Thursday, 29 March 2012

New Studio, New Show in The Gallery

The space has real potential.

With builders just starting work on phase 3 of 4 at home, it became obvious that my studio  would be required for storing furniture and stuff as various floors in various rooms were taken up to be insulated and re-layed.  I came over all dynamic, made some enquiries about vacant spaces available and within two days had taken a space at Stonegrave. I think it will do me good to be around other artists who are on site once in a while too.   It will be great once I have made it a bit more habitable; at present it has 2 very crumbly stone walls and a leaky partition.  No wonder it gets so very cold during winter.  I am used to working in cold conditions - my old studio in Bramley near Basingstoke was perishing.  I have begun work to make this new space less draughty and dusty.

Stage one was to brush down all the rafters and ceiling boards as well as all the walls.  I then painted all the rafters and ceiling with brilliant white emulsion; I recommend Jewson's contract as it has really good coverage and was quite cheap.  I then realised that I would have to stabilise the stone walls, which were shedding quite astonishing quantities of dust so off I went to Jewson again and purchased their own brand of PVA.  I have used up the first large container and need to purchase another for the second wall.  Once I have applied this, which is done with a mixture of painting, scrubbing it into the loose mortar and generally slapping it on in large quantities whilst swearing gently under my breath, I shall then sweep up all the dust and detritis from the floor followed by a good vacuuming before I apply the floor paint.  I am using Ecos floor paint, which whilst expensive, is odour free and rollers can be cleaned with water.

It looks better already with the rafters and ceiling painted white.

These proceedures will make the space much less dusty, but I have realised that none of the walls are suitable for working on in their current condition.  The partition wall has lots of gaps, which will make it incredibly cold in winter and allow yet more dust to penetrate the space and the stone walls are far too unstable.  So the next plan of action is to take the insulation that we have salvaged from demolishing the lean to on the back of our house, to use the plastic membrane that I saved from another project to seal the wall, add the insulation and then board over this with boards saved from my old studio.  Once painted, this will make a suitable draft and dust free wall upon which to work.  I then plan to use the uprights from my old studio that I insisted we dismantle and move up to Yorkshire with us to create new uprights attached to the rafters, in front of the stone walls, and fix them to the floors with the saved metal brackets.  I will attach new boards to these, creating a false wall in front of the stone ones and this will help to create a barrier against the damp, dust and cold.  All this is taking much longer than I anticipated but I have a willing helper in Andy Dalton, who has promised to come over one weekend and help me get the false walls built, he is a friend indeed!

My first visitor. . .

Meanwhile, this Wednesday and Thursday has seen Andy, Gordon Bell and I hard at work to hang an incredibly huge number of works for the new show, F. Nicholson, Painter, Printmaker and Drawing Master.  I am happy to say that all the work that will fit is now up on the walls; this has entailed a great deal of soul searching on Gordon's part as he reluctantly withdrew some of his treasured collection because there simply was not enough room for everything. We have hung the work in groups, some of them in blocks of as many as four high, and it works, thanks to Andy's experience of curating and hanging similar shows in the past.  I learned a lot about multiple hangs and how to approach working with a large number of disparate frames.   It has been an incredibly hard couple of days, I don't think there has ever been this number of works on the gallery walls before.  Tomorrow will be spent touching out all the mirror plates and labelling, ready for the preview in the evening. I am glad that we cleaned up before we left tonight.  Just as we were hanging the final piece Yvette arrived with her colleague for a sneak preview and she was impressed and delighted with how it all looked.

Andrew Dalton and Gordon Bell discussing the hang in the early stages.

Yvette's sneak preview, deep in conversation with Gordon.

F. Nicholson, Painter, Printmaker and Drawing Master opens on 31st March and ends 20th May 2012 and is at The Gallery, Ryedale Folk Museum.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Ryedale ArtWorks New Directory Launch

Next Tuesday is the launch of Ryedale ArtWorks Directory 2012, it took some manic editing for two days and is the best one yet.  It should prove to be a useful marketing tool for all the artists and galleries concerned.  for more information.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Same Painting, a Day Later. . .

