Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A Glorious Day!

The sun shone all day.  All day today!  And the sunset was beautiful too.  The drain work has gone well and the new water main pipe is in place ready for when we connect up, I finished mounting the twelve paintings I'm sending down to my local and started mounting and wrapping the work that will be in the browser during my show in April, so all in all a pretty good day.

Winter: January, February. December

This series of twelve paintings, done with acrylic paint on paper, were an experiment; each painting started with the same layer and design and each successive piece had one more layer added so that the final painting consisted of all twelve layers, if that makes sense!

Spring: March, April, May

Summer: June, July, August

Autumn: September, October, November

Unfortunately, because of the bright sunny day, I could not find anywhere to take these photos without nasty reflections.  I am waiting for my resident photographer to check the colour balance   of the ones he took before I can upload them, but you get a sense of the way they work.  They were all based on observations of the colours and weather of the seasons and I think each set of three paintings reflects them quite well.  Framing them up has made such a difference too.

 Two more membership forms for Ryedale ArtWorks arrived today with cheques , I am membership secretary, and it is looking like we are on target for another good Directory.  So, as I said earlier; all in all, a pretty good day.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Drains, Mounting and Framing

The builders were on site again today, working on the drains, which are in a terrible state.  Once again there is mud everywhere and I was called on regularly for tea and to take photographs.  They need tea to keep warm, and the photographs are for our records, so we know where all the various pipes are.

So, what with all that going on, and my need to go out to the studio to collect my metal rules, it was pretty late in the afternoon by the time I got to work.

It was a pretty enjoyable task really, and I was grinning to myself, because the space I was using at home, (what was my studio; I managed to clear the top of the plan chest to work on), rapidly became littered with strips of paper trimmings, bits of tape and various art works.  It reminded me of Mounting Week: a very important week in the calendar in the art department where I worked for ten years before moving up here.  

I started with the lino prints, all artist proofs. These are pieces I made in the early part of my course at art college, I'd almost forgotten about them and was glad to uncover them the other day when I was searching for things that I thought Linda and Mark from my local pub might like.   

I floated them on the mount board and , as the frames I bought in Ikea yesterday were almost exactly the right size, they ended up looking pretty good:

I am so glad I chose the grey frames, they suit the prints much better than black would have done because some of the blacks in the print are "greyed" by the other colours on top or underneath.  The prints themselves are not square, so I had to line them up by eye as best I could.  I didn't want to window mount them to make them square, (anyway, there was not room for this with these frames), because I am very interested in the irregularities of the edges in my work.

My resident photographer took some good pics of these and I'll post them up as soon as he gets back from his travels and has had time to check the colour balance.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Ferens Entry, Visitors to the Studio and Some Old Work

So for any one interested, this is the work that I have in the Ferens Open Exhibition in Hull.  It is acrylic on paper.

This morning, I had an appointment with the landlady and chef from our local.  They are interested in having some more interesting art on the walls of their bar, restaurant and guest rooms.  I am pleased to say that they have selected a series of 12 paintings on paper and some lino prints I did a long time ago, which I have only just retrieved from storage.  The works will now have to be framed up in time for their launch on 2nd March, so a rush to Ikea for some frames is on the agenda!  They really liked the most recent work that I am preparing for the solo show at The Gallery, Ryedale Folk Museum at the end of March, but I had to tell them it wouldn't be available, probably for the rest of this year as I am planning to try and show it at at least one other gallery.  They said they hoped I'd sell it but that they would like it if I didn't.

The series of artist proofs, lino prints based on the road markings around Basingstoke that I did  at art college.

The paintings selected, with some old work in the background

The rest of the day was spent with my resident photographer, documenting all the recent work plus the old stuff.  He will go through all the images and adjust the colour balance when he returns from his travels.  I am lucky that photography is an interest of Pete's, it saves me a fortune and a lot of exasperation.

London: Gallery Marathon Part 3

Am really liking the new extension at Tate Britain

Our entry for the Schwitters at Tate Britain was booked for 12.30, so we didn't have to rush in the morning; just as well after the previous day's work.

