Sunday, June 29, 2014

Just enough memory, ... and two quotes

When we visit the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition I buy the published list and mark it as we go round.  Foolishly, sometimes I think that I will remember a piece.  Well, I did that this year, and I not only forgot the name of the artist, but what room the piece was in.  I have been going through the hundreds of titles room by room, ... and then I decided to put the last shreds of my memory of the piece into Google.  It was a figure on a hillside, so I typed those words and print and RA summer exhibition - and it came up in the images! 
Melvyn Evans: Landscape with figure and Sacred well  linocut print (from here)

Another two delights were quotes I came across today:

Lauren Laverne: Good art never makes you feel too stupid to understand it, even when you don't.

Leonard Bernstein: To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Meandering again

I have been developing various bits of pastel on tissue over the past couple of weeks to use as chine collés on different print projects.  Of course this leads to experimentation and results which just need to be torn up - but not always thrown away.  Sometimes I play around sticking bits together.
I sprayed fixative on this even though it was too thick to use with a print, and I was not sure that I even liked it at all.
While I was tidying up some image files a couple of days later I came across a scan I had made of a drawing from the life class I took at the beginning of the year.  It was from the day of clothed models when the professional model did not turn up.  My brain started to make connections, and so I scanned the pastel and got to work.
With a bit of judicious cropping, I was relatively pleased.  What resulted even brought a title to mind, so with a bit more work it is possibly a keeper: Portrait of a man with a colourful background.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Best to be bold ...?

The Summer Exhibition is not somewhere to be a shrinking violet.  Subtlety can be overlooked in the crowds. 
  Hawthorn 2014 linocut
One artist who is a favourite of both my husband and myself (we do not always agree) is Eileen Cooper, and her paintings and prints definitely grab attention.
 Spring Fever 2013 oil on canvas
As she is a RA there were several of her works: paintings, drawings, and prints
 Willow linocut
There was also recently an exhibition of her lino prints in a gallery not far from here, but I did not manage to go to see it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Black and white

In one room of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition hung by the artist Cornelia Parker she has chosen to restrict the work to monochrome: a black and white room.  In the whole room the piece which interested me most of all was Parker's own Prison Wall Abstract(A Man Escaped). This consists of twelve photographs of Pentonville prison wall (in London) with marks left by workmen - she took the photos just before an inmate escaped. 
These prints are a gifted urban abstract, but a wondrously spotted, isolated, and presented gift.
Two other artists also with black and white work which attracted me were Emma Stibbon and Wuon-Gean Ho.
Emma Stibbon has this year joined the Royal Academicians.  I found her prints of landscapes wonderfully dramatic and painterly.
Wuon-Gean Ho's piece is an artist's book.  Normally I have no great opinion of these because so little can be seen.  However, this time every time I passed the vitrine I was drawn to this concertina book.  I was certainly intrigued enough to look the work and the artist up once I returned home.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Space for contemplation

is not normally what one associates with the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  Traditionally the paintings are packed in cheek by jowl and stacked high up to the ceiling.  True, over the past years the spacing of the large paintings has eased somewhat - this year we found it the best yet for room of Academicians' work; each not encroaching on the next too much.
There was also a light work, Sensing Thought by James Turrell included in a separate room (which was also a corridor), and so, yes it was possible to sit for a few moments and rest the eyes and mind through a wash of colours.  But it is impossible to stand in contemplative mode for long in front of individual works on the wall.  Two artists in particular would have benefited from a complete lack of neighbours.
Ian McKeever's work I find has always suffered at the Summer Exhibition.  This year I was unfamiliar with his current work, but was still attracted to the pieces.  Good representations of the three pieces are on McKeever's website.  They are entitled Eagduru studies - the word eagduru being the Old English word for window - and are combines of photograph and painting (interesting link here).  I would like to find out a bit more, but information seems a little elusive - enigmatic, like the pieces themselves.
The second artist whose work I would have liked to separate out from their surroundings is Paul Furneaux.  I have been wanting to see his work for real since I first found out about him and wrote a post.  I missed his 3D piece in a previous Summer Exhibition.  The image above is similar to rather than the actual print Sumi-Rain, a large Japanese woodblock print.  I was also unable to find a photo of this year's 3D piece: Marking Time II (tulip wood, Japanese paper, binder, and rice paste) - although it does not say so I believe that it is made by pasting the Japanese woodblock printed paper onto the elegant strips of wood.  Below is an example of the kind of work it is.
  Drifting clouds
I was not disappointed in my expectation.  I loved the work, and as I say would have loved to sit and stare for a while at the subtleties of colour.  My mind may still be full of the colours of Sutherland, but I found them in the works, and would have liked to explore that more.  I am sad to say that my memory of them has become rather fugitive.  The pleasure remains, however.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Unusually quiet - relatively

Yesterday we made the first of our two annual summer visits to central London: to see the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  Both the streets around and the exhibition itself were unusually quiet, much to my delight.  The exhibition also was not too full of work, and so the whole was a most pleasant experience.  This year for me there was one outstandingly outstanding piece of art, many other pleasures, and several pieces which inspired me to roll up my sleeves to get working.
Anselm Kiefer: Kranke Kunst image from this review of the exhibition
The Kiefer was the most outstanding work on show for me.  This image does not begin to do it justice; the visceral presence of the painting has to be there to feel its full force.  I am really looking forward to the exhibition of Kiefer's work at the Royal Academy in the Autumn.

