautiful.

It’s hard to know how much Proust influenced or was influenced by custom. Like almost everything in France, there is an etiquette, a ritual to eating madeleines. Even the best, freshest madeleine has a dry, almost dusty aftertaste when eaten by itself. To be truly appreciated – to invade the senses with an exquisite pleasure – madeleines must be dipped in tea, ideally the slightly lime-flavored tilleul, which releases the fragrant, flavorful lemon essence of the little tea cake. Coffee isn’t the same, but nevertheless it is an acceptable drink to have with madeleines. Little bears have opted for hot chocolate.

Unlike Proust’s vivid memories, the history of the madeleine is slightly clouded. The story promoted by commercial madeleine makers in the town of Commercy goes like this: In 1755 King Stanislas of Lorraine was hosting a luncheon. His chef stormed out of the kitchen near the end of the meal without having prepared dessert. A young assistant saved the day by preparing a little cake her grandmother made at home in Commercy. The king and his guests were so delighted, they named the cake after the girl, Madeleine.

Another version suggests that the little cakes were invented by Avice, Talleyrand’s famous pastry cook, and still another insists that Marie Leczynska, the wife of Louis XV, perfected them with the advice of her own cook, Madeleine.

The cake is still linked with the town of Commercy in the Lorraine region in eastern France, where a large number of commercial madeleines are produced. The most famous brand, A La Cloche Lorraine, produced by Maison Grosjean, is packaged in handsome oval wooden boxes and sold in speciality shops all over France. The company, which began in 1928 with a single worker, now employs 80 people to produce some 80 million madeleines each year. Packaged madeleines from Commercy are available in Paris from Fauchon, 26 Place de la Madeleine 🙂

Madeleines are also one of the few pastries that the French, accustomed to buying most pastries and breads at pastry shops, make at home. One could almost call the madeleine France’s national cake, it has taken such an honoured place in custom and history. The madeleines were chosen to represent France on Europe Day in 2006. Today, as in Proust’s time at the turn of century, the golden cakes are found next to the cash register of pastry shops all over France.

If you happen to be in Paris and would like to sample what many believe is the city’s finest madeleines, be sure to visit Blé Sucré. In Melbourne, try the madeleines from Cumulus Inc. If you want to experiment with making them yourself, try this.