FROM ARABESQUE TO ARABESQUE – Dido’s 30 year journey from clinical ‘OT’ to tenured professor…

On New Year’s Day 1989 I had the great good fortune to meet a beautiful ex-ballerina called Dido Nicholson. Almost exactly two years later, on New Year’s Eve 1990 we were married at Marylebone Registry Office in the West End of London, by which time I had got to know and fall in love with the extraordinary mind, personality and character behind that beauty.

The pictures of two Dido arabesques which head this post roughly frame her career – at least the travel-related episodes of her career – with the first executed on the desert dirt outside San Pedro de Atacama in 1991 and the second, just last winter (2018) on the a frozen lake in our current location of Jönköping in Sweden. Dido had been injured out of the ballet several years before we met (see: https://adamhalevi777.com/2014/12/23/before-we-met/) and, after having dabbled with things as disparate as biochemistry and estate agency she settled on a career in occupational therapy. By the time of our wedding she had been qualified only a few months, but it didn’t take long for her colleagues and employers to realise that Dido’s medical and scientific skills weren’t going to be limited within the regular parameters of her new profession.

Naturally, Dido’s background in dance and the arts was always going to make a significant and innovative contribution to her work as both a therapist and a researcher, from the outset of her career until the present day. Thus, it was no surprise when, as early as 1991 Dido won a 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 (see: https://adamhalevi777.com/2016/11/14/my-gal-the-fellow/). However, the ultimate acknowledgement of Dido’s unusually creative contribution to her science was when in 2014 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Among Dido’s many qualities, aside from her scholarship and devotion to her work, is her academic modesty and generosity – almost to a fault. The main reason it’s taken her until now to gain tenure (apart from the fact she came into OT ten years later than most of her colleagues) is her strict professional integrity and a deep reluctance to blow her own trumpet. Happily, I don’t share that reticence; hence this visual celebration of her illustrious career. These pictures (one or two of which have featured in earlier posts) offer a fun glimpse into Dido’s remarkable progress, from clinical occupational therapist to leading child neuroscientist, from the one arabesque to the other…


Chilean Lake District with Volcan Osorno in the background – 1991
Although we didn’t know it then, the Chile adventure proved to be the first of numerous work-related trips far and wide; with yours truly in-tow to provide what’s become a visual record spanning the best part of three decades…
First Morning in India – Chennai – 2003
By the time I took this photo (one of my favourite portraits of her), Dido ‘s expertise in child autism was already so internationally respected that she was brought over to southern India to design and set up a specialist clinic in the Tamil Nadu city of Coimbatore…
Dr. Dido’s First Trip as a PhD – University of Ghent – 2007
Despite the strenuous demands of her clinical lead position at Guy’s and St. Thomas Hospital (a London teaching hospital) Dido somehow found the time and energy for research into developing our understanding
of movement disorders and motor learning in children . In 2007, this aspect of her work was rewarded with a PhD from the University of Leeds…
Dido at Point Sublime – Blue Mountains – Australia – 2007
Unquestionably, one of Dido’s most pleasing and relatively regular destinations has turned out to be Australia. We’ve been fortunate enough to travel there three times, and each trip has been memorable; professionally, socially, culturally and scenically…
Dido and Jaffa – Tel Aviv – 2009
Dido’s first full-time academic post was at Tel Aviv University where apart from enjoying about two years of vibrant and dynamic research she established some of her most enduring relationships, professionally and socially…
Dido Working in the Library – Finca Carmel – 2012
Since 1993, our mountain home in southern Spain has been something of a sanctuary for Dido, and the place she goes to recharge her batteries – physical and mental…
Emergency Sun Hat – Stockholm – 2016
This picture was taken – during an unexpectedly sunny early winter’s day – on one of several work trips Dido made to the Swedish capital. Little did we know as I took this snap that Sweden was soon to become our latest base of operations…
The Ferry to Denmark – Femer Bælt -2017
This picture shows Dido on the ferry from Germany to Denmark en-route to take up her latest post at Jönköping University, where her full professorship was confirmed last month. As for the technicolor pencil case Dido’s holding; well, that’s a whole other story…
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BRICKS – a pictorial tribute to the humble building block of civilisation…

If, as has recently been shown to be true, that the evolution of our human species is intimately connected with our relationship with, and domestication of, the dog, then our development from hunter gatherers to sedentary building dwellers is founded upon our mastery of the humble brick more than any other material.

