Tuesday, December 12, 2017


I sometimes wonder whence visual ideas arrive - but it does not trouble me for long.  I just enjoy playing with the results.  The main thing is not to go poking away trying to replicate, because, as far as I am concerned anyway, it doesn't work.  Like overnight elves, these gems arrive when I'm not looking.
Playing with the idea of symmetry (or not quite) produced this:
Don't ask what it means - if anything - but I am enjoying the sense of drama and mystery, and that mental drift it induces.  After all the birds which have been my companions over the recent years, it is good to get back to fish.  So far it calls itself Worship.
It also has that stark wintery feel to it; pared back, ... which reminded me of another design I started many years ago and put on an almost forgotten back burner: Winter sunshine.  Perhaps I shall work on them both as small stitchings in January after my hibernation.
No snow here, just cold that is not much felt because of the sunshine and lack of wind.  Sunglasses and ice.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

As ever ...

... when I should be settling down to something serious
a silly idea pops into my head: a hare-raising story!  A doodle to add to my lino cutting pile perhaps.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

I do like to be beside the seaside

On Sunday we set off for the East Sussex coast: to two exhibitions.  First we visited the Towner Gallery to see a most interesting collection of landscape photographs.  I was also intrigued there by the diversity of architecture around the gallery - and the fact that it abuts the tennis courts which I have seen on television when the international competition just before Wimbledon is taking place. Please forgive the lack of quality in my snaps - some were taken from inside the gallery, and it was a rather misty day (well, those are my excuses!).  This was a day of extraordinary visual feasts - art and life.
There I also encountered a collection of holm oaks, a tree not often seen in England.  It is a tree I know from Greece, and a favourite of mine.  The tree is also known as the holly oak, and lo - there was a holly growing out of one next to our car (note the silhouette above the cut branch in the second snap)!
We did not wander far in Eastbourne for we were set for points East: Hastings to see the Rego exhibition mentioned in my previous postThe Jerwood gallery, like the Towner is relatively new, and is positioned near the shore next to the wondrous working chaos of fishing folk.

There were a couple of amusing sights:
And then of course there was the calming sight of the sea.
A great day trip to the seaside!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Self examination

Paula Rego: Self Portrait III (image from here)
Far from a bland smiley selfie, examples of profound self examination are to be seen at the exhibition at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings: Paula Rego - The Boy Who Loved The Sea and other stories.  It is always a joy, an excitement, and an inspiration to see Paula Rego's work, and three groups of work in particular struck me when we went to Hastings yesterday.
The more powerful two were the 'damage' self portraits and the Depression pastels.  Rego fell onto her face early this year, causing much damage to herself and needing hospital treatment.  She became fascinated, however, in drawing herself in this state, and it was a wondrous experience to witness her curiosity through her drawings.  They have been compared with Bacon's work, but the latter were metaphor while Rego's are so immediately, straightforwardly truthful - and also a look at oneself as if an object.
Paula Rego: Depression V detail (image from here)
The Depression pastels are equally powerful, but in a slightly different way.  First they were a means of working through a period of depression.  And then they are at a remove in that the figure is not drawn from Rego herself.  Her usual model posed for them. (Eirene wrote a post about the Marlborough exhibition earlier this year here.)  This time the drawings were of someone else, but about oneself - one's own feelings.
The third group that impressed me yesterday were a delight: three aged mermaids.  (Image above from here)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Black flowers and berries

Plants reward looking.  On the one hand there are the spectacular which demand attention even from the most casual gaze.  They too are worth closer examination for even more delights and astonishment (think for instance of Georgia O'Keeffe's flower paintings).  My own preference is for the perhaps superficially boring, but which contain gems when given time and careful observation.
Today my delight in the garden is the flowers and berries of the pittosporum shrub.  I am no photographer, so have borrowed the ones shown here from this site which also has several other beautiful examples of the flowers and berries.

Friday, November 24, 2017

November light

So many reasons to love November, not least the light.  Colour - colours, yes, but the subtle greys, the shining light, ....  That last may seem a contradiction with the daylight hours getting so much shorter - but it's because of that the light becomes more precious, and more noticeable.
Because there is less light, and it is angled more directly from lower in the sky, I find that the landscape can beautifully be sliced vertically to appreciate the diversity of the light's effects.
And the blues become subtly intriguing, entrancing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Stitch, stitch, stitch

One reason why I'm twitchy is that my quilting of Soliloquy involves stitching straight lines at a table which supports the weight of the piece.  I am not happy stuck this way, and I am keen, desperate to complete this aspect of the quilting.  When this is done I can take the whole onto my lap for the more free-form quilting.  I'm hoping that December will see me done with straight lines.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Can't settle

I am thinking about too many things today.  So, as ever, I doodle while my mind flits!

Friday, November 17, 2017

"What was the artist trying to say?"

