Tuesday, February 27, 2018

MAGICAL DREAMS IV - Exhibition in Viechtach - INVITATION

The vernissage will take place on Friday, March 9th at 7 pm 
in the Old Town Hall Viechtach. 
Afterwards, the exhibition runs until May 12th. 
Admission is free.

Old Town Hall, Viechtach

I am showing the following works:

Friday, February 23, 2018

From Here to There and Back Again

From Here to There and Back Again

A journey from Vienna to Novi Sad, Belgrade and return

(and memories of Canadian Winters on the Prairie)

Outside my Dream Window - Waiting

On February 11th 2018 I traveled (for the third time) from Vienna to Novi Sad. I had made the February trip already once before in 2015 to attend the exhibition Antilogika Slike at the Art Salon of the Cultural Center of Novi Sad. These February trips made a strong impression on me, as I will explain below (the image above relates to the description of the landscape). 

I also made the trip in June 2017, spending time at the Artist Colony Rajski Konaci in Serbia at the invitation from Pigmalion.

This time, it was for the opening of the Exhibition and Book Presentation of PIGMALION in Belgrade (more about this event also on my Steemit entry EXHIBITION PIGMALION and Book Presentation in BELGRADE). Visiting my artist friend Snezana Petrovic in Novi Sad, we traveled on February 13th to Belgrade by car.

The Train D 345 is a adventure trip that departs Vienna's Main Station and supposed to take 10 hrs and 9 min - but delays of one hour or so are not uncommon: 
Budapest - Keleti Station

Wien Hbf -  Budapest - Kelebia - Subotica - Novi Sad

The delays are mostly because of border controls, first by the Hungarians in Kelebia, followed by the Serbians in Subotica. Each are scheduled for about half hour, but can take considerably longer. I got used to that and this time, I expected it.

It is from Budapest onward the adventure begins. The landscape does not appear as stark and dreary in Summer, but travelling in Winter through the Puszta in Hungary and Serbia's Vojvodina is not recommended for someone easily depressed.

I had worked in Canada for Canadian Pacific and had traveled occasionally as a freight train brakeman on the now abandoned Prairie branch line from Lethbridge via Manyberries to Shaunavon, and the landscape of the Vojvodina reminded me of these long and lonely Winter trips through a desolate vista. 
Back in Canada, the impressions resulted in several works of art, one of which is this:

Williams Winter - a Tale from the Prairie
Budapest - Keleti Station, waiting to depart
First time out of Budapest on a previous trip I almost panicked thinking I was on the wrong train, because it changed directions seemingly returning - but it goes to a junction past  Budapest-Ferencvaros, a station before Budapests main railway station that we had past already. This time I remembered and was prepared for it. 

While the trip from Vienna to Budapest, with a few stops on the Hungarian side, was relatively quick, once on the junction to Serbia and past Pesterzsebet, the train speed slowed to a crawl in places, and the landscape became more and more dreary. 

Kunszentmiklos-Tass, Bösztör, Szabadszallas, Fülöpszallas .... on and on, the train stopped at places that appeared to be nowhere. Dilapidated stations, but each manned by a person in uniform, a Stationmaster with a red cap, who would hold up a green target and whistle for the train to depart again - only to go back into his station to presumably sleep until the end of his shift. 

Staring out through the window at the Pannonian Steppe I was overwhelmed by the feeling that the landscape was staring back at me with hollow eye sockets that conjured up memories of mummified roadkill cats - sail cats as the Urban Dictionary would describe them (morbid humor, worth a read).
Like pleading skeleton arms reaching out from the yellow soil to the grey sky, trees mournfully remembered that they were not always naked, yearning for spring that seems so far  off.........  

and my vision began to blur - 

a landscape surreal and abstract, 

like a hurried stain on a wet blotter.

Remnant fences that once had seen better days, seemingly forgotten and left to their own fate of a lonely existence.

One strange vision I've seen (going both ways) but did not get a picture of, was a bright yellow upholstered chair in the middle of nowhere, not a house anywhere near it. It seemed to be in good shape, not something one would throw out, but there it was, bright, shiny yellow, unwanted and abandoned. 

It too reminded me of a long lost painting of mine I conceived in my prairie days: I put a parking meter right in the middle of a empty field, no road, no house, just prairie grass wafting in the wind; it was also yellow, contrasting against the grey sky, begging for coins. 

And finally, the border. A strange occurrence at Kelebia on the Hungarian side: a group of people, a family that were in the compartment next to mine, seemingly refugees, the woman wearing a head scarf suggesting they were Muslims, were taken off the train and led away by the Hungarian police. The platform and the train were swarming with police, which made me text to my friend that it appears there are more police than residents in that village. Was this their final destination, or were the prevented from travelling any further? Curious, since Hungary is trying to get rid of refugees, not keep them....... In the presence of police, particularly in foreign locations, I don't point my camera at them, so I have no pictures, on either side. 

Kelebia, on the Hungarian side of the border to Serbia
So with considerable delay we arrived at Subotica, where Serbian Border Guards were collecting our passports. I was just eating my lunch, the guard motioned for me to continue eating and disappeared with my passport. On my previous trips this has not happened before, so I got a little worried. A fellow traveler in the next compartment assured me that this is normal and they will bring it back after controlling it. So yes, they did (same on the return trip). The Hungarians had portable scanners with them, but I guess the Serbians don't have that technology.

Arrival in Novi Sad
Eventually, I arrived in Novi Sad with almost one hour delay. Not much difference from my previous trips. What was different though was that in 2015, I was all alone in the entire train car by the time I crossed the border into Serbia. But this time, the train was quite full.

The times in Novi Sad and Belgrade are for another post, suffice it to say that I had a great time there and it was wonderful to meet my friends again.

I was met by my friends Snezana and Allen who drove me to the Boutique Apartment Hotel Narator where I had stayed the Summer before. A very pleasant place right downtown. The waitress in the restaurant downstairs remembered me from last time and greeted me like an old friend. 

somewhere on the Puszta

The return trip on February 15th did not seem as long although it was (with the usual border delays), but a shorter stop at Budapest made up for some of that time, arriving in Vienna only about 20 minutes late. 

The landscape had not changed with the exception of a bit of snow (it started snowing the day after I arrived). 

What made the trip seem a lot shorter was that I shared my compartment with four young Serbian men, three of which spoke quite good English, who were traveling to Budapest, what they told me, to meet some girls. To which I posed the question "why, you got beautiful girls in Serbia" and they then said that Hungarian girls are easier to meet. OK, all the power to you - it made me remember my own long gone days of sowing my wild oats. 

These were some great guys, polite and respectful and very friendly. First off, one of them shared his lunch with me. I was going to decline saying that he needs all the strength himself once he gets to Budapest, but he said he had packed more than  enough. The meat in the sandwiches he offered he said was a Serbian specialty, and indeed, quite tasty. Then they offered me beer, and a while later another guy produced a large bottle of home-made Rakija that got passed around. Interestingly enough, this did not bother the Hungarian border guard at all (since they seemingly are most concerned about liqueur and cigarettes). Needless to say, the time to Budapest went quick, and by the time they arrived there we had become friends, waving at each other when my train pulled out again. 

I hope you guys had a good time in Budapest! 

While the weather played havoc with my visit in Novi Sad and Belgrade, 
the memory I took home with me were the few early day hours on the 12th in Novi Sad, 
when there were blue skies and sunshine.