Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Juggling around

Patched pastime
After the exhibition in Margate I have been thinking more about things round in general, but also relating to my own work.  The most obvious link is with the juggler - which is a figure who comes round again and again.
At the Turner Contemporary there were examples from the ancient classical world as well as those modern and contemporary, and thinking of this sent me furtling into my postcard boxes.  I was looking for postcard pages from a calendar I had been given by an elderly German family friend.  She was from Berlin, was passionate about Ancient Greek art, and as a Friend of the State Museum in Berlin in the early 60s received an annual calendar.  She gave me one of these which features terracotta figurines.
I was delighted with these, as museums in Greece itself were not in the excellent condition they are nowadays, and I had seen hardly any figurines.  My love affair began with these postcards (just two of which shown above).  The girl on the right is playing the tambourine and came from the Black Sea area (as did my maternal family).  The child juggler on the left is described as probably coming from Thebes.
Whether influenced by these, the juggler has come to mean a kind of frivolity, a stepping away from serious concerns, how society is perhaps more interested in meaningless trifles.  Maybe it's just me not being able to accept that I no longer have the meaningful role I occupied previously.  Whatever it is, the desire to employ the image of juggler comes round again.
I was so pleased with Patched pastime that I am repeating the exercise with similar strips of knitted silk yarn, but in a different orientation and another colour.  I'm delighted to be using printmaking (the juggler herself is a carborundum print on tissue paper, scanned then digitally printed onto cotton), knitted strips I designed and made during my short-lived days as a knitwear designer, and hand stitching as well as machine stitching.
I was further delighted to find that this piece not only fell firmly into the SAQA Europe/Middle East theme for an upcoming exhibition, but for the one and only time so far in several years of membership I fit the size requirements for submission.
But as I worked on quilting the patchwork I got to thinking.  The idea of the exhibition is to tour to at least four venues which means much handling even with the greatest care.  This is not a conventional quilt, and I'm concerned that the knitted element might just tempt fate.  So once again I shall not be submitting my work for selection.  Hey ho.
Meanwhile, however, I am preparing a second piece of hand work to take with me on an imminent trip - just in case I finish the piece I'm stitching at present. I've printed a small, slightly different version of the juggler to take with me.  Appropriate colours for the onset of Autumn.

And then, rather than getting on with processing tomatoes I was distracted by an urge to doodle.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bits and pieces in between

I have not settled to anything much recently.  I have just been working through my pile of stitching and reading.
I read Graeme Macrae Burnet's His Bloody Project, and was moved by it.  It is an intense character study set in the harsh days of crofting in the north west of  Scotland when the poor were treated like beasts, and lowly creatures even in their own eyes.  This novel tells the story of how people under stress can deal with themselves and others.
I was so impressed by the novel that I immediately went on to read Macrae Burnet's previous and first book: The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau.  I finished it last night.  Set in Alsace, France in an indeterminate present we follow the parallel then intersecting lives of two men living in a small town.  Once again we examine how circumstances can shape how individuals interact within a society equally shaped by circumstances.  I enjoyed the latter book in the way that I enjoy those French films which quietly, slowly, show us intricacies, seemingly banal details stitching together a life, lives; a microscopic view which illuminates a history.  I shall be looking out for Graeme Macrae Burnet's next novel.
I have many books queued up on my reading list, but I'm still not sure what I need next.  A couple of short stories will doubtless help me decide.
Meanwhile I am busy juggling spaces in the freezer for all the cooked tomatoes, courgettes, and aubergines from the greenhouse.  It really is a bonanza this year.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Delightful disorder

On our way back from Margate we stopped at Wisley gardens.  The main purpose was to wander through their Glasshouse borders leading to the perennial prairie planting.  There are always delightful distractions on the way - such as these cyclamen just inside the main entrance, planted up on a raised bed just at eye level.
Despite the high temperature, it was evident that Autumn is well on its way now.  And the elegant dancing grasses are both enhanced and provide purpose for the otherwise perhaps untidy looking dying leaves and seed heads.  I love seeing so many stages of plant life, and find the whole effect beautiful.
Spectacular flowers beam out,
and on the way out of the gardens I spotted these pulchritudinous kniphofias,
and this rose with beautifully repellant hips. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

September scorcher

The Turner Contemporary gallery is in Margate, where Turner lived for a time, and a seaside town at the southern point of the Thames estuary.  The gallery has a splendid large window onto the sea, with a space for individual works of art such as the Yinka Shonibara piece seen in silhouette above.
It was extraordinarily hot for September, so on Sunday the town was full of visitors, many sitting in full sun, and others seeking shade such as this couple behind the shell lady.  The gallery building is striking in the sunlight, seen from the end of the harbour arm wall.
There were different vessels on view in the harbour, and out beyond the estuary tankers and an extraordinary yacht.  We heard that it belongs to a Russian, and later found out more (here).
A walk along the promenade in front of the gallery and beyond was most pleasant, and an excellent spot for people watching as well as benefitting from the relaxing effects of the sea itself.
Later I wandered round the streets just off the main harbour, and took a few snaps,
and found this doggy-wares shop.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Circling round art

