Christopher Alexander’s Florence

September 2013, Italy

My mission in Florence was to see how a city according to Christopher Alexander could reflect the soul in us, could help us access our greater humanity, could be a city where we live in community.

In the last two days I have been exposed to grand churches and domes, palaces and renaissance art …. With predominantly stories of heaven and hell, the story of Christianity …. But I don’t feel the God embracing me here, or reflecting my own god nature…. I feel an outsider to someone else’s stories. I feel closer when when there is an open sky above me, greenery around me … A courtyard here and there.

I feel a sense of humanity when I go into a courtyard of small shops and two shop keepers are smoking at a table playing chess, or when the shop owner of a leather shop below our flat closes up and says good night to the owners of businesses around, shaking hands and giving a warm hug. I feel closest to the community of humanity when I chance across a photographic art exhibition of Izis Bidermanas who sees in small moments the stillness of possibility.

February 2017

An idea that has consumed me for a while is to take the Florence Duomo  and somehow bring nature into it in an integrative way. Being in the dome and feeling the curve of the arches around me was an experience that has sunk into my psyche. Recently my husband has been playing around with a 3D camera in a forest – creating arcs of trees reminiscent of the dome.

The sense of the luminosity and the architecture of the dome merged with the trees in a piece I have just completed. My lady with the mandolin sings to the forest, the tree spirits dance….and the angels notice.


Interestingly, a friend suggested that the trees felt like a cage. Is that what the domes do? Capture god? Cage in our souls or allow them to soar? Hmmm. Is there another story… the soft embrace, the cupping hands of the trees, the leaning forward of listening…. the pregnant moment….


Doodlings in Tuscany

September 2013, Italy


View from the Tuscany Agritourismo where we stayed 4 nights.

What I am noticing is that each place I am going to has a different palette… I want to try to capture these abstractly. At the Venice Biennale there was one long wall of different graph paper where each one represented a North Pole day. A little swatch of colour was painted to represent the sky for each hour. I don’t want to do anything as disciplined but I like the idea of re-representing the colour… Hmmmm.


At the moment I am trying to catch impressions as real as possible to what I see knowing that what I want to create later will have more archetypal and pattern feel to it. Here is my go sitting on dry grass at the top of a hill in my bathers, under a tree with the sun gradually hitting my back unawares, at the Tuscany Agriturismo that I am staying in. I decided to play with my sponge. So lots of dabbing.


Here I sat down near the dirt and the grape vines and felt inside the landscape, rather than looking at it. Took some leaves off the different trees and sat under the mother tree canopy and sketched them. Created this, inspired by an artist in Montepulciano who had a horizontal strip etching coloured with water colour of the expanded branches of a tree. This includes a strip of grape vine, and the upper strip is the bark of the trees including lichen.

Embraced by light

September 2013, Italy

While visiting Monteriggiono I met and had a long talk with artist Angela Crucciti

What I like about her work is the texturing, the abstracting of what she sees, the sense of flow and energy in the work, the inner light. She like me is interested in the more medieval stylised artists and Klimt, using a lot of gold. Here are pics of bricks representing the canals and buildings and reflections in Venice, arches representing cathedrals, towers representing San Gimanagno. I suspect that when I get a chance to develop my style I will be influenced by this…. I wish I thought of it.

Today the trees I lay under were in a circle, yin mother energy, and the energy around the circle was palpable, in the middle was one thrusting male energy pine, and on the outer less thrusting but still masculine pear shaped trees. I am still wondering what the abstract capturing of this would look like and whether anything I could do could capture the sense of embrace and energy and relaxation it felt being in this circle.


My radiant island – Venice Biennale

September 2013, Italy

My highlight of the Venice Biennale was an exhibition by Orna Elstein “My radiant island.” It is based on her experience in the Seychelles and is a series of paintings in pastel. She includes poetry, a book, and digital images. I feel the luminosity, the vibrancy of colour and life, the coherence. It exemplifies for me many of the properties of colour that Christopher Alexander talks about.

