MIKE:

One renowned glass practitioner and three artists who could be described — not unkindly — as zany, off-the-wall, or, at the very least, unusual, comprise the latest exhibition at Space. The former, in Gallery 1, is the doyen of Whanganui glass, David Traub, whose many works, especially platters, have delighted the eye for decades. In his statement he tells us that his creations are inspired by "painting, textiles and architecture", all of which can be discerned in their intricate simplicity, an apt oxymoron.

The "unusual" trio are Pat Cush, Mike Marsh and Mark Rayner, all of whom lay some claim to that epithet in their statements. Mark worked in ceramics and photography before remaking his name with latch hook rugs. Many of you will remember his picture of a somewhat coy Andrew Little! For this show he has hung a self-portrait, and, appealing to canine devotees, a lovable spaniel. Some of his ceramics are on display too, exemplifying his phrase "all things weird and wonderful". Indeed! Joan and I have a small bust of a bare-chested, red-haired figure, with the ugliest face imaginable! It always strikes me as a representation of the Titan Prometheus, who was punished by Zeus for giving mankind the secret of fire. We love it, but have to hide it away when our house-sitter is in residence! She finds it scary! It certainly suits the "warning" Mark has put out, that his works are "often abjectly humorous, alluring and addictive to collect".

As Mike Marsh says, he is probably best known for his "pop paintings", but has recently moved on to hand cut collage. Several of the latter dominate one wall of Gallery 2, along with a couple of his larger works.

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Sharing Gallery 1 with David Traub are the abstract paintings of Pat Cush. Sunglasses are generally in order when viewing his works! Vivid splashes of colour, a mix of oils and acrylics, cover the surfaces of the small boards he uses. I wonder what would be the effect of a much bigger piece? When I once asked Pat what the titles of his work meant, he said they had no particular relevance. A word would pop into his head as he was painting, so there was his title! His frankness was refreshing. Sarah Williams told me, "Pat just likes to paint", which is revealed in his own words that his results are "only achievable with commitment, joy, patience and reflection".

JOAN: I enjoy going to the Embassy Cinema on the last Wednesday of the month when there is always a large audience for the film chosen by U3A. It is a special rendez-vous as so many of us who attend know each other and there is a warm buzz of "meetings and greetings" before we settle down to watch. Recently Mike and I differed in our reactions to an Icelandic film with subtitles, described as "a thriller-comedy-drama". Centred around a middle-aged woman, with a strong mental, physical and emotional personality, it tells of her crusade against the nearby aluminium smelter. The scenes have much visual impact, the characters too. I very much admired the acting and was intrigued by the interaction of this woman, Halla, her sister, her farmer friend and supporter and the citizens of her small town. Incongruous to me, was the unravelling of the story where the emphasis changed from activism to the difficulties of adopting a young Ukrainian girl as her personal life becomes more tangled.
Music plays a large part in the film. Halla is conductor of the local choir.The music they produce is in delicate contrast to the barren land she travels across in her attempts to shut down the smelter. The director also uses a trio of musicians who appear, without speaking, in virtually every scene, providing the equivalent of both a Greek Chorus and musical backing to the moods of the film.

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film 97 out of 100. Those around me, including Mike, responded verbally to the suspenseful yet often wryly comic incidents shown by the writer. I appreciated what author and director Benedikt Erlingsson aimed to achieve and respected his work. However, it did not touch me in any way. I learnt little about this so different land. I found the story rather inane and I could not relate to character or intended humour. My inadequacy, I fear, as the film has been greatly praised by reviewers. It gave Mike and me a good discussion point and that is always worthwhile.

MIKE: I'd forgotten how long the tunnel is which leads to the Durie Hill elevator! Saturday morning, post-aviary session, saw me striding out, following three ladies, who, the closer they got to the lift, the louder they called "Zena!", the name bouncing off the echo chamber of the walls. They were members of Sylvia's Tappers, as is Zena, the guardian of the lift. On entering her sanctum sanctorum, she presented each of us with an elevator centenary pen. A mere $2 for a ride up and a free pen! A Yorkshireman's heaven!

On disembarking, we found ourselves engulfed by an immense crowd of merrymakers. Well, not really! The organisers, I'm sure, would have been wishing for that, but, after all, this is sedate little Whanganui. About 50 people were wandering around, in beautiful winter sunshine, with food stalls to tempt the palate and a colourful collection of various vintage vehicles receiving admiring glances. One of the tappers, Cherie, soon entered into the spirit of the occasion, clambering on to a pair of stilts and taking a few — about four! — stuttering steps as she wobbled precariously. That seemed to be the highlight of the entertainment until the sack races. I didn't enter!

A regular feature of many Whanganui events , the "Sound of Music" melodeon, was in fine form, belting out its happy, clappy, foot-tappy tunes, though a number of its notes seemed to have got tangled up in the wires of Puppet on a String. A vertiginous climb up the spiral staircase almost ended in disaster, as my foot hit a cleverly disguised metal protuberance. On pitching forward, I was grateful for the fact that someone had thoughtfully put a guard rail there! But, seriously! Could there not be a warning sign, or could not the treacherous metal be painted in a different colour? Anyway, the climb and potential calamity were thoroughly justified by the extensive view over our lovely city. A wonderful panorama! I'm already looking forward to the next celebration in 2119!

Comments and suggestions to mjstreet@xtra.co.nz