Sunday, October 30, 2016

Design and execution

Two exhibitions, superficially seeming so different, and yet both inspirational examples of design and its execution.  The Victoria and Albert Museum in London does it again: providing a range and diversity of examples of excellence.
The first exhibition is near the end of its life: Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design.  There are so many architectural/design projects here which I have admired over the years, such as Sydney Opera House which I have not seen for real,
the magnificent Pompidou Centre in Paris (image above from this review of the exhibition in the Guardian newspaper),
and the Penguin Pool at Regent's Park Zoo (image above from this review of the exhibition) both of which I have been fortunate enough to visit.
I was also intrigued by two more contemporary projects.  Panels of water with algae and pumped air on a building in Hamburg: the Solar Leaf system (image above from here).  Their WikiHouse ideas also have me excited. 

The second exhibition is Opus Anglicanum - English embroidery of the 13th and 14th centuries.  It is unusual to see so many high quality examples of this extraordinary work, and so I was anticipating crowds - dreading the press, the shuffle, and the reading of knee-level labels.  And yet, to my delight, there were fewer than ten people in the show when I went in.  I was able to take my time, peer closely at the exquisite workmanship, the splendid design, and the sheer beauty of the pieces.
The above illustrations and more can be seen on the Hand & Lock site (sponsors of the exhibition).  An excellently explanatory film showing the stitches used in the embroideries is in the exhibition, and also to be found here, with another film here in which the embroideries are introduced by contemporary embroiderer James Merry.
Not all the embroideries were made for the church, although the majority were.  Many also followed the other source of money: the aristocracy.  I found these creatures delightful.
Perversely enough given how extraordinarily rare it is to find whole textiles surviving after such a long time, my favourites are often the scraps and remnants - rather like my love of ruined abbeys I suppose.  I found the pieces above quite beautiful - the remaining parts of a purse made to hold a seal.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trying to get back on track

Time passes while I don't seem to be making any progress.  This month the only things I have achieved involve shopping - which is not something I do often, with the huge (HUGE!) exception of books.  Starting with which I am really enjoying the catalogue for the Picasso Portraits exhibition (see image above) at the National Portrait Gallery in London.  It is brilliant, pointing me at all the artists which influenced Picasso in particular cases.  Despite having been an ardent fan of Picasso for decades, and realising that he did plunder his own vast knowledge of previous - and contemporary artists, I had no real idea of how he jumped about from instance to instance.  This is one of those wondrous books which is an eye-opener, as well as being a great springboard into further looking and learning.
Another purchase is a big one: a relief press, well, a table top one.  After a bit of research online I came across the Blue Boy.  On my return from our trip I ordered one.  I unpacked it this morning, and hope to spend time getting to know it in the coming days.  I'm not exactly sure where it will live permanently (oh for a purpose built space ...), but meantime it can happily stay where it is till I get to know it better.
The third purchase was an indulgence brought on by extreme headcold misery.  This is the kind of behaviour I thought I had left behind years ago: buying stuff for which I have no immediate purpose.  And indeed this purchase - or part of it has reinforced that determination once more.  The linen threads are beautiful subtle colours, but of course what I had forgotten was that natural dyes are often fugitive.  There's a warning on the packet to keep the work made with them out of direct sunlight.  Sigh.  The cone is a fine yarn mix of silk and stainless steel, which I am curious to try at some point.

I should just have bought a book!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Doodling on

It's interesting that as soon as I put a design-in-progress up on the blog I see problems and am set itching to work at it further.  I thought I'd show what wee progress I made on my classical viola player.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Slow recovery

The head cold was firmly established on the last day of September, and it has taken until these days - mid October for me to start feeling that it has almost gone.  Finally.  I reckon that next week I can get back to work properly.
Meantime I find it impossible not be doing something, and the design in progress above has been and is still soothing my turmoil.
I am reading Peter Frankopan's  The Silk Roads, and somehow thoughts of Roman, Persian, and Indian painting became mixed up in my dreams, and this image emerged.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

The bonus was Flesh

Donald Rodney: In the House of My Father (image from here)
Although I had prepared to see the ceramics at York Art Gallery, I had neglected to investigate what else was on show.  I was delighted therefore to note on entering the building a poster promoting a temporary exhibition including work by Degas, Chardin, Bacon, Rubens, ... entitled Flesh.
This is such a thought-provoking exhibition it would have warranted a journey even without the inspirational ceramics.  The theme is a universal one, but the individual components are not generally seen together: religious painting, still life, abstract, photography, documentary, painting, film, sculpture, ....
Although photography was permitted without flash, the snap above of the Ron Mueck Youth was the only one I took because I would not have done justice to anything.  This review has an excellent selection of good photographs, and there are more here, here, and here.
Behind the sculpture above can be seen a group of photographs about self harm.  (I have not been able to track down who made this work.)  It was so interesting to have such aspects of flesh included in the exhibition.  Similarly I found Jonathan Yeo's (widely known as a portrait painter) painting of a patient undergoing a facelift compelling -  just as I have found Jenny Saville's work.
The exhibition contains the beautiful and the repulsive - in all categories: just as I find Rubens repulsive, I find beauty in the elegant limbs of Berlinde De Bruyckere's Romeu 'my deer'.  I found it challenging to be faced with so much flesh, and to have to think about how we generally think about each aspect of flesh in such separate - often mutually excluding categories.
Just as the exhibition in Margate brought the idea of roundness into every corner of my mind, this collection of aspects of flesh has also filled my thoughts - not least bringing Hamlet to mind:

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. 

SAQA Benefit Auction

I was delighted that Chat over coffee sold in Section 2 of the auction while we were away on holiday.  I still live in hope that some day I might be fortunate enough to participate in a SAQA exhibition.  In the meantime I certainly enjoy reading about other members, and seeing their work online.

There are still some squares available here and here.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

A work of art speaks for itself -?

Ceremonial cover, artist, maker unknown (image from here)
In my previous post I have not identified the individual pieces which I snapped in the Anthony Shaw Collection installation.  While amongst them I had no need to know who had created them.  They spoke for themselves, sometimes in loud singular voices, sometimes in dialogue or general conversation with their companions.  They were alive with their own personalities, their own information; their own communications linking with elements in my observing and moving amongst them.
The other morning I read a powerful article by Deborah Orr in the Guardian newspaper about the 'unmasking' of the writer Elena Ferrante.  I so agree with what Orr says therein, in general too about folks, women, not being allowed to be private.  Why is it that if your work is much admired, bought and enjoyed by many, made famous, ... that you too must be made famous, poked, prodded, examined if that is not what you want? 
I admit that I am curious about the making of work - including motivation, experience, inspiration contributing to the making - my curiosity stretches to wanting to know how what I have received from the work compares with the maker's intentions.   But answers to my questions are not necessary for a good piece of work to speak for itself.  Although the skills which made it are of legitimate interest for comment and examination (Deborah Orr herself has done so herself here and here, for example in relation to the work of Elena Ferrante), is it essential that we know everything about everybody who makes art?
I sometimes think that pieces of art are 'ticked off' as the work of the famous X or Y without being looked at closely for themselves.  It is often advantageous to know about the maker of a piece one admires - maybe even more advantageous to know about the maker of a piece one does not admire (?) - but that perhaps one should leave off too much knowledge about the maker before making a personal acquaintance with the work itself, if it is the work which demanded attention.

I would be interested to know what you think.

Monday, October 03, 2016

My high point of the trip

It was a dangerous strategy to look forward to something too much, but my anticipation was more than amply fulfilled.  I was eager to visit CoCA in York: the Centre of Ceramic Art at York Art Gallery, and especially the Anthony Shaw collection installation.  In preparation for the visit I had watched this video, and was already excited.
But I was still blown away by reality.
My first encounter with the ceramics in the collection was with the Wall of Pots, which in itself would have been worth visiting.  I really enjoyed the presentation by colour, mixed styles and ages, and was entranced by the visual excitement created by the dramatic lighting too and the reflections created.
Photography is allowed with no flash, so it is possible to take better pix than my snaps.  The Wall of Pots is in the same room as the Anthony Shaw installation, but there is also another large gallery full of displays and information.
The crème de la crème, however, as I said was the room setting with bench, chairs, table, bookshelves, rugs, cushions, and a stunning exciting collection of ceramics.  In the late '90s I curated an exhibition which presented all the art and crafts as in a house and garden: furniture maker, weavers, silversmith, kitchen carpenter, textile artists, painters, glassmakers, potters, printmakers, ....  I have always thought that people would enjoy seeing fine work in context.  Here again I found once again that pleasure, and wanted to move right in!
I also very much enjoyed the juxtaposition of the line of stitch on the cushions with the line of wood on the bench.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

A Yorkshire interlude, ending with a Horrid Headcold

Yesterday we returned from a week away in the North York Moors national park.  We were most fortunate in the weather and had an interesting time exploring moors and dales, and a couple of places I had been looking forward to seeing.
Unfortunately, on Thursday I came down with a vile cold, and am typing this through a painful fug, while feeling thoroughly miserable and sorry for myself as I cough and splutter.  You would very definitely not enjoy being here with me! 
Apart from the landscape, there were two visits in particular to which I was looking forward.  The first of those was to Riveaulx AbbeyThe abbey ruins lie in a delightful setting, and were not over run by visitors.  There was also the additional bonus this year of the newly opened museum.
There are many bits of building to explore,
and lots of fascinating details to examine.
And at the end of it all I enjoyed just sitting on a bench listening to the songs of a couple of meadow pipits.