Friday, 31 January 2014

January- Sketch 2013 tour and Tillyer at MIMA

I have been so engrossed in RAW business that I have not had much time for other writing, so here is a brief catch up of January activities:

Catherine Hill, Frome

My trip down to Frome for the opening of the first touring venue of Rabley Drawing Centre's exhibition Sketch on 10th January was good.  The show looked great and was really well attended.  I forgot to take my camera, so no pics, which is a shame.  My book was on a lower shelf in this venue and therefor more people were inclined to pick it up and take a look.

I couldn't be bothered to go back the next day to take some photos as there was too much else to see on Catherine Hill which is a steeply cobbled street lined with fab vintage shops and cafes. Happy days!  I bought a rather nice old suitcase to add to my collection of useful storage at home.

I have managed a new entry in my blog on a-n's Artists Talking site:

Other things I've been busy with:

Pete, pondering Skydancer, 2008, acrylic on stainless steel mesh.

The RAW trip to MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) on 16th January, where William Tillyer  showed us round his retrospective exhibition, Against Nature was a big success.  There were ten of us on the mini bus and another seven met us in MIMA, having made their own way there.  I actually went back for another, reflective look on the following Sunday.

William very generously walked us round the show, giving us an insight into the development of his practice both in terms of how ideas and motifs have appeared and how the use of materials and supports for the work have been explored.  

I was quite envious of his prolonged stays in Australia and Spain because I often think that in order to be able to make work that has real integrity based on a place then a stay of at least a month is necessary in order to get a real feel and understanding of the place.  And this would only entail gathering information in the form of history/folk law, sketches, colour studies, ephemera and photographs before any major pieces might be made.  (That's true in my case, anyway, although I have managed to make work based on specific places and ideas, from a stay of three weeks!)

This piece, Palmer Triple, (The Tapestry Paintings), 2013 is painted with acrylic on a fabric mesh, from the back, entailing a lot of walking round to the front of the work to assess progress.

William Tillyer is indeed a "quiet man"; he is softly spoken and modest about his work when he talks about it, and yet he is sure of his relationship with his ideas and art works; that came through very clearly.  By that I mean that he is completely absorbed with what he is trying to do; he is of course, aware of what is happening in the art world around him and has been throughout his career, but this has not swayed him from the path he chose.  He explores concepts of landscape; land, sky, clouds, space and, in the instance of the work made in Australia; the colour, shape and patterns of buildings within their surroundings.

I think this is one of the attributes of all the good and great artists - they develop their selected language and ideas across their entire career.  And it is the ideas that lead the work, not the "look" of it;  these artists are open to new approaches, techniques, supports and generally trying stuff out to see if it can help express their ideas, they are good at letting things happen too and they don't care if their work fits with current art world fashion or not.

I was fascinated to see how William continued to use the grid from the very early days right up to the present; how it developed from a painted or printed one to an actual one in terms of the supports he uses such as stainless steel or fabric mesh, both construction materials in their own right now appropriated by him to support /become part of his painting.  Married together with the use of colour and brushwork to express his experience of landscape, the ideas of the natural form and more rigid, man made constructs, it makes for interesting work with sometimes quite interesting divisions and struggles going on within it.  

I loved the humour of an early piece, Twelve Stacked Clouds, 1966; as well as the restrained observation it contains. It is a metal plate rack painted a beautiful shade of sky blue with cardboard cloud shapes  painted white slotted into the spaces where plates would have been placed.  This sense of fun was also evident in the large piece, The Age of Anxiety / Figure in a Landscape, 2002; constructed of birch ply it forms a sort of screen either side of which is a table top protruding from it with a stool that corresponds to the height of each "table".  Each side of the screen is painted with great confident strokes of colour; the usual blues and greens with yellow ochre and indian red, referring to landscape.  Wryly, William spoke of the missing figure while, with the words, "I am the only person allowed to do this", he calmly pulled out one of the stools, sat on it and proceeded to become the "figure in a landscape" of the title.  

As for the water-colours; truly awesome!  It is interesting to me that many of our members seemed to prefer the one that was on the wall outside the upstairs gallery; it depicted stormy light across a landscape but I had winced inwardly at a small tree depicted in a dark hue somewhere in the middle ground.  I didn't think it was necessary to put a tree in there when the use of colour and brushwork spoke of land and trees and sky anyway.  I was quite pleased that William didn't seem to like this work very much either and I suspect for the same reasons as I have just described.  His water-colours are very large and the skill with which he manipulates the paint and colour is quite extraordinary, using huge brushes and sweeps of paint to express that sense of being in the landscape with it all around and the weather touching you.  I admire them very much and am grateful that he is continuing the illustrious line of water-colourists from this country who were also able to manipulate the medium with such skill as well as having a profoundly beautiful eye for colour.  (Turner, Cotman, Palmer and many more)

Despite having spent some time in MIMA already that day, signing catalogues, William very kindly stayed for a few more minutes to sign some for RAW members.  It was a real pleasure to meet him and listen to him talk about his work and I shall remember much of what he spoke about for a long time.

Still Life in the Chinese Room (from the Metal Mesh Works), 1978.  Acrylic on steel mesh, wood and cardboard.  One of two or three pieces I wanted to take home!

This last week of January I have been on a visit to London and overseeing boiler installation work yet again,  plus a visit to my studio for a brief day's work.  More of this in the next post!

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