Saturday, April 21, 2018

An outing to the land

On Wednesday, the first day of what now seems to be Summer (sunshine, blue skies, mid 20s temperature), we drove a couple of counties west to Somerset and the Hauser and Wirth gallery in a former farmyard to see their current exhibition The Land we live in, the Land we left behind.  We drive through quite a lot of landscape to get there; some intricately folded topography, sweeping views, solar parks, ploughed fields, rape in bloom, pigs, Stonehenge, petrol stations, traffic, warehouse parks, hotels and guesthouses, a 17th century wedding venue, wild cherry trees in bloom ... indeed our present and past landscape all laid out in glorious sunshine.
The description of the exhibition is intriguing, the curator - as director of Grizedale Arts, someone admirably appropriate, the theme also appropriate for a gallery in a former farmyard, as well as providing a topical theme of universal importance, not to mention the promise of goats.  When coupled with the anticipation of a delicious brunch all promised a great day out.
Goat mountain - without goats
Well, after the initial disappointment that there did not seem to be any goats, the brunch was certainly delicious.  The trip to the loo as quirky as ever, and then we started on the exhibition.  
The unisex loo - with cattle trough sink
The layout is such that coming from the loo the first room is in fact the last room.  However, as this is not a chronological show really, we persisted in our unravelling.
So much stuff.  Too much?  (Of course, because we had not started at the beginning, we did not have the room guide, and as nothing much was specifically labelled we let the pieces speak for themselves.)
I heard the room guide tell one visitor that it is really a two visit exhibition, but in my mind that room alone warranted longterm thought.  Exhibitions on a theme are usually rather like a book: the curator has considered the theme, thought about the possible range of content and edited it in order to present an internally coherent whole - perhaps with a point of view.  In this case it looked as if not much editing had taken place.  Everything that you could think of is included.  Perhaps the book that best represents this show is the Whole Earth Catalog (of which there was a copy for visitors to read): The Whole Way We Look at the Land Exhibition -?  For me the exhibition is best summed up in Adrian Searle's review for the Guardian.
The empty apple costume, and painted yellow tree stumps.
Certainly I must congratulate the exhibition on being thoroughly thought-provoking.  I have not stopped mulling over various aspects of the land and how we view/represent it since seeing the show, and I cannot see myself stopping that mulling any time soon.  The exhibition is successful for me because I came away with questions which had been raised but not answered by the content.  I suppose I suspect that the evidence laid out throughout these galleries leans rather heavily towards the romantic; but is that because that is the more general view anyway?  After all, some years ago when so much of the land was quarantined because of foot and mouth disease, I remember being shocked at the comparative statistics of the value to the nation of farming versus tourism: something like 2% to 16% respectively (specific figures from my unreliable memory).

There is a lot to read about the show as well as films on the Hauser and Wirth Somerset website, and there are meaty descriptions and/or reviews with illustrations here, and here, and here, and here, and here (as well as the review mentioned a couple of paragraphs above).
The goats we didn't see (image from here)

Friday, April 20, 2018

For those in South East England

There is going to be an exhibition and sale of small pieces by the late Tadek Beutlich in Eastbourne this weekend.  More information about this and the Fibre Fest here.  More information about Tadek Beutlich here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


I am at a complete loss to know - and perhaps even to guess where my ideas come from.  But at least they give me a kind of peculiar pleasure!
Design in progress: Persistent pursuit of pelican

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sunny view

From my sewing room I can see the wealth of fritillaries in the grass, the blossom on the spiraea bridal wreath, the fresh green leaves just opened on the philadelphus, and  the mass of hellebore, pulmonaria, and other blooms under my window all in this afternoon's warming sun.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


(image from here)
At last today is sunny and warm, and it really feels that Spring is (perhaps) finally here, especially as bumble bees are busy bumping into our windows.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

When an idea comes along

I need to take a note, or start developing it, or it evaporates.
Doodle work in early stages of progress
I'm busy doing other things - or should be getting on with yet more commitments; but talk of tulips a couple of posts ago got the back of my mind whirring away as can be seen above.  Now that development has reached this stage I can leave it alone while I return to my to do list.
Yesterday I finished reading Enlightenment Now by Stephen Pinker - a relief to have got through it; but a read which generated many questions, and made me curious to read more about the areas it covers,... meantime also popping this visual reaction into my thinking:
Doodle work in early stages of progress
Another one for the back burner -  I hope there's room for everything!

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Shouldn't be distracted, but ...

doodling as procrastination.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Familiar style leads to unfamiliar delights

Helen Torr: Houses on a Barge (image from here)
One recent rainy day we took ourselves to Oxford to see the current exhibition at the Ashmolean museum: America's Cool Modernism - O'Keeffe to Hopper.  Although two blockbuster artists are mentioned in the title of the show, most of the works are by folks far less famous - and not necessarily deservedly so.  I was delighted to be introduced to such a number of interesting works which help to put so much famous American art of the period into context.  I was also pleased to see a significant number of prints and photographs in the mix with paintings.
Imogen Cunningham: Two Callas (image from here)
The review which sums up my own reaction best is this one by Laura Cumming in Sunday last's ObserverHere and here are another two reviews.
There are so many artists whose work I now want to explore further.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday, March 23, 2018


Rounded by its companions, part of a roof tile, a beautiful alien, found on the beach at Nice, France.  I wondered, still wonder, how long ago it left its roof.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I enjoy so many aspects of making my pieces, but some work I would prefer to leave to elves.
I've spent time in recent weeks cutting lino, and quilting a big piece, and designing more pieces, and being delightfully distracted, ....  But for a couple of days pain in my hands and wrists has driven me to pause with the lino, and forced me finally to get down to the much gentler - but to me rather boring - task of finishing off.  This is what I would wish the elves to do for me - because as you can see below, I have allowed a pile to accumulate.
But never mind; Nature's elves have been busy, and today the first of the species tulips is in flower, and the smallest euphorbia is looking sculpturally splendid.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Quietly, into Spring