I overheard this again on Sunday at the Jasper Johns exhibition, and mused once more over why it is that some observers are so desperate to know what an artist is trying to communicate.  I know that when I am in the throes of making a piece, I am far from sure what I'm trying to say.  Indeed even after I've finished, if I have to write a few words for an exhibition, it often taxes me.
Julie Speed: Concertina (image from here)
Then when responding to a comment on my last post I was reading an interview on Julie Speed's website (scroll down the page past the videos to arrive at the interviews on the link) I came across an elegant way of putting it:

An Interview with Julie Speed: Part II
December 12, 2012 Ross Smeltzer  
The Search For Meaning in Julie Speed’s Works
Q.           What are you trying to communicate in your paintings? What do you want people looking at your work to think about and feel?
Julie Speed.        I’m not trying to communicate. I’m trying to solve a puzzle that is visual first and narrative second.  The elements are color, form, line, texture, bits from the news, light from the windows, what I just saw in the street or in a tree when I walked to town to get the mail, a book, a phrase, a shadow and a thousand other small observations, so many that I could never count them or quantify them but they all occur and combine in the present.  It’s a puzzle for me now while I’m working on it and it takes every bit of concentration to get the work right.  As a practical matter it wouldn’t be useful to me to try to factor in my guess about how someone else would think or feel about it at some future time.  It’s hard enough to tune out my own inner bullshit.
Q.           In the past, you have said there are no objective meanings in your works: you expect different viewers to produce different – equally legitimate – meanings. But, given your use of repeated symbols and images, do you think you are attempting to communicate certain meanings, thoughts and perspectives to those viewing your works? In other words, are all interpretations of your work equally legitimate and, if not, why not?
Julie Speed.        I do use certain images over and over but I’m not deliberately embedding symbols in some kind of code.   I repeat certain images because they’re useful compositionally or simply because I like to paint them.
However, while I don’t know exactly how or why, I do know that if I get the composition and content balanced just right then the work will sometimes strike a chord in another person – not in most people of course, just a few….but when that happens I like to hear what it is that they thought or felt.
It’s certainly just as valid and often way  more interesting to me than my own thoughts because I’ve already thought my own thoughts – they’re no longer new to me.

Julie Speed: Jawbone (image from here)
Critics and the art market do not help observers of art to enjoy the act of observation for themselves.  I am still fuming about the obscenity of the same painting being deemed worth over $400 million if it is by one artist, but only worth less than $100 if thought to be by another.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Enchanted encounters?

Three powerful visual story tellers whose work inspires me are Paula Rego, Ana Maria Pacheco, and Julie Speed.
Paula Rego: from the Jane Eyre series (image from here)
Ana Maria Pacheco: from Follies of a Guardian Angel (image from here)
Julie Speed: Beach (image from here)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A separate category

Jasper Johns: The Seasons (Fall) (image from here)
There are some artists who comprise a separate category for me - a more directly inspirational one.  There have always of course been artists whose work I have preferred more than others; but this new category began to form when I embarked on my own attempts at artistic self-expression.The members of the special category are not necessarily inspirational in the same way, for the same reasons, and do not all remain there for the same length of time.  But they all have a profound effect, and take over a lot of my thinking - especially just after having seen a significant display of their work.
Today I had meant to visit an exhibition nearby, but I do not want to diminish my thinking about Jasper Johns' work.  The exact opposite: I want to develop the thoughts that are forming from my looking and seeing on Sunday.  There is the possibility of so much high quality art input these days that I find it difficult to maintain a perspective about what I am doing - or trying to do - and whether I am succeeding in my own terms.  And so I'm finding it increasingly necessary to give space around significant input - and as a kind of contradiction to the whole of my previous life - to limit the range and quantity of input.  I'm paying more attention to quality over quantity.
Jasper Johns working on one of the Regrets (image from here)
There are several reviews of the Royal Academy exhibition, here, here, and here, and here, here, and here, but they do not come near to the positive reaction I have had.  There is an interesting article here
I am drawn not so much to the flags, the targets, the early Pop Art works; but to the re-examinations, the re-workings, the use of line and space, the careful execution, the attraction to typographic elements, the use of greys, blacks, and colour, the elegance of his thinking, ...
Jasper Johns: Ocean (working proof) (image from here)
... his fascination with optical illusions, the tricks of perception,  his borrowings from for example Buckminster Fuller (map as used in the print immediately above), Holbein, Picasso,  the John Deakin photograph of Lucian Freud which spurred the Regrets series, ... and how he very much made something so distinctly his own out of it all.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Engaging, enlightening, enriching, ... and somehow encouraging

Jasper Johns: 0 through 9 1961 (image from here)
Yesterday was a crisp, chill, sunny day with oak and beech leaves glowing gold.  We took ourselves to the Royal Academy in London to see the Jasper Johns exhibition.  Johns is one of those artists whose work I have long admired, and yet I have actually seen very few pieces for real.  A few here and there I saw in the USA, Tate has several, and I was fortunate to see an exhibition of his number pieces in Oxford many years ago.
Jasper Johns: Dancers on a Plane (image from here)
I found this exhibition at the RA to be an excellent display, thematically organised, making the most of the workings and re-workings - the explorations and the re-visitings.  I was keen to see the work he had done for Fiorades/Fizzles, the book with Samuel Beckett, and was delighted to see so much on display. 
(image from here)
Usually one has to put up with one double page spread open - more images here - but the limited edition had included a set of flat prints for exhibition.  Brilliant.
One of the Regrets (image from here)
There was so much that was worth the visit, and even so we found the exhibition to be greater than its parts.  It certainly made such an impact on me that I am still digesting, and find myself incapable of writing any more.