Thursday, July 23, 2015

Experiments (printmaking)

I have been experimenting with a couple of images printed from two sides of a block of vinyl.  The first is Scary story - here is the block before I decided to carve away the hair.
I have been experimenting with printing on different papers, mostly tissue, either altered by me, or pre-printed, as in gift wrappings.
Below I've printed on this last: a white and silver unobtrusive floral pattern, which I think worked rather well.  I have used this tissue before, and like the way it takes the ink.  I also pasted the tissue onto black khadi paper so that the silver shines - unfortunately not visible in scanned reproduction.
I have also been experimenting with using digitally printed patterns which I have designed.  I made the background the wrong size in the one below, but went ahead with the trial anyway - not only because I wanted to see how the ink sat on the paper (I used printable lokta paper), but I liked the idea of her hair extending beyond the background.
I also like to try out different papers - such as scrunched up and then ironed brown wrapping paper.  Although it does not work with this print, I do like the effect of the ink on the scrunch edges, and would consider using it with a larger scale shape.
On the other side of the Scary story plate is that for Jazz flute.  First I tried a textured tissue - a coarse-ish fibrous tissue with bits in it.  I like the result, and am now thinking about what paper I might mount it on.  By the way, creases such as the one bottom left will smooth out in the pasting.
The digitally printed paper has also pleased me, and despite the rather faint inking on this print I do think that the dark-ish background will work.  I have also designed some lighter coloured versions to use.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Both blue and pink

Our hydrangea is looking really good this year, flowering all over, and covered with hover flies.  I find it extraordinary that one plant has both pink and blue florets.  It is delightful.
The various clematis plants are also looking good at present as we have not had enough rain to damage the flowers.
The hollyhocks are also benefiting from not being battered by heavy rain.  We are having humidity rather than a proper downpour, and the ground is really dry.

Monday, July 20, 2015

From Panda to Polar bear

This morning I encountered a snippet in the Guardian newspaper.  Art critic Jonathan Jones wrote about Jeann-Marie Donat's collection of old photographs showing at the Arles photography festival this year.  I would not normally have been interested in the article, except that I have a picture taken of me, my mother, a toy polar bear cub, and a man dressed in a polar bear costume (looking I must say more authentic than the one in the German photographs!).  We were in a park in Aberdeen in 1951 when I was three years old.
More of the German photos like the one above here

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Summer reading

I have been doing quite a bit of non-fiction reading recently, and needed some fiction which would whisk me off somewhere other, both geographically and in mood.  When reading the Summer Reading article in last weekend's paper I encountered this sentence by John Banville:
 Also in my bag will be Pascal Garnier’s Boxes (Gallic Books £7.99), which is sure to freeze the cockles of my heart nicely. For those unacquainted with Garnier’s work, think Simenon and Patricia Highsmith mixed, with jokes added to the black brew.
These two authors are enormous favourites of mine, and so it was a no-brainer to look up Pascal Garnier - of whom I must admit I had not previously heard.  Perverse as ever, I decided to start not with the newest title, but to go back to the first - or the first translated at least.  So I acquired The Panda Theory for my Kindle.
Last night I finished it: Brilliant!  I have already acquired Moon in a Dead Eye (I hope that the new translator will be as good) to establish  that this will be a summer binge! 

And I reiterate my delight at the qualities of James Robertson's 365 stories, which I anticipate missing next year.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

So many sad stories

There are so many sad stories around these days, I felt the need for a ballad with guitar.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

In pursuit of a potter

We have a small collection of ceramics which continue to delight us.  Often the pieces were bought when the makers were young or starting out.  From time to time I wonder what the potter is making these days, and thus it was that I googled Archie McCall
In the early 80s I bought a tea bowl (pictured in the three snaps above) of his from the Oxford Gallery - a wondrous treasure house that was, but sadly has not been around for decades now.  I had not known anything about him.  No biography had come with the pot, only his name on the base.  But now with the Internet so much can be discovered: that he is still living and potting after a career teaching at Glasgow School of Art.  I am delighted to find that his work is in important institutional collections such as those of the National Museum of Scotland, and of Aberystwyth University (the image below is from the latter site).
It is reassuring to see that my instant attraction was endorsed by the institutions, but even better is the discovery that he took part in this year's Dumfries and Galloway Spring Fling (their open studios event), and so I hope to be able to visit his studio in a future year's Fling.
Not only that! I also discovered that my missing abbey - Sweetheart Abbey - is in the village where he lives and works.  In my childhood, living in the Borders of Scotland, and in Edinburgh I visited Melrose, Jedburgh, and Dryburgh Abbeys many times, but have always wanted to see Sweetheart.  Even more reason to plan a holiday south west of Dumfries!

