Sunday, October 15, 2017


Today I have been wandering through the ArtUk site, gazing at the wealth of content, working from the artists.  These are paintings in public collections in the UK, and can be seen - well, not all are actually on display, but the theory is that by contacting the institution a viewing can be arranged.
Anne Redpath: Terraced fields, Gran Canaria (image from here)
I wanted to reacquaint myself with old favourites, as for example Anne Redpath.
Anne Redpath: Landscape at Kyleakin (image from here)
I love her use of colour; three of the paintings in the public collections particularly catching my attention today.  I was taken with the transition from the deep reds of Gran Canaria through the reds, greys, and whites of Kyleakin to the whites and greys with scant but essential red of the still life below.
Anne Redpath: Grey Still Life, The Venetian Blind (image from here)
How wondrous to include a venetian blind!  I cannot off the top of my head think of another still life with such dynamic horizontals, translucent, arising from what might otherwise be thought a boring object.  Doubly delightful after having seen this image for the first time is the discovery that it is held in the collection of the Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal, Cumbria - a favourite destination of ours when we are up in the North West of England, or on our way to Scotland.  So I hope to be able to see the painting for real some day.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Excellent timing

My bedtime reading at present is SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard.  I am enjoying this, reading it slowly to chew over all the information.  As described in this review, the book is engaging - but I was delighted to find a FutureLearn course covering the development of Rome from Dr Matthew Nicholls of Reading University Classics department
(image above from here)
The course started today, and it is quite a revelation.  These free online courses are amazing.  I have thoroughly enjoyed most of the ones I have pursued.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Tree cutting theatre

The renovation cycle has turned, and amongst other jobs which are being and to be done, tree cutting was added.  (A sub-clause of the jammy piece principle - if dropped, a jammy piece will fall jammy side down - is that if great sums of money are being paid out, another large expense will force its way up the queue.)  The poplar had grown so high that were it so to fall, it would smash my sewing room.  A drastic crown reduction was called for.
The rule, just as in cutting fabric, is look and discuss at length before beginning the climb - especially as the tree grows between an electricity wire and a public path to a primary school.
A twice-extended ladder forms the foothills of the ascent, which reaches the topmost branches in order to secure the rope.
Then, with the rope in place, the descent to the cutting can begin.
And with the cut line established after a few hours, the cutting for the day more or less ends (a less experienced guy is given the opportunity in the afternoon to climb up and experience cutting at the great height !).  Clearing - the much longer job - begins.
On the two subsequent days the experienced climber and cutter gradually works his way across the tree.  Although there is much crashing of falling timber, the job on the whole is remarkably elegantly and skillfully done. 

Another less experienced guy gets the opportunity ! to climb up to cut the final bit of branch and retrieve the rope.
All was busyness and noise for four days, and then on the fifth the fence was mended (a couple of pieces of tree didn't miss it), and now all is quiet.  And we are discovering how agile the squirrels are.  Discombobulated at first because their electricity super highway was previously brushed by branches.  Now they really have to l e a p!  And they do.
And we have a greatly augmented wood pile - not to mention having an entertaining spectacle to compensate for the lack of work that I achieved.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Inspiration shared

When looking at the work of Turner Prize shortlisted artist Lubaina Hamid (first seen this year in Eirene's blog) I saw much that attracts me.  And I see that we are both lovers of Picasso's glorious frontcloth (below), designed for the Ballets Russes.
(image above from this article)
Since I first saw it I have always been drawn to this great painting, not only for its immediate expression of friendship and exuberance, but also for the ambiguity of emotion it also seems to contain - the more I look, the more I see.
Lubaina Hamid: Freedom and Change (images from here)
As Eirene's photos show, Hamid's appropriation of the figures adds the delightful hounds, and the perhaps not so delightful onlooking men.  My own appropriation for a quilt made in 2007 crops the original to the upper body of the left hand woman, and I took her off the beach and put her in the sea.  I wish that I had the space to have this piece hanging because it pleases me still, even after all these years.
A big splash 2007 145x107cm
It is always a pleasure to see that someone else - whose work I admire greatly - has also been inspired by a piece which inspired my own creative juices to flow.

There are Guardian newspaper articles about Lubaina Himid here, and here, and here, and here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Explanation or excuse?

Several years ago, when my nephews were young they used to spend every summer with my parents, and I would take them all on outings.  One such was to a nearby bird world.  Weather-wise it was a rather drizzly day, so many of the birds - especially those from warm climes - looked miserable.
There were not many photo opportunities, but I was struck by the sculptural form of the northern bald ibis on a boat.
I found this photo the other day, and was struck again by the attractiveness of the bird's form as well as by its apparent look of total misery.  Of course I am probably anthropomorphising its mood, as other photos I have seen do not show it looking much different.  But even so, when I think about what we humans are doing to so many environments in the name of progress, but really perhaps it turns out only for the comfort of a few - in which I count myself - I wonder how we would start to account for our actions.
Nature of course is well known for being raw in tooth and claw - it's just that we humans get the prize for having pursued this beyond any wildest dreams.  While I was thinking over how one could begin to explain ourselves to our fellow inhabitants of the planet, I came up with an image using the ibis.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wondrous encounter

Today I found two films by Alison F Bell.  The films involve textile work -
and one on the sea shore.  Both move me, and for me require no further words.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ruthless, yet benign and far-sighted