ROME

We first started making and building with simple mud bricks over 7000 years ago and ever since, both in mud form and the far more durable fired clay variety they have comprised the fundamental building blocks of most urban societies across the globe.

GRONIGEN (THE NETHERLANDS)

Cheaper, and easier to shape than stone and marble, and more durable and weather-proof than timber, clay-based bricks have been mass-manufactured for over four millennia. From China in the east to Rome in the west, bricks were the chosen material to house the citizenry of the world’s mightiest empires.

MONTREAL

While in many cultures, the brick was regarded as purely functional and considered ugly; best concealed beneath layers of plaster and cement; by the late Middle Ages, in northern Europe in particular, a skilfully laid brick rose to aesthetic acceptance.

DUSSELDORF

Among the Western European cultures especially, the brick came to be the defining municipal texture of the “Anglo Saxon” / “Germanic” north, in the same way stuccoed walls evoke the “Latin / Mediterranean” south.

MATFIELD (UK)

As a native Londoner with his main home in Spain I like my bricks both ways – proudly exposed, or peaking out from behind a peeling stucco skin. The pictures presented here are my homage to both. Please enjoy the gallery below…

SAN GIMAGNANO (ITALY)

STILL LIVES (AND STILL BOTTLES) – the evolution of my study of still life…

In a long-lost period of art (except perhaps, for those attending Royal Academy Schools – in the UK at least), both the formal study of the human form (alive and dead) and the formal study of inanimate objects, known under the coverall of still life, formed the foundation of an art education. In exactly the same way as the great literary figures and music composers of yesteryear relied upon solid groundings in grammar and notation respectively, a mastery of observation was regarded a prerequisite for an aspirant artist.

TELEPHONE WITH VASE – oil on paper – 1977
Dramatic, but little feel for the space between the objects…

My own time at art school, beginning in 1976, coincided with the end of that ages-old period, so that even during my foundation course it was the finished image that mattered and not so much how it was created.

BOTTLES AND LEMONS – oil on paper – 1979
Jazzy, but obsessed with the spaces between at the expense of solid drawing…

How much this matters is a debate that has continued unabated since “Modernism” in art began, about the time of my birth in 1960, and not a subject I wish to go into now. However, my own opinion of the matter is well known to regular readers and followers of these pages and evidenced pretty obviously by the pictures displayed here.

FRUIT AND VEG IN BASKET – charcoal on paper – 1980
Sober but with a touch of drama and some half-decent drawing…

Lacking any formal/traditional grounding/tuition in the skills of my trade, early on in my time at art school I began to resort to self-education. As the pictures here attest, at first, I was pretty rudderless, but gradually, over about three years began to evolve a reasonably articulate language built upon a fairly solid visual and observational grammar – albeit, and with apologies to RA Scholars everywhere – personal to me.

BOTTLES WITH FRUIT AND VEG – oil on canvas – 1981
Formal composition, but with contained elements of painterly expression.

FIRST AND nearly LAST – the evolution of my painting on canvas…

One of the many surprises thrown up by my recent digitisation of all my photographs of old artwork was how – once chronologically sorted – it vividly revealed the development of my painting skills – or, if not skills exactly; at least of my comfort with the medium of oil paint. Additionally, they exposed something even more interesting – at least to me – of the dramatic alteration in my spirits and emotions from that heavily pressured time at art school to my days as a confident, free painting spirit.

