Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Some morning delights ...

on the way to the Post Office to pay the paper bill:

steady sunshine with warmth,
strewn twigs everywhere, like runes telling of storms past, yet leaving openings in the canopy through which more light pervades,
the heron stalking its way down the path, as if a character from Trollope,
the egret sunning itself on the far side of the pond,
friendly villagers, telling tales of other joyous sights such as the two swans setting up home on the flooded field at the other side of the village,
two 19th century graves, deep in the dark northern recesses of the graveyard, carpeted completely with snowdrops,
clumps of snowdrops at different stages approaching the permanent shadow of the old lych gate,
the first delicate blackthorn flowers between the thorns on the hedge surrounding the churchyard,

all leading to optimistic anticipation of an imminent Spring.  Perhaps a good day for paying a contribution to the voluntary arts and sports tax (the lottery)!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Stoneware 20 x 19.5cm
As I like to vary my longer reading with a short story in between books, so I enjoy making small pieces of stitched work at the same time as working on much larger, longer projects.  Today I finished stitching this little piece.
It was inspired by a photo I took of the stone walls of Jedburgh Abbey last Autumn, and part of which I have used as the background.  The figure had been in my Bodies file, awaiting its appropriate fate for some time.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thinking about the look of North

I have now finished The Idea of North by Peter Davidson, but thoughts which sprang up during my reading are still floating about in my head.  Whilst reading I've been browsing through images, online, my postcards, my memories, ... seeking a personal view of North with which I can work.  This is something I'm doing gently, letting the thoughts find their own way.
The landscape of Scotland is important to me, but it is a long time since I have been right to  the top - the less romantic stretches which excited me so when I was last there.  The artist whose paintings come closest to those hair-raising memories is Wendy Sutherland
Rolling hills (from the Frances Kyle Gallery where there are more images)
Water under and over (from Browns Gallery where there are more images)
Here there are interesting videos about how she works.
These paintings have got my juices flowing because they so strongly animate my remembered experiences.  I am trying to explore what North means to me, and these powerful images (just think how fantastic the actual paintings must be) have helped push me in a direction I think is right - so far.
As happens so often with my work, I move forward by looking back.  I re-use previous figures, backgrounds, even work-in-sketch which has not felt complete when made.  This is like using a personal vocabulary when sometimes the words were not yet fully understood, but now there is an appropriate context for them.
Waving paper, heat transferred cotton scrap, painted silk offcuts, hand stitched
I made Waving some seven years ago when I was exploring collage.  I was thinking about alone-ness and vulnerability, and somehow that is partly how I feel about North: that sense of being naked, needing protection from the beautiful but unforgiving elements.
Some years ago, when I was learning to draw on the computer, and inspired by a Richard Diebenkorn nude I achieved a figure which pleased me, but for which I had no specific use.  I re-drew the figure as a drypoint which I then printed, this being that manifestation.  As background I have used a pastel drawing I have used before (most recognisably in Snagged, below), but this time turned it round.  It is still a sketch-in-progress - but again, I like that feeling of vulnerability.
 Snagged 2010 (112 x 66 cm)
 The other sketch-in-progress which dates to just before I started my northern readings, but seems to fit in with my current thinking is The elusive idea - but that is more to do with the Far North, and concern about global warming rather than a personal intimacy of North.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Anticipating Spring

Normally I don't hope to see Lizzie Farey's work unless I'm somewhere far further North than home,
but I am looking forward to visiting an exhibition next month - only just over an hour or so's drive North.
All photographs from Lizzie Farey's website.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pompom morning

A finishing touch to a project I'm working on involves pompoms.  I have not made pompoms since as a child we wound yarn round donut shaped cardboard, but help is at hand online, and as Margaret Cooter mentioned on her blog a wee while back, mini pompoms can be made with a fork!  I also enjoyed this bright video about how to make multiple pompoms.
I wanted to make pompoms out of silk yarn left over from my knitwear design days.  There is very little left of the colours I wanted to use, so I started with another colour for my practice pieces.  I took a short fork and started (please forgive the appalling quality of the snaps).
The main difficulty posed was in my choice of yarn.  It was much thinner than those used in the video instructions, so I had to work out how many times to wrap the yarn round the fork in order to achieve the desirable bulk.  The other difficulty that the silk presents is that it lacks inherent fluffiness, and therefore the individual strands don't stick together as well as wool even when the right bulk is reached. 
The second difficulty, perhaps exacerbated by the non-fluffiness of the yarn, is that of putting the tightest knot in the synching thread.  Here I was helped by the multiple pompom video in that the instructions include linen thread because of its strength.  I had the end of a reel of discontinued extra strong black thread which I used.  Those knots were extremely fiddly, but at least the thread did not break as I was trying to tie it.
I finally reached an acceptable bulk, after wrapping yarn round the fork 180 times.
The pompoms I want for my project needed two strands of yarn together, so I decided to wrap 100 times (thus giving me 200 wraps of a single thread).  They are not as perfectly spherical looking as wool ones, but they are probably fit for my purpose.  I'll see when I stitch them on to the piece of work concerned.
It was a concentrated, sometimes frustrating, but fun morning - despite having taken much longer than I had anticipated.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Found while looking North

