Monday, 31 August 2015

Stationery Store Series: Dymocks of Sydney

To land in a new land and not seek out the stationery shops is unheard of for a certain category of people. And thus, sightseeing in Sydney had to include a visit to Dymocks which not only is the country's oldest Australian-owned bookstore but also a purveyor of stationery and office supplies. 

Dymocks' Stationery is on the ground floor adjacent to the bookstore on George Street and offers a variety of notebook and writing equipment brands in a traditional layout.  There is a fountain pen section, a comprehensive array of inks and notebooks and pens for every pocket.  There are Monte Verde, Pilot, J. Herbin, De Atramentis and Kaweco inks; all the colour range of Lamy; Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Leuchtturm 1917, Note Book by Apica (Japan), Life Noble notebooks (Japan) calligraphy pads as well as Chinese-made coloured loose paper. Pencils in stock included Palomino Blackwings and Goldfaber. 

If there wasn't any sightseeing to be done I would have spent more time in Dymocks. As it were one hour would have to do. 

Dymocks' fountain pen section
Glass cabinet full of fountain pens at Dymocks Sydney
The full Lamy - at Dymocks Sydney
Also: inks. J Herbin, De Atramentis, Pilot, Kaweco, Monte Verde...
Notebooks at Dymocks Sydney
The Leuchtturm1917 collection

The Note Book by Apica Japan collection
Calligraphy pads at Dymocks

Notebook by Clairefontaine collection at Dymocks
The pencil collection of Dymocks Sydney

Life Noble notebooks, Rhodias, loose ruled paper of colour!
Browsing never ends at Dymocks
Good bye Dymocks Stationery.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Past and the automaton in Scorsese's Hugo

I have always regarded the automaton in Scorsese's Hugo as a metaphor of the historian's quest for recovering and deciphering the past. The quest to piece the past together is perhaps not so much about a longing to possess some forgotten truth: it has to do with refusing to accept deletion, mortality - it is about installing order to an unknown and for this reason chaotic world. 

Unlocking the archive. The boy finds the key which will put the automaton into operation.
Putting the pieces together lulls us into safety. We cannot have disorder. We need classification, categories, causes and effects, solid interpretations, objectifications of uncertainty. There is such a thing as putting the past together, says the automaton. The automaton is itself the assemblage of its parts, neither male nor female, carrying a screwed-on Frankenstein monster-like face, always on the verge of speaking but mute, about to have an expression but remaining enigmatic with an emerging but never quite there Mona Lisa smile. 

When the key is finally produced and clicks into operation, the automaton proves to be a vessel of yet another cypher. Preserved and revered because it was thought to carry a message from the boy's dead father (what a great metaphor for a historical archive!), the automaton produces something entirely different (oh the joys of historical research and discovery!). The automaton's whole purpose was to preserve and reproduce a fragment of a forgotten film maker's work. It is a vessel of a historical record.

The whole elaborate contraption exists so that it can reproduce this image from the past, this fragment of the past external to itself yet the raison d'etre of its existence. Putting a pen holder to use, the automaton imitates a living organism as if to animate what has been dead and forgotten. The automaton, a monument of the past itself, produces and preserves another monument of the past. The past in which both monuments existed does not exist save within these monuments - within the automaton, the pen holder, the image. The materiality of the automaton - its cogs and wheels, its moves, its pen holder, the ink it uses - and the materiality of the image it produces - the painfully slow production of pen marks on paper makes the finished image even more stunning in its brutality - conceals the fact that the past is in fact dead.

Hugo and Isabelle marvelling at the automaton drawing in Scorsese's Hugo (2011)

The past's reproduction, its material traces comforts us that not all is lost, that there is life after death, that there is order, truth, certainties. We can live happily ever after if only we try hard enough.

The automaton starting to draw in Scorsese's Hugo (2011)

In the nostalgic and optimistic world of Scorsese's Hugo the relics of the past have a real connection with the present. In fact, they enhance the present by recovering the past even if that recovery is unavoidably incomplete. We are certainly imaginative enough to fill in the gaps and create our own version of the past in the present.

The automaton drawing an image from George Melies' old movie in Scorsese's Hugo (2011)

Screenshots from Martin Scorsese's Hugo (2011)

Monday, 10 August 2015

Writing instruments in David Hockney's art

Pencils, pen holders and inkpots in David Hockney's art. 

Photos from the exhibition catalogue, Hockeny Printmaker in Dulwich Picture Gallery, February to May 2014.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The virtuous sharpened pencils by Ian McEwan

Often when she was unhappy, she wondered what it was she would most like to be doing. In this instance, she knew immediately. She saw herself on the London-bound platform of Oxford railway station, nine o'clock in the morning, violin case in her hand, a sheaf of music and a bundle of sharpened pencils in the old canvas school satchel on her shoulder, heading towards a rehearsal with the quartet, towards an encounter with beauty and difficulty, with problems that could actually be resolved by friends working together. Whereas here, with Edward, there was no resolution she could imagine.

Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach, 2007.

Watch Ian McEwan talk about the novella on YouTube.