The two paintings I have chosen for this piece graphically illustrate what I mean:

Soho Buildings was the first painting I ever made on canvas, and how it shows! Thin washes, tentative drawing and clumsy composition. Looking at it now, even in photographic form, I can still feel my fear of the canvas, and my hesitant application of the paint. Plus there was the added pressure of being surrounded by – at least – equally talented artists, most of whom were already familiar with painting on canvas. So, I was desperate for it to appear like I knew what I was doing and that I was at ease with the process, which clearly shows in the picture. But, for all that, the painting has some merit; some lucky accidents; like the two white painted windows on the shaded side of the near building…something quite lyrical about them. Plus, it serves now as a powerfully symbolic and accurate reminder of my gloomy mindset during those first terrifying days at Saint Martins…

SOHO BUILDINGS FROM SAINT MARTINS – oil on canvas – 1978

Girl Fastening Sandal was painted in 1988 and is evidently, everything the Soho picture is not. By this time I was confident and comfortable with both the oil paint and the painting surface and, more crucially, unencumbered by being part of any “art scene” – I didn’t have to worry about peers and rivals watching me over my shoulder. Whereas, with the Soho painting it was all I could do to produce any kind of image on the canvas, with the Girl painting I was preoccupied with expressing the joys and thrills of both the subject and the paint itself. It should look almost as if the paint flowed directly from my mind to the palette knife; a visual stream of consciousness; like a happy, joyous thought. The two paintings here graphically represent a pretty dramatic 10-year transition from student to artist and from teenage hesitancy to adult assuredness.

GIRL FASTENING SANDAL – oil on canvas – 1995

DELPHI – disappointing runs but thrilling ruins…

To many, the idea of travelling to Delphi to ski might seem as daft as travelling to Zermat for the archaeology, but once, many years ago I went to Apollo’s sanctuary for a winter sports holiday.

Obviously, we didn’t need to consult the local oracle to know that the skiing on Mount Parnassus would be nearly as scarce as Doric temples on the Matterhorn. Fortunately, the stunning ancient Greek ruins were more than a compensation for a lack of powder-covered moguls and red runs. What had primarily been intended as a fortnight of physical thrills materialised as a fitness course for the mind.

The treated photos here were taken with my trusty old Canonet 28, but I think they get across something of the drama of Delphi and the sheer majesty of the two-an-a-half-thousand-year-old remains of one the world’s most historically influential civilisations…

Delphi sits on the south eastern slopes of Mount Parnassus, above the Valley of Phocis, seen here looking west…

These columns of the Temple of Apollo date from the 4th century BC and sit upon remains of a 6th century predecessor…

The reconstructed Athenian Treasury was built in the late 5th century BC to commemorate their naval victory over the Persians at Salamis in 478. Every city state of Greece had a treasury at Delphi where their tributes to the god and payment to the Oracle were stored…

The often-remodelled amphitheatre dates originally from the 5th century BC. It sits just above the Temple of Apollo and has stunning views of the Valley Of Phocis…

The Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronia with its famously resurrected column section has become Delphi’s most iconic and most photographed site. I was so drawn to it myself that I visited the Tholos every day of our visit…
The 6500 capacity Stadium sits high above the rest of the site. The field is about 177 long by 26 meters wide…
This was described to me as a sacred pool,…
These newly cut stones are used for restorations and repairs…
The view from modern Delphi, looking south west, across vast olive groves to the Gulf of Corinth.

KINNERET THREE WAYS – a portrait of the Sea of Galilee in three media…

The Sea of Galilee (known in Hebrew as Kinneret, due to its having the shape of a harp – a “kinor”) is well known to most people in the “Abrahamic” world as it played such a crucial part in Jewish, and especially Christian tradition and history. For followers of Jesus it is of course famous for being the actual site and / or backdrop for several of his miracles, while for Jews, its main city of Tiberius was a post-biblical centre of learning and culture.

Arab boy looking east, from Ginosar – ink on paper

For the modern State of Israel, Kinneret is a major source of both pious and recreational tourist revenue, in addition to its crucial role as the country’s primary fresh-water reservoir.

Kids on the Eastern Shore – ink on paper

Sitting as it does towards the northern tip of the Great Rift Valley; filled by the creeks and streams of the western Golan and the Upper Galilee to its north; at its southern point, spilling into the River Jordan and; surrounded on three sides by steep escarpments, the inland lake (for that what it actually is) has a geography to match its epic traditions and history.