Winter (it's the same the world over)

It's not there yet, but I am beginning to work out how to bring the colours and marks of the seasons together with the tally marks, it is an interesting problem to solve.  Paint moves across the surface in a different way to a stick medium; it will not make a continuous mark and you have to constantly reload the brush.  I have had some thoughts about this and while the differences are part of what will make the work interesting, I think, I may experiment with a loaded bottle with a nozzle, to draw with the paint in a more continuous way to see how it works and looks.

Details of this work below:

I take detail photographs both as a way of showing the surface of the paintings but also to select areas of a work that might become another piece of work in its own right.  The challenge of scaling up the marks by using bigger brushes, larger quantities of paint and using the body more energetically to produce bigger gestures is something I have always found exciting.

All images are copyright of the artist.

New Developments

Early stages, gesso on canvas, strips of chinese newspaper, charcoal

Work continues in the studio, I am developing the drawings and paintings slowly, trying to keep in mind the theme of time passing using references to seasonal changes and a simple tally mark to signify this and to build up an interesting surface.  It is work that continues to absorb me so I know that I am on the right track; only when I get really bored does it mean that the work is meaningless and therefore not very interesting.  Some collage material from China has crept in; the calligraphy captivated me, I don't care that I cannot read it because it is just visually beautiful.

Another early stage, tally marks, chinese ink

The garden needs some attention now, before the weeds take over.  Until the paths are laid and the grass is sown, this is a constant problem especially since I have so little time to spend on it.  The newly planted hedging seems to be happy though; it is bursting into leaf, I am looking forward to seeing it grow into a wildlife haven.

We have builders on site again making life even more busy and interesting! 

The back lean to, being demolished.  We are saving the doors and windows as I have plans to build a wondrous summer house that will be part sculpture, part dwelling and part wildlife haven. . . .

My studio at home will be needed for storing furniture and stuff whilst the work goes on and I have found a studio at Stonegrave which is about 20 mins away to use until the building work is finished. It is dry and the light is pretty good.  Sally Taylor has a space there so it will be interesting to talk to her sometimes.  I start moving in on 28th of this month and am thinking about what I need to pack up and what I can leave at home. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Chinese Artist Who Forged Links Between Eastern and Western Painting Traditions

Whilst in Hong Kong, we visited the Hong Kong Museum of Art and were fortunate to catch an exhibition of the work of Wu Guanzhong. 

Born in Yixing, Jiangsu in 1919 this Chinese master studied in France on a scholarship in 1946.  On his return in 1950, he taught at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. In 1991 he was honoured by the French Ministry of Culture with the Officier dans l'ordre des Artes et des Lettres, followed in 1992 by the exhibition "Wu Guanzhong: A Twentieth-century Chinese Painter"; the first solo show for a living Chinese artist presented by the British Museum. In 1993 , he received a gold medal from the city of Paris to coincide with the exhibition "Encres Recentes de Wu Guanzhong" (Recent Ink Paintings of Wu Guanzhong), which was organsied by the Musee Cernuschi, Paris.  In China, he was selected delegate to the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference of the People's Republic of China in 1994 and was honoured with a solos exhibition held by the Ministry of Culture in 1999.  In 2002, Wu became the first Chines national to be named Correspondant by the academie des Beaux-Arts de L'Institute de France.  In 2006, the Beijing Palace Museum ran a feature exhibition to honour his work and mark its first collection of a living artist's works, including the masterpiece Yangzi River donated by Wu in 1974.  That same year, Wu was conferred as an Honorary Doctor of Arts by The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Notes taken from :
Lofty Integrity: Donation of Works by Wu Guanzhong  ISBN 978-962-215-220-5

Reading the above I realised that Wu's show at the British Museum was when I was a mature student at Farnham, I am sorry now that I was unaware of it at the time and I will try and trace a copy of the catalogue for that show. 

The exhibition was beautifully presented, the important paintings were grouped together to enable the viewer to assess them in context of subject and the time in which they were made, showing relationships and developments of theme and technique during his lifetime. Another aspect of the hanging of the show was that all the works were given lots of space and this added to it's impact.  I felt priviledged to have seen it.  Although the paintings were framed with glass, they were then placed inside huge glass cabinets to protect them and this sometimes made it difficult to see them without reflections although the clever lighting did keep this to a minmum.  I recognised the rhythms, sturcture and movement seen in a Pollock painting and other Abstract Impressionists' work, within Wu's work as well as elements that reminded me of Hockney's close observation of nature that I saw recently at the Royal Academy.

