Thursday, 29 April 2010

Connections Magazine - Spring #15 2007

© Alison Day

First published in the Connections magazine #15 Spring 2007 

Easter & the Moon Rabbit

This year, as you casually bite off the ears (or other extremity) of a chocolate bunny, have you ever asked yourself as to why a rabbit (or hare) is part of the Easter celebrations?

If you want to go down the most obvious path the Easter bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The Hare and the Rabbit were the most fertile animals known and served as symbols of the new life during the Spring season.

The German settlers, who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s, were the ones who introduced the Easter bunny to American folklore. The arrival of the ‘Oschter Haws’ was considered ‘childhood's greatest pleasure’, (after Santa Claus of course). The children believed that if they were good the ‘Oschter Haws’, would lay a nest of coloured eggs and built their ‘nest’, using a cap/bonnet, which has led to the later tradition of the more elaborate Easter basket. In those days Easter bunnies were made of pastry and sugar and not of chocolate.

But according to some, Easter is not really a solar festival but rather one of the moon, the measurer of our days. Many eastern artists have depicted the moon with rabbits racing across its face. In one such story Buddha places Rabbit in the moon as payment for a favour in which Rabbit voluntarily gave himself as food for one of Buddha's hungry friends. An honorary position, for the full moon is seen as the destroyer of darkness or ‘sign of new life and messenger of immortality’ (Hillard).

A more important connection can be found exclusively within the hare, which unlike the rabbit is born with his eyes open. The Egyptians called the hare Un, which meant ‘open, to open, the opener’. Un also meant period. Thus the rabbit became a symbol for periodicity in both the lunar and human sense of the word. The hare as ‘opener’ symbolized the New Year at Easter, fertility and the beginning of new life within the young.

Happy Easter!

© Alison Day

First published in the Connections magazine #15 Spring 2007 

Groningen Street Art

Magnificent buildings aside Groningen also boasts 400 sculptures and other artistic creations within its city limits. To be found all over in parks, public places, on bridges and street corners, they are permanently on show and open to the elements. Often we see them with such regularity in our daily lives that we don’t really see them anymore.

One such sculpture along the Boteringesingel in the Noorderplantsoen is of a large bull, ‘de Wisent’ (European bison). Created by the Groninger artist Wladimir de Vries (1917–2001), it measures two by three metres long and weighs ten tons and is one of ten statures that can be accredited to him in the city. The bull is a solid primitive form with limbs and head fused into a solid imposing grey mass. Taking a year and a half to sculpt during which eight tons of stone were chipped away before the creature finally emerged.

A sculptor of the old school, Wladimir de Vries would first work out his idea in clay, then once satisfied go to work on the designated piece of stone with chisels and sledgehammers: a time consuming and arduous task. His work is predominantly figurative which exudes a sense of pride and joy. Woman is often a reoccurring theme; the sensual nature of which often caused much debate with not only his clientele but also the public.

Probably his most renowned work is that of ‘Landbouw en Veeteelt’ (Agriculture and Cattle breeding), to be found on the Herebrug (Here bridge) and depicts an urban virgin. She is naked except for a few ears of corn wrapped around her middle and has her foot placed on a calf lying at her feet. In 1953, when it was placed on the bridge it was received with mixed emotions. Some found her too naked, whilst others found the rather strange proportions of her body disturbing. Children on the other hand, were bothered by the plight of the poor calf under her large foot. However, over the years she has obviously grown on the Groningers who have dubbed her ‘Blote Bet’ (Bare Bet).

© Alison Day

First published in the Connections magazine #15 Winter 2007 

Connections Magazine - Winter #14 2006

After earlier photo montages on covers of previous issues, this was the first issue that highlighted the work of featured artist, Jim Gamblin.

© Alison Day

First published in the Connections magazine #14 Winter 2006 

Jim Gamblin - 'Elements from our World'

All it took was the glimpse of a photograph of a racing car in a magazine at the age of 12 to start Jim Gamblin along the road into the photographic world. Later, to further his pursuit of the art of photography and techniques of the trade he attended Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California.

Jim started as a commercial photographer’s assistant and ventured out into the world. He learnt the tricks of the trade whilst working on a diversity of assignments. One in particular, he remembers, meant he had to light a mud wrestling competition. But his preference lay with the big studio shoots with their party atmosphere, cast of thousands and cutthroat hustle and bustle, reminiscent of the 1960’s film ‘Blow Up’, by Michelangelo Antonioni.

After a time Jim began to combine working in lighting for two independent photographers as well as becoming a location scout assistant. Contact with one of the photographers led him into the world of commercials. This appealed to the film buff in him, as an advertisement can also be compared to a scene out of a film, very often requiring as much preparation and a budget to match.

Work as a location scout took off and this meant he was often given carte blanche to find and photograph potential locations for a film. In this way he was able to produce his own photographic work, whilst at the same time looking for an appropriate film location. Becoming an invaluable part of a film’s production, his involvement also meant that on set he was able to learn from some of the best names in cinematography of the time.

In his work, Jim tries to capture all the elements of an image in one shot, hoping at the same time to evoke emotion and inspire others, ‘or just to stop and see the beauty of the elements from our world’. As an artist, Jim believes firmly that one should always be open to change and be ready and willing to learn new things in order to progress. A vocation is a constant challenge and does not have a finish line. Just like the priest he saw who signed his completed paintings at the bottom with ‘Priest in training’.

