Monday, May 02, 2016

Splash of colour

It is still too cold for the season here, and although I love the fresh greens of new leaves, I just feel the need for an injection of bright, pulsing colour.  One artist whose women's heads I enjoy is Alexej von Jawlensky.
Frauenkopf (Head of a woman) - image from here
His women always appear real individuals to me, not just exercises in colour composition.  I wish that there were more opportunities to see these women around.
Portrait of a woman image from here
Portrait of a woman image from here
Spanish woman image from here
Helen in coloured turban image from here, which has an interesting selection of Jawlensky's work.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Further ramblings on a sense of place

The thoughts which arose whilst looking at the paintings in Reading Museum, mentioned in the last post, have persisted, weaving their way through my mind.  A sense of place is such a personal emotion, and yet used to such great effect by the masters of our daily lives: the advertisers.
Percy Kelly: Red door, ink on paper (image from here)
Sometimes an artist can capture some element which chimes with the viewer's own sense of place - and sometimes of a different place, but with similar emotional characteristics.  We saw an exhibition of Percy Kelly drawings a few years back which although of Cumbria reminded me strongly of Scottish Border villages and towns in the '60s.  I remembered that seeming blank stare of stone and pebbledash housing, empty roads, few cars, no people, as if I had arrived on half day closing, ....
Time seems to have a lot to do with spirit of place too.  Returning after a significant number of years to somewhere of which the mind's eye has a clear sense can so often be a disappointment. This can be less so in remote landscape, although I was shocked a couple of years ago by the quantity of traffic, people, and second-house-building in far flung Sutherland which for me had always had a sense of almost complete solitude.  Perhaps that had now become its holiday destination selling point.
Novels and films have conjured a sense of place which lures tourists.  How many visitors to the Vaucluse area of Provence were attracted there by and perhaps thought they experienced the place and people depicted in Peter Mayle's A year in Provence?
The upcoming UK referendum on whether to stay in or leave the EU has also had me thinking about spirit of place.  I am a European most simply in the sense that my father was born in the north east of Scotland, and my mother was born in the south east of Greece, and during the first twenty two years of my life I travelled between the two edges, mostly by train across a Europe recovering and developing after WWII.  Since marriage I have lived and worked in England, a country in which in many ways I still feel a (happy) foreigner - but when living in the USA for a couple of years I realised how European, and specifically British I really am. 
I love living in this diverse culture of larger Europe, with so many languages and their nuanced meanings, with those languages all around me here in my own small part of England.  Rainy, drear England - the sense of place of old - where now we sit on the pavement to drink Italian coffee and eat French (or Portuguese) pastries, and kiss ! each other on greeting.  I find us delightfully unrecognisable from the days when nuns on the Tauern Express across Austria leapt up to give me a small child with a British passport a seat.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A sense of place -?

This morning we drove through the fresh greens on the trees, with fields of yellow in the distant sunshine to catch a small exhibition before it closed.  A sense of place is a selection of art owned by Reading Museum.
Favourite was the tapestry diptych designed by John Piper commissioned in 1974 for Reading's Civic Centre: Urban Reading and Rural Reading
Having lived in Reading for a few years we recognised the elements particular to the place.  And this recognition of place was one of our points of discussion in looking at the rest of the exhibition.  I very much was attracted to Anne Redpath's Rubishaw, Aberdeen painting, with its flat pale light colours, but which did not remind me of the Aberdeenshire I know.  (And did they mean Rubislaw?  As in the location of the granite quarry? - So far I have been unable to find out.)
We both liked Christopher Wynne's View of the Sussex Weald, but I was not sure that the painting fixed the place for me.  Paul Nash's The Edge of the Wood was listed as being Oxford, and yet, again, having lived there for some years, I would not have placed that view there.  More likely I would have thought that somewhere continental, like France was the subject of such lush growth.
So the exhibition set off much thinking about art communicating a sense of place.  For instance, Ravilious' work has always struck me as being brilliant at summing up England for me, and I wonder whether that is because of his style, or because he chose iconically English subject matter/views, or whether his work has become/ been used as iconically English.
We each have our own mental picture of specific places, landscapes, towns, formed either by experience or by impressions left by art, literature, or advertising.  An artist's one view produced at a different time, in different weather, from a different perspective from one's own can be difficult to accept.  And so, I think I would prefer to see an exhibition all about one place - or of several works by one artist, or a few artists in order to get a flavour of their views of places depicted.  One place each, dotted about, can be pleasant - as it was today - but less satisfying in communicating the sense of place of the exhibition's title.  They could have borrowed current photography's title of 'Scapes to cover rural and urban landscape and seascapes.
It was, nonetheless an interesting exhibition which led to a good discussion.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A different source of input for a different need