Girl on a Raft – Ein Gev – ink on paper

As an artist, and a romantic it was always the stunning physical beauty of Kinneret which excited me most. To this day, I can still clearly remember my first-ever sight of it, from high up above, standing on the Horns of Hattin (where Saladin defeated a Christian army in 1187) – a dazzling smear of precious turquoise sitting deep within a heat-hazed frame of ochres and pale greens.

Three Generations – Eastern Shore – ink on paper

That was in 1967, when I was seven, and it is a view which I have never tired of since, and which I have been fortunate enough to revisit on many occasions, and never more so than during the summer of 1980…

Mother bathing Child – gouache on paper

It was in that year that I and three friends decided to walk the entire circumference of Kinneret – starting out from, and returning to, Tiberius over the course of two days.

Mother bathing Child – oil on canvas

We decided to do a clockwise circumvention and so set off heading north along the west shore of the lake, with only the clothes on our back, two rucksacks (a couple bottles of wine, cans of beer and packets of crisps and Bissli falafel chips in one, and music cassettes and radio batteries in the other) and a small ghetto-blaster…

Ein Gev Bathers – gouache on paper (commercial poster)

As it turned out, these meagre provisions and sparse equipment helped generate one of the most pleasurable 48 hours of our young lives…

Family Group – oil on canvas (palette knife)

The fact we were two boys and two girls; the wine and beer (chilled each evening in cool water of the lake); two lingering golden evening swims; and some incredibly empathetic music provided by the likes of George Benson and Carlos Santana made for an intensely sensual experience…

Danish Girl at Ein Gev – ink on paper

…So much so, that even though it all happened the best part of 40 years ago, whenever I think back to that walk it still makes me smile.

Ein Gev Girl – oil on canvas

Thanks to the fact that I made many sketches and paintings of Kinneret, and the people I witnessed playing on its pebble beaches and bathing in its refreshing waters, I get to smile on a more less a daily basis. I hope that the pictures shown here provide an equally happy reminder to those of you fortunate to have been there, and an enticement to those of you thinking of going…

OUR “WHITE PRAETORIAN” – a portrait of Aura, our Italian guard and friend…

Although I promised the resumption of normal posting for this piece, I’d forgotten that I would be in Oxford, and thus geographically separated from my two hard-drives (one in Jönköping in Sweden, the other in southern Spain). So, for the third successive post I’m restricted to the material I carry around on my laptop and hence, this canine themed picture post.

This is in effect an homage to our late dog Aura, with whom we shared so many wonderful and wacky moments.

The images here will be a pleasant reminder to those among you who remember her, and for those more recent arrivals on these pages, you might wish to check out these links to some of my earlier posts: https://adamhalevi777.com/2015/06/26/dog-days-1-auras-big-sniff/; https://adamhalevi777.com/2015/06/29/dog-days-3-a-dog-in-the-room/and; https://adamhalevi777.com/2015/06/30/dog-days-3-michelin-maremma/

For a large dog, Aura loved small cosy spaces, and none more so than the back of Dido’s old MGB GT – pictured here outside our mews house in Paddington, about to set off for a trip to the Lake District…

…and here we are arrived in the Lakes. This car seating configuration worked just fine, so long as Aura hadn’t eaten anything garlicy the night before!
Aura liked nothing more than frolicking in a heap of freshly fallen snow, or failing that, a heap of freshly fallen autumn leaves…
By the time we’d moved to Spain, Dido had moved up to her late uncle’s Alfa GTV. Despite sharing the same Italian roots with the Alfa, Aura always preferred the MG…
Call me biased, but Aura was quite simply the most beautiful dog I have ever seen, not to mention, the most photogenic. Her she is in our-then new home in southern Spain…
…and she wasn’t averse to modelling the latest hat-wear…
Our time in Boulogne was mostly miserable, but Aura could always lighten the mood with a play on the beach with one of the locals…

This ancient Roman statue (in the Vatican Museum) known as The canis pastoralis  is thought to represent the direct ancestor of the Maremma, which were reported to have guarded the imperial flocks from around the time of Emperor Tiberius (early 1st century).


