Sunday, June 17, 2018

Three book immersion

Edward Bawden: Snowstorm at Brighton (image from here)
This is a reading weekend.  Coincidentally three art exhibition catalogues arrived at once and have absorbed my attention.  At first glance they might appear to be too disparate to consume together; but far from having indigestion, I feel well nourished.
Edward Bawden: Autumn Print (image from here)
I chose to read them chronologically, starting with Edward Bawden and the exhibition of his work that is on at present at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.   The catalogue is an excellent overview of his career, with many illustrated examples of his varied work, including watercolours and portraits where so many other publications concentrate on his graphic work.  My own particular favourite is shown immediately above: an image which I have up on the pinboard in my printing workroom.
Victoria Crowe: Thea Musgrave (image from here)
The second catalogue is from Victoria Crowe: Beyond Likeness, an exhibition at present on in Edinburgh at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  I have been an admirer of Victoria Crowe's work ever since I encountered a tapestry woven by Dovecote Tapestry Studios from one of her paintings.  It was in an exhibition at Compton Verney in 2012.
Victoria Crowe: Interrupting the dialogue (image from here)
In the portraits I particularly enjoy so many conventionally still life elements combined with the figure to present/represent a whole life - as well as creating an interesting picture no matter if one has a particular interest in the individual person portrayed.  I also find that her compositions please me greatly, drawing me in, providing a calm, but without suppressing curiosity to look closely, more, and again.
Katherine Jones: The Wheat Barn (image from here)
The third catalogue is from an exhibition this Spring at Rabley Drawing Centre: The Precious Hours by Katherine Jones. I first saw a print by Katherine Jones at a Royal Academy Summer Exhibition years ago when I was on a printmaking course myself.  
Katherine Jones: Jurassic Glass House (image from here)
I have been interested to see how her work is developing, and am delighted that the linear qualities which first attracted me seem still fundamental to her work.  It can be disappointing to fall in love with an artist's current work only to find that they develop into something one does not understand or like - even after trying.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Work at hand

Next week the grass tennis season begins for me, and I need a wee pile of work ready to be stitched while I watch.  Today I have been playing with an idea which has been swimming around in my brain for a bit: talking to myself.
I'm hoping that using a photo of paving slabs gives the image a sense of a chat taking place in the sunny outdoors.  Perhaps I'll let it simmer for a bit on the back burner and then if I still like it will print it off ready for Wimbledon next month.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Claire Morris-Wright: Holding on to the Horizon (image from here)
Claire Morris-Wright: Hedge on the edge (image from here)
There is something compelling about a hedge, at the edge of a field, on a hillside forming the horizon.  I suppose I first started noticing and paying attention to field hedges when I came to live in England.  Hedges had played a part in my life in Scotland, especially when I went gathering rosehips with my father, but I don't think I considered them aesthetically until my growing familiarity with the English countryside.
Graham Sutherland: Thorn Structure, detail (image from here)
In 1975 we went to Pembrokeshire in Wales for a holiday and saw an exhibition of Graham Sutherland works including much on hedges and thorns.  These are bold, powerful images, evocative of the edge of acceptability, of how naturelife can catch you each way you turn.
Graham Sutherland: Thorn Head (image from here)
Graham Sutherland: Thorn Trees (image from here)
Although I have seen several admirable and beautiful pieces of art inspired by hedges since then, I had not encountered anything that stopped me in my tracks hedge-wise until this last weekend.  The un-illustrated words Hedge Project were enough in the latest issue of Printmaking Today to take me to Claire Morris-Wright's website, and there I was entranced.
Claire Morris-Wright: Holding Lichen (image from here)
Her work does not have that fierceness, menace, and leaping active aggression that Sutherland's work promises.  But there is a complex impenetrable yet enticing presence which repeats without reproducing exactly its barrier qualities: the screen that shows glimpses of what is beyond, but prevents access.
Claire Morris-Wright: Autumn Fruits (image from here)
And yet it is a living benign entity, growing to provide shelter and food.  I love the way that Morris-Wright has used those growing elements: lichen, fruit, and even the soil in her prints.  The etching Autumn Fruits has used those very fruits - elderberry, hawthorn, rosehip, and blackberry - as a monoprint element.

