Saturday, 25 May 2013

My Chinese Sketch Book Project

I bought several sketchbooks when I was in China in Feb/March last year, they are cheap and the paper is of very poor quality but what I like about them is the concertina format.  Being really interested in Aritsts' Books, it offers a quick way to try things out before making a book with better quality paper.  I love how the images alter as different sections open out and refold, offering different combinations.   

I have worked in this book over the past six months, always with the theme of time, memory and loss in mind, compiling lists of words, quotes and thoughts that have become interwoven with the patterns and images; introducing things like negative stencils in the shape of a star and a heart, references to the phases of the moon in terms of circles overlapping, used mono printing, collage prints and fingerprints all mixed up with drawn tallies, various scribbles and textile stitch patterns.  

Only once I stopped work today, as I was leafing through the book I realised that when some of the pages fold up and open out, refolding against another page further down the concertina, there were other images becoming available.  I am very excited about this!

So, while this book started out as a general "sketch" book of thoughts, visual ideas, scraps of printing and anything else that took my fancy at the time of doing it, with ideas about time passing always firmly in my mind; it has now begun to develop into an almost completed artwork in itself.  While it is a visually interesting piece in its own right, it is also an important reference work for me; it is nearly finished, at least one side of it is, and I am now considering whether to approach the theme using a different media, perhaps collage, combined with print and no drawing, on the reverse side.  

I have used fingerprints and tally marks in work before and I have always loved it when you see evidence of an artists' hand or fingers in a painting; Rembrandt and Pollock are examples that spring immediately to mind.  The negative stencils I used recall the paintings on rock walls in caves made by ancient civilisations.  The tally is an age old symbol that I have adopted both to symbolise time passing, but also to build up the surface quality and pattern, and to create some form of structure in the form of a grid.  Always there is the push and pull of instinct against intellect; the age old dualist struggle.

To see the album of all the photographs I have taken of this work, showing different stages of development and different combinations of pages click on the following link:

All images copyright the artist, all rights reserved

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Ennoia - from my archive

Moved to a gallery location, these balloon shapes were originally filled with wild flower seeds and hung from trees in the grounds of Queen Mary's College, where they were to be allowed to decay and deposit the seed on the ground to grow.

I graduated as a mature student in 1995 and was incredibly lucky to "fall" into a teaching post almost immediately.  It was one of those accidents of fate; I was stoney broke, having used a credit card to pay my degree show expenses and was standing around at the local sixth form college waiting for my son to enrol when a lovely teacher I was acquainted with asked me what I was planning to do now that I had graduated.  On my reply that I needed to earn some money, quickly as I had debts to pay off, preferably using my skills, he beckoned me into an office and told me I could teach the Adult Education art and design course.  It was that easy. . . .  I should add that I had begun to know this teacher from conversations about art that we had while I participated in a sculpture workshop that he facilitated during one summer at the college.

I settled into the Adult Ed. curriculum, learning as I went and getting good results, which culminated in my employment as a part time teacher across the curriculum of the day time courses.  It was sheer joy!  I loved working with those young people, however "difficult" some of them were at times.

During this time, working part time during the day and still running the Adult Ed. course, (can you believe, I was actually teaching two courses at once in the evening sessions at times?) I completed the City and Guilds Teaching Certificate parts 1 and 2.  

In the middle of all this, two friends, whom I had met at the brilliant part time foundation course we did at Basingstoke College of Technology, and I formed an artist group.  We were different kinds of practitioners yet we felt we had similar concerns and sensitivities within what we made.  We called ourselves Ennoia, which is a Greek word, if my memory serves me correctly, which roughly means "a thought not yet fully formed".  We thought this was rather lovely both in sound and meaning, allowing for the enigmatic in our art making.  

This sculpture is part of the refurbishment of a small outside but enclosed patio area.  It became, with the help of the Learning Support students, a seaside retreat!  The sculpture consists of small, fired clay shapes, modelled on seaside forms, threaded onto flexible metal poles set into a concrete base.  Surrounded by other forms and ephemera, it was a treasure trove of objects and shapes, just like a real beach!

All three of us had an interest in people that are marginalised within our society; the disabled, elderly etc.  My teaching at Queen Mary's College enabled us to quickly make contact with the Learning Support department and we formed a working relationship with them, which resulted in two residencies on site.

These were early days for digital cameras, so I have been having difficulty finding photographs of these two projects, coupled with the great sadness of the deaths of my two dear friends and colleagues, Sue Offord and Jane Haines, which meant that access to their materials on the subject was impossible.  I am sure that I have some printed photographs in a box somewhere, but for now I present the digital record that I have of our work together.

When I find the rest of the photographs, I'll post them up; I remember that some of them were really lovely and showed the other part of the first residency that included the balloons, which was a series of hanging artworks consisting of small drawings inserted into clear plastic CD covers, stitched together and suspended within the hut space we were using to create art work to walk through.  Happy days!