I will divide the work which attracted or inspired me and made me think over the next few days.  Here are the first three.
Tender machines-Pylon from here
It was mostly prints which got me excited and itching to get working - with the exception of a watercolour (above) by Lucy Austin which I found delightful, and set wheels turning in my brain. This especially because I find technological furniture in the landscape - such as pylons and wind turbines an interesting subject.
I have recently finished reading an excellent monograph by Andrew Lambirth on the painter and printmaker Stephen Chambers, and so was most interested to see his works on show.  The print above is from his Casanova series - a set of 13 etchings as one piece of work (pic. from here).  Although I have been drawn to and admired Chambers' work, both painting and prints, for some years now, it was great to be able to look at examples of each medium so soon after reading about his inspirations, motivations, and techniques.  The monograph contains a substantial contribution from Chambers himself.
A Thaw, collagraph and block print (pic. from here)
I noticed a plaque next to this print stating that it had won the Original Print Fair prize.  It had already attracted my attention, and on checking I found that it is by Katherine Jones whose work I admire tremendously. I love her use of line, colour, and how she renders 3D as 2D. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Production line

My mind has been buzzing with allsorts for a while: thought-provoking reading (especially the Seeing Things collection of essays), writing the Sea post for Ragged Cloth Café, items on the news and in the newspaper, ... and chatting to the hairdresser, ... as well as thinking about my most recent swimmer based design.  I have now printed out that last onto silk, and it will be ready to stitch during Wimbledon watching next week.
But playing about with the final tweaks on that developed into ideas for a new design out of the scan of one of my collagraph prints with a design for a lino print. 
I'm not sure about this one yet, but I'm relatively pleased with it, and I have an idea about how I could stitch it, but it needs to sit and stew for a while yet.
Fiddling about with that this morning, I just started following instructions from the be-buzzed brain and came up with a design which is probably not suitable for stitching.  I normally abandon such designs, or store them for later cannibalisation, but this time I might just make it a digital print.
The strange thing is that it is based on a photograph I took of fat on a frying pan!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


We have all sorts of birds visiting our garden, but the range of them has diminished over the years.  So I have been delighted that the jays have been returning,
and also a pair of bullfinches.
The bonus is that they all come to investigate near the sitting room window just when I happen to be reading there.

And of course

There was that fantastic exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery we saw in the early 2000s by the photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto.  That very definitely remains in the memory - but obviously not at the very top of my head!
  North Atlantic Ocean

And also an exhibition of work by Susan Collins at the De la Waar Pavilion, which intrigued not only because it married digital technology with the tradition of the seascape.
  Folkstone, 25 October 2008 at 11.41a.m.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The sea

I have been thinking about the sea a great deal recently for my own work.  It is a recurring theme - or at least being in the sea is.  Below is one of my experimental carborundum prints.
I was then spurred to think further by a post on Alice Fox's blog. So when Clairan asked me yesterday to fill in for her with a post on Ragged Cloth Café it was the sea to which I turned.
I was thinking of artists who came to mind with no research -- and of course, inevitably, I shall now think of more that I left out of that post.  Such as Norman Ackroyd the wondrous printmaker.  His etchings of the Scottish and Irish coasts have long drawn me. Below is From Malin Head, Tory Island, from here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

When I'm focussed on one thing ...

... it's as if in the back of my mind cogs are working away on something else.  Or perhaps it is just as Margaret Cooter says: ideas come when the hands are busy.  I have been stitching away at the third sea-inspired work this week. 
Nearly finished, I have been vaguely wondering what I should go onto next, ... and then while making adjustments to Siren song, inklings of this came along,
which of course I pursued.  It's not quite there yet, but I like the beginning.  Sometimes I have to let ideas simmer a bit longer, and sometimes they need to be tried before they slip away again into the ether.
By the way, I was bothered with the position of the hands after I'd mirrored Siren song, and am much happier with her back facing the way she was originally. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Most frequently asked question?