I remember using a postcard of a Schwitters collage as a starting point for a ceramics module during my foundation course at Basingstoke College of Technology.  What interested me about the piece was the movement and direction within it and the tonal qualities across the surface.  The colours of his collage and paint pieces must also have influenced me as, if I remember correctly, some of my early struggles with paint used similar colours as some of Schwitters abstract works although he wasn't the only influence on my work.   I must try and find some of the old stuff i did now it is all out of storage to confirm this memory, or maybe it is just wishful thinking . . . I'll see if I still have the pieces I am thinking of and take some photos to upload for later on.

 Having been classed among the "degenerates" by Hitler Schwitters fled to Norway to avoid persecution.  He was interned on the Isle of Man having fled Norway after the German invasion of that country.  The artists in this community of internees were given access to materials to work with and put on exhibitions.  The documentation about this was fascinating and heart rending.  The windows of their living accomodation was painted out with a blue paint or some such substance and the artists were in the habit of scratching designs into it, Schwitters also resorted to tearing up lino from the floor in order to make prints.  I love the way that artists always find a way to make work even in really adverse conditions.

Schwitters was a good painter; his portraits are very good, I particularly admire the portrait of Klaus Hinrichsen,  the intensity of the sitters' face is fabulous.  The landscapes are well painted, but are more like an exercise in painting to keep his eye in; there are so many landscapes painted in this way from around this same time that they did not move me in the same way as the portraits did.  The landscapes reminded me of  the school of Sickert, although the palette was lighter than Sickert's.  They were very accomplished though.  Schwitters' more abstract, dark and brooding paintings were very interesting as was his combination of paint and found objects, these again, took me straight back to foundation course I did in Basingstoke.  Happy days!

I found the collages the most interesting.  The tonal variation of the found pieces Schwitters used, his placing of each piece, the combination of found, cut and torn edges and subtle variations in colour are so well seen and utilised.  Add to this the humorous touches made with found imagery and the political statements within some of them and these works provide endless opportunity for study, contemplation and admiration.  I will never be bored with looking at a Schwitters collage piece.  Schwitters layered up these works, aware that the materials used placed them at a certain time in history and although sometimes certain words and images were deliberately placed to convey a message, mostly they were placed from a formal point of view; for their texture, tone or shape, to enhance the movement within the piece.  The later collages were more complex and layered, perhaps a reflection of the more abundant material available, perhaps a metaphor for Schwitters' own experience and longevity.

I think it is Schwitters' endless playfulness, his use of the found, usually mundane object, which he then transformed into an interesting statement that makes him a good artist for study at foundation level and beyond.  He opens our eyes to the possibilities of art making that are all around us.  He was an established artist before he fled to England via Norway and he was acquainted with many of the established and avante garde artists of the time, who respected his work.  The recording of Schwitters reading one of his sound poems, another aspect of his work is both strange and funny, true to its Dadaist roots.  It reminds me of an aural version of asemic text; communicating something but without using any established form of communication, which is something my work has brushed up against, although I have not taken it far in that direction.

A 'found' wall painting in my house, during building work

Another poignant part of this exhibition, along with the obvious poverty and hardship suffered by Schwitters, although he never seemed to let this diminish his interest and determination to make work, was the documentation regarding the fate of the Merz barn in the Lake District.  Various parties including Tate, had at times expressed an interest in preserving it and then backed out when the cost was deemed too much.  It seemed to me so typical of the British attitude to art and life in general!  What there is left of the Merz barn is in the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle.

I really recommend this exhibition and the catalogue is good too.  Go see, go buy!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

London: Gallery Marathon Part 2

One of the fab food themed window of Fortnum and Masons, with reflections!

Saturday 17th Feb.

Itinerary for the day, Royal Academy:

  • 12.30 - Constable, Gainsborough, Turner: and the Making of Landscape
  • 4 pm -  Manet: Portraying Life
  • Anything else we can cram in!
We set out in good time and arrived in Piccadilly early, discovering Hauser and Wirth Gallery opposite the RA.   H&W are showing selected works by Philippe Vandenberg, an artist I have not come across as far as I remember.  Large space, well lit on the ground floor showing very large paintings with disturbing imagery reminiscent of Goya's Disasters of War series of prints. Attempting to make sense of the balance of power and injustices of this world through manipulation of paint and rejecting American conceptualism,  Vandenberg's  Neo-Expressionism shows his attempt to make sense of his world and his own demons.  The smaller works on the other two floors were made on what looked like found pieces of board or bits of old cupboard doors; they had beautiful surfaces that were drawn and painted upon, resulting in quieter work that was also disturbing.  I really loved them, and the gallery space.

