Thursday, October 29, 2015

With great pleasure

I continue from time to time to follow the free and universally available online FutureLearn courses, and at present I am deriving a great deal of enjoyment, information, and stimulus from The European Discovery of China from the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona.  This course is thorough, and it occupies a lot of my contemplative thought while stitching.  There is so much which I want to pursue further, such as looking more closely at the Qīngmíng Shànghé Tú scrollHere is a YouTube film showing the scroll - it has animated the characters after showing the original painting.
The image at the top comes from this French site on the Sung dynasty.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Re-visiting a-new

I have mentioned before that I think of living as a kind of spiral: as we move forward we retain a view of what we have experienced previously, but from an ever changing perspective - an accumulative perspective.  Yesterday I revisited the subject of a philosophy which consumed my thoughts when I was a teenager: existentialism.  In one sitting I read the catalogue from a current exhibition of portraits by Alberto Giacometti. Giacometti: Pure Presence - it is a beautifully elegant book, and I very much enjoyed the close examination of the reproductions of Giacometti's protraits, and being taken back to my days immersed in Sartre's Being and Nothingness.
That rekindled intellectual excitement was fed into a revisiting of elements of previous work to help push forward a visual idea I've been turning over recently.  It all started with my attraction to the hooded crows on Skye last month.  I wanted to use one somehow, and vocalising - I love the sound of them (listen to them on the link!).   I was also thinking about how we humans interact with nature.  And I wanted somehow to combine the idea of indoors with outdoors. The title of my idea is Opening a dialogue.  Titles are important to me - they help to pin down a particular from all the various possibilities constantly floating about in my brain, and for me the verbal expression somehow helps to conjure the visual. 
My focus diverted first to catching up with the limbo pieces shown in my last post, and then the palate-cleansing excitement of yesterday's thought-provoking read, returned me to a state of readiness to tackle the exercise.  I think I am most of the way there.
This is the rough drawing created in response to the title Opening a dialogue.
For a background I was inspired by the idea of wallpaper.  I absolutely hate the fashion for huge plants repeated all over the wall, but I thought that something similar could work here.  Years ago I had designed a machine knitting pattern which I now made into a repeat.
I traced it roughly with two main flat colours
and then used one of my stash of pastel drawings to add randomness and to knock it all back a bit.
Stitching will knock it back even further eventually.
In any case the figures I believe are sufficiently strong not to be overwhelmed by their 'wallpaper'.  Now, satisfied with progress so far, although it needs quite a bit of detailed work to finish it, it goes into 'back burner' mode when I forget about it for a wee while, then see how I react when I look at it again with a fresh eye and a mind detached from the obsessive state it has to be in to put the thing together in the first place.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Almost there, ... but still missing something

I used to destroy most of the results of paintings or other things I made in my leisure time, in the years when I was salaried.  Now it could be said that all of my time is leisure time, and I have learned so much more about what I am trying to do, and that patience is a large part of that.

What I am designing and making consists of so many elements, both ingredients and techniques.  If something is still needed then I know that it's missing - although most of the time I do not know what that something is.  Then suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, I will have had some kind of experience which will present me with the answer.

Ever since my trip to Mottisfont on Tuesday I have had a productive time with new designs, and also with a couple of designs which had stalled.  As is usual in these cases the designs in limbo had been sitting in my files for some time.  If a design pleases me enough I sometimes will print it as a postcard so that I can see it out of the corner of my eye in passing, so to speak.  It reminds me of itself without me actually working on it. 

In this case it was the use of photographs I had taken which spurred the (probable) completion of the designs.

Autumn interior (stalled stage)
This design grew out of an exercise using the idea of a grid.  I wanted to use angles and architecture, and was pleased with the colours, the composition, and the figure.  Nonethless, the body of the image was too flat for texture, and therefore not suitable for my kind of textile.  And yet I wanted to keep that sense of an open area and the indoors.  Impasse.  Until after Tuesday.
I think it was the colour of the leaves on this photograph which started the ball rolling.  Also the fact that simultaneously I was thinking about the other stalled design - which led me to use its background again here.
I can usually post-rationalise my decisions, but until they are carried out the work all seems instinctive.  I am happier with what I have done now - but I still have to let it simmer for a bit until I know I'm happy with how I'm going to use stitch.

