Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pots on a sunny day

We are fortunate to have an excellent couple of galleries nearby, showing high quality work.  The Craft Study Centre in Farnham is the University Museum of Modern Crafts attached to the University for the Creative Arts.  At present in their temporary exhibitions gallery is a show curated by the director Simon Oldfield with Magdalene Odundo the potter and professor of ceramics at the university.
I have long been a great fan of Odundo's work (image above from here).  She acknowledges the influence of Ladi Kwali whose work is on exhibition at present.
It's the hand built pots which spoke loudest to me, pulling me towards them, wanting to hug the warm shapes with their beautifully elegant scraffito decoration.  (image above from here, image below from here)
I find something visceral about hand built ceramics in traditional round shapes like this.  In today's Guardian newspaper there is an interesting article by the writer Orhan Pamuk about having wanted to be a painter, and how he visited Anselm Kiefer who had wanted to be a writer.  Two means of expression which attract my imagination are tapestry weaving and pottery - especially using coil and pinch hand built technique.  When I saw Ladi Kwali's pots this morning I had that longing feeling again.  Here is a vimeo of Ladi Kwali at work.
And to complement the pots perfectly, seen behind them through the transparent display window, hanging on a long wall a beautiful printed textile made by Zimbabwean artist Babette Fitzgerald, part of the Craft Study Centre collection. The image of the cloth does not show the detail,
so here is a close-up of another similar piece (from here), showing the similar scratch-design style.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Digital collage of lino prints

I am always delighted by the magic of digitally collaging traditional prints.  I've been working on a piece which I'm calling Birdie.
I started with simple drawings for two colours of lino printing.  The drawings were done digitally, printed out and then traced onto the lino to be cut.
I like to use crumpled tissue paper which has been covered with soft pastel as the paper base on which to print.  It was not my intention to keep any of the prints as individual finished items, so hence the use of simple tissue paper alone rather than as chine collĂ© with a more substantial paper.
I made several prints, using not only the 'pastelled' tissue paper, but also a rough collage of commercially printed tissue paper with random leaves on.  Of all the prints I chose this last, and two others to combine digitally.  I then scanned the three prints and began my collage.
I also decided to add a thin film of grey on parts of the figure.  That was taken from my digital files of previously scanned pastelled paper.  I also decided that I preferred the figure facing to the right.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tulips, and so much more

We decided that this year we will try to get to our favourite nearby garden West Green at least once a month.  Today the temperature felt as if August was upon us - at least 23 degrees C, probably more in the walled garden which has a red and green theme, capitalising on the beating sun!  What attracted my attention however was the clematis armandii in full white blossom.  I would love to have one of these, but it is far too vigorous for what we are trying to make into an easily maintained garden.
The tulips were in all stages of flowering, from bud to almost over.
Leaves and blossom were the other themes - with Spring flowers to remind us that it is still but the middle of April.
And in the Edible Hedge Garden it was grass laying day.  Nut trees have been planted here, and soft fruit hedges, as well as edible fruit climbers.  We have watched this area develop from scratch, and are amazed at how relatively quickly it is taking shape.
The Edible Hedge Garden above was based on a design for a previous Chelsea Flower Show .

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Always looking

There are some places that I wish were nearer.  Ruthin Craft Centre is one of those.  The centre has bold large advertisements for its exhibitions further to entice me.  It has excellent publications based on exhibitions, and those have provided some consolation.  Once we set off to see a show of contemporary baskets - brilliant - but the trip was otherwise a disaster as a large white van smashed into our car.  This, with the distance, and the awkward journey has meant that longing is as far as it goes.
Ruthin is in Denbighshire, Wales, and now I have been given another reason to think about that part of Britain.  Once more an article in Craft Arts International has introduced a subject of interest: in this case Rebecca Gouldson and her etched metal work.  (image below from here)
I was immediately attracted to so many aspects of this work - and one in particular again had me longing to make a journey to North Wales, to Denbigh.  As someone who enjoys seeing attractive street furniture, utility covers with interesting designs are a definite draw.  And here there are seven commissioned from Rebecca Gouldson.
The image above is from Rebecca Gouldson's blog, and here many others can be seen.
There is also an interesting site here which has more photos of her work at an exhibition at Edinburgh Printmakers, as well as a little film and a podcast interview. Here is another link to the Industrial Shift exhibition at Edinburgh Printmakers.
But perhaps I should stick with just looking and learning from afar, from my workroom - so that like now, I can click off and get back to work!

Friday, April 10, 2015

I have just finished

reading Margaret Atwood's Stone Mattress: Nine Tales, and very much enjoyed the collection.  (image above from here)
I love the short story form, I always enjoy Atwood's writing, and especially enjoyed the mix of humour, and horror - both realistic in that she concentrates on old age in this volume, and fantastical.  These are cautionary tales, not about children in the forest, but about the elderly and their everyday travails - and adventures (!) too.  Perhaps a bit near the bone for a reader in her late 60s, but I recognise the voice, and the truth of the tales. 
Here and here are reviews.
Some years ago I read and equally enjoyed Atwood's Negotiating with the Dead, a collection of essays on writing.  The essays were written for the William Empson Lectures in Oxford.  Essays, like short stories present another form which I relish.  I am now about to embark on the first of two further collections of essays which originated as lectures (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, Harvard).  The first, Six Drawing Lessons by William Kentridge is an object of beauty, even before I have begun to read.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The extraordinary ordinary

When I was a child and visiting my Scottish grandparents in Aberdeenshire, being sent to bed while it was still light meant that I was far from sleepy.  I would stare up at the ceiling, and wonder what the room would be like if we lived upside down.  I took this thought to other ceilings, and it meant that I was immediately drawn to this photograph by William Eggleston (image from here).
I don't know if there is a category in art for the Extraordinary Ordinary.  There should be.  Still Life is a portmanteau expression.  It is meant to be the equivalent of Nature Morte - but I have them clearly distinct in my mind with death being spelled out unequivocally on the one hand, as in this Jean-Baptiste Oudry (Nature Morte avec oiseaux morts et cerises image from here)
while on the other, the death is glancingly dealt with - either with a Memento Mori, as in the case of this Cezanne (Still life with skull image from here)
or not mentioned out loud as in my favourite Winifred Nicholson still life (image Cyclamen and primula image from here)
There are squillions of painters of still life, but the other day I encountered one which made me stop and look closer.  Nathalie Du Pasquier's website lays out her paintings in a wondrous development over the years from examples of still life,
the atmosphere of which reminded me of de Chirico below:The dream turns image from here
to a formalised presentation of the extraordinary ordinary.  
But for me the painter who matches the way that Eggleston captures what is there in front of us and presents it straight in its own compelling beauty, is Altoon Sultan (image below from here)
whose blog Studio and Garden is also a delight.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Development of a doodle

My designs work away at me just as much as I work at them.  Sometimes the collage process feels nearly right, but one or more elements are jarring.  Even though I know something does not fit, if I cannot sort it immediately I leave it so that it can have time to adjust itself in my mind.
The recent Labyrinth has been like that.  The figures were not right - they were too enigmatic, too removed, disassociated.  Today, although I planned to work on something else, I was driven to pursue this solution. 
 I think I'm on a better track.  It feels right.