I am very much enjoying my stroll through Peter Davidson's The Idea of North: notes, meanderings, essays, ... that lead me in the direction of further paths for my mind to wander.  One such path was an immediate visual hook: the cover illustration.
This is by artist Reinhard Behrens, who has created his own world: Naboland. At first I was intrigued and attracted by the illustrations of northerly aspects of Behrens work.
 Eskimo Garments, pastel and pencil on board, from here
 Incident on Glencoe, from here
This particularly because that is the direction in which I am faced at present, and I enjoy the clarity and definition of the individual elements individual and as a landscape.
 Carrot Onion and Rust, coloured pencil, from here
But I am also drawn to the idea of making a world of one's own experiences - a personal world within the larger world.

A break in the weather

This last Sunday we went to the Royal Academy architecture exhibition Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined.  We passed the first exhibit in the courtyard without knowing it, but were intrigued by the yellow columns, and on our exit - this view - we understood what they were about.
These by Alvaro Siza Vieira and two arches indoors by Eduardo Souta de Moura are the simplest of the exhibits, and with an elegance easily overlooked.  The film shown at the end of the exhibits, and covering all the architects in this exhibition is excellent, and an illuminating addition to an already thought-provoking group.
For elegance and beauty, however my favourite is the project by the Pezo von Ellrichshausen practice.  I had read that this structure allowed visitors to examine closely the decorations round the ceiling of the gallery.
Because of my knackered knees, I thought that I would have to miss out on the experience, but at the back I discovered the gradual ramp climbing up to the top.  Glorious!
The beauty of the detailing in this project was amazing, a delight in every view - wondrous.  This is indeed a fascinating, thought-provoking exhibition.  I am looking forward to reading the catalogue, and watching the architect videos again.
Margaret Cooter has also posted about another of the pieces, by Li Xiaodong.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Armchair explorer

We are extraordinarily lucky at present that despite most of our garden being wetland (a few springs rise there and flow off to become the Wey river eventually), we are not flooded.  But the current weather pattern is increasingly depressing in its round of wind and rain in excessive quantity - with glimpses of sunshine to taunt us.  The worst oppression I feel is the dark skies which loom far too often now that Winter should be retreating - especially as this darkness impinges on my stitching.
Danielle Rante: The Blue of Distance 1 38 x 66" Ink wash, carbon paper transfers on cut paper
On the other hand it gives me more time for my explorations.  I have taken the theme of the North for my current reading pile (well, my most immediate reading pile), and I am savouring thoughts which spring further out of this reading.  One of the 'discoveries' I have made (rather in the way that David Livingstone discovered Victoria Falls!) is the work of Danielle Rante.
Danielle Rante: Icelandic Meditation 2 (Sediment) 19 x 20" Screenprint and mixed media on cut paper
For me these pieces are exquisite, capturing the feel of what I am imagining through my readings - I love the use of scale, both tiny detail with overwhelming whole of the repetition of those small marks to convey a feeling of place.  It is a bonus that her techniques relate to mine - but it is the overall impact of the pieces to which I really respond.
Danielle Rante: Ghost 1 48 x 60" Two layers of cut paper with graphite rubbings
So often we encounter images of landscape which to my eyes un-naturally contain no sign humans or other animals - but somehow these ones are appropriately filled only with the overwhelming presence of elemental life.
Danielle Rante: The Weight of Mountains 36 x 70 Ink, graphite, carbon transfers, collage on cut paper
I found an image on Danielle Rante's blog which shows some of how she works, the elements pictured immediately made me wish so much to see her work for real.  I'm sure the impact of her work must be lost to a great degree viewed small on a screen.  But it is such a joy to be able to see Rante's work at all.
Here is a review of this exhibition of Danielle Rante's work in San Francisco last year. (The last link being a gallery which has led me to more delightful 'discoveries'. I could spend my life being such an explorer!)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Double bonus