So many times I have heard creative people asked "Where do you get your ideas?" as if the idea is the most important element of making a work.  Ideas are important, of course; necessary, but not sufficient.  I suspect that the choices the artist makes in executing the idea outrank the latter in importance.
I have just been making choices in relation to a recent design: Siren song of solitude, a stage of which I posted the other day.
I started with feelings about place and solitude and how they related to what is at present going on in my emotions generally.  I never seem to need to reproduce the visual stimulus but instead to try to create a kind of narrative.  This time music seemed to be part of the idea - and I started with what has become a lino plate:
That was put to one side because of my tennis-watching activities, but my mind had not completed its work.  Hence the idea for Siren song.  It was really a continuation, and perhaps a refinement of the first idea.  But it did not start cleanly as shown above.
First I drew the saxophone player, and chose the piece of pastel work which would be the background - but I also wanted to include an outline of a building.  And then I thought about including maps of the areas which had especially moved me.
I often go through a phase like this, of adding stuff which I relatively quickly take away.  I sometimes think that I add simply to go through a process of editing out.  This took me to the stage I was happy to put up on the blog.
But the purpose of my design was to make work to which stitch is added.  In this case the edgy crop does not work.  So, another choice had to be made - and those essential skills of twiddling and fiddling came into play.  (And the wonder of technology saves every version!)
Titles are important to me, and most often are part of the narrative.  Time passing is now playing a part in the my design choices.  Sutherland is retreating further into my memory, and the realities of everyday life are crowding out seekings after solitude.  The sirens tempted sailors, just as solitude tempts me.  I am now looking back at an emotional loss - a kind of solitude blues.
The now revised version will not necessarily be any good when/if stitched.  I will possibly go back to a previous version and make it a print without stitching.  Indeed neither the idea nor the choices may work at all.  The great thing about working on the computer is that only time has been spent - nothing (yet) for the landfill site.

Sunday, June 08, 2014


The French Open is now over, and next week - tomorrow, Queen's will begin.  In the meantime I have finished the 90s articles in Seeing Things by Alison Britton.  What a thought-provoking collection of essays it is!
I started reading Crafts magazine in the mid 70s, and when soon after I was working in London I would spend my lunch hours visiting just as many craft galleries as art exhibitions - if not more. 
  Two-part vessel from here
Alison Britton's ceramics were some of the many that I admired from those days.  I always enjoyed her writing too, and so it is a pleasure to read this collection which takes me back to those exciting days, as well as providing me with thoughts which I can apply to the world I now see from a different perspective.
 Early jug form from here
She started me thinking about 18 months ago when I visited an exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham, and wrote a post.  Once more I'm experiencing the spiral of progress, where from a different level I look back at where I once was.

In two weeks I have completed two of the sea scribble pieces and am well into the third which will see me through this coming week's tennis.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Sunshine after the storm

This morning we had thunder and lightning and short bursts of heavy rain, but now the sun is shining.  Out of my workrooms the views are mostly of greens, but other colours are fast coming through.
When I completed my lino plate a couple of weeks ago, the view from the kitchen print room included the last of the hawthorn blossom.
Today, from the sewing room at the back - also looking towards the hawthorns - the alliums and lavender are doing well, as is the  unruly borage, and some bindweed!
The long view over the neighbouring land includes a flowering buddleia and a wild rose behind it in the middle distance.
From the front window of the sewing room I have the rose Dortmund already flowering up against the glass, and with lots of buds this year,
and lots of kniphofia heads about to flower.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Meanwhile, ...

... even though I have been stitching the sea-inspired works while watching the tennis, and the lino block I cut is lying forsaken for the present - at the back of my mind cogs keep whirring round.  Here is a work in progress: the title most likely is Siren song of solitude.
Now that it's out of my brain and fixed in pixels for the time being, ... back to my needle and the tennis.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014


I am very much enjoying a flaneur reading of Seeing Things, a collection of writings on art and craft by Alison Britton.  It has me thinking about all sorts of aspects of making, as well as reminding me of makers whose work I have admired over the years.  So I was delighted when a review in this month's Sculpture magazine took me back to a maker who had slipped into the mists of my memory: Ursula Morley Price.
I love so much of her work for its deceptive simplicity both of design and making, for the contained exuberance, for the scale of it - small enough to have in one's home.  Although looking at this film of an exhibition in Troyes last year, I am not attracted to the works in such close proximity to each other that they fight for breath.  I much prefer each individual piece in its own space.
At present I am working on the sea pieces which I started with scribbles in Cornwall this year, and Ursula Morley Price's pieces evoke thoughts of underwater plant life and corals.  My stitching always leads to much thinking - even while watching tennis - and this reminder of Ursula Morley Price's work is feeding into those thoughts.
There is a piece in a nearby ceramics collection which I must revisit sometime.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Tennis prints

These days I am occupied stitching as I watch the tennis.  Thinking about a favourite printmaker: Cyril Power, I tracked down these two wondrous versions of his tennis linocut:
Tennis: linocut c.1933, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
Tennis: another print of the linocut c.1933 from here which has more information about Powers.

I'm just left exhausted by just looking at the energy in Powers' work - but I love it.   Meanwhile, I completed stitching one small piece during the first week of the French Open - and am now started on the next one.