Tag Archives: art

The Benevolent Stranger

Dropped by the store of the same name today, and it got me thinking….

The idea of a benevolent stranger is a compelling one – all the more so for how rare it is these days. The perception of strangers in this media-hyped era of terrorists and school shooters, disappearing kids, abused elders, and the powerful wantonly abusing said power with no attempt at subterfuge, is of someone to be wary of, to keep at a distance – an unknown quantity, capable of anything, at any time. The erroneous assumption that if someone looks and sounds like me they’re safe, while the “other” is something to be feared, makes things far worse. Because as any sane person knows, there’s zero connection between skin colour, language, accent, number of tattoos or place of birth that dictates how a person will act in any given moment.

We are all galaxies and worlds and universes on the inside, the uncountable parts comprising a whole unique in all of time and space. Opaque, to all we’ve not yet met. Which is why universal connectors like art, music, and stories are not frivolous, pointless exercises, but absolutely vital to our understanding of ourselves, and our ability to connect to that idea of “otherness” – not as a frightening, potentially deadly antagonist, but as a benevolent stranger. Something to approach with a due amount of reasonable caution, perhaps, but with mind and heart open to the idea that, at their core, each stranger is more like us than they are unlike us.

We are all human beings on the one and only habitable planet in a solar system much larger than any of us can really grasp, in an unimaginably vast galaxy, with lots and lots of empty space in between. There is only so much room on this crowded Earth, and we can only push each other so far away.

So play a tune, paint a picture, put on a cheesy low-budget community play, teach someone something new, give something away for free – even if it’s just a smile. It might just help tip the balance to bringing us back together again.

– T.H.

(Written Mon. Jan. 26, 2015, at Black Honey on Hunter St.)

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Filed under Articles & Opinions, Musings & Miscellany, Prose

Life, Unbound

Protozoa by Mark Harrison

Protozoa, by Mark Harrison

Transit by Mark Harrison

Transit, by Mark Harrison

These two have always made me think of some kind of cosmic alien life form, not bound by the dimensional restrictions that normally apply to humans. The first one is aptly titled ‘protozoa’. The second one, ‘Transit’, could be an alien egg just about to hatch – or, as suggested, something in transit from one form to another.

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Filed under Art by Mark Harrison, Pics

Seagulls on Main Street

launch1 by Mark Harrison

launch1 by Mark Harrison

Seagulls flying down main street
Why does it seem incongruous today?
Reason would suggest that they’re the same ordinary lake gulls
that buzz our parking lots & pick at our garbage
And yet, today it seems as if there might be
some grand conspiracy, some avian plot
as they dip and dive, casing out the buildings, measuring traffic flow
all in preparation for some secret rebellion, some white-feathered coup.

(The young man who brought me my bureka called me “madam”
Does that mean that today I look my age?
Or is it a cultural transplant of politeness?
Would he say that to a fresh-faced young student
still learning the maze of our one-way streets and hellishly steep hills?)

Meanwhile, mother-of-the-year award recipient
hangs back and smokes, while her child plays in the street

Trying to remember the vagueness of cars at that age
knowing they’re big, and fast, and dangerous
but so easy to forget, as you move from one fascination to the next
today, in this moment, it’s watching the leaves collect in the gutter,
multicoloured fly-weight boats riding the cold currents of November winds,
congregating around the sewer grates.

[Could you read the future in the way the foam striations
adhere to the porcelain curves?
A map of subtle imperfections,
and the rate at which things cool:
liquid, solid; love & friendship;
memory and passion.]

Why is it, that to feel strong
people need to make someone else feel weak?
Imagine what the world would be like
if we could all be strong together.

– T.H.
(11.13.14, @ Dreams of Beans)

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Filed under Art by Mark Harrison, Musings & Miscellany, Poetry

Fire and Water

I like the juxtaposition in these three between the concepts of fire/heat and water/coolness. These are all examples of Mark’s digital “paintings”, which combine original photographs with digital layering and manipulation (you can find a brief explanation of the process he uses below the pictures). All can be clicked on to see a larger version.