My attraction to hedges has inspired two images which please me as far as they go.  Claire Morris-Wright's work might well eventually spur more ideas. 
The one above, Thorn scherzo has been stitched, but not yet photographed, and Hedge laying has not yet got out of the computer.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Inspiration for an exercise

May, from An Almanac of twelve Sports (image from here)
(image from here)
Yesterday I posted an image I've been working on, with an idea at the back of my mind influenced by the woodcuts of William Nicholson.  I first saw his prints on the wall of the grand staircase of the Mayfair offices of the publishing house William Heinemann in the 1970s, and they have been firm favourites of mine ever since.
Cow from The square book of animals (image from here)
I admire the way he conveys so much with such simple, seemingly static lines and blocks of limited colour.  And although one can see the influence of both German and Japanese woodblock traditions, Nicholson's work is decidedly British in feel.  I think that the gentle humour has something to do with that, but also unfortunately the categorisation of various 'types' which are certainly not now politically correct emphatically tell of the time and the attitudes when he was working.
Both from An Alphabet (images from here)
I also very much am attracted by the use of typography as part of the composition.  There were often such benefits from it having been cheaper to have the artist encapsulate the caption within the illustration - if of course skilled like Nicholson.
The Lady and The Barmaid from London Types (image from here)
I so like the heavy black, and especially the black border which makes his prints immediately distinctive.  The figures burst out of their confinement, alive despite their flatness.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Piece in progress

The development of an image before stitching can be satisfying  - and especially the digital elements.  Planting started as a linocut as several of my pieces do because I want to keep that flat look, and also to keep those random-ish cutting lines showing as part of the background - even though in this case they are not in the same colour as the figure outline itself.
The process adds to add, and adds to take away, often painstaking and long-winded, the results can give me real pleasure.  The image above, which is nearly there, derived largely from these previous steps.
Now the image is at the next 'simmering' stage before printing onto cloth ready for stitching.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Back to front?

(image from here)
When I was exploring the Jenny Saville exhibition on at present in New York (see my previous post) I came across Cayce Zavaglia's exhibition at the Lyons Wier Gallery.  I generally have at least a cursory look at textile work, even simply out of curiosity.  In this case it was not that she makes stitched portraits which intrigued me, but that she has taken further the back view.
(image from here)
We folk who use threads are often attracted to the back view of our work; the reverse often shows strangely beautiful messy distortions.  When the front facing view is meticulous and photo-realistic as in this case the back can show a relaxed, more emotional side, which also excites the haptic response which seems to be fundamental with overtly textile work.  We always want to reach out and feel.
(image from here)
In an interview with Studio International, Cayce Zavaglia says that she interested in process as much as portrait.  And I find it so interesting that her paintings after embroidery now take on the back side look of the textile portraits. But I must admit that my interest here is technical curiosity rather than any emotional engagement.  My own work largely leaves faces blank (-ish) because I am more interested in body language as a communicator.  But that also makes me more interested in looking at what others do with bodies, and faces.  These verso paintings inspired by the back of the textile works are an interesting development of the hyper-real approach to reproducing faces which are limited to friends and family.  There are quite a few questions raised here. 

Monday, June 04, 2018

The female body, drawn large

(image from here)
There's an exhibition of Jenny Saville's paintings, Ancestors is on at the Gagosian gallery in New York at present.  There is a review here, and another here, both with more images.
I find Saville's work extremely powerful, and it strikes me dumb.  Rather like my reaction to Francis Bacon's work, I have no adequate words, perhaps no adequate thoughts, ... just powerful emotions.  

Friday, June 01, 2018


June is a notable month for me.  In my youth it was the month when summer began with our annual trip to Greece.  I graduated and married in June, we moved to this house in June 28 years ago, and June holds the birthdays of several folks close to me.
June is also the month of burgeoning garden growth here in southern England.  The plants expand before our eyes, and flowers burst open it seems every minute - especially when it is wet and warm like these days are.
Geranium, alliums, spirea, catmint, euphorbia, zebra grass, macleaya.
A squirrel running along the boundary fence behind the honeysuckle.
Nigella self seeds everywhere and creates delightful feathery screens - here with a spirea behind.
On dull days, when the sky is overcast, threatening downpour and storm, the white flowers of the Kashmir White geranium shine out in joy.  Here more light is shone off the seductive leaves of the onopordum acanthium (Scotch thistle plant), and the pale spots on the pulmonaria leaves.
Bursts of pinks are provided by the gladiolus byzantinus, peony, the dark leaves of the heuchera, and two more geraniums - one of which, Wargrave Pink is a prolific self seeder.
This is the first year that I have really noticed and looked at the lovely flowers of the stipa gigantea grass.
In the greenhouse growth is not such a great story.  This year the grafted plug plants I ordered remained in stasis for over a month, and are only now beginning to put on some growth.  In the past these have been really prolific, and I had been singing their praises.  I was in such despair over them this year that I went to my local garden centre and bought some ordinary plants, and the weedy specimens in the photo are supposed to be the super duper ones.  
I shall wait till harvest time for final judgement.
Another bit of bad luck occurred this morning when a package arrived containing two mugs - one of which was broken.  
Such things can colour the whole day, but I've been promised an even more carefully wrapped replacement, there's a baby quilt to finish - and of course the continuing French Open tennis.