Afternoon tea theme!


A quick look at the fab windows of Fortnum and Masons before crossing to the RA and what I can only describe as a distinctly uncomfortable crush that started in the Foyer and got worse as the day progressed.

An interesting show, the Making of Landscape, about the development as a genre of landscape painting in this country.  It only cost £8 and the accompanying informative booklet was free.  There were not that many actual paintings on display, instead, the use of printmaking by both expert print producers and the artists themselves illustrates the growth in popularity of landscape as an expression of the sublime and popular topography.  The exhibition clearly showed the influence of painters such as Claude Lorraine, who used landscape as part of the allegorical meaning in his work.

 The artists' own use of printmaking was more experimental, and therefor, in my opinion more interesting.  The skill of the craftsmen printers such as Robert Wallis and David Lucas is stunning, and seeing the etching/aquatints of Norman Ackroyd in the same show illustrated clearly how far the genre has come, although the manipulation of the techniques employed would not have been so unfamiliar to the earlier artists I suspect.  Other contemporary pieces such as Richard Long's text piece and sculptor John Maine's granite circle take the idea of landscape even further into contemporary thought and practice.  

This is an interesting exhibition, I would recommend it to anyone who is practicing landscape painting, or using landscape as a thread of thought within their work.

We fought our way back out, through the terrible scrum in the foyer of the RA to try and get a table for a treat in Fortnums, but alas, they were fully booked up, so we found a pub for a quick and mediocre lunch, after which we filled in time before our booking for Manet, with a look up and down Cork Street.  Highlights of which were:

  • Alan Cristea Gallery   Julian Opie: Winter The gallery was closed, but oh! this show looks good!  I urge people to get to it if they can - follow the link for a brief description.  We peered through the windows into the darkened interior longingly; it would have made a great companion piece to the RA show.  This work reminded me very much of a more undulating version of Ian Mitchell's linescapes.
  • Mayor Gallery  WALTER LEBLANC WORKS ON PAPER & SCULPTURE FROM 1963 - 1985  Just beautiful spare work.  Also, work by  Carlos Cruz-Diez,  beautiful optical colour works that changed as you moved because of how they were constructed with three dimensional planes using some kind of clear perspex like material from what we could make out.  Fab!
  • Adam Gallery: Alexander Calder: Graphic Works.  Such beautifully joyous lithographs, made when Calder was at the height of his printmaking career.  The symbols within the prints are so well placed, the colour, saturated primaries and tertiaries well chosen and placed within the picture plane.  I loved them!  They really brought to my mind Calder's miniature circus, a film of which I saw years ago: it may be available on YouTube, I don't know.    While we were there, we went downstairs and found some amazing Barbara Rae's.  I think they were paintings, but I cannot remember clearly.  What I do remember is their amazing colour and surface textures.  We were lucky to see them I think; most of them were still in bubble wrap, a real bonus.  I bought some catalogues from ex exhibitions, of painters I had never heard of, but whose paintings looks really interesting: Hsiao-Mei Lin, Annabelle Hulbert, Alf Lohr.  

After that lot, we needed tea!

Then, back across the road to the RA for the Manet show.  The crowding was worse than earlier and we found it incredibly difficult to see the work properly.  With a little determination, I managed to see most of the pieces but to see and appreciate the hang in each room was impossible.  One of the frustrating things was that there were some walls left bare, with works hung quite closely into other corners, which always creates bottlenecks.  With such a so called "block buster" exhibition, with anticipated huge crowds, this seems perverse curatorial practice.  

It was great to see works by Manet that I had not previously; but I am still trying to digest what I really think about the exhibition as a whole as my overriding memory of it is the over crowding that spoiled the experience.  One painting sticks: the picture of Berthe Morrisot in Mourning, grieving over the death of her father, stunning and gaunt.  Painted very expressively, it is really moving.