Life class this morning was the last of this half term, and it was certainly worth the dreadful drive to get there (steady rain made the spray from the other vehicles like fog - and then snarl-ups with impatient bad behaviour).  The model had become traffic-ensnarled to such an extent that he gave up - so five of us took turns to model. 
The models were therefore clothed, and this was my first bonus.  I so enjoy the added interest of clothes - and perhaps it makes the drawing easier in that there are more points of visual measurement.  I realise too that I enjoy drawing the textiles, the folds and bumps.
This apron was a delight to follow in its contours.
The class teacher - or supervisor, as we are not actually taught but guided should we desire - is leaving to have a baby.  So we shall have someone new after we return from our half-term week off. And the second bonus is that instead of five weeks we shall have an extra session to make up for the lack of professional model today!
 I did the final modelling session, holding an increasingly rather heavy book, and not facing a mirror, so was not able to do a self portrait!

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Gaze sets off a train

Reading Eireine's post the other day got me thinking about the gaze and hence to broad aspects of gazing.  The thought which captured my time the most was the idea of a captured gaze.  This is something which perhaps would conjure examples in photographs by someone like Henri Cartier-Bresson, but I have not pursued this line (yet).  It immediately brought to mind the beautiful work of Audrey Walker.
The face is the shop window of body language, and merits close observation.  Those who are familiar with my work will know that I don't 'do' faces really, mostly because that shop window can be so easy to dress for effect. But I do admire those who can capture gazes like these. 
  (from here - please scroll down)
There is an interview with the Victoria and Albert Museum here, and a piece chosen for the Crafts Council 40:40 celebration here.
With Walker's work I often find myself feeling that somehow the subject is a knowingness, a self consciousness, as if the pictured knows the observer is there, and is keeping her thoughts away to herself.  This adds intrigue to the frozen moment - that element of enigma which I so enjoy.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Browsing back numbers

One of the side benefits of the life class is the deep window ledge full of back numbers of art and print magazines.  Flipping my way through the Winter 2008 issue of Printmaking Today this week led me to another Scottish artist - one whose work I had not previously encountered, but to which I'm greatly attracted.  It was one of Sara Ogilvie's  Mexican prints which drew my eye: Urban Composition D.F., and I was pleased to find that her whole Mexican portfolio is similarly delightful.
(Image from here)
(Image from here)
The screenprint, Paradise Patrol, above is from her Hither and Thither series, and I particularly like her 12 Labours series.
I also found that she is an illustrator of children's books, and I thought about what fun I could have had commissioning her in my previous incarnation as a publisher.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Remembering a Scottish artist

During the 1960s I lived in Edinburgh.  I had already started my art postcard collection of which several were pinned up on my bedroom wall.  Two prominent favourites were paintings by a then living Scottish artist, Anne Redpath, and both paintings were and are in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh.
White tulips 1963 61 x 91.5cm oil on hardboard (from here) was one, and my favourite, below, was the other.
The Indian Rug (Red Slippers) 1942 73.9 x 96.1cm oil on plywood (from here), which particularly piqued my interest with its odd angle - looking down as one would in life.
I think that her self-portrait looks more severe than her paintings suggest, but  with self-portraits that is not necessarily unusual.
Self portrait chalk on paper (from here)
There are two reasons why I have remembered this artist now.  The first is my current reading pile which includes all sorts of books on Scotland.  The second reason is that an encounter (which I wrote a post about the other day) with the work of artist Simon Lewty led me to the discovery of a fellow artist Susan Michie, who turns out to be the grand-daughter of Anne Redpath.
It has been a pleasure to remind myself of that enticing angled look at still life, as well as her landscapes.
A Still Life of Flowers in a Vase 54 x 59cm oil on canvas (from here)
Mainly Grey and White 1957 77.5 x 97.8cm oil on board (from here)
Landscapes above are from the Portland Gallery site, as is the delightful still life below, which I find a positive look forward to Spring (with luck without wind or rain!).

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Enjoying looking North

Len Tabner: High Boulby - Winter from here
I am very much enjoying my submersion in thoughts about the North.  Of course, wherever one is, there is always a North - unless at the actual Pole itself!  It might seem perverse to be reading in Winter about the North, but perversity is a shawl I oft wear.