Friday, January 19, 2018

Back to the 3D thing

This week I went on a two day workshop on sculptural textiles with Debbie Lyddon at InStitches.  I have been following Debbie Lyddon's blog for some time and am intrigued by and attracted to her work and her methods.  When the opportunity arose to attend a workshop close to where I live - well, it would have been daft not to try it out.  Especially as I have this longterm background itch about doing something 3D-ish.
Debbie Lyddon: Auricle (detail) image from here
The two days worked really well.  The venue is great - a good space, well equipped, friendly, and generous folks.  The other participants provided such a broad range of input, and fun.  And Debbie herself is a great instructor, provider, and facilitator - as well as being great fun.  Obviously I had a great time!
But it was a productive time too.  I think that maybe this time I have come closer to what might suit my needs.  On this workshop I actually made a more or less complete piece of work.  Usually my intention is to make samples to remind me of techniques, but this time I was moved to try to marry one technique - stiffened pleats - with some element which would make the piece mine.
Wax as a surface, a material, an idea has long held an allure for me, reinforced by an excellent Experimental Batik on Paper workshop I attended some ten years ago or so at West Dean with Hetty van Boekhout (the course is on this year too).  It was the wax element of the Debbie Lyddon workshop that was initially what interested me the most.  And the sample I made for myself has ignited even more enthusiasm.
A piece of muslin was stiffened overnight with a coat of emulsion paint.  On that I stitched (using an awl to make the holes before threading the needle through) quite a thick slippery, disobedient but scrummilly beautiful space dyed thread round an outline.  Ironing wax all over this gave a fabulous feel to an even stiffer cloth, flattened the thread into the fabric, filled out the awl holes, ... gave me something very exciting.
So much to bubble away on my back burner now!  Even though I did say a couple of posts ago that I enjoy thinking, I do also enjoy trying things out.  As Andreas Gursky the photographer said in the Guardian newspaper yesterday: 'As I'm always telling my students: you won't get anywhere sitting at a table thinking.  You learn by doing.  And even if you do something wrong, the result may be much more interesting than what you went looking for.'

Friday, January 12, 2018

Looking back and forward

(image above from here)
I visited the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1982 to see a Kandinsky exhibition.  But it was the architecture of the museum which struck a deep chord.  I was with a friend, going round the show at different speeds, and it was looking down to see where she was that it suddenly struck me: this building is a metaphor for life.  I was looking back at where I had been; even my friend was part of my past: she was a colleague from my previous job.
It was even clear that as one progresses, the perspective looking back changes.  Not everything can be seen clearly.  Recently, presently, I have been using the spiral to look back.  For instance, in trying to clarify how to move on with my work, I am first looking back at what I have done to get here in my work blog.
Last year I interrupted my flow of work to look back in a different way.  I had reached a point where there are now memories that only I have, and I have photographs of people who are now only known to me, so I decided to put together a book for my great niece explaining who all these folks are, their characters, and how they are related to each other and to her.  I also included anecdotes, some of which were illustrated by the photographs.
A book of photos with text is so much easier to dip into than a box full of snaps - or even a photo album.  So much more than simple, or even lengthy captions can be put into the text of a book.   Photobox was having a sale last autumn, so I took the opportunity.
I so regret not asking more questions of all my relations when I was young, especially as both my grandmothers' generation had lived through so much history - the wars, the migrations, etc., and so many changes.  I wanted to do a little bit to pass on my own memories of individuals and incidents, so that perhaps the youngsters would be prompted to ask me further questions while I am still around and capable of answering! 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Approaches to seaweed

Angie Lewin
Reading Debbie Lyddon's blog post about her recent work with seaweed, my mind wandered to other views and uses of seaweed.  The most usual can be seen in the delicate watercolours of Angie Lewin.
Debbie Lyddon has used the seaweed itself to stitch and to wrap.
And I remembered the intriguing and magical work of Sue Corr which both Margaret Cooter and I wrote about in 2014.
There is a different aspect of seaweed explored by Sue Corr here.
And then I was inspired by seaweed in the work-in-progress below.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

A fascinating read in black and white

Grisaille glass panel with unintended colour: 'stained' glass (image from here)

Today I finished reading Monochrome: Painting in Black and White, the catalogue of the exhibition currently on at the National Gallery in London.  I completed the book in two long sittings - it was a real page-turner for me, full of interesting history, and giving me a thought-provoking perspective on monochrome work right up to the present day.
I knew as soon as I saw news of the exhibition that the subject is a great one, but I never felt any urge to see the show.  I was simply keen to read the book.  And indeed the catalogue is full of essential images which are not in the exhibition. I certainly did not feel the absence of examples of great monochrome art - I can now look those up, and keep my eyes open to look with greater scrutiny, if needed, at works I encounter in future.
The reviews - here, and here, and here - are various, but did not persuade me that I need to go to the exhibition for real.  It was the information, the history, the examples, the comparisons, and the ideas which have excited me.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Into the Year of the Big Think-over

I have reached a point where I feel out of step.  This malaise was emphasised by some irritating hassle in the return of a quilt from the USA, and has precipitated an inclination to throw up my hands in withdrawal.
I certainly do not want to stop creating work - I couldn't anyway without giving up on living.  But I need to take a long look at what I'm doing, and why.
I shall give myself the year - I work so slowly in any case, I have a backlog of ongoing stuff which I do not want to abandon.  (I have expanded a little more in my work blog - but not much, as I'm just at the beginning of my thoughts.)
It is not a negative situation, however: one of my favourite activities is thinking!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The journey ahead

The end of one year and the beginning of another is conventionally a useful time for an assessment of one's overall journey.  We roll up the past and carry it with us, but it is good to concentrate more on the present and the future.  This year politics continued to astonish, disappoint, and anger me, still intruding much more than normal into my day to day thinking - but in response I am trying to make the most of my own present, to try to look more critically into plans for the future.  This year has involved quite a bit of focused thinking about what I am doing, and why.
I'm not sure of any answers yet, but I don't want to let it drift.  I want to clarify my thoughts and make positive decisions about my activities/work this coming year and for the years following. 
And as for in general: who knows, perhaps if we all take a quietly enthusiastic tolerant attitude with everything and everyone we encounter, and a slow, questioning, positive outlook to our discussions then perhaps we as individuals at least will become better satisfied in our lives.  I'm going to try.



I hope that you all have a Happy Hogmanay, and that 2018 brings us all a better world both at home and abroad.  Best wishes all for the year ahead.

Images by Gail Brodholt

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A quick breath

Annie Soudain: First light

Hibernation reading is progressing well, but with three books rather than two.  Ann Wroe's Six Facets of Light is a delightful walk with her around the landscape of south-eastern England, accompanied by quotes and tellings of poets, artists, musicians, ... and inspires much thought, and from time to time further delving.

Thus, in order to savour appropriately ...
I am alternating chapters with another title which is proving equally though-provoking: Timothy Hyman's The World New Made, Figurative Painting in the Twentieth Century.  This is a different history of art from Cubism on, looking at figurative rather than abstract development - a fascinating alternative perspective.

And my bedtime reading (Henning Mankell's Italian Shoes) is appropriately chill in the snow of Sweden, where the main protagonist cuts a circle in the ice every day in order to plunge naked, for the pain to remind him he is alive!  I of course am meantime well tucked up with ample duvet and hot water bottle.

But now, back to my bracing walk in the light.