Garry Fabian Miller: Gilded (image from here)
We finally went to the Turner Contemporary to see Seeing round corners, an exhibition which had aroused my curiosity when I read Laura Cumming's review some four months ago.  What a fascinating collection of circular examples, what a thought-provoking exhibition.  It stimulated many ideas which will carry momentum and have me looking and thinking for some time.
The ideas of circularity are not simply perfectly round, but have round-ness in their concept.  One piece which particularly appealed to me was a vitrine by Edmund De Waal, called Littoral (shown below, image from here).
The form of the vitrine is severe, tall, angular, heavy in aspect, but within there is a small pile of delicate black saucers, hand formed, wonky, but elegantly precious, defiantly circular resisting the oppression of their container.
Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels photographs (image above from here) take three dimensional cylinders and make them into fascinating two dimensional images, and I was delighted to find her poem The world through a circle too.
(image above from here)
A woodblock moon which delighted me was by Tsukioa Yositoshi: Moon and smoke.  The moon occurs in several Japanese woodblock prints, but I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of the element of fire as well as the aspect of the figure in this one (image from here).
An animated circle was represented by another artist who like Nancy Holt I have not thought about for too long: Rebecca Horn.  I enjoyed her White body fan photographs, especially as it was the angled ones rather than the full face open circle that were shown (image from here).
Another photographic item, or trio of photographs which intrigued and delighted me were by Barry Flanagan - his Hole in the sea (image from here).  These were taken from a film Flanagan made of the tide coming in to cover a Perspex tube he had placed in the water.  It is astonishing how indeed it looks like a hole in the sea.
Paul Nash's Circle of Monoliths was placed on the wall next to a great circle of slate: Blaenou Ffestiniog Circle by Richard Long, each enhancing the other. 
We associate standing stones with circles mostly, and so even without the explicit title, if the painting does not show their circular position it evokes the thought.  Long's pieces of slate are arranged to fill a circular space which is not literally described, but is immediately obvious to the eye.
There are so many interesting exhibits in the whole show, some more of which are shown in this vimeo film, and here is another review.  it is a brilliant idea for an art exhibition which informs, provokes, delights, and makes all sorts of connections for everyone to take away, subsequently add to oneself, and ponder at leisure.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Some mornings

I awake with a picture in my mind.  Sometimes it is a picture which I want to produce, and at other times it is an existing image from my memory.  This morning, having spent a lot of time thinking about conversations recently, it was the latter: the magnificent Matisse's The Conversation.  It is not only one of the Matisse paintings I admire, but also in perhaps my favourite style of his.
In looking up the Wikipedia link to insert in this post, I found a subsequent link to a fascinating article by Hilary Spurling who wrote such a wondrous biography of Matisse.  Turning over stones can be so illuminating, and so often also provides more stones for turning.

Friday, September 02, 2016

A trip to the seas of the mind

I finished reading Alison Moore's Death and the Seaside last night.  It was a strangely compelling journey, with elements both vaguely familiar and sometimes horribly nightmare-ish.  Her writing and my curiosity drove me on to see what happened next.  And the end left me as a short story does: as if I had stepped back from peeking through curtains to another's domain, back into the bright sunlight of my own familiar world, and left me wondering, questioning, somehow both satisfied and needing more.
The familiarities I encountered were diverse: the lure of the sea , the attraction of psychological experiments (I was fascinated by the B. F. Skinner experiments when I was a schoolgirl), and the overwhelming feeling of failure in the protagonists with the insistent belittling comments from their families.  I had read Moore's first novel, The Lighthouse, which was different, unexpected, and haunting, so when I read the review in the Guardian newspaper here I was immediately attracted.  Rather than a story I think it could better be described as a slice of a life following progressive incidents.  Although not gripped in the traditional way of a thriller, this felt much more real, and I was always keen to know what happened next.
Years ago I read John Irving's According to Garp, and encountered the expression the Under Toad.  This prompted the opening of a vague mental file into which I gathered snippets about the emotional power of the seas.  Such a file forms part of the protagonist Bonnie's writings, which more prominently include short stories - one of which is woven, unsettling, through the novel. 
Reviews can be found here, and here, on Alison Moore's website here, an interview with the author about the novel here.
Now I feel the need for something completely different and familiar: The Baklava Club the next (for me) Yashim the Ottoman detective novel, by Jason Goodwin.