FINCA-ING OF YOU ALL – New Year’s greetings from Finca Carmel

No time for a proper post I’m afraid with so much work to do on our little farm. Fortunately, the hard labour has its rewards such as the fabulous 2018 vintage port (pictured here) we barrelled in August and is now looking and tasting delicious.

A hearty cheers, lechaim, salud, and whatever your favoured salutation may be, to all my followers, accidental readers and passers by for a happy and healthy 2019!

“THERE IS ANOTHER SKY…” *

With the festive season well underway (Hanukkah is already over) and the year wrapping up, we now find ourselves dashing madly between Jönköping, London, Oxford and finally Malaga. All of which means that once again I have only a little time for writing these posts.

Normal service will be resumed in the new year, but for now and the following post, my pictures will have to do most of the talking for themselves. In this case, here is a collection of amazing skies I have been fortunate to find myself beneath from time to time, both at home and on our travels…

*Emily Dickinson

Altocumulus floccus – Antofagasta – Chile

Pisa – Italy

Altocumulus lenticularis duplicatus  at sunset – Axarquia – Spain
Winter Sky – Canillas de Aceituno – Spain
Lorne Pier – Victoria – Australia

Winter Sky – Netanya – Israel
Sun Break – Southern Ghaats  – India

Altocumulus stratiformis translucidus undulatus – Atacama – Chile
The Golden Hour – Netanya – Israel

The Sea and Hills of Galilee from the Golan Heights – Israel

Water Spout about to Hit the Shore – Netanya – Israel

TRIPLE-TAKES AND DOUBLE CHOICES

During my ten  years or so as a commercial artist I had spells with two top London artist’s agents. The main and obvious advantage of having an agent was that they went out and got you commissions.  Most artists by definition, tend to be ill equipped, emotionally and attitudinally for the tasks of both finding and especially negotiating with clients. Artist’s agents on the other hand, often with backgrounds in advertising and / or art production have extensive lists of contacts and the wherewithal for exploiting those connections. 

This scene from a street in the Andalusian town of Arcos se la Frontera remains my favourite image from the series…

The big disadvantage in the artist / artist agent relationship however was the near-total lack of control the artist has over the process, from commissioning to payment.  And, it was ultimately the payment issues which trumped the advantages and convinced me to toughen-up and go it alone. My final artist’s agent’s commission was a case in point and also the last straw. What began as an unusually free brief – to paint a series of of 24 poster-style gouache paintings to decorate 12 luxury, first-class cruise liner suites for a seriously good fee, manifested as an exercise in frustration and acrimony. The fact I had to resort to the threat of lawyers against my own agent to extricate partial payment gives a good idea of just how sour things got.

This is a scene from a courtyard restaurant in Granada, right by the Alhambra Palace…

In the normal course of events, I worked directly with the clients, and delivered my work to them myself. For some reason never fully explained, on this occasion I did not get to meet the client and instead dealt exclusively with my agent. What exactly went wrong between the time of me handing over the finished pictures to the agent, and her passing them to the client – or indeed, if she ever handed them to the client, I never discovered. All I did know for sure, was that two months of hard work was never fully paid for.  Fortunately, during my ongoing film-to-digital trawl, I recently came across colour slides of several examples of the artwork from that fateful commission and the original photographic templates.

The delightful “balcon” at Arcos…

If I was ever to receive a similar commission again, apart from making sure to deal with the client on a one-to-one basis, I might also decide to produce Photoshop images (presented on the similar art papers to the original gouaches) rather than paintings. For me the finished results, especially with these highly graphic, minimalist images are at least as good as paintings, and in the awful prospect that I again would not be fully recompensed, would have expended a fraction of the time.

And finally, the Bishop’s palace in Seville.

Presented here (within the text) in triptych form are four of those very images. The photo templates comprise the central images, with the original gouaches on the right, and my new Photoshop treatments on the left. See what you think and don’t be afraid to let me know…