The second image could still work in its stalled stage, but I just was not ready to use it yet.
Bitter wind (stalled stage)
When I saw one tree and the shape of its branches I immediately brought the design to mind, and wanted to try them together.
It was just too much - but, as just a pinch, then it was nearer perfect.
So, Tuesday's outing was just a marvellous day all round.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Amongst trees - a sunny day

A friend and I went to Mottisfont Abbey today to see an exhibition of art on the subject of trees.  It is a great place to see real trees too - especially at this time of year.  And we could not have chosen a better day for sunshine and warmth.
Among the artworks which attracted me was a painting rather like this by Ffiona Lewis,
the film The Greeting by Lizzie Sykes,
the colours and feeling of oils by Fiona McIntyre,
and most of all I loved the photograph and painting on photograph by Michael Porter from his Day and Night series  - for which I cannot find a reproduction, but this below ( Silver Birches & Bindweed & Beneath a Rotting Tree from here) gives an idea. His is the piece that stays with me, and could well prove to be an inspiration.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A weighty book on a delicate life

  (image from here)
I very much enjoyed Julia Blackburn's book on Goya and her Book of Colour, and so when I saw her most recent volume, Threads, the delicate life of John Craske, I wanted to read that.  Full of pictures of Craske's work - paintings and embroideries, as well as other photographs - it was obvious that I had to have a book rather than an electronic manifestation, so I ordered it in time for me to take on our trip to Skye last month.  Well - I had not allowed for the weight of the paper used in the making of this book!  Thick and glossy, the hard back weighs a tonne - slight exaggeration - so, I left it behind on my books-to-be-read-sometime-soon-ish pile.
 (image from here)
Reinforcing my desire to read another book by Julia Blackburn was my reading of reviews of this book ( e.g. here and here) as well as the link with the Norfolk coast which had made quite an impression on me when we visited earlier this year.  John Craske lived there, was a fisherman, and was 'by, with, and from' the sea.
 (image from here)
I am about half-way through the book, and am thoroughly enjoying it.  The life of John Craske itself is sparsely documented, and so would in theory lead to a slim volume.  However, one of the aspects of Julia Blackburn's writing which I please me is her telling it all.  She explains her thinking and motivations.  She describes her researches both ordered and casual, her encounters and her experiences in places where Craske lived or worked - often nothing really to do with him specifically - such as when meandering through the lives of other folk in Norfolk, such as Einstein and the Elephant Man.  The book is not only a biography of the subject, but also an autobiographical recounting of the pursuit of that subject. 
 (image of Julia Blackburn from here)
I'm loving it.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Poetry in prints

Jackdaws at Carrick Luz (detail)  Carborundum and Drypoint
Landscape, its nature gives such wonderful delight, and so many artists are drawn to try to capture spirit of place.  One artist who has succeeded absolutely for me is Anita Reynolds, who brings immediately to mind the feelings I have experienced when in the different parts of the South Western peninsula of England. 
This afternoon I completed my first (I'm sure of many) reading of her recently published Outline South West - the story and the resulting art of her walk round the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path. 
The art - the prints she has made of this extraordinary exercise I find stunningly evocative, more alive than most photographs, and beautiful - inspiring too, spurring me to try to achieve.  The book is a splendid account of the walks, the difficulties and the achievements, with descriptions of how she worked, as well as reproductions of all the prints - one per day as well as extra monoprints, photographs of details, and a lovely photo of her collection of pebbles, rocks, and oddments - including 30 Namibian dollars in notes (!)- she picked up each day on her way round.
And then to top it all, the book also includes poetry inspired also by the words - one per day that Anita Reynolds distilled from the experience.  The poem which seems to me to resonate so closely with the work and the book is by Ian Royce Chamberlain:

Picture This

A chronicle of wind and foxglove
wild garlic valleys, mud and jackdaw
mist off the sea
the sticks of fishermen
like punctuation
in the paragraphs of surf
cormorants propped like question marks
on semi-colon rocks
beneath a lighthouse exclamation
dashes slitting rain from sunshine
buttercups and oysters
campion, thrift and gorse
and larks as commas
slipped in breathless sentences
on a woven paper sky
apostrophes of black-backed gulls
bracketed with stacks of slate
in a blur of headland squall
where a hatch of undercliff becomes
a pencilled underlining
to a signature of scratch.

Hawthorn, Sorrel & Campions  Monotype (All images from Anita Reynolds' website.)
I found this to be a brilliant book over and above the thoroughly splendid art - it is available through Anita Reynolds' website

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

October reds in the garden

There are so many red spots in the garden now, which while the majority of leaves are still green, make a lovely scene.  As the leaves slowly yellow every day is a delight as I open the curtains.
I don't know the name of this grass, but its flowers are stunning, and especially so in the morning or evening light.  Unfortunately I chose a bright moment in between showers to pop out into the garden.
Is it my imagination, or everything so much more zinging this year?  The Sedums seem more intensely pink - they will turn darker as autumn progresses,
just as the Berberis berries seem more intensely - pulsing - red.
Geranium Ann Folkard's leaves turn beautifully
as do the Bergania's
and a few of the Mahonia's which unlike most of the plants is gearing up to flower early in winter.
The showers have depressed the hardy Fuchsia onto its gravel bed, but the red still shines.
I have a small collection of Sempervivems, and this relatively recently acquired one has developed beetroot red edges with which I am smitten.
I had gone out originally to check on my tardy borlotti beans, and decided to pick some.  They seem OK, but not as wholeheartedly ripe as I would have preferred.  I'm told this has been a bad year for beans. 
This morning I cooked this batch, and tonight we will see how they turn out.