We finished up the day by meeting up with my son Mike and his wife Elaine for a lovely dinner and went home to Sarah's flat exhausted!  A good day though.

London Trip: Gallery Marathon Part 1

London trees

The itinerary was pretty well planned for my long weekend in London; I arrived at Kings Cross at about 3 pm on Friday and was greeted by our lovely Sarah.  

We went straight to Timothy Taylor Gallery in Mayfair  to see the Fiona Rae paintings.  These paintings are lighter, more delicate than those of the last show,  which I saw when it toured to Leeds.  (Maybe you can live on the moon in the next century, Leeds City Art Gallery, 2012).  

There are indeed "multifarious and interwoven techniques, patterns and passages", to quote the accompanying introduction provided by the gallery.  Rae is an iconoclast of painting,  I understand her deliberate use of popular culture from China, her allusions to diagrammatic symbolism and graphic signs and appreciate her use of more playful materials like glitter and spray paint; for the fun of it.  I recognise the references to Chinese landscape from my own visit there last year. These large paintings seem to me more like joyous samplers of painting possibilities, with no real resolution.  Rae herself says,

"With these pandas as mascots, amulets, protagonists, victims, observers, or whatever their role in each painting might be.  I can make a painting that has an angle or an eye on itself, while simultaneously being a full-blooded, full-on manifestation of painterly possibility."

I found the colour in this recent work less satisfying; some of them were a little nauseous for my taste but on reflection, the whole show is lighter, more delicate than the last.  Rae's techniques and explorations of popular culture strongly refer to today's culture, bombarded as it is by imagery and references to the multicultural world we now live in.   I think Rae is challenging the viewer to find their own way through the paintings, to work out a personal meaning or to simply enjoy the challenge of looking at them.   I am fascinated by  her work and will continue to follow it with interest.

The gallery space itself is fantastic;  large, white and spacious, it is well lit and provides a wonderful environment in which to contemplate and consider the art on display.  I am a fan of the white cube, especially where paintings are concerned.

End of the day, from Sarah's flat

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Bit of Nostalgia:

My plan chests and mdf storage sections, along with my chest of drawers and other things, finally out of storage, and now stored in our unfinished extension!

Finally got all our stuff out of storage today.  I say our stuff; most of it is mine, and I needed to have access to the plan chests and books as well as all the mdf sections you can see propped up in the photos above - they are fabulous storage shelves.  Or they will be, once they are reassembled out at my studio.

Look what I have just found lurking in a drawer of a chest that I used to have out at my old studio in Basingstoke!

Some very bad colour quality photocopies of me, with my just completed work for my degree show.

Please note that they are in a school hall.  The wonderful head master Mr John Martin, of Castle Hill Junior School, Basingstoke, offered me the use of his hall when he heard that the so called art college I attended were not providing me with a space in which to make the work.  I had the Easter holidays to complete these paintings; I had planned 6, but think I did pretty well to produce 4, given the circumstances!

I remember, my husband Pete and I walked the completed paintings a few hundred yards down the hill one by one, and stored them in the spare bedroom of my beloved grandmother's flat until they were collected by the hire van and taken to the college for the degree show.  The things we do!  Good memories of making the work, not good memories of the college. . . . 

My extensive library of art books and catalogues is among this lot somewhere and I am looking forward to finding them all again!

To see what I am up to at the moment, check out my albums of photos on my facebook page:

I am membership secretary and member of Ryedale ArtWorks too, an artists led community:

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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Snow and Some Preparations

I am so fed up with snow!  I went to the studio briefly today, the light was too low to take any photos of my drawings so I pottered about for a bit, looking at History Painting and deciding that yes, it is finished.  I made a list of paint I need to order in preparation for starting the four large ones I have planned and then I noticed the snow coming down.

Detail, History Painting

I loaded the car with my drawings and the small paintings that I might get framed, (I need to check my finances first) and headed for home; the track from the road down to the farm to my studio is very steep and it becomes difficult to get up it in the car if the snow gets too thick.