“I fear nothing
I hope for nothing
I am free
I am free and happy
I sit here by myself and sing
I fear nothing
I hope for nothing
I am free
I am free and happy.”



Infused by blue


September 2013, Italy

Challenge … To be infused by blue and sense of the inner light in the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua…

Earlier this year I was introduced to the wonders of the Scrovegni Chapel by comedian, Hannah Gadsby in her show on art history, accompanied with slides, and performed in the Tasmanian museum. The coherence of the blueness throughout captured my imagination – what would it be like to be surrounded by blue in such a space? What would it like being the artist envisioning this?

So I was keen during my Italy trip to experience what it is like to be infused with blue in this chapel and we aimed to visit it on the way from Verona to Venice. However, getting there from Verona turned out more problematic than we thought – missed turns, going the wrong way in a one way street, infinity loops into the autostradas, loosing GPS, delayed by trains crossing streets, road works etc. So by the time we got to Padua I was highly stressed, running, sweaty, and almost in tears as we missed our booking. Luckily, we managed to re-book for a later session.

We sit on stone steps and I try to relax. Breathe, let go, let go, breathe.

We are let into an air conditioned room to watch a video before entering the chapel. It is not as deep blue as I expected from the pictures, but I breathe and allow myself to soak it in, and the blue becomes bluer. It seems such an integral part of the pictures …. Helping to illuminate the other colours.

I don’t initially get taken up by the detail, rather get a sense of the whole. I am taken by the angels who seem to emerge from another dimension. There are particular panels which I begin to notice more, and the stories within them. I gaze up at the ceiling which is so blue.


Image courtesy of Trip Advisor

At the far end is a picture of the Madonna, and I gaze up, neck bent back and it is as if she is a goddess looking down on me, smiling. I find a place where it is easier to commune with her although I am not religious. There is something so gentle and sacred and embracing in her gaze… this emergent feminine energy into the world.  There is a relating and connecting. Before, for me, images of the Madonna were just images, but here I feel something more. I am seen. There is a penetration.

Too soon we have to leave, and I feel blessed.


Letters to Juliette

17 September 2013

The movie, Letters to Juliette is based on a place and practice in Verona where people put letters to Juliette seeking advice about lost lovers. A group of women collect the letters each night and respond.

As part of my Christopher Alexander exploration of spaces which generate aliveness, beauty and community, I was inspired by the sense of service, community and out of the box thinking. It was such an uplifting practice that could generate  a sense of hope and aliveness, amongst the pain and offer a place of pilgrimage and meaning – a place to land that pain. Perhaps we need more places where we can put down our pain and tears and hope.

So naturally I had to write a letter and put it on the wall, and feel the pain and the sadness and the yearning.

I decided to write a letter on behalf of Gaia. Even though the space was crowded I tuned in, sitting quietly in a corner. The letter spoke of how she had been feeling the pain of separation from so many human beings and yearned to rebuild that connection. I felt her angst and her hope that these deep wounds could be healed. I had beautiful paper on which to write and  poked it into a crack on the left bottom side.. The return address was Gaia, 3rd planet, solar system, Orion Arm, Milky Way Galaxy, Virgo Cluster, Universe


Painting with the canal water of venice


18 September 2013

I am in Venice, checking up on where I am with my challenges… to paint with the canal water of Venice.

We are in an apartment a few steps from the canal with quite a large landing where we can put out deck chairs. The picture is the view from this landing. This morning I did a 5 rhythm dance on the landing- flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical, stillness. Boats went by, people stopped on the bridge and paused and looked. Perhaps I am a performance artist!

I started sketching a picture of the view, sitting in a deck chair and the English neighbour popped by – we chatted and he said be careful – two outfalls go from this side so the water is definitely not clean. So I went over the bridge to the cleaner side, walked along a little jetty with boats moored along it, then down some steps and collected the water in a cut-away plastic bottle. Then sat on my deck chair and painted the view.

The paper is not that good so the product is no masterpiece, but I am wonderfully happy with the process of sitting, looking, painting, being in the space, being an artist in the space, having people come by and chat neighbourly and feeling part of the community of place.