Thursday, June 29, 2017

Magic beyond analysis

I'm someone who enjoys figuring things out.  Rationalising, post-rationalising, analysing - all are enjoyable occupations which sit happily with creative appreciation.  But the most exquisite pleasures come beyond explanations - like the enchantment I felt when seeing a boat-shaped sieve hanging from a ceiling above us in an art centre cafĂ©.
I am attracted to baskets, and I am attracted to boats.  But this was more than simply an amalgam of those.  Admittedly part of the magic may have been related to the Lobster and the Lacuna exhibition which had filled me with so much delight.  But it was more than that.
This vessel, high up in the rafters, amongst the light buoys, as if we were stuck in the depths below it's airy progress, this vessel struck me as the island equivalent of a magic carpet.  My researches found that it was made by land artist Chris Drury and is titled Land Water Vessel.
It made an extraordinary impression on me.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

'Tis the season

For stitching while watching tennis.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Herring Girl

It was raining, my knees had had enough, and I was making my way to the car when a woman caught my eye.  Such a beauty - I had to have a closer look.
We were in Stornoway - our first visit and a fleeting one.  I had noticed a few sculptures around, but it was a sheer delight to encounter this one.  The plaque said that she is a Herring Girl, by Charles Engerbresten and Virginia Hutchison.   I just love the attention to exquisite detail, the basket, the knitwear, the fish.  The makers worked with local craftspeople to recreate them, and the sculpture was cast from life. 

(After we had left the town I discovered that there is another Herring Girl in another car park - something to look forward to seeing on our next visit.)  The herring industry was an important one for Scotland and the women played a vital part.  I had heard of them previously in connection with the North East coast of Scotland, but had never seen any commemoration as beautiful as this. 
In beginning research for the links here I found the ceramic work of Katie Scarlett Howard.
Her researches, and her work, with the impact which the sculpture in Stornoway made on me, have inspired me.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Caught my eye 2: Black and white, and colour - and more

Ian McKeever: Henge I (image from here)
Powerful as his work on paper is, Ian McKeever's pieces have sometimes been lost to me amongst the crush.  So now I make a point of seeking them out.  This is usually most rewarding, and especially so this year.  Henge I excited so many reactions and thoughts, not least because of all my thinking about prehistoric sites - most recently Callanish of course.  It is a lithographic print, but once I had seen the three pieces entitled ... And The Sky Dreamt It Was The Sea a train of thought about density was set off.
Ian McKeever: ... And the Sky Dreamt it was the Sea (images from here)
I am also a fan of Tony Bevan's expressive lines, and this year it was an architectural drawing which attracted my attention.
Tony Bevan: House of wood (image from here)
Michael Broad: The Waves (image from here)
Chang Hui Hu: Peony Pavilion (image from here)
Hen Coleman: The Boundary (image from here)
Michelle Avison: Something Blue (image from here)
Norma Silverton: Triptych with trees (image from here)
Johanna Love: Ohne Strahlen VIII (Without Light) (image from here)
I was delighted to see one of Paul Furneaux's woodblock print sculptures.  I just love the elegant combination of three dimensions and that watercolour finish.
Paul Furneaux: Orange: Blue: Grey (image from here)

Jane E. Allen: Shadowland (image from here)

There were many more individual pieces which I liked, but the last piece, on exiting the exhibition is a film installation by Isaac Julien - a beautiful, powerful, political work.  It is in a class of its own.  That really makes one think.

Western Union: Small Boats (image from here)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Caught my eye 1

Mathilde ter Heijne: Woman to Go (image from here)
It was an appropriately hot day when we went to this year's Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  It is always interesting to see the packed mix of work by Academicians, Hon. Academicians, and other folks all together with the only label being a number. 

Jeannette Hayes: Queen of Sweden (image from here)
It is possible to look up the number in a published list of works which supplies name of work, name of artist, technique, and price - because this is a selling exhibition.  Indeed the proceeds go towards paying for the RA Schools, which are free to the students.  This alone makes the exhibition worthwhile in my opinion.
This year the hang is light and airy, with white walls, and each room with an inviting atmosphere.  Each room works as a whole, but we found that sometimes - perhaps even often - individual works seemed to lose their particular distinctiveness.  Some pieces more than held their own, of course.
Romuald Hazoume: Petrol Cargo (image from here)
Initially, years ago, I used to look at everything carefully.  Now, however, I scan the rooms and look closely only at those pieces which catch my eye.  I miss a lot, of course, but that is generally true in life, and it allows me much more time with the individual pieces which speak to me for whatever reason.
Hughie O'Donoghue: Departure (image from here)
I enjoy recognising artists whose work I admire and like - the pleasure is even greater when I am drawn to a work which I don't fully recognise but turns out to be by a favourite.  This adds to my appreciation. 
 