Years later in 2003, having traded the west coast of The States for The Netherlands, to be with his Dutch partner, Kea (who is now his wife), Jim found himself in the near vicinity of Zandvoort. Kea, upon hearing that Zandvoort was the place where the inspirational photo had been taken of Jim Clark (by photographer Henry Manney), that he had seen all those years ago in the photographic book, immediately turned the car around and headed off in the direction of Zandvoort, thereby bringing Jim full circle after all these years back to his beginnings.

For the future Jim is interested in branching out into portraiture as well as creating photographic film-like stills for graphic work such as brochures. Should you be interested in contacting him or seeing more examples of his photography his website can be found at: Jim Gamblin 

© Alison Day

First published in the Connections magazine #14 Winter 2006 

The Romanesque Beauty of the Aa-Kerk

The Der Aa-Kerk with its characteristic yellow tower can be found in the centre of Groningen, alongside the fish market and centre’s shops.

A little Romanesque cross church that was built in the 13th century was enlarged in the 15th century to a gothic cross-basilica. The organ it contains is of great international repute and dates back to the 17th century. For the first four centuries of its existence, the church was a Roman Catholic Church after which during the Reformation it passed into the hands of the Reformed community for the next four centuries. In the 1970’s the last of the three monumental churches in the centre of the city of Groningen (Der Aa-kerk, the Martinikerk and the Nieuwe Kerk) became too large for the Reformed community and after restoration the church became part of Stichting Der Aa-kerk (non-profit) in 1987. The church has now mainly a cultural function.

The name ‘A’ comes from the river Aa that used to have an important function for sailors and merchants in the western part of the city. The vault, which originally was not much bigger than a large village church, was dedicated to the holy Nicolaas (or Sinterklaas), who amongst others is the patron saint of sea merchants and traders.

In 1671, as a result of a lightning strike and ensuing fire, the tower and clock had to be totally restored, with further repairs being carried out in 1710. The new tower was finally completed in 1718, a design of the town construction master, Allert Meijer. Since then there has been a ‘tidy-up’, in 2006 of the church restoring it to its former glory.

Although the Aa-kerk hasn’t been in use as a church for more than twenty years, it is still in use for exhibitions, congresses, readings, theatre shows, and weddings. There are also educative programmes available for the first two years of primary school.

© Alison Day

First published in the Connections magazine #14 Winter 2006 

Pacific Restaurant Review

For their ritual monthly night out together, the Ladies of Connect met at the Pacific Restaurant & Café, in the centre of Groningen, which opened its doors in in June 2006..

With an Australian style interior and matching cuisine, the lunch menu offered a variety of dishes to choose form. For a starter, instead of pumpkin or oriental soup one could choose Carpaccio Aboriginal with kangaroo meat followed by Ozzie Ostrich a ‘tender Ostrich steak served with a delicious roasted garlic sauce’.  For dessert, chocolate features heavily on the menu not that we were complaining), but also includes a couple of fruit desserts as well.

For groups of 15 or more it is possible to experience the Pacific Food Adventure with a three-course menu featuring flavours, herbs and spices from the Pacific region. For a birthday, graduation, or special event it is also possible to order Pacific’s Chocolate Cake - ask for details.

There were varied reactions to the restaurant and its food resulting in the decision to start up ‘The Connect Gourmet Guide’. Each Connect lady present has given the restaurant a mark on a scale of one to five. Areas judged were food, atmosphere/staff and value for money. At the end of this article you can see the results of our first Gourmet Guide. So a word of advice to all restaurants – if you see a large group of ladies approaching your premises, it may be worth your while to pull out all the stops!

The Pacific Restaurant & Café can be found Oosterstraat 65-67, 9711 NS Groningen.
Website: here

© Alison Day

First published in the Connections magazine #14 Autumn 2006 

Featured City - Zwolle

The name Zwolle comes from the word Suolle, which means ‘hill’. Zwolle was founded on a hill between the three rivers surrounding the city, Ijssel, Vecht and Zwarte Water. The hill was the only piece of land that would remain dry during the frequent flooding of the rivers. The oldest known written mention of Zwolle is from 1040. A document mentions the existence of a parish church dedicated to St Michael.

The city is a municipality and the capital city of the province of Overijssel, Netherlands, with about 115,000 citizens. Found 80 kilometres northeast of Amsterdam, it is the logical centre and link for all the different regions in the Netherlands and Germany. This is due to good accessibility via road, rail and water.

Citizens of Zwolle are colloquially known as Blauwvingers (Bluefingers). This dates back to the rivalry with neighbouring city Kampen. When the local government was in need of cash, they saw no option but to sell church bells to Kampen. To make sure Kampen did not make too much profit form the deal, the local authorities asked a high price for the church bells. Kampen agreed to the deal, on the condition that they could choose their own way of paying for the church bells. Zwolle consented and Kampen paid in cope coins of four duiten (the equivalent of 2-and-a-half guilders). Because of their distrust, Zwolle wanted to be sure Kampen had truly paid the entire price. The local authorities therefore counted the money until their fingers had turned blue from the copper.

With a variety of historic monuments, some of which date back to as early as 1399, the city is worth a visit. There is the church tower, known as the Peperbus (Pepperbox). This is one of the tallest and most famous church towers in the Netherlands. There is also the Sassenpoort, which was built at the end of the 14-th century, but wasn’t completed until the beginning of the 15-th century. The restoration of 1894 and 1897 meant that the pointed neo gothic clock tower was added. Originally the Sassenpoort was the gates to the city and part of the old city wall. It is the only part left over, but an impressive sight none the less. Other buildings include the Mosterdmakerstoren (the complex where local mustard used to be made0, a guild-house dating back to 1571, a Dominican monastery, and a museum of antiquities and natural history. 

© Alison Day

First published in the Connections magazine #14 Autumn 2006