Sunday, August 26, 2018

Current reading

William McCance: Woman reading (image from here)
I have two main books on the go at present: Red Thread, On Mazes & Labyrinths by Charlotte Higgins, and A line made by walking by Sara Baume.  It was not at all planned that I would read these together, but they complement each other remarkably.  I have only just started the former, but am finding it a book that I want to read consistently rather than just dipping for information.  The red thread is pulling me, as I enjoy the content which is of a personal as well as informational telling.  (A review can be found here.)
The red thread for the protagonist Frankie in A line made by walking is her knowledge and recall of works of art, which pulls her through the labyrinth of her breakdown.  (Of course the title of the novel is also the title of a seminal work of art by Richard Long.) Frankie concentrates on small, tiny, almost microscopic details of observation and of thought, and of feeling, which somehow does not depress me as reader.  Rather I find myself participating in the observations while still standing outside it all.  A fascinating read.  (A review can be found here.)

Friday, August 24, 2018

Exhibiting the collection

The Crafts Study Centre has a wondrous collection which it shows under different themes.  The current exhibition is related to books: Brought to Book.  I always love seeing these displays of the collection because the quality is so rewarding to observe - inspiring.
Most closely related to books of course is calligraphy, and the display which caught my interest most was that of Thomas Ingmire.  The perennial problem with display of artists' books of course is that behind glass only one double page spread is displayed.  In this case fortunately the work on show consists of a box of nine booklets, so multiple double page spreads are available.   This was the first time I had encountered this artist, and look forward to exploring more. Unfortunately I have not been able to track down illustrations for the work on display: Calligraphy ... some thoughts, but there are many examples of his work on his website, and better photographs on the Vamp & Tramp website.
Lucie Rie: vase (image from here)
A long favourite in the ceramics department is Edmund de Waal.  Today's visit reminded me that I have not yet read his book The White Road.  Perhaps I was put off by the final paragraph of Kathleen Jamie's review in the Guardian newspaper as although I understand the first, I count myself in her second kind of people:
There are two kinds of people in the world. One lot are hoarders, those frightened to let anything go, who imbue objects with memories, who feel aghast, naked, stripped of their identity without their accumulations, collections, crowded cabinets and vitrines. They will love this book. The other kind, those who value silence and space, may feel they are asphyxiating, that time and a thorough edit would have revealed the book’s true shape, its “beautiful resonance”. There’s no doubting that The White Road is a mighty achievement, but De Waal is himself relieved when it’s over, and he is back at his wheel in his studio, throwing white pots, “making again”.
By his book in the vitrine was a selection of white pots from the collection, including the exquisite Lucie Rie vase above.
Several lengths of Barron and Larcher design printed cloth from the Christopher Farr company revival hang beautifully next to a film of poet Jane Weir reading from her book of poems Walking the Block.  There is a very short YouTube film (not the same one) of Weir here.  Walking the Block, is a poetic biography based on the lives of the Modernist handblock printers and textile artists, Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher, who created a unique range of hand block printed naturally dyed textiles between the two World wars.  (from here)
(image above from here)
The book has many full page illustrations of the textile designs.
(image from here)
I was delighted to find puppets in the exhibition - I had not expected them, and had not heard of their maker William Simmonds.  He and his wife Eve together created them, as described here.  I am grateful that a book about him is about to be published, and so the lovely pieces were put on display.  There is a blog post about Simmonds here, with pictures of other puppets.

All in all an enriching exhibition of timeless quality work.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Elaborate, joyous, outrageous, ...

are all adjectives applied to the ceramics of Angus Suttie.  There is an exhibition of his work on at present at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham.  The exhibition originated at the Ruthin Crafts Centre which also produced a beautiful slim catalogue.
(image from here)
I am not a fan of the over-elaborate, of anything which I put into the category of encrusted, and so I was not eager, but simply curious to see the exhibition based on the quality normally found at the Crafts Study Centre.  I was so pleased that I made the effort, because although still not my favourite ceramics, there is something vitally compelling about the power in these pieces.  They are very obviously personal expressions of strong emotion.  At the very least teapots with attitude!
By taking a traditionally functional object and riffing on that theme, anthropomorphising it, stretching credibility, a cheeky joy is evoked, and even more, I found them thought-provoking.
Angus Suttie: Doodle plate (image from here)
Although I could feel the power of the brighter, elaborately coloured works, like the Doodle plate above, my preferred pieces were the 'duller' more sculptural ones made later in his short career, when AIDS had made an impact on his friends' and his lives.
Angus Suttie: Large Blue Form (image from here)
This piece above in the V&A collection appeals to me more - but I surprised myself by how drawn I was to the work as a whole.  This is not only the result of such a powerful expression of personality, but also the excellence of presentation.  A solo exhibition is a wondrous vehicle for examining an artist's work on their own terms.
(image from here)
I could not find images online of the pieces I responded to most in the exhibition - probably because the pieces in the show are mostly from Suttie's own collection.  But I found several examples which I think show his style.
(image from here)
(image from here)
Suttie also made ceramic rings - decorative knuckle dusters.  In the exhibition there is a photograph of dancer/choreographer Michael Clark wearing one.
(image from here)
The above and some more images can be found here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The saying goes:

