Friday, April 29, 2016

A sense of place -?

This morning we drove through the fresh greens on the trees, with fields of yellow in the distant sunshine to catch a small exhibition before it closed.  A sense of place is a selection of art owned by Reading Museum.
Favourite was the tapestry diptych designed by John Piper commissioned in 1974 for Reading's Civic Centre: Urban Reading and Rural Reading
Having lived in Reading for a few years we recognised the elements particular to the place.  And this recognition of place was one of our points of discussion in looking at the rest of the exhibition.  I very much was attracted to Anne Redpath's Rubishaw, Aberdeen painting, with its flat pale light colours, but which did not remind me of the Aberdeenshire I know.  (And did they mean Rubislaw?  As in the location of the granite quarry? - So far I have been unable to find out.)
We both liked Christopher Wynne's View of the Sussex Weald, but I was not sure that the painting fixed the place for me.  Paul Nash's The Edge of the Wood was listed as being Oxford, and yet, again, having lived there for some years, I would not have placed that view there.  More likely I would have thought that somewhere continental, like France was the subject of such lush growth.
So the exhibition set off much thinking about art communicating a sense of place.  For instance, Ravilious' work has always struck me as being brilliant at summing up England for me, and I wonder whether that is because of his style, or because he chose iconically English subject matter/views, or whether his work has become/ been used as iconically English.
We each have our own mental picture of specific places, landscapes, towns, formed either by experience or by impressions left by art, literature, or advertising.  An artist's one view produced at a different time, in different weather, from a different perspective from one's own can be difficult to accept.  And so, I think I would prefer to see an exhibition all about one place - or of several works by one artist, or a few artists in order to get a flavour of their views of places depicted.  One place each, dotted about, can be pleasant - as it was today - but less satisfying in communicating the sense of place of the exhibition's title.  They could have borrowed current photography's title of 'Scapes to cover rural and urban landscape and seascapes.
It was, nonetheless an interesting exhibition which led to a good discussion.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A different source of input for a different need

Time was I would scour the country for exhibitions of interest, and would leap into the car and off I would go.  The Devon Guild gallery in Bovey Tracey is about two and a half hours away, but that was no object.  Indeed, unless it was the height of summer, the route was an enticement in itself. 
The beautiful Wiltshire countryside - image from here.
With a friend I had driven three hours and some to Bury St Edmund to see a prestigious Art Textiles exhibition, a similar distance to Manchester for another such show, to Sheffield, ... etc. etc.
It is true that the traffic was considerably lighter in those days - the '80s through to the early '00s - but I realise that gradually over that time, and much more now my needs have altered too.  To begin with I was still working in publishing, mostly on overseas projects with gaps of weeks, and sometimes months in between, so I was free on any day of the week to buzz off wherever I wanted.  Then when I started becoming more interested and serious about textiles I was constantly on the lookout for education and inspiration.
The intense years of virtual housebound caring for my mother acted as a kind of full stop.  The need for intellectual stimulus was certainly still there, and so I began to add more concentratedly to my collection of books.
I realise that I have been immensely fortunate in being able to see a very wide range and quantity of art over my life, and although I still derive joy from seeing original work, I am becoming more picky about where I spend my time - but also conscious that my time is increasingly limited. 
Of course wanting to concentrate more on thinking about and making my own work is the overwhelming consumer of my time, but I am delighted to say that I derive enormous stimulus and even excitement from the ever-improving exhibition catalogues from large museums and galleries.  And the Internet also contributes through such bonuses as I think of them as the weekly roundup email from the Goldmark gallery, and excellent blog posts such as Eirene's on the Anselm Kiefer woodcut exhibition on in Vienna at present
It is remarkable how much high quality stimulus I still receive while spending most of my days being able to get on with work at home.  This solution is much more time-efficient, as well as saving me money - a catalogue is far cheaper than travelling.  And somehow the exhibitions I do choose to visit have become even more meaningful.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Delicate shadows

This garden chair is my most immediate view as I have breakfast, with the rising sun casting shadows which have often caught my eye.  Over several days of strong sunshine I noticed the 'hedgerow' of shadows that were cast, and I finally went out to photograph them before the chair is cleaned for summer seating.
Mosses are fascinating (not, as I hasten to say, that I know anything about them), and when in countryside I always spend a lot of time peering at tiny growths the miniature intricacy of which intrigues me.  If nothing else, they provided breathing spaces as I tramped across hillsides or bogs.  Nowadays the tiniest elements provide more than enough distraction as I stroll around while my husband does the tramping and climbing.
But, as ever, there is more than enough to intrigue, fascinate, and delight right on the doorstep.  If I were a serious photographer, the lens I would want is a macro one to try to capture tiny wonders.  On the other hand, I think that the context - the fact that they are so tiny is important.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Deconstructed fritillary