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Question of Failure

Outside (2007)
I find that Sculpture magazine nearly always provides much food for thought.  This current issue is no exception. The thought which has provoked this post is a question and answer session between interviewer Joshua Reiman (himself an artist) and sculptor Charles Ray.

It was this question and answer which sent my mind off:

JR: Can you talk a bit about failure?  I often think that this where the best lessons come from when making sculpture.  What was your ultimate failure in making your work?

CR: I suppose one could say that failure comes when the question is answered.  Questions engage us.  Answers have a nasty tendency to be disproved.  Quality is in the question, not the answer.

What an interesting answer which itself poses questions.  Is it really an answer to the questions asked by JR?  Does it matter - because the response is of so much more value.  The value I see as largely two-fold. 
First the importance of question, quality of question, and the quality of the work as question.  I have found that the difference in definition between ultimately-temporary-pleasure-giving art and penetrating-under-the-skin art has been that the latter leaves questions in my mind.  Some of these questions are answered in subsequent viewings, or between viewings; but seeing the best works again raises more questions.
Second is the examination of a desire for answers.  Scientists understand that answers are an interim: goals which provide pausing places where subsequent questions can be devised.  The pleasure, frisson, stimulus, incentive, inspiration - the answer - which a work of art gives must be there in order to become a quality encounter with question.
Fascinatingly also the response about failure is that it's put firmly on the shoulders of the artist rather than becoming a burden on the work.  Artists need to ask better questions - of themselves, of the viewers, of the work.

Coincidentally, in the same issue of the magazine there is a notification of an exhibition of 30 of Louise Bourgeois' Cells at the Haus der Kunst gallery in Munich, Germany - on until 2 August (here are interesting films).  Oh, to waft myself there!  I find of all LB's work the Cells affect me most viscerally; powerfully raising so many questions.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015


From time to time, I wander through my photo files idly, so that I am reminded of the images.  Today I decided to pick out some of my snaps with red in them.
Then I became bored by the whole exercise ....

Friday, July 03, 2015

Intensity - tennis in hand

I love watching tennis, and at present the Wimbledon matches are a real treat.  But I cannot watch while doing nothing else - which is just as well, as I watch a lot!  So right now I'm getting through piles of hand stitching.
To hand at present is a piece I named Plunge pool, but which I've come to think of as Grexit? as somehow the turmoil in Greece over the economy, particularly this week has joined the turmoil I felt when I designed the image in 2010.
As ever, the image is a conjunction of elements which just came together the day we went to see the 2010 Serpentine Pavilion designed by Jean Nouvel.   That day we also went into the Serpentine Gallery where I was given permission to photograph one of the high windows.  I had nothing specific in mind, but the look of it appealed to me.
Then walking back to the car which was parked a few streets away I passed a piece of street furniture which I snapped.
Back home the next day I put these together with a photo of my first piece of backloom weaving made when I lived in the USA (I tried all sorts of craft making then, and it was there that art quilts first attracted me).
Somehow the window looked like a pool that needed a fish, and in those days also I was looking after my mother with no additional help, so the figure expresses my state.  Anyway, that's what I am stitching now, with a considerably cheerier demeanour, and it occurred to me that it is once more appropriate - for a current Greek drama.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Storage solution (with side irritation) + bonus buy

I cannot remember when I first decided that I must have a plan chest, but it was many years ago now.  This longing falls into the obsession I have with storage - something my husband suffers from too.  Unfortunately a plan chest is by nature a big beast, and I have never had room for one.  But I think I may have overcome the desire because I encountered IKEA's Alex drawers on castors.
I bought two of these - they store paper up to A2 size - and love them.  One stores paper, and the other stores small stitched work.  Now I have acquired two more for storing prints.  They move so easily, they fit under tables, and the drawers are just the right size for my needs.  Only if I ever start making larger prints will I again start thinking dreamily about a plan chest.
The irritation was my husband's: one piece was cut wrong, and he valiantly spent a three hour round trip to IKEA to have it replaced - with no blink of an apology that they had sold a defective item.
My purchase - incredibly cheap - bonus was a dish drainer which is perfect for holding my vinyl (lino) plates after cleaning off the washable ink, with the cutlery compartment ideal for the dripping implements.
I look forward to using all this newly acquired stuff, but meantime it's serious tennis watching time, so the work is confined to hand stitching.