Sunday, July 24, 2016

Repetition and alteration

Just as the exhibition Degas: A Strange New Beauty at MOMA New York finishes, I, miles away in the UK, have completed my reading of the catalogue - which is a fascinating examination of Degas' use of monotypes.  Use and reuse, sometimes leaving them in their original state
and often printing again as a literal base for work with pastels.
And what I found intriguing on top of the general interest in his thinking through process was his development in the direction of semi-abstract landscape.
As well as the excellent essays in the beautiful catalogue, there is this article online.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hot work

The hot days - not a heat-wave until we have had five days of heat in a row - have helped to dry the proofs I printed on Monday.
We really appreciated the lovely sharp frozen yoghurt I made with a bowl of redcurrants generously given by a neighbour.  Today is overcast, and looks like the unpredictability is back - life as adventure!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Moving on from the Pipers - finally

From time to time I enjoy a really dense biography - my favourite having been John Richardson's three volumes on Picasso, almost work by work.  Being immersed for so long in an artist's development, I find helps me to meditate more fruitfully on their point of view. 
I have recently been reading Frances Spalding's John and Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art, and finally finished it yesterday.  I have long been a fan of John Piper's work, but it was Margaret Cooter who through her blog spurred me actually to read the book, and glad I am.  I was particularly pleased that an exhibition of John Piper's designs for fabric was on and I was able to visit it while I was reading the book.
Dorchester Abbey (image from here)
I became properly aware of John Piper's work in the early '70s when I was working in Oxford.  Somehow Piper for me summed up what was attractive about England, a country I had hardly experienced, and it has been fascinating to read about just how he was enamoured with the particularly English character of architecture - especially churches.  Because of that love of architecture we have not only his paintings and prints, but splendid stained glass, theatre and fabric design.
Also I was delighted to find out so much about Myfanwy Piper who wrote librettos, especially for Benjamin Britten: Turn of the Screw and Owen Wingrave in particular.  She was also a critic, and I look forward to seeking out some of her work to read.
But not just yet.  I am ready to move on to my next subject area in my reading pile: printmaking.  Degas' monoprints, then Anselm Kiefer's woodcuts await my attention.  And after that Georgia O'Keeffe - but one step at a time.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A meditation on mass murder

As I finished carving this block I was listening to harrowing tales of those caught up in the mass murder in Nice.  This piece of work, in its subsequent manifestations will now bring a pause to me as I remember the incomprehension and fear in those people's voices.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Georgia on my mind

As soon as I heard that this year there would be a Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition at Tate Modern, I have been in a dilemma.  Increasingly crowds make me uneasy, and even angry - not comfortable in myself, and a G. O'K. show is definitely going to be a blockbuster.  On the other hand I love her work - and 'twas said that this was not going to look at her work in the usual way.  I decided that the draw of the new Switch House building, a boat trip, and the G. O'K. paintings was finally irresistible.

I have seen many O'Keeffe paintings, but not so many of the Lake George ones, and was hoping that the unconventional look at her work would mean more of them.  Of course the gallery hopes to attract as many visitors as it can, to help with the expenses of providing so much art for free, and so the same old same old carrots were dangled:
Her work commands the big bucks
O’Keeffe’s famous Jimson Weed painting sold at Sotheby’s for £28 million in 2014. It holds the record for the most expensive painting by a female artist sold at auction. (Quote from this review)

And at the same time as saying that the common interpretation of her flower paintings as erotically inspired - a misdirection created by Stieglitz her gallerist and husband - is both wrong and not the most important impression to derive from her work -- the exhibition devotes a whole room to the erotic photographs Stieglitz took of O'Keeffe.  Of course Stieglitz was a vital part of O'Keeffe's development and exposure, but I was hoping that by now, after so much other work and time to consider the oeuvre as a whole, we could have a really different approach.
I must state at this point that I have not yet read the catalogue.  On the other hand, I believe that an exhibition of this kind should make its point on its own, without having to rely on folks reading the catalogue.

Here are links to a couple of reviews of the exhibition:
The Guardian - before, and after , and the Financial Times
and an article about five artists influenced by O'Keeffe's art in Tate etc. magazine
White Barn 1 (image from here)
But the visit had definite positives for me.  There were a few of the Lake George paintings - although not White Barn 1, the full size poster of which has been above our bed for the last 26 years.  It was a present from a friend, but I have never seen the actual painting. 
One of my favourite paintings is there: Alligator Pear (image from here).  I spent a long time looking at it, and fortunately it did not attract many others.  I love the composition, and the treatment of the lower false reflection.  Like many of O'Keeffe's paintings for me it repays careful study - I can get lost in the broad landscape of something physically small.
The room which made the whole trip really worthwhile for me contained paintings from the series The Black Place.
Black Place I (image from here)
My attraction to Georgia O'Keeffe's work began years before I went to the United States in 1981, but it was while living there that I became wholly absorbed by her paintings.  Now, decades later, and with my life revolving around my own expressions, interpretations of aspects of life, I look at favourite artists with different questions.  I was wowed again by The Black Place paintings.
Black Place (image from here)
Black Place II (image from here)
The image below is taken from a Tate Etc. article My Faraway Nearby, Georgia O'Keeffe in her own words.
Black Place Green
I was pleased to find a bench where I could contemplate several of these paintings above at once, and the room to be almost empty.  I wrote these notes about my thoughts in general:

- understand why early peoples worshipped spirits of place
- all her work is a distillation
- passage of light over space, whether large (mountain range) or small (flower)
- captivated by the curve - in the wide landscape does light travel in curves? - the wind causes whipped curves
- examine the surface - the texture on the seemingly flat which captures the passage of light (as in walls especially)
- paint does not intrude, all is beautifully flat and enhances the play of light
- music not only in landscape, in the folds and curves, the light to dark to light - the exquisite subtlety and then the power of dramatic contrast
- Bacon

That very last note was the thought that one of the elements of Francis Bacon's work which I find enticing is the beautiful even smooth surface and the subtle handling of graded tone - just as in O'Keeffe's.  The materiality of the surface does not in either case distract from a direct connection with subject.

There were other exhibitions and displays with much tempting art to explore, but I have already had so much to mull over from all the recent input I did not want to overload.  Now I must concentrate on output.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Two Tates and a boat between

On Saturday we had our final huge art input before a Summer break.  We visited both Tate Britain and Tate Modern, and enjoyed a boat journey between both.
At Tate Modern we wanted to see the recently opened Switch House, and to look at the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition.  The columns at the top of the photo above mark the viewing platform, and we were lucky with the weather. 
The views are fantastic all round, with some real close-ups of folks interiors in the nearby apartment blocks!
There is a new bridge across the Turbine Hall of the original building, leading to the 4th floor of the Switch House, and from that bridge there are views down:
Thomas Schutte: Strangers
Ai Weiwei: Tree

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Portable pastime?

In this case I would argue that the pastime - watching tennis - is the less portable occupation.  The more serious intent involves the highly portable occupation - the stitching.
During the first week of Wimbledon I have completed the stitching on two A3 sized pieces.  This morning I pressed them, and put them on the pile of work to be finished before photography.
I am working on the next in line, but decided that I'd better have another piece prepared.  So chose some threads and a fine calico backing for a lino originated piece.  For some reason I've chosen something autumnal just as the weather here is turning summery.
My multi-tasking knows no bounds when there are screamers (women players who give a grunt of effort a whole new meaning) on court I watch with the sound down, and have the BBC iplayer on while stitching.  And this all comes back to me when I encounter the work much later.  I can still remember what was going on around me when I look at some pieces even years later.