Thursday, September 27, 2012

Back to class

It has been ten weeks since my last printmaking class, and it feels like a very long time.  The new term starts tomorrow - a new day of the week because I have put myself in the 'Improvers' category.  A new instructor too.  Holly Drewett was just what I needed when I started, and it is a disappointment that she is no longer artist in residence, but I look forward to working with Heather Upton.
This term I hope to pursue two areas of interest in more depth than before.  Polyester lithography appeals to me because I can continue to develop images in my usual way on the computer, and then use the laser printer to make the plate.  I have developed a handful of designs to experiment with, including this below of some shadows cast from the objects on a window sill, including a wooden mannequin, a wire bicycle given to me as a present in Zimbabwe, and an extraordinary drooping thin cactus plant my mother used to have.  I took a photo of the shadows on my white blind, and have played about with them subsequently.  I love the mysterious nature of shadows, and coincidentally I read another post about them this morning.
The other area of interest is printing with carborundum.  Previously I had been using intaglio techniques, but this term I would like to try relief: in other words to try some monotypes involving carborundum and stencils.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Under the same sky

Yesterday I went to a talk by Ismini Samanidou who has an exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham.  The show is just about to end, but it is going to North Carolina in January, as I mentioned in my post about the exhibition.
The talk, with illustrations, was to a small group of about 20, and took place within the exhibition.  It was a description of the background to the pieces which had been made over the last ten years since Ismini Samanidou had been at the Royal College of Art.  One significant piece which was missing from the exhibition is in fact used as the illustration on the CSC's web page, and had intrigued me.
It is titled Timeline and from this photo looks like a wall.  And indeed it is - a whole room of wall, which is why it would not fit into the CSC's temporary exhibition space.  The folks going to the show in North Carolina will be able to see it, however - lucky them.  I wish that I had been aware of it when it was up in London and then in Edinburgh.
Ismini Samanidou with Timeline on the loom
 It is huge.  It was made in North Carolina on a vast Jacquard loom, for the Jerwood Space in London for the Jerwood Contemporary Makers exhibition in 2009. 
Hanging on its side, winding round the space, it depicts the history of the site from Roman London times to when it was a school to now.  It not only wound round to make a room space, but also opens out at one end to allow sight between layers. See the layers more clearly on Ismini Samanidou's website.
In listening to the descriptions of all the work, and how and why it was made I was fascinated by the way history had provided the conceptual threads to weave this contemporary work.  Two more pieces in the exhibition are examples of this.  The first piece one sees, in the atrium of the Crafts Study Centre is a large weaving inspired by pieces of lace from the Samanidou archive (her ancestor exported lace from Greece).  Unfortunately I cannot find a photograph of that.  There is however, a photograph of the work made while Ismini was at Falmouth College for a Hidden Art exhibition at Godolphin House.
Underneath a tapestry there was the fading remainder of wallpaper.  Ismini was attracted by the conjunction of the three surfaces: the tapestry, its under side, and the distressed wallpaper, and was inspired to weave the piece shown above.
Throughout the talk the question of surface and light came up, and of shadows and of seeing through.  Ismini Samanidou's current interest is in clouds and the sky.  She keeps taking photographs of clouds, and has turned from the computer driven jacquard to hand painting, and to thread winding on a hand scale.  She misses Greece, but needs to be elsewhere for work opportunities, and besides she has travelled to Guatemala and to Bangladesh, but said that what she remembers is that wherever she is she is under the same sky.
I have found - am still finding the experience of her exhibition inspirational, more since hearing her talk.  And although I am not a weaver, we who work with taking the threads of ideas to join into new work, all create under the same sky.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Yesterday we visited two exhibitions at the Royal Academy.  As well as Bronze, we went to a display in two rooms only - the fifth of a series of what are called Artist's Laboratory shows.  The purpose of these is to show the workings - the inspiration, the method - as well as the actual work done recently by a Royal Academician in order to give a more focused insight into that work.  We previously - two years ago - visited the first of these on the work of Ian McKeever and found it particularly illuminating.
I first encountered the work of Hughie O'Donoghue relatively recently - a few years ago, arrested by a painting rather like one of the top two at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  It was a coup de foudre, and I immediately googled to find out more.  Lucky for me his work has become more visible as I have been seeking it.
I also discovered through examples in books I was reading (Collographs and Mixed Media Printmaking, and The Mechanical Hand: Artists' Projects at Paupers Press) that he uses carborundum in his printmaking - just at the time when I also was becoming fascinated with the effects of that material, and began using it myself.  And a silly little thing chimed with me: he chose as a subject for some monotypes a sculpture of a merchant with a metal nose which I had myself been attracted to in Venice.
my own photo taken in 1997
The Road is a powerful piece of work, so well explained by the artist himself in the film on the RA Artist's Laboratory web page.  Further coincidence adding personal meaning is that I have been looking through old photos wondering about the validity of memories, truth, and also to what uses old photos had been put in various pieces of art.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weight, breadth, and depth

This morning we went to the Royal Academy in London to see their newly opened exhibition: Bronze.  The large public galleries in London do provide us with such a rich diversity of exhibitions, not only of single artist's work, collections, art historical movements, and media, but also of a material.  In cities we are surrounded by bronze without thinking much about it as a material, and indeed it did not make much of an impact on me until while at university I was tasked with making a bell for a Gilbert and Sullivan society production of Yeomen of the Guard.  (My student social life consisted of being a back stage Jill of all trades for the University G&S society.) 
I received permission from the local museum to make a papier mache mould of one of the bells in their basement.  The bell I chose was bronze, and I got a free lecture from the curator.  I regret to say that this did not make much of an impression until we visited an exhibition of Chinese bronzes several years later.  That really did wow us - and that wow remains.  How such intricate beauty was achieved at such an early date is more than simply astonishing.  One beautiful vessel in the current RA exhibition dates from the 13th century BCE! 