Jung Chang has written a third enthralling biography.  I very much enjoyed, appreciated, and was enlightened by Wild Swans and Mao: The Unknown Story.  Today I finished reading the extraordinary life of the Empress Dowager Cixi.
I had a vague recollection of the Boxer rebellion from my history lessons at school, and in my early 20s when I was commuting to work in London I read a great deal about Chinese communism.  But I had never heard of this remarkable woman, a concubine of the emperor who saw what needed to be done to bring her country into the modern age, and found ways to take the power again and again to carry out the reforms.  Astonishing that we have not all heard of her.
(image from here)
She was far from an angel; she was just as murderous as any despot, but the good she did seems far to have outweighed the bad.  Learning some of the history of a period which had fallen between the cracks of my previous reading has been fascinating too.   It is such a pleasure to benefit from slow, well researched and well written input as an antidote to hard to avoid fast thoughtless 'news'.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


I'm happiest when thinking about several - or at least a few things at a time.  So when I am stitching solidly, my brain is busy in other areas.  Today I have been exploring ideas about three dimensions - an alley I stroll down from time to time with no specific direction as yet.
There is stitching to be done every day - I've almost finished the individual pieces of Soliloquy, only a couple to go.  And of course the ongoing getting rid of stuff.  But my main focus today has been on another ongoing task: to work up a few drawings for lino printing later in the year. 
I managed to get a trio to the back burner point - meaning that I'm largely happy enough with them to leave them until I am ready to transfer them onto the vinyl for cutting. 
My starting point for these was the passing thought that apart from when printing, I rarely wear an apron any more, so a tentative title for the trio is Studio aprons.  I have also been feeling sentimental about bits of knitwear I've recently finally cleared out, and so the aprons have designs I created in those days.  I do hate waste.

Friday, August 11, 2017

More runners

The stamps generated this version of the runners.  The Greek ones date from the Cyprus problems which involved Britain, in the 50s.  My father had to put up with a lot of gentle criticism in Greece that summer, and it was the first time I thought about politics. 
The German stamp fitted visually as well as thematically, then the runners arranged themselves.  But something was needed to bring all together.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

A feast of figurative

(image from here)
The primary reason for going to Pallant House yesterday was the John Minton exhibition.  I first came across John Minton's work on book jackets, and I have loosely known his work without really knowing anything about it or him.  So, as the Pallant puts on such good exhibitions of British 20th century artists we grasped the opportunity to find out more.
(image from here)
And I find I really like the work - especially the early paintings, and those from his travels.  Indeed the early works very much brought to mind the currently fashionable artists of the St Judes' stable.  I very much am drawn to the flat presentation of figures - yet so expressive - and the delightful elegant scribbled - and yet emotionally informative detail. 
Children by the Sea oil on canvas (image from here)
In the picture above, all the plants and Cornish details are incorporated like the stones in the walls - graphically, but as they are in fact too.
I am still absorbing and enjoying what I have seen.
Summer Landscape gouache on board (image from here where there is a review of the exhibition)
Landscape near Kingston Jamaica ink and watercolour on paper (image from here, with another review)
Melon Sellers, Corsica  oil on canvas (image from here - with more images)
Exotic Fruit (image from here)
For the time, I find his colours extraordinarily vibrant, and none more so than in his paintings of Corsica, Spain, and Jamaica.  And stunning in the enigmatic painting The Entombment, below with its beautiful Corsican cross.
The Entombment oil on canvas (image from here)

Here is another review.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Prints at Pallant House

Marie Laurencin: Depuis ce Jour Fatal etching (image from here)
The current exhibition in the Pallant House print room is Women Artists: The Female Gaze.  The prints are from the gallery's collection, and what a splendid show they make.  My absolute favourite is the one pictured above, but it only just squeaked ahead of so many others.  These are but a few which particularly caught my interest:
Cornelia Parker: The Blue Room lithograph (image from here)
Kiki Smith: Blue Girl etching (image from here - I'm not exactly sure if this is the right image, but the print I saw was almost exactly similar)
Paula Rego: The Guardian etching (image from here)
Shani Rhys James: The Hand Mirror etching with aquatint (image from here)
Cathie Pilkington: Eve and Eve mokulito lithograph (image from here)
Jennifer McRae: The Absentee lithograph (image from here)

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

An all-absorbing read

For months now I have been slowly making my way through Carr, O'Keeffe, Kahlo, Places of Their Own by Sharyn Rohlfsen UdallMarja-Leena Rathje told me about the book and the accompanying exhibition in Canada, and I was fortunate in being able to find a second hand copy here in the UK.
I thank Marja-Leena so much as this book has been like attending a rewarding academic course, making me look at the work of two artists I did not know to any great degree: Carr and Kahlo, and compare aspects of their thinking and communication with an artist I have read a great deal about over the years: O'Keeffe.  The book compares their art, their lives, and the achievements they made, covering the women's encounters with thoughts of nationality, gender, personal mythology, and success.  And examining their progress as individuals, women, with distinctive separate voices with visual statements different not only from each other, but from their contemporary artists.  The book examines similarities in difficulties they faced, as well as similarities in some aspects of their input and how that affected their output.
Harold Mortimer Lamb: Emily Carr (image from here)
Emily Carr: Wood interior (image from here)
Ralph Looney: Georgia O'Keeffe (image from here)
Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction White Rose (image from here)
Frida Kahlo (image from here)
Frida Kahlo: My Dress Hangs There (image from here)

Another immersive book I enjoyed a couple of years ago, which also included Georgia O'Keeffe was Three Artists (Three Women): Modernism and the Art of Hesse, Krasner, and O'Keeffe by Anne Middleton Wagner.  And this fascinating journey into the art of women of the Americas continues with my current reading of Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists by Donna Seaman.  I find it a brilliant continuation and expansion of my education in art history, which has been largely steeped in a European perspective.