WANDERINGS AND WONDERING OF YOUTH

Regular readers of these pages will know that travel comprises a significant part of my life, even to the point that I once had homes concurrently in three different countries.

But, when I look back now, of all the hundreds of journeys, vacations and adventures since my first flight – aged three – to Zurich from London on a Swiss Air Caravelle (I remember that we sat facing each other with a little table between us, as on a train) – there are eight trips of which every detail remains etched into my memory.

All of these trips were specifically formative in that they either changed my life in a literal sense, or my perceptions of life in some fundamental way. Followers of this blog might already be aware of some of these episodes.

Firstly there was the trip to Israel in 1967 just weeks after the Six-Day War which blew both my 7-year old mind and my 1960’s, suburban British olfactory senses. I vividly remember being on the Golan Heights, walking along the safe paths marked out by Israeli mine disposal teams, into Quneitra and dozens of Syrian military documents blowing on the dusty hot winds like confetti. And equally, I recall the first time I tasted real humus and roasted eggplant and being almost emotionally overcome with the sheer pleasure of it;

Then there was a gastronomic drive along the length of France in 1970 which turned me into one of the England’s most precocious connoisseurs of food and wine;

A year later, I was treated to my first visit to Spain where I discovered the hitherto (to a typical Jewish lad like me) forbidden twin joys of fried bacon and fresh shellfish in addition to poolside cocktails and luxury hotels. The fact this was all part of a photographic shoot for Max Factor and that I spent the entire time in the company of two of the UK’s top fashion models was the icing on the cake for a sexually curious eleven-year-old;

Fourteen years after it was Andalusia again, but this time a romantic five days in Seville, in the company of a beautiful law student, where I discovered the exotic joys of tapas washed down with ice-cold fino and late-night flamenco.

About a decade later in 1991 saw my first flight across the Pond, where the sublime “New World” strangeness of newly-democratic Chile bludgeoned me back into painting landscapes and left me a life-long lover of cazuela de pollo;

Then, twelve years after that in 2003, there was our visit to southern India where I was held enthral to the equally glorious and wonderful strangeness of ancient Tamil Nadu and Kerala and where I discovered that a mostly vegetarian diet could almost be fun (not to mention hugely fattening);

In 2007, I made my first trip to Australia, which, especially in magnificent Melbourne turned out to be quite simply the most enjoyable and mentally invigorating shattering of dearly-held pre-conceptions I have ever experienced;

And finally, just this January, when the cliché “better (incredibly) late than never” took on a whole new profundity for me after my first visit to New York City left me and all my senses dazed, awestruck and ecstatic in equal measure.

However, when I ask myself what was the trip that played the biggest and most enduring role in shaping the adult I eventually became, it would have to be another of the trips I made to Israel; this time in in 1978, during the summer break of my first year at Saint Martin’s School of Art.

The pictures below are all that remain of my “Wanderers Period” and represent the most eloquent way I can describe the feeling and atmosphere of those six weeks; the highlight of which was when four of us – two guys and two girls – walked the entire circumference of the Sea of Galilee in two days. We slept on the pebble beaches, and lived on falafel and bags of crisps washed down with cheap wine, accompanied by the dulcet tones of Weekend in LA on our cassette player. Without going into details, it became my coming-of-age drama in every sense, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and of course, sensual. It was my “Summer of 42”, except it was 78. It was when I truly fell in love with life and this Earth (and the incomparable virtuosity of George Benson).

Most unfortunately, the large canvases that emerged from these sketches and scrawls I painted over the following year after my art school tutors deemed them “unsubtle, hopelessly romantic and naïve” – they were a bunch of passionless idiots, but that’s another story. Nevertheless, I think these pictures, for all their rawness, convey the power of an 18-year old’s emotions, lusts, yearnings and wondering (and one or two aren’t bad drawings either)…

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MY GAL’ – THE FELLOW…*

One of my most visited posts was “Before We Met” ( https://adamhalevi777.com/2014/12/23/before-we-met/ ) – a photo record of my wife Dido’s career as a professional ballerina and model. Dido was injured out of the ballet in 1985, about four years before we met, and so very sadly, I never got to see her dance.

Nevertheless, I was privileged to witness Dido as she utilised the single-minded commitment and personal discipline she learned as a classical dancer to retrain; firstly as an occupational therapist (OT) and then later as a scientist specialising in the development of children’s brains. These qualities combined with her intelligence, imagination and wit meant that ballet’s loss has been a considerable gain for countless numbers of children with a range of conditions from autism to hemiplegia.