City Lost by Mark A. Harrison, digital painting

City Lost

Fireset by Mark A. Harrison, digital painting


Heat_72 by Mark A. Harrison (digital painting)


The Creative Process:
Mark starts by taking a ton of original photographs, using his trusty Canon Rebel (an old model, but good). When collecting “fodder” (as he likes to call it) for his digital art, he is often drawn to things with intriguing texture and contrast (so his collection includes a lot of close-up macro-photography of things like rusted metal, weathered antiques, moving water, and so on). The digital manipulation process ranges from something as simple as punching up the contrast and saturation, to many painstaking hours of layering (sometimes using dozens of different photos) and playing around with all manner of different filters and tweaking, most of which is well beyond what mere mortals can comprehend (he has more than once shown me Photoshop tweaks I didn’t even know existed; I think he has access to a secret Photo-mage level of menu not allowed to the likes of us regular folks).


Filed under Art by Mark Harrison, Pics

Planets – Art by Mark A. Harrison

Planet Shadow by Mark Harrison

Blue Planet Reclined by Mark Harrison

Comicbook Planet by Mark Harrison

Heading Home by Mark Harrison

Click on pics for full-size image.

Website: www.magpiedesign.net


Filed under Art by Mark Harrison, Pics, Videos & Other Media

Nightwatching – A Review

I’ll let you in on a secret.  Known to festival buffs and die-hard collectors, it’s a fact of which much of the general public is sadly ignorant. Musicians still record albums.  And movie-makers still make films.  It may be hard to believe, given the seemingly endless stream of forgettable popcorn sequel remakes, but it’s true.  I was lucky enough to see two of them in this past month alone.

The first was the latest, heavily condensed version of the John le Carré classic, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring the inimitable Gary Oldman as George Smiley.  The other was Nightwatching, a film by Peter Greenaway, starring Martin Freeman as Rembrandt (yes, you read that right).  It’s a story about art, politics, sex and love, and a famous painting (The Night Watch) with a mystery at its core.

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, there was a time when you could look at a single frame of film and know instantly what movie it was, or who directed it – when good movies and good directors had a signature look that was as unmistakable as a fingerprint.  Even the earliest of the classic Disney movies had it (although you’d never guess that these days).  Movies that so perfectly captured an era, or a mood, or a thought, that they were forever stamped in the public consciousness as a result.  Now, I’m not saying either of the films I saw quite made the eternal classic-to-be grade, but at least it’s nice to know that somewhere out there, people are still trying.

Nightwatching is one of those films that defies genre to the point where you’re left wondering how to describe it afterwards.  Is it a film, or a painting in motion?  A work of art, or an act of theatre? A profound what-if, or merely a self-reflexive daydream-cum-nightmare?  From the first scene, it’s shot and lit like a play; you half expect to hear people in the audience shuffling and clearing their throats.  Every frame is tone-coloured to feel like you are living inside one of Rembrandt’s paintings – visceral, rich, dark, intimately real, yet unreal.  The dialogue is that strange admixture of naturalistic (to the point of crass) and highly stylized, that makes one wonder what Shakespeare might have sounded like if he had been working rated R instead of PG.

The pacing of the film is, as you might suspect, much like watching a painting in progress.  It could easily bore one person to tears, while keeping the next on the edge of his/her seat.  I found myself oddly mesmerized by the gradually increasing tension, the way it sucks you in, starts you guessing, begins with vague hints that devolve into brutal directness as the film progresses.  And there was no small amount of beauty in the sheer look of the thing. The statements, and criticisms, the characters make about the famous painting throughout the movie could just as easily apply to the film itself.

Even the role of the audience is unclear.  At times you feel like a trusted confidante, a fellow conspirator; at other times, like a voyeur, witnessing things you were never meant to see, scenes that would make an HBO movie blush.  Yet despite its excesses – and yes, it has it all – it never feels gratuitous.  Perhaps because of the way it builds, adding layers and depth as it goes, tempting you to look closer, so that you don’t realize the disturbing nature of what you’re looking at until it’s too late.

It’s not a movie for the faint of heart, or the prudish, or the easily bored (for the ADHD-afflicted, I recommend re-watching The Transporter).  But I think I can say it achieves what it sets out to.  In the end, love it or hate it, it is a work of art.  Derivative it may be, but you could do far worse than deriving your inspiration from one of the greatest painters of all time.  You won’t come away from this movie feeling happy.  You might not even like it.  But if you stick with it to the end, it’s a safe bet you won’t ever forget it.

Speaking of albums – Hugh Laurie’s “Let Them Talk” is worth a listen.  Check it out.

– T.H.


Filed under Musings & Miscellany, Videos & Other Media