Doodle in progress

Sunday, March 04, 2018


I have been looking forward to the Tate Britain exhibition All too Human ever since I saw it announced last year.  So often anticipation is dashed, but not in this case.  I am definitely inspired - there are so many really good paintings in the show.  Some I had not seen before, and one in particular captivated me completely.
Walter Sickert: Noctes Ambrosianae  (image from here)
Sickert is not an artist at whose name I become excited.  Until now he has been only of academic interest to me, but today I saw what for me is an exquisite small piece, shown above.  With a limited number of gestured stokes he has captured attitudes and emotions of an audience.
Francis Bacon: Study for Portrait of Lucien Freud (image from here)
Bacon is top of the bill in the title of the exhibition, and has for a long time been a thorough favourite of mine, and so I am familiar with many of his works.  It is always such a pleasure to see previously unseen pieces.  I sat in front of the portrait of Freud above, and the triptych below for some time.
Francis Bacon: Triptych (image from here)
Another great favourite artist of mine is Paula Rego, and I was delighted to see familiar pieces, and one new to me, shown below.
Paula Rego: The Company of Women (image from here)
There is so much else - each room packed with thoroughly rewarding work.  It is an excellent exhibition, and I look forward to reading the catalogue, and perhaps revisiting the show itself.
Some reviews are here and here, here and here.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Not yet Spring

We have been relatively lucky with just a dusting of snow although the cold is certainly bitter.  Today I was cosy indoors, watching the birds in the glorious sunshine.
(image above from here)
My favourites of the day were thrushes smashing snails for hearty meals, and a jay busy pecking for beasties etc. among the snow covered grass.
(image above from here)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Diversionary doodle

I was scanning this snap of a burned out car when an idea came to me.  
This is a preliminary doodle - quickly drawn before the idea disappears.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wondrous Frink heads ... with one extra

I never tire of photographing Frink sculptures when I can, especially her figures - and most especially her heads.
These were snapped some years ago at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and on Salisbury Cathedral Green ...
where a young man decided that an extra head was necessary!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


In scanning my photographs I have been encountering snaps taken but since forgotten.  Under the heading of gardens I found these, taken in a shed of a National Trust house, I think.  It was one with a splendid vegetable garden and several greenhouses, I believe.  Unfortunately I have not been able to remember which house it was.
And these two perhaps lurid images below were at a garden festival at a Chateau on the Loire which we visited on the way back from a stay in the Languedoc several years ago.  I remember that very well, not only because we enjoyed the holiday, and the visit to the garden festival - but also because of the food poisoning I picked up that evening from what I thought had been a lovely meal at a restaurant in Blois!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Interesting pots

This morning we visited the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham.  One of the two exhibitions on at present is of ceramics by Emilie Taylor.  More links about the work are here, and here, here, and here.
At first glimpse I thought that the work might be derivative, Grayson Perry-a-like; but I quickly realised that this is a wholly superficial view.  The works are similar in so far as they are ceramics which have a social message.  But Taylor's pieces very much have a glow of personal authenticity, and made a powerful impression.  There are dramatic large pots with figurative narrative as well as purely decorative slipware pattern, and striking smaller pieces with an individual figure - in this case called Portrait Pots (Persephone) - both as photographed below by Michael J Davis
The outing provided an uplifting break from the huge pile of photographs which I'm scanning.  The task I have set myself is to digitise all my photos so that I can discard the physical prints - as well as sorting through them at the same time.

Monday, February 12, 2018

In life and online

When we were away on our trip recently we visited the Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries.  There we saw a couple of exhibitions full of delightful works.  I was particularly taken by a small Robin Philipson: Whisper II, and now back home wanted to see if I could find it online.
Robin Philipson: Whisper II (image from here)
The gallery does have an online presence of its own, as well as on ArtUk, and indeed I found the image I wanted to revisit.  I decided to have a stroll through the online gallery, and was pleased to encounter an artist previously unkown to me: Dorothy Black.  In trying to find out more, I stumbled across one picture which appealed to the juggler obsessive in me. It is good to see that I am not alone!
Dorothy Black: Me and the sea (image from here)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Birds at the beach

The crows stride as they seek interesting titbits amongst the seaweed.  The skitter and stop, skitter and stop is the oystercatcher, and those daft herring gulls sitting at the edge of the retreating shore, jumping up to avoid the swell of the breaking waves: bob, leap, take-off, settle, bob, leap, take-off.  Sudden tiny movements draw the eye to a robin picking and mixing, and a sudden mob of perhaps hedge sparrows arrives, twitters, and leaves.  The curlews I could only hear, not see - evocative sound.
Never a dull moment on an afternoon when sun, rain, wind, and threatening snow all pass as I watch the life around me.  The little cove is at Rockcliffe, almost empty in this off season - empty of humans and cars, but teeming with other life.
There are so many shells right up near the land edge of the beach, masses whole and mounds more in tiny bits, not yet ground to fine particles.  And then sand, a sudden line of division, both surfaces strewn with seaweed.
The tide going out reveals delightful stands of grass on plinths of sand and earth among the rocks.  Good hunting grounds all round for those who seek.
Further out of the Urr estuary, in the Solway Firth, there is Hestan Island with its Alan Stevenson lighthouse, and definitely non pc named feature of Daft Ann's Steps.