 This is one of these exhibitions which stays in the memory, and which sparks more and more exploration down the many roads it offers.  It has already received rave reviews here, and here, here, and here are examples, and this is the article in the Autumn edition of the RA's magazine.
It was good to see favourites of mine in different mixed company:
The Tate's four magnificent Matisse Back pieces are there as is Barbara Hepworth's Curved Form (Trevalgan) which belongs to the British Council Collection.
Henry Moore's Helmet Head no.3 from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is there in the room of heads as well as the National Museum of Lagos' Head with Crown.
It was fascinating to see what styles were achieved where and when, and how much the work of Giacometti (The cage 1950) resembles that of the Etruscans, particularly an elegant votive figure (Evening Shadow 2nd Century BCE, Museo Etrusco Guarnacci, Volterra).
 Extraordinary creatures include Germaine Richier's Praying Mantis, and Louise Bourgeois' Spider IV - the latter high on a wall.
The piece which really took me by surprise is the Clam Digger by Willem de Kooning.  I had no idea that he made sculpture, but this is unmistakeably by him: it looks as if a figure simply walked out of a painting!
There are so many wondrous and fascinating pieces.  Two which delighted, indeed enchanted me are both carriages. One complex and intriguing  from about the 7th century BCE - the Cult Chariot of Strettweg from a museum in Graz, Austria,
and one a graceful simple prehistoric Danish (14th century BCE) Chariot of the Sun.
There is just so much in this exhibition: I am astonished all over again as I leaf through the catalogue which not only has excellent photographs but also has essays on bronze in art history.  But if I could take only one piece home, much though I admire so many, I would - being realistic about what would fit in the house - choose the 16th century Nigerian relief which at present is in the State Museum of Berlin: The Leopard Hunt, because as well as for its beauty, I think it could be an inspiration for my own work.

Monday, September 10, 2012

September bounty

Harvest time in the garden involves lots of cooking and freezing.  This year has been an odd one in that first we planted everything late, after we had had our holiday in Skye.  A drought had been pronounced and so we could not set up the watering system.  But everything that grew has flourished.  What was not allowed to grow was our crop of different beans, eaten in its fresh juiciness by the pesky deer who along with the wretched ever growing number of pigeons must think we put all this stuff out for them!  Unfortunately the timing is a bit off: the courgettes are bountiful and need cutting nearly every day, but the tomatoes with which I normally cook and freeze them are still mostly green.
I am growing two kinds of tomatoes in the greenhouse this year: Shirley in the photo above, and Marmade, seen in the photos below.  One pic is from inside the greenhouse, and the more promising one of the same fruit from outside.

In the greenhouse we also have several peppers.  And the head of dill in the basket at the top is from inside the greenhouse too.  I grow dill near the open window to keep the white fly out.  It seems to work well - the only year that I had white fly was before I had heard about the dill.
The courgettes keep flowering, so the crop continues,
and the chard has resisted the pigeons - helped by redundant program cds.
Beyond the chard is the fig tree - covered with small hard fruits, but I don't think that there will be anything edible.
In the Autumn sunshine I do find that this is my favourite season in the garden.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Mid-design dither

Recently, while I was finishing various larger projects, stitching and sewing, as a relief I played/worked at a design or three.  One particular design started taking a direction which pleased me and so the other ideas dropped perhaps temporarily by the wayside, and I concentrated on this one. 
Titles come at different times in the procedure.  Sometimes the title generates the idea, at other times it is only when the piece is complete and I feel separate that the title becomes obvious.  This design is still in progress, and the title is not yet settled.  But the general theme of the piece is clarifying, and is broadly two-part and concerning text.  Another element of the design is size, and hence my dither.
I recently found out about a SAQA members' call for entry - an exhibition of quilts on the theme of Text messages.  This excited me because my designs in the past have either not coincided with their themes, or the time or size requirements have not been fulfillable.  Perhaps this time I could at last take part.  I eagerly read on, and then was brought up short: there is a to me stark statement that the width must be 24 inches.  To me a work has to be the size it has to be.  I have great difficulty making things to order.  The only pieces I have made to order have been the 12 x 12 inch auction pieces for SAQA, but otherwise I have been unable to participate in the association. 
Now I'm dithering.  Whether I should concentrate on shaping the design to the set size and submit to a possible rejection anyway, or, whether I should just pursue my own inclinations and instincts with the design.
Perhaps I have already decided after all.