SUNDAY 25TH NOVEMBER 2012.
Susanne was our reason for visiting St Gallen.
The circumstances leading up to how we met Susanne are interesting. In 1985 our pottery workshop was in full swing and at one stage our business was listed with the Australian Department of Trade as being suppliers of ceramic figurines. Susi who lived near St Gallen contacted the Department of Trade in Zurich, obtained our address and wrote asking could she come and work in our pottery workshop. Even though we didn’t know her we said ‘why not’. She arrived and picking her up at the Tamworth airport we were surprised to find a pretty wayout girl (at least for conservative Tamworth). She was a punk.
Punks in those days were gender equalists, had minimalistic attitudes and they wore specific clothing which could include tight leather bondage pants and pants with leopard patterns. Susi didn’t wear any of those types of clothes but she did wear billowing Turkish pants and if I remember correctly they had paisley patterns on them. However she did conform with regards punk hairstyle with bleached spiked hair.
After settling into our home she asked where the bistros were, meaning, where could she go for entertainment. In our village there were no bistros, they were in Tamworth twenty kilometres away. So she could get there easily we bought her a motorbike. After giving her a set of learner plates to put on the motorbike she declared indignantly that she didn’t need them and tossed them in the rubbish bin. I don’t know if she had a Swiss motorbike licence. We dared not ask but assumed she did.
She was a great worker and she turned twenty-one when living with us so I suppose we have seen her grow up.
Sadly she is no longer doing pottery but is involved with mental health administration and union business. During our stay this time we had long discussions about the rights of workers and where the world is heading economically.
Even though she is no longer manipulating clay she still moves in artistic circles and St Gallen is the perfect place for those with an artistic bent. Art is everywhere around the city.
When we visited Susi in 2005/6 she took us to an artist friend who made sculptures from toe- and finger- nails. In his studio he had containers catalogued with finger and toenail clippings sent to him from people from all over the world.
During our stay this time she took us to another artist friend, Martin who, with the aid of very old printing press methods, prints posters with sublime messages relating to modern society. Another of his artistic achievements is the formation of ‘The Incredible Green Cat Company’ whose agenda is to find a living naturally coloured green cat. There is a message on the web relating to the green cat. It reads as follows:
THE INCREDIBLE GREEN CAT COMPANY IS STILL LOOKING FOR THE OMINOUS (sic) GREEN CAT. MAIL-ART OR ANY OTHER MESSAGE ABOUT THE SUBJECT IS WELCOME AT: POINT JAUNE, LINSEBÜHLSTRASSE 77, CH 9000 ST.GALLEN, SWITZERLAND. CONTRIBUTIONS WILL BE EXHIBITED PERMANENTLY AT THE POINT JAUNE MUSEUM (POSTPOST-OFFICE) AND ON THIS BLOG. THANX FOR HELPING US TO DISCOVER THE SECRET BEHIND THE GREEN CAT.
Now you are probably asking what’s this green cat business all about. What it is about is fun and once you know about the cat you start looking for one. Following are a few images of some green cats people have sent to Martin and some we have found in our travels.
The following two images are of sculptures on display in a gallery window in the very historic town of Murten not far from Bern. If you want to see more of these creative ceramic cats go to http://www.shashana-kneubuehl.ch We didn’t actually meet with the sculptor on the day we visited the town as it was a public holiday and the majority of the shops were closed.
Whilst staying with Susi Bev and I went into St Gallen city centre on a number of occasions and the buildings and their adornments are overwhelmingly beautiful and artistic. For example, many shops have oriel windows, all of which are a piece of art.
An oriel window is basically a bay window but suspended above ground level. The term ‘bay’ comes from the fact that houses built up side streets did not have a full frontal view of the bay (seaside bay) so building an angled projection protruding from the house meant people could sit in the window and see the bay down the street.
Doors are not excluded from artistic expression. It seems to me there could be fierce competition as to who has the most creative door.
Exposure to all the art of St Gallen made me come down with what’s known as Stendhal’s Syndrome. Stendhal’s Syndrome is brought on when you are overwhelmed with the aesthetic beauty of things around you. The French writer Stendhal (1783-1842) collapsed one day while visiting Florence, overwhelmed by the beauty of the Renaissance and exhausted by trying to see absolutely everything.
Stendhal’s collapse is an extreme case, perhaps, but he’s not the last one to be overcome by too much Europe. You may not faint in the piazza but you might become irritable and tired, or simply cease to care if you never see another piece of classic architecture.
After a few days or weeks of pell-mell sightseeing, you start wearing down. When the prospect of visiting yet another cathedral elicits from me ‘whatever’ when Bev asks me what I want to do next I know it’s time to recharge my mental batteries. The best way to recharge the batteries is to stay home and do nothing. So the day after the St Gallen artistic exposure we stayed home and watched Local Hero on DVD.
Whilst in St Gallen we hired a car as we decided we need wheels for mobility and also we need to go south to escape the cold. For years I have wanted to visit the Robert Louis Stevenson trail which runs through the Cevennes (mountain range) in southern France. Now it has snowed we definitely want to go south to a warmer climate!
Before setting off we needed to go back into St Gallen city to take some photos of places where we were a few days before prior to the snowfalls that changed the face of the city.
Technically, this is not a true gargoyle because gargoyles are supposed to be made from stone. These days the term is used for spouts, particularly ugly ones like this chap, that convey water away from the walls of a building.
Gargoyles were made ugly on purpose as church authorities used them to convey messages to the common people. Since illiteracy was common, images were the best way to constantly convey ideas. That’s why there are so many religious paintings in churches. Gargoyles were used as a representation of evil. It is thought that they were also used to scare people into coming to church, reminding them that the end of days is near if they don’t come to church and seek forgiveness. However, some medieval clergy viewed gargoyles as a form of idolatry. In the 12th century a church leader named St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1113) spoke out against their use; he reckoned they were a waste of money.
St Bernard’s other claim to fame was that it was he who played a leading role in the development of the cult of the Virgin Mary who was one of the most important manifestations of popular piety of the 12th century. In early medieval thought, the Virgin Mary had played a minor role and it was only with the rise of emotional Christianity that she became the prime intercessor for humanity with the deity. All this might sound a little heavy but I’m trying to understand the stories behind the stories when I look at a religious icon, object, painting or sculpture relating to the church.
We bade Susi and Christian farewell and headed for Bern. Our friends here are Rahel, our exchange student daughter, husband Michi and their daughter Emma and Rahel’s father Peter. Whilst with them we borrowed sleeping bags and other odd pieces of gear for our trip south.
In 1972 we also went south. Greece, Turkey and the Middle East were our destinations then and for the very same reason, to find the sun. To do the trip I have calculated it will cost around $600 for fuel, $500 for accommodation and $300 for tucker. The total of $1400 is not too bad but, compared to 1972, it is a lot more.
Japanese boy (second from left) talking to a Greek merchant sailor, Bev, and the café owner nursing a hangover. The Japanese boy was riding a pushbike around the world.
The next posting will relate to our trip south chasing the sun around the Cevennes and Provence region of southern France.