A picture is worth a thousand words.  True, unless shouted out, words do not grab the attention like a picture.  But I've been thinking a lot about the increasing use of pictures to grab attention.
A season ago I was one of three judges for a quilt exhibition, and during this exercise we based our choices on digital photographs.  I have a large good quality monitor and thus can see close-up pix in detail; but had not been asked whether I perhaps work only from a laptop.  So much of a textile piece of work is alive in its presence - and which can be diminished when reproduced as a photo, no matter how well taken.  On the other hand, how else would we have international exhibitions without amazing expense.
But have we become immune to the attractions of work which needs close looking, long looking, to be appreciated?  Do we increasingly crave instant but fleeting gratification?
I see so many folks going over to Instagram and leaving blogs, and get the feeling that it's soon going to be all show and no tell.  A flick-book can be great fun, but I must admit that I do appreciate the input of substantial content.
At the exhibition inspired by Virginia Woolf's writings at the Pallant House Gallery I came across a quote that got me thinking about all of this.  I found that the exhibition just has so many pieces of work which need attention, time, contemplation, further thinking, that I began to suffer from mental indigestion.*  I sat down to take time watching a video and read the label which included the following quote:

We launch out now over the precipice.... The cliffs vanish.  Rippling small, rippling grey, innumerable waves spread beneath us.  I touch nothing.  I see nothing.  We may sink and settle on the waves.  The sea will drum in my ears.  The white petals will be darkened with sea water.  They will float for a moment and then sink.  Rolling me over the waves will shoulder me under.  Everything falls in a tremendous shower, dissolving me.
From The Waves 1931 by Virginia Woolf.

I read that and closed my eyes, and there I was: over, in, under the sea.  Of course as someone who makes pictures I far from want to eliminate them.  But do we want to evolve into folks who communicate not only by instant images, but also caption them with emoticons!  I do hope not.

*I bought the catalogue and have been able to spend more time thinking about individual works.  The ideal would have been to go back day after day, concentrating on a handful of works at a time. But, in the absence of that solution exhibition catalogues are wondrous gems - or they can be.  Unfortunately I just HATE the design of this one.  The design definitely gets in the way of the content, when the whole purpose should be to clarify the content. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

In the heat

I've never been good in heat - and yet I could never be doing with an idle siesta time.  In my youth I used to read at the very least.  I'm not one for falling asleep during the day.
Hot novel
Recently we have had too much prolonged heat when I have not been able to stitch - so instead I decided to re-do my website.  It is at the same address, but I have used clikpic to provide a template.
I have put more of my work on, in more categories, and will be able to manipulate the design and content much more easily now.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Simply exquisite

I have not been to the Crafts Study Centre in a while and was just checking up on what is on there at present.  They hold designs, blocks, and printed samples by Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher, and my wanderings today found that Christopher Farr Cloth is reviving some of their designs.
Already a fan of his rugs, I now admire his choice of fabric designs.
All the images in this post are from the Christopher Farr Cloth website.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Chilling delights

Barbara Rae: Light at Jacobshavn (image from here)
In today's post came a catalogue I've eagerly been awaiting: Barbara Rae, The Northwest Passage from the exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy.  I have flicked through it, and it does not disappoint at all.  I shall devote this afternoon to reading what looks like a most interesting text about the artist's journeys to northern Canada, and about the explorer himself.  John Rae was not an ancestor of Barbara Rae, but did inspire her.
Barbara Rae: Distant White Berg (image from here)
Here is a review with photos of the exhibition

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Summer winding down?

I am relieved that the great heat has diminished - so much that I have closed the greenhouse door after over a month of it being permanently open.  The fruit, tomatoes and aubergines, are ripening.  The batch cooking will soon be in full swing.
I am able to stitch again, and have resumed my great clear-out.  The sewing and quilting hoops which I have had for decades but never used have all gone to the hospice charity shop, as has much other stuff.  More yet to be redistributed hither thither and yon - with much relief, and increasing eagerness.
Different days
This year I was asked to be one of the judges for SAQA's Wide Horizons VI exhibition which will take place in September and then tour.  As a judge one of my pieces will be in the show.  I have also been invited to include three pieces in Wisconsin's Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts exhibition Fiber Arts in the Digital Age.
This has been the year of the big think about what I'm doing, and I now am ready to face the upcoming Autumn with new vigour.  I have written a post about it in my work blog.  During the hottest days of the past weeks I stayed cool in the shade designing a new website which I hope will be active soon. 
I don't know what kind of work I shall be making next - my energies will be mostly devoted to organisation for a wee while - but as ever ideas will doubtless push their way through before long.
Hello, Goodbye

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A good read

I am thoroughly enjoying reading Modernists and Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters by Martin Gayford.  It is well written, straightforwardly, using the words of the painters themselves - an enthralling tale, developing from the immediately post war years.  Although I thought I knew quite a lot about Bacon, for instance, I have learned so much more, and I can put him in a fuller context now.  I am so enjoying thinking about the development of artists, what they believe is important despite critics, galleries, and collectors/market.  It is fascinating reading about what motivates the search for artistic achievement - and what in society at large can make the changes within or between artists over time. 

Friday, August 03, 2018

A long hot summer

I particularly enjoy a copper beech in the summer because it stands out magnificently from the ubiquity of green.  It also seems to look cooler in days of burning sun.
(image from here)
The last time I remember us having such a long hot summer was in the extraordinary year of 1976.  I was fortunate to be working at Oxford University Press in Oxford, in a building that has enormously thick walls, and so arriving early and leaving late I avoided much of the heat.
(image above from Bing maps showing the replacement tree today-ish)
Also, in the quadrangle there was a giant copper beech, taller than the building, which created a delightful shade under which to eat lunch if there was a wee breeze.  Unfortunately I learned some years ago that the tree died; but has been replaced by a youngster, who has a hundred years or so to go to catch up with its predecessor.
Another memory from that summer is receiving a phone call from an artist who was always coming up with excuses for late delivery - this time it was that the extreme heat had caused his mother-in-law's garden shed to explode!