Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Recent and current reading ... and anticipations

Perhaps it is at this time of year that I most miss having a cat.
It is difficult to separate my recent four top fiction titles:
Helen Dunmore Exposure
Ali Smith Public Library and other stories
Graeme Macrae Burnet His bloody project
                                  The disappearance of Adele Bedeau
Close behind them comes Alison Moore's Death and the seaside.

Apart from the Ali Smith stories, the above are all mysteries of one kind or another, but in no way conventional.  I now read all fiction on the kindle, but despite it being quite a tome, I do regret not having bought my current bedtime reading as a physical book.  Peter Frankopan's The silk roads: a new history of the world I suspect will last me into 2017.  It is so extensive in its coverage, so dense with fact with so many footnotes, so demanding of mulling over, so interesting that I am reading it one meaty chapter at a time, with a light mystery novel in between.  I find that the mysteries help me to riddle out the chunks of the history which intrigue me most.  It's so compelling a read for me that it easily survives these intrusions.
The mystery stories have been novels by Sophie Hannah, Margery Allingham, Ngiao Marsh, and Jill Paton Walsh.

The Festive Season means a reading bonanza for me; a kind of hibernation from work and a dedication to devouring as much written material as possible.  Recommended by Marja-Leena Rathe when I wrote about my visit to the Tate Modern Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition I was fortunate enough to find in the UK a good second hand copy of Carr, O'Keeffe, Khalo: Places of their own which looks wondrously substantial. 
A recent visit to the Abstract Expressionists exhibition has also made me want to explore that aspect of art history in more detail, and has reminded me of a book I bought some time ago but was not until now ready to read.  That is Picasso and American Art which I shall read before embarking on the Royal Academy catalogue: Abstract Expressionism.

I shall doubtless try to fit in Ian Rankin's latest Rebus book: Rather be the devil.  I do enjoy returning to Edinburgh, even to its underbelly!

Friday, December 02, 2016

Cold gold

Up towards the pavilion
Turning round to see the gallery building with the lovely Bruton dovecote on the horizon (reminding me of Scotland)
Once again our visit to Durslade FarmHauser and Wirth Somerset was in a winter-ish month.  And this week we were favoured with frost, ice, and glorious sunshine, so that the landscape and the garden were beautiful. 
I listed three pleasures in the previous post: the drive to Somerset, our brunch, and the exhibition of Louise Bourgeois prints.  The fourth pleasure was the garden at the back of the galleries.
The combination of frost in the shade, and sparkling gold in the intense sun was magical.
I am intrigued to find out what the plant which reminded me of cotton (above) really is.
I did not see any birds eating those seeds, but otherwise much feasting could be heard all around, the little birds only seen as they flitted through the seedheads.
It was lovely to find some silver amongst the gold.
The Christmas lights were being installed on the roof when we arrived, but I much preferred a small sign in the courtyard.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Outing to an exhibition

Louise Bourgeois: Love and Kisses 2007 etching on paper 153x91.8cm
This morning was one of those glorious Autumn mornings: crisp frostiness with a sunny blue sky.  Below zero Celsius marked in the car, we set off south west towards Hauser and Wirth's gallery in Somerset to see an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois' works on paper: Turning Inwards.
It was early enough to be driving with hardly any traffic, enjoying as we have in years past the Wiltshire countryside in its crisp glory.  Some trees still holding onto russet leaves, others laden with berries, and crab apples shining in mythic gold - the drive there was pleasure number one.
On arrival we went first to have brunch - pleasure number two.
Then on to the exhibition, mostly of prints.  I was taken with so many aspects.  I am not a fan of all of Bourgeois' work.  My favourite of all are the cells which draw me viscerally.  These prints, however, I could have stayed with all day long.  They are shape and not colour, but shade, tone, strength of line, scumble, scratch, ... both deliberate and seeming accidental marks combine to make a mesmerising whole in each case. 
I love the size: the long slim format, sometimes doubled horizontally - sometimes with two sheets together, or even if whole.  The image at the top, Love and Kisses, shows two sheets side by side.  The bulbous interlocking forms as well as the long ribbons on this work are made up of short marks rather than long sweeps.  The pressure can be seen on each mark, somehow even more powerful than the full sweep of line shaping wholes on other works.  It is all so rewarding to examine closely.
We were lucky to have hardly any fellow viewers in the galleries, so could take time to peer closely and enjoy.  I found these images rewarding and inspirational.
The exhibition also included other work - a spider in the barn with the slits of light illuminating its twisting facets and casting fabulous shadows.  Other works on paper, and a delightful small bronze Topiary (below) which reminded me of votive Egyptian sculptures.
We were disappointed to find that we could not visit Alex Van Gelder's photographs of Bourgeois as there was a school group working in the building where they are displayed, but other than that it was a wondrous exhibition.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Still juggling

Work is still progressing in a staccato digressionary way; although I have been preparing pieces for the stitching pile, I am constantly diverted to doodle.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Current colour palette

There is not much in the way of art life immediately around us - someone once described it as the grey area - but we seem to live in a benign weather pocket.  While storms were raging over the weekend in other parts of the country we simply had rain.  No matter what the weather, however, the garden looks glorious at this time of year.  On Sunday the clouds gathered above us and darkness before dawn grew straight into twilight.  Despite this, the view from the window still glowed.
The three cemetery oaks unfailingly provide a stepped colour change: the one on the right is nearer the pond and so loses its leaves last (the deceptive green is the ivy which provides sustenance for the pesky pigeons!).
The rain stopped for a short time, and I grabbed the opportunity to empty the compost buckets from the kitchen, taking my camera for a few snaps in less gloom. 
And closer snaps show how the colours zing even in November grey.  I just love it all.




Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tell me a story

Sadie Brockbank: Blue Dog Journey
Stories are important to us.  Most if not all cultures have folk tales.  Our histories (from the Greek for stories) are told to us to help define us, and we retell them in our turn.
Stories are especially important when we are new to the ways of living - as a child is, or when encountering a new culture or situation.  And we need the dark as well as the light, to help us distinguish the appropriate path forward.
Sadie Brockbank: Rising Waters
But at some point we should develop an understanding that the story is shaped by the teller of the tale.  We as listeners, readers, should be able to stand apart.  Just as with stories told through the puppet theatre, we should progress to understanding the back stage workings as well as enjoying the suspension of disbelief.
I believe it is when our feet are grounded in curiosity and evidence-seeking that our minds can soar through the fresh atmosphere of imagination and creativity. 

Sadie Brockbank: Becoming
The danger is that we are encouraged to seek out only the stories we want to hear, and never look behind the presentation.  That way we run the risk of shutting ourselves into a smaller and smaller unreality.  I wonder if the political choices being made by large numbers of people in the UK and the USA and other countries perhaps are a result of gaps developed in society so that not everyone appreciates the whole story.
Sadie Brockbank: Long Way Down
I have chosen Sadie Brockbank's work to accompany this post because I find that her sculptures evoke so many aspects of folk and mythic tales.  And also I was lucky enough this year to spend a day in her studio learning how she constructs the mixed media pieces.
Sadie Brockbank: Give Me Another Minute
The aspect of Sadie's work I enjoy the most is the way her creatures and their antics stir memories of complex tales, sometimes unsettling, sometimes beyond immediate understanding, but always compelling ... and at the same time inspiring the imagination to create myths anew.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016