Friday, 17 May 2013

2 Exhibitions in York

I popped into York this afternoon to catch a couple of exhibitions.  A Matter of Life and Death, an installation by Julian Stair in York St Mary's and Across the North Sea: An exhibition of Photographs by Fay Godwin with Anna Lilleengen at Janette Ray Rare Books, Bootham, York, where Lotte Inch has her latest "pop up".  has a brief explanation of Julian Stair's exhibition and a link to a video of the artist talking about his work.
The exhibition is very simple with examples of funerary vessels from different ages found in the area of York interspersed with Julian Stair's own response to the subject.  I was intrigued by the gritty quality of some of the clay he chose to use and was interested to read that he used brick clay for some of the pieces.  I enjoyed the rings of dark and light red clay in some of the pieces but found most of the work very sombre compared to the decorated vessels from the past, some of which were worked to represent actual faces.  While Stair's pieces had a certain presence and gravitas, I would have loved them to be decorated like the ancient pieces on display; our reaction to death in this country is so serious and it could do with an injection of joyous decoration to lighten us all up and help us to understand death as part of the process of life itself.  That's my opinion anyway, I couldn't help wondering how Grayson Perry would have responded to the same material/subject. . .

There are two pieces available to read about the photography being exhibited at Janette Ray Rare books, which are much more eloquent on the subject of photography than I can be:

I'm glad I saw these photographs; I particularly enjoyed Fay Godwin's beautiful landscapes with the strong tonal qualities and textures and felt that framing them in white was so much more successful than the black that most photographers seem to choose; the work had enough white space around it and with the white frames I felt that they had space to "breathe".  They are so well seen, the shots framed and chosen with such obvious care and dedication to her craft and the prints are razor sharp; you can almost smell the air.  Lilleengen's work is more recent, utilising older technology, I felt like I was peering through the darkness of a tunnel into a mysterious and separate world that didn't want to reveal itself.  Interesting, but I preferred the dramatic and abstract qualities of Godwin's pieces.

It was good to see Lotte again; I met her a couple of weeks ago in a meeting with the Ryedale ArtWorks committee to discuss the possibility of working with her to produce a pop up exhibition in York.  We are really looking forward to collaborating with her, she has lots of experience in the field of pop up galleries and bags of energy and ideas.  Our type of person!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

I Forgot to Show This!

I forgot to mention some weeks back, when my sister and her partner Gary came up to see my exhibition, that Gary, who makes doll's houses and fits out kitchens, Volkswagen camper vans and all sorts of other clever things, made me a wooden relief:

Wooden relief, by Gary White, Llandysul, Wales

It's made with his brand new super clever machine thingy (apparently called a CNC machine), that will carve all sorts of designs and he made it for me!  I love it, it's made from tulip wood, which is a bit soft, hence the slightly fluffy edges.  Gary said it's a first try and he's going to make me one from hard wood to replace this one, but I will always treasure this.  Thanks Gary and Julie, for coming up - why didn't we take any photos of your visit????  We were too busy talking and eating cake!

A couple of nights ago I had my 7000th view on this blog!  I am ridiculously pleased at this figure: I was aiming at a thousand hits by June, to double my hits from a thousand for the whole of last year so I am on target!

All I need now is to get going and approach some more galleries to get my work seen by more people.  I'm not so good at this bit, so watch this space. . . 

Two Farewells, far right, sold.  I thought I had taken studio shots of all my drawings and it turns out we didn't - another job to do!

I have sold the drawing, Two Farewells to a friend, who is really excited to own it, which really touched me.  She has generously promised that I can go and see it and that I can borrow it back if I have any exhibitions in the future.  

Winter, packed up, ready for collection.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Endings and Beginnings

My show came down last Monday, without too much stress.  Thanks to my husband Pete for his support; having taken the day off work he lugged stuff pretty much all day because once we got everything home and safely stowed, we then took lots of storage units out to my studio.  Well, I had to make the most of his strength and his car.  That's another bit of space cleared at home, just got to spend some time putting it all back together out at the studio now.

Thanks also to Albert and Geoff, volunteers at Ryedale Folk Museum, who took down the smaller works and turned all the mirror plates round for me.

Partly wrapped History Painting in the foreground Geoff, centre and Albert, right.

Remember these?

I spent a happy evening this week, going through all these floppy discs and downloading the info I wanted to keep onto my computer.  Fortunately the portable floppy reader that Pete bought me years ago, which was still in its packaging, worked!  They contain lots of images of student work and most of the documents I made during my 10 years of teaching at Queen Mary's College, Basingstoke, one of the largest sixth form colleges in the country.  Needless to say, some of the floppies were corrupted after so long and wouldn't read but I think I have enough information.

The reason I need the images is for some research I am doing as part of a proposal I am writing.  For once I have started early on the task and I am hoping that I will at least be interviewed.

Meanwhile, I have sold two more of the pieces that were in my browser and it looks like I have sold one of the small drawings that were in the show, so my tally for the exhibition is: 1 canvas, 1 framed drawing, 4 pieces from the browser.  I think this is quite a respectable number of sales for my first solo show given the current economic climate and I am very pleased with the response my work has had from everyone that saw it.  I photocopied the sheets of comments that the public filled in and I will transcribe them and file them in my evidence log along with the emails I received. 

Now I am going to start to look for new galleries suitable for showing my work, making the prints and artists' books I keep talking about and developing some new ideas that came to me yesterday.  The new ideas would look great as huge paintings. . . . after all I have said about keeping small for the next body of work.  Sigh.

I'm going up to Glasgow at the end of this month to see Chris Thomas, ,who is studying for his MA in Printmaking at Glasgow School of Art.  He has a group show upcoming, which I am looking forward to seeing and we are going to go round the galleries, so who knows, I may make some useful contacts!