Back home, I did some more clearing of spaces and sorting of boxes in preparation for receiving all my stuff back from the storage company where my entire art library has been since we moved up here.  There are also some useful storage units and plan chests that will go out to my studio, but that will have to wait until after my show.

I am meeting my lovely eldest daughter Sarah for a long weekend in London on Friday and we have mapped out a brilliant itinerary:

  • Friday: arrive Kings Cross and head straight to Timothy Taylor gallery to see the new Fiona Rae paintings.  Food.
  • Saturday:  Royal Academy for Gainsborough Constable, Fortnum and Masons for tea then back to RA for Manet.  Meet Mike and Elaine for tea then on to pub by the river for meal in the evening.
  • Sunday: East End galleries and markets
  • Monday: home.  

Phew!  then it will be back to work in the studio and lots of admin for the show.

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Saturday, 9 February 2013

Life of an Artist: Improved Mailing List and A Great Art Book

Today was busy.  Up at the crack for a weekend because the builders were on site to finish one of the small jobs on the list.  Lovely to see them again, they are becoming friends as well as trusted craftsmen.  I still exclaim at how lucky we were to find Lee.

I read Turps Banana mag and worked on my mailing list while I waited for Pete to surface - he didn't get in until gone midnight last night as he'd been in Germany near the Swiss border for a few days' business.

Then we went off to York; According to McGee's latest show, "Painting: Light of the North" opened today.  Michael Bilton and Jo Brown's works were particularly appealing to me.   It is lovely to be able to walk into a space that says it is a gallery and find just paintings; I am biased!  So many galleries contain all sorts of things, I understand that this is for economic reasons and I also understand that the concept of a "white cube" gallery is under attack from some quarters, but I like them.  I like having a white space, hung carefully with good paintings that I can look at in peace as often as I like.  Call me old fashioned and all that. . . .

McGee must be doing something right, Greg was delighted to tell me that they had sold several paintings already.  I had replied to his emailed invitation and he remembered me!  We had a chat about the paintings and I told him I have an upcoming solo show and, I hope he wasn't just being polite, he asked me to send him an invitation.  My mailing list is becoming longer!  Networking, I think this is called.

We had an errand to do for Pete's mother and after this we went to Waterstones book shop; I had two tokens to spend!  Hot foot to the art department and what was waiting on a shelf but the  book that Sarah had told me about and that we had talked about many times recently: Sanctuary: Britain's Artists and their Studios, (Thames and Hudson).  Needless to say, I had to persuade Pete to let me add some money to the tokens to buy it, well, it is Valentines day soon!

Product Details

This book is one of the great art books.  Really.  The artists interviewed speak honestly from their hearts about their studios, what it means to be an artist and make work.  It is really quite profound and there is not one word of International Art English wank anywhere!  It will be one of my treasures for ever.

Last good thing of the day: Andy Dalton  has approved the changes I have made to "History Painting".  I am happy.

Albums of paintings and their development can be seen here:

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Friday, 8 February 2013

Hot Chocolate and a History Painting

After Andrew Dalton visited my studio last Wednesday to see how the work for the show is progressing, I decided it is time to try and finish the big canvas.  The rest of the work is going fine so it will be great to get this one resolved.

First things first: it was freezing today so hot chocolate was in order; I felt a bit guilty because I'd promised Andy one but forgot the milk on Wednesday, hah hah!  

The colour of the big tally marks was the first thing I needed to change.  I glazed them with some warm red and a cooler pink/red in places.  I then added some lines of tally marks in a violet/grey to bring some continuity across the surface.  This improved the bottom edge, which although had some interesting "ghosts" of tally marks, the washes were so thin it was not resolved.  It is now much improved.  I brought the warm glaze into the problem area above the biggest tally mark and the last thing I did was bring some of this colour into the far right section for balance.

I'm still not sure if the painting is finished; I'll have to look and think about it for another few weeks.  

I have hit on the title though:  "History Painting".  There are so many different, obliterated layers in the painting and the theme of the show fits.  