Time was I would scour the country for exhibitions of interest, and would leap into the car and off I would go.  The Devon Guild gallery in Bovey Tracey is about two and a half hours away, but that was no object.  Indeed, unless it was the height of summer, the route was an enticement in itself. 
The beautiful Wiltshire countryside - image from here.
With a friend I had driven three hours and some to Bury St Edmund to see a prestigious Art Textiles exhibition, a similar distance to Manchester for another such show, to Sheffield, ... etc. etc.
It is true that the traffic was considerably lighter in those days - the '80s through to the early '00s - but I realise that gradually over that time, and much more now my needs have altered too.  To begin with I was still working in publishing, mostly on overseas projects with gaps of weeks, and sometimes months in between, so I was free on any day of the week to buzz off wherever I wanted.  Then when I started becoming more interested and serious about textiles I was constantly on the lookout for education and inspiration.
The intense years of virtual housebound caring for my mother acted as a kind of full stop.  The need for intellectual stimulus was certainly still there, and so I began to add more concentratedly to my collection of books.
I realise that I have been immensely fortunate in being able to see a very wide range and quantity of art over my life, and although I still derive joy from seeing original work, I am becoming more picky about where I spend my time - but also conscious that my time is increasingly limited. 
Of course wanting to concentrate more on thinking about and making my own work is the overwhelming consumer of my time, but I am delighted to say that I derive enormous stimulus and even excitement from the ever-improving exhibition catalogues from large museums and galleries.  And the Internet also contributes through such bonuses as I think of them as the weekly roundup email from the Goldmark gallery, and excellent blog posts such as Eirene's on the Anselm Kiefer woodcut exhibition on in Vienna at present
It is remarkable how much high quality stimulus I still receive while spending most of my days being able to get on with work at home.  This solution is much more time-efficient, as well as saving me money - a catalogue is far cheaper than travelling.  And somehow the exhibitions I do choose to visit have become even more meaningful.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Delicate shadows

This garden chair is my most immediate view as I have breakfast, with the rising sun casting shadows which have often caught my eye.  Over several days of strong sunshine I noticed the 'hedgerow' of shadows that were cast, and I finally went out to photograph them before the chair is cleaned for summer seating.
Mosses are fascinating (not, as I hasten to say, that I know anything about them), and when in countryside I always spend a lot of time peering at tiny growths the miniature intricacy of which intrigues me.  If nothing else, they provided breathing spaces as I tramped across hillsides or bogs.  Nowadays the tiniest elements provide more than enough distraction as I stroll around while my husband does the tramping and climbing.
But, as ever, there is more than enough to intrigue, fascinate, and delight right on the doorstep.  If I were a serious photographer, the lens I would want is a macro one to try to capture tiny wonders.  On the other hand, I think that the context - the fact that they are so tiny is important.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Deconstructed fritillary

This morning in the garden I was admiring dark reds: in stems, in flowers, ... and looking at how abundant the fritillary is this year.  I wondered about the inside of that delicate lantern of petals - something I'd never seen.  I had not wanted to disturb the bloom's progress to seed pod, so that the plant could multiply.
This year there are so many flowers that I decided one could be sacrificed to satisfy my curiosity.  And of course the delicate design continues - how Mackintosh-like, how delicately bold the lines.
Did you notice the bonus discovery: the tiny spider which I let out into the wild again after I'd finished deconstruction.
Admiring dark red in nature led me to a little experiment in replacing black outline. 
I chose a casual doodle in mid process, and which is of pinkish hue anyway, - and perhaps changing the grey 'flesh' to pink was a step too far, but it gives me something to think about. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

The spirit of spring

Until now, the word Primavera for me always brought to mind Botticelli's painting of the same name.  Now, alongside that will be the image of Sokari Douglas Camp's strutting dame.  And instead of the three graces, these three continents provide interesting consideration.
Europe supported by Africa and America  (detail below)
The images are all from the October Gallery in London where the exhibition is now on show.