Seasoned readers and followers of this blog may already be familiar with our trip to Chile through my series “Our Real Cartoon Adventure” (https://adamhalevi777.com/2014/12/31/chile-our-real-cartoon-adventure-part-1-of-10/ ). But, for those who are not in the know, I should explain that in that in 1991 Dido – then starting out as an OT – was awarded a generous Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to go to Chile to study the role of folk dance as a therapeutic tool to support social integration and participation for children with learning problems. As we had only been wed a few months, and as Dido would be gone for several months we decided that I would travel along, ostensibly (and actually to a significant degree) as her cameraman (still and video) and thus provide a visual record of her work.

All but one of the photos below are recreational however, and provide a happy record of our travels through that wonderful country, from Lago Chungara in the extreme north to Lago Llanquehue in the southern Lake District. What I particularly love about these pictures is the way they illustrate Dido’s adventurous spirit, her sense of fun, her incredible toughness and her beauty – inside and out. Moreover, they provide compelling evidence that there’s lots of life to be had beyond showbiz!

1-san-pedro-de-atacama
At San Pedro de Atacama
3-calama-atacama
A huge pipe-like thing outside Calama (Atacama)
4-cerro-unitas-atacama
Ballet in the Atacama
5-cerro-unitas-atacama
Glyph and Lady (Cerro Unitas – Atacama)
6-chungara
Altitude break at Chungara (alt 4517 m)
7-coquimbo
Lying down again at Coquimbo
8-la-serena
Racing the tanker…Pacific swim at La Serena
9-la-serena
Mi bella esposa neuva en La Serena
10-lago-llanquehue
Emerging from a near-freezing Lago Llanquehue
11-after-lago-llanquehue
A happy swimmer with Volcan Osorno in the background (Llanquehue – Chilean Lakes)

 

13-lago-todos-los-santos
A seriously cold Lago Todos Los Santos (Petrohue – Chilean Lakes)
15-hogar-in-santiago
At work with the kids in Santiago.

*In addition to being a Winston Churchill Fellow, Dido was recently made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for her contributions to Neuroscience, Occupational Therapy and the Arts.

 

 

CHRISTMAS CARDS – THE BI-POLAR SERIES

Of all the people I ever dealt with in the various branches of the art world – “fine” and commercial – by far the most disreputable (and this includes gallery owners, art dealers, advertising bods, and even agents!!) were the greetings cards companies.

A good example of what I mean is represented by the set of cards displayed below. Around 1990 I had the idea of doing humerous cards based on Arctic/Antarctic/Polar themes. I was particularly pleased with the way the dark blue starry skies and snowy landscapes threw the subject matter into sharp relief. They just looked great and I knew they worked and I knew they would sell well.

Anyhow, that Spring I arranged a meeting at the offices of one of the UK’s leading card companies to see what they thought of the designs. After a brief meeting the lady who interviewed me asked if she could keep the pictures for a week or so to enable the “production team” to give them full consideration…

Stupidly, I agreed to this, without even so much as a signed receipt from her proving that she had taken temporary possession of the designs.

About a week later, the lady met me in a cafe behind Selfridges in London and returned the artwork to me, saying that “the team” had decided that the designs were not for them after all.

To my dumb and ingenuous horror, my designs, redrawn by different artists appeared in the shops later that year. After speaking with a top London copyright lawyer I realised that my position was probably hopeless as I had no sure way of proving that the company had had possession of my designs, or that my designs predated those now being printed and sold – in their thousands! Moreover, he told me, even if I did win a legal case – back in those days at least – I would still most likely have ended up out of pocket.

It was an exceptionally painful lesson which contributed significantly to my decision to turn away from art.

Nevertheless, presented here, for the first time is that series of original designs. I think you’ll enjoy them – even if you’ve seen them before – sort of…

MY “DON’T” SERIES – (of greetings cards)

Can’t recall if I already mentioned that for a while I made a modest crust designing greetings cards and I also can’t  recall what on earth the concept was behind this “DON’T” series?  I cannot think of many occasions when one would either present, or wish to be presented with the sort of messages displayed here. Perhaps I actually intended them as posters for a psychiatrist’s waiting room? Who knows?

They were done using sheets of coloured acetates with drawn-then-stenciled figures positioned beneath. In the pre-digital age, this was a tried and tested method for artists on low budgets (without access to things like lithography or screen printing) to achieve clean blocks of solid colour and sharp edges.

Whatever, the images seem reasonably affecting looking at them now.