From time to time, seduced by a piece it is interesting to look up previously unknown artists only to find that I am not at all attracted to their other work.  That's thought-provoking - once I have got over the disappointment.
Alison Wilding: Simian Drawing VI, IV, and II (images from here)
And of course there's the delight of the obverse: finding a work or group of works which call to me across a room, only to find that they are from an artist to whose work I had not previously warmed.  This happened to me with the above pieces.  Alison Wilding is a sculptor, and the works which spoke to me are drawings - ink, collage, and pencil.  But she says on her RA page“I don’t think my work on paper has remotely anything to do with the kind of sculpture I make, and I think that’s why I do it - because it’s an opportunity to go down a different route,”
I admire her sculpture, but I do not have the language to understand it, and as yet it does not move me. But these works on paper intrigue me, and encourage a desire to play around myself.  Indeed it is about time I went back to playing with abstracts and with my pastels etc.  My attraction to Jeanette Hayes' work tells me that too.
Jock McFadyen: Harvey Reaches Down Behind the Bar (image from here)
Sometimes a piece of work catches me unawares, and stops me in my tracks because it feels as if it's telling me something about my own work.  I don't necessarily understand in particular what the work is trying to say to me, but the image remains burned into my brain.  This year that happened with Jock McFadyen's enigmatic painting shown just above.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Holiday reading

Before going anywhere on holiday I try to prepare myself as much as possible, not only to inform myself about what to look out for, but also to pre-'marinate' myself in the culture.  I had only a sketchy idea about the Outer Hebrides, so I did a lot of research on the internet, and read several books.
I started with Madeleine Bunting's Love of Country which placed me in the general area as it journeys through both Inner and Outer Hebrides, and covers some history.  Much better were the three novels by Peter May jointly known as The Lewis Trilogy which had been recommended by a friend. 
They and his book Hebrides with photographer David Wilson, and May's stand alone novel Coffin Road were an engaging way of immersing us in the atmosphere - and an accurate description of the weather we encountered.
I read the appropriate chapters in The Hebrides: An Aerial View of a Cultural Landscape which covered a lot about the flora and fauna as well as the geography and history.
A lovely little book on Callanish by Gerald Ponting is Callanish and Other Megalithic Sites in the Outer Hebrides.  It looks delightful, and perhaps a little dinky;  but it is serious, with the author actually having lived and worked for several years at the site. 
But the most informative, enjoyable, and impressive book of all was Adam Nicolson's journal account of the Shiant Islands: Sea Room
A quote on the back cover calls it both panoramic and personal, which really sums it up.  It is erudite and friendly, written as absorbingly as a whodunnit, but with so much more meat.  Although not about the parts of the Outer Hebrides that we were about to visit, the content of the book encompasses so much more than a restrictive location.
And the views from the west coast of the Outer Hebrides take in the Shiants and Skye as in the photo above by David Wilson, as are all the photos in this post.
The guide book we used, and found to be exactly what we needed on the spot was Charles Tait's Outer Hebrides Guide Book, 3rd edition.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Holiday art encounters - 2

This encounter was extraordinary: it was an experience which lifted my spirits in a way which has perhaps not occurred since way back in the mists of time.  We visited the arts centre in Lochmaddy, North Uist to have lunch on our tour of that island, and to see what art there was on exhibit.  Upstairs there was a room with quotes from a logbook written on the walls, the log books of Roberta Sinclair, naturalist and submariner. Stationed on Berneray after the second world war, she was a keen sea swimmer and regularly explored the waters around the island, gaining the nickname An Giomach (The Lobster).

and a mobile with small cable cars filled the upper volume of the space.  The exhibition's title is The Lobster and the Lacuna

The downstairs gallery contained a full size cable car, with projected waves on the walls around.  ...in the mid 1950s, the system expanded into the sound of Harris, when an unsuccessful attempt was made to create a new shipping hub on the east coast of the tiny island of Hermetray. Backed by investment from the then owners of Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, a small team built a prototype car which travelled from Berneray along the Grey Horse Channel to Hermetray, spending much of the route underwater to avoid crosswinds and interference with shipping.
Ms. Sinclair helped modify HCTC gondola No. 72 into an amphibious vehicle and was the only passenger on the prototype’s single voyage. Thinking both of a species of intertidal sea snail (Lacuna Vincta) and also of the silent unknowns of the world beneath the waves, she referred to her adapted cable car as The Lacuna.
So many exhibitions these days are based on or derived from history - events, people, social developments, etc. that this appeared to be another such - beautifully designed and engaging, ... amusing and largely quotidian quotes from the logbook, and the 50s wooden cable car there downstairs.


WHAT!?  A cable car transit across a stretch of sea constantly buffeted by strong winds, gales...?  And which also journeyed part of the route under water...?  A beautifully constructed cable car, but nonetheless a wooden cable car which resembled a cross between a shed and a beach hut-?

I must admit that my initial response was that it was all real, and that it had just been some bonkers idea from the folks in charge, but then doubts (which came much more rapidly to my husband) crept in.
What a glorious wheeze.  What a wondrous conceit so excellently, meticulously executed.  Brilliant story and accompanying detail and design.  The Hebridean Cable Transit Company  is - the artists - are Philippa C Thomas and Hector MacInnes.  The exhibition had been shown in Stornoway previously, and a blog noting its journey is here, whence came the images above (part of its title is Suspension and Disbelief).

Here are some snaps I took of the cable submersible:

Two other spoofs which I have encountered in my lifetime are similar: the spaghetti harvest film presented by the BBC (see it here), and the supplement on San Serriffe in the Guardian newspaper  (see it here).