For more photos of this painting, with detail shots, visit my facebook page:

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Quick Work

Caught the last half of a programme on Sky Arts last night, about Joan Mitchell, the abstract painter; I was annoyed that I hadn't realised it was on as it was very interesting.  Her work is wondrous.  When pressed to talk about how she makes her paintings she was adamant that she doesn't think about it when she is painting - she just paints.  This is what I do, and like her, I think about the work critically after each session, I agree with her that the act of painting is instinctive.

 The day had started very brightly; a cold blustery wind and lots of sunshine. I made a phone call to the storage facility where so much of our stuff has been for the past 6 years and arranged to have it retrieved and delivered home.  This means that I shall at last have access to my art library and my other plan chests, some of my other work and equipment, including an antique folding screen printing table.  I am now going to have to spend some time making space in our incomplete extension to store some of the stuff while books and furniture can be spread around the existing rooms of the house.

 I digress; I was in the studio this morning by just after 11 am.  It took much less time than I anticipated to complete the two paintings I was working on, and as the clouds closed in and the wind got colder, the rain turned to sleet then snow.

Stages of the painting based on Summer (untitled)

Just after lunch, I packed up, remembering to put my roll of bubble wrap in the car because I shall need it at home for packing away some work.  I drove home, lit the wood burner and am now planning the best use of all the space we have for storing everything!

I have ordered one large stretcher to match the size of the others I have that were left over from my degree work all those years ago, and once this arrives, along with the ones from the storage company, I'll stretch them up with canvas and prime them ready for work.  The studio is just about big enough for me to work on all four at once I think.  The very large canvases that are still on the walls will be covered in plastic to protect them, which will mean they can stay in place until I decide what to do about them.  My problem is that the really large one may not fit in the van I have in mind so I have to do some ringing round to find out sizes and costs of hire!

Based on ideas to do with Spring, not properly titled yet

Large painting behind, based on Winter.  In front: working titles - Summer, Spring, Winter

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Sunday, 3 February 2013

Work and Play

After such a beautiful day yesterday, it was once again, overcast this morning and remained so for the whole day.  Sigh.  I seem to have so much more energy when the sun is out!  Never mind, I had things to do:

  • Select work for submitting to Ferens art gallery for the annual open  (click on the what's on link to find Ferens gallery)
  • Label the works and wrap them
  • Complete the entry form and write the cheque for entries
  • Deliver the work
  • Drive on to the Ropewalk gallery to see Alice Fox's exhibition, "Textures of Spurn".
Work was prepared and loaded into Pete's car and we set off for a rare jaunt out.  Actually, it was nice to have some time together, we've been a bit like ships that pass in the night this week because of various business and meeting commitments we both had.  I decided to submit two works because they are fairly large and I don't think I'd get three in if they are all big. The works had to be from previous series as the latest stuff is going into my solo show which overlaps with Ferens Open.

We found Ferens Art Gallery without too much trouble seeing as it was the first time we have ever been there.  I remember eons ago, when I was a kid, my family was in Hull briefly as a stop off to buy provisions for lunch on our marvelous camping adventure to Scotland.  It seemed huge and extremely busy to me then, but today the center was quiet.  Once the work was handed in, we didn't stop to look at the collection because we wanted to get to the Ropewalk.  The collection looked pretty interesting though so we'll have a good look when we go back to collect the work.

It was a day of firsts.  First visit to Ferens Gallery, first time across the Humber Bridge, first visit to the Ropewalk Gallery!

I am so glad we made the effort to get to Alice's show, it was interesting and beautiful.  The concept of observation, collecting objects from the environment, recording findings using words, drawings, paintings, the environment itself and textiles to produce some very beautiful and profound work really appeals to me.  

Alice was artist in residence at Spurn National Nature Reserve in East Yorkshire for six months last year, based at the Old Lighthouse.    
Alice's work has integrity, and honesty; it is completely lacking in artifice, which I find so wearing in many  lesser artists' work.  It was great to see it in real life after seeing pictures of it on her web site and I was not disappointed.  Congrats to her on a really good show and huzzah for me, because Pete bought me one of Alice's artists' books for my birthday!  I wish I'd had the cheek to take a photo of it. . . . And I can't wait for the day it is delivered to me!

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