This morning in the garden I was admiring dark reds: in stems, in flowers, ... and looking at how abundant the fritillary is this year.  I wondered about the inside of that delicate lantern of petals - something I'd never seen.  I had not wanted to disturb the bloom's progress to seed pod, so that the plant could multiply.
This year there are so many flowers that I decided one could be sacrificed to satisfy my curiosity.  And of course the delicate design continues - how Mackintosh-like, how delicately bold the lines.
Did you notice the bonus discovery: the tiny spider which I let out into the wild again after I'd finished deconstruction.
Admiring dark red in nature led me to a little experiment in replacing black outline. 
I chose a casual doodle in mid process, and which is of pinkish hue anyway, - and perhaps changing the grey 'flesh' to pink was a step too far, but it gives me something to think about. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

The spirit of spring

Until now, the word Primavera for me always brought to mind Botticelli's painting of the same name.  Now, alongside that will be the image of Sokari Douglas Camp's strutting dame.  And instead of the three graces, these three continents provide interesting consideration.
Europe supported by Africa and America  (detail below)
The images are all from the October Gallery in London where the exhibition is now on show.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Art outside

When we went to the Pallant House café last week we were able to see the jolly sight of yarnbombed trees in the courtyard.  After a long period of rain every day, the sun was shining, which added to the bright colourful display entitled The Octopus' Garden, which is part of - or in association with Outside In, an organisation and platform to help Outsider Artists to develop and display their work.
Another example of art outside we encountered on a pavement: sand sculpture, also benefitting from the lack of rain.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


 image from here
I have been pursuing more information on the artist Julia Bland that I mentioned in this recent post.
image from here
I found this fascinating 20 minute film of her explaining aspects of her work.  And this short, speeded up film of her building up her design wall.
image from here

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Colour, curves, collage - masterful design

John Piper: Foliate Heads 1954  (image from here)
Yesterday we went to the city of Chichester (really a town in size, but with a cathedral) in order to see John Piper's textile designs at Pallant House Gallery - John Piper The Fabric of Modernism.  (There is a catalogue available, which I look forward to reading later today.)
Three rooms are full of designs which have lost none of their vigour, attractiveness, nor their feel of being contemporary despite being from the mid 1930s to the late 1980s.  Indeed there is a freshness, and immediacy and sheer joy evident in not only the preliminary work, whether painting or collage, but also translated to the screen printed cloth or tapestry executed by appropriately skilled craftsfolk.
I had never seen the collages previously, and was delighted and excited by their exuberance.  For instance this one above of the Brittany shore particularly attracted me  (the sky is made from his own torn up marbling).
And I found it intriguing to think about the skill of combining colours in such a way that they will continue to work so well together even in different produced colourways.  The two examples of Arundel fabric above are very simply against white and black, and the latter of course dramatically reminiscent of Piper's many examples of stained glass design (the most universally famous being at Coventry cathedral - image from here).
The first tapestry design commissioned from Piper was appropriately enough for Chichester cathedral.  The image below is from the short YouTube film on the tapestry - produced by the Goldmark Gallery which also has this page of available works by Piper, and has made more films seen in the sidebar of the YouTube link.
I love the way that collaged papers with all their splodges, splashes, and spottings are translated onto the textile surface.  There were various preliminary collage designs made (like the one below - image from here) which are equally exciting.
The final room displays four individual Foliate Head seasons, of which this is Summer (image from here),
and a delightful Welsh Lake (Llyn Teifi), which I was surprised to see had been woven in Namibia from an etching by Piper.
I am part way into Frances Spalding's excellent biography of John Piper and his equally gifted wife Myfanwy Piper, subtitled Lives in Art started when I knew that this show was upcoming.   Seeing the exhibition provided a tremendous rocket boost to the inspiration I am deriving from my reading, and it is such a pleasure to revisit and re-examine my long held admiration for Piper's work.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Combining ingredients

I have recently been working on a group of images which have been bubbling away in my subconscious for some considerable time. 
I find it fascinating how one project hitting the buffers can jolt another one to the front of my mind.  In this case a fiddly long-winded process of stitching together silks (which of course were shredding wafts of threads everywhere) looked all wrong to me when I finished.  And so, as I wanted to save the elements I had printed onto some silk, I had a deal of unpicking to do.
I was unwilling to prolong negative feelings, so put off the unpicking that day, turning instead to my limbo design files. Now I have four archival inkjet prints on A3+ Bockingford watercolour paper chosen for its texture.  Although these images were never intended for stitch, I still want a textured surface.
The base of all of these images is taken from scans of monotype ghost prints.  The figures are all part of my vocabulary of drawings over many years, some of which I have used several times before in different contexts.
Meanwhile I have also done all the unpicking necessary of the aborted/abhorred silk project, and have reconfigured the elements I had originally wanted to keep simple anyway.  I have materials such as dupion silk left over from my knitwear days, and my conscience keeps telling me I should not waste it, so from time to time I try to dream up ways of using it.  As yet such contrived projects have never turned out well. 
I think it is possibly because so far my thinking about using particular materials has been technique-driven design, whereas I seem to be much more satisfied being image-driven.