Photos taken with permission of gallery staff of Hong Kong Museum of Art.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Ryedale ArtWorks a New Year, a New Directory

Straight back in to some hard work, editing, proofing and helping with the design for the new Artist Directory for Ryedale ArtWorks.  Obviously I am not doing this alone, there is a stirling team of people, who seem to be the same as RAW's committee, enabling this year's directory to happen:
Ian Mitchell, graphic designer, Andrew Dalton, Janet Hayton, Lis Bailey, myself and additional help from Catriona Stewart and Gill Dearman.

Graphiti in Yangshuo

Yesterday was spent glued to the computer, constantly checking and rechecking proofs as they arrived from Ian, it was hectic to say the least and today will be more of the same, but I think I can safely say that apart from a few glitches, it is looking good.

I am sad that some of the more established artists in Ryedale have refused to be in the directory; most of them have received considerable support from Andrew Dalton at The Gallery, Ryedale Folk Museum in terms of time, advice and an exhibition in the best gallery in the area and yet they don't seem to see that their support of RAW will make for a stronger group, improving it's quality and the integrity of what RAW is trying to do. Internationally renowned Gillies Jones Glass are supporting our aims to raise the profile of high quality professional arts in Ryedale and we are proud to be working with them.  In my opinion, it is only when artists of high calibre committ to RAW, that the group will come to be considered as a real force to be reckoned with in Yorkshire and beyond.  Still, with time I am sure that this situation will improve.

If anyone reading this is interested in finding out more about Ryedale ArtWorks, ArtFest, The Gallery at Ryedale Folk Museum or Gillies Jones Glass I give you the following links:

Ryedale ArtWorks email:

Ryedale ArtWorks web site:

The Gallery at Ryedale Folk Museum email:

The Gallery at Ryedale Folk Museum web site:

Ryedale Folk Museum web site:

Gillies Jones Glass web site:

Return From China

The first part of our trip was spent in Hong Kong, which simply amazed me; New York is known as the city that never sleeps, but I challenge anyone to find a city as crazy and manic as HK.  My description amused several people:  "Like Blade Runner, only jolly."

Orange sellers coming alongside as we made our way down the river Li

Our trip to mainland China was fantastic; I have learned so much about another culture, it is true what they say; travel really does broaden the mind, often in very unexpected ways.  My observations are made from a very priviledged western viewpoint and are doubtless somewhat romantic but it seemed to both of us that many of the people, though poor, were finding ways to live and working very hard and had more dignity than poor people we have seen in USA or UK.  They have no choice in the matter; only a very small percentage of the population receive a pension from the government, and the rest have to do the best they can. 

I was fascinated to see the elderly folk meeting in their local parks each day, there are no gardens for most people, to exercise, practice singing, play cards.  The government has instigated a programme to install simple robust gymn machines in all the parks to enable the elderly to stay fit and supple and they are used regularly.  We asked if the young people would ever vandalise them and were told that the young people did not have time to make such acts!  We witnessed many people practicing Tai Chi, exercising using similar movements but using fans, dancing, playing table tennis, (Mike joined in and there was furious competition and much laughter because his weak shots fooled them every time!) and running, sometimes backwards, which we learned from Mr Yang, our Tai Chi master in Yangshuo, is to help keep the balance between Yin and Yang.

The boat trip from Guilin down to Yangshuo was a highlight for me: although the rain, mist and cold temperatures made it difficult to stand on deck for the whole journey, they certainly added to the atmosphere.  When I was a very small child I remember seeing pictures of Chinese paintings with tall pointy mountains, pines clinging to ridges, mist swirling around and a little old man with a bundle of firewood on his back and I thought it was all invented.  It was not until years later that I realised that such magical lands existed and now, at last I have seen it for myself.

Cormorant fisherman on the river Li

Misty mountains on the river Li

I have to admit that I did tire of dumplings by the end and it was an enormous relief, when we were out for the day, to find an occasional western style toilet although I was adept at squatting! 
I am looking forward to using some of the material I have collected along the way to make some new work as well as continuing with my current studio work.