02 September 2014

Art on the River

A new scheme rather like Art on the Underground is launched with watercolours by Clare Woods, views from the river itself -

The posters are at Thames Clipper piers, and on the Woolwich ferry vessels, during September. Let's hope the scheme carries on...

A sample of Clare Woods' earlier work -
Cemetery Bends, 2009; oil and enamel on aluminium (via)
There's an interview with her here. And just to give you an idea of the scale of her work ....

Rediscovering libraries (in London)

"Recent reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated" - was it Mark Twain said that? [Yes ... after hearing that his obituary had been published.]

Reports of library closures continue ... is the library dead? Libraries have morphed from being a collection of books (liber ... libros, livres ...) with an issue desk and reference librarian, to "information services" for the community, including loaning videos, CDs, etc and of course access to online services. Moving with the times, in other words.

Having physical libraries to visit is A Very Good Thing, imho - user numbers are important to keeping them open. Here are some public libraries in London - some are lending libraries, others for reference only.

Westminster Art Reference Library - a place to read the art magazines - is located between the National Gallery and Leicester Square (on the site of Isaac Newton's house no less), and open till 8 most evenings. 
Reading Room at the National Art Library (via)
National Art Library at the V&A also has art journals, and a collection of artists books, and much more. You need to leave your bags and impedimenta in the cloakroom, and to get a reader's ticket, but it's free to use and has an old-fashioned atmosphere. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Barbican Library - somewhat out of the way for me, but I do have a card - and it's possible to borrow audiobooks online. There's usually a small exhibition by local artists there.
Saison Poetry Library at the Royal Festival Hall (more images here)
Poetry Library - hidden away on the South Bank - closed Mondays; search the catalogue online. Some of the collection can be borrowed, and they have many, many poetry magazines.

British Library - you need to apply for a Reader Pass if you want to use the collection (catalogues are online). The building has a bookshop, cafe, wifi, exhibitions, and a permanent display of some Very Important Books - many of which can be viewed online. With Explore the British Library you can search, view and order items from the main catalogue of nearly 57 million records, or search the contents of the Library's website.
Wellcome Building - the library is part of the Wellcome Collection
Wellcome Library - more than just medicine, more than just books - online research resources, a blog, exhibitions, and free talks too. The gallery on the 3rd floor is designated a "non-silent area" where people can chat. The Wellcome Images catalogue is of a collection of over 170 000 historical and contemporary images, covering medical and social history, contemporary healthcare and biomedical science, which can be downloaded for personal, non-commercial use. The library is open to anyone with an interest in the history of health and medicine.

City Business Library has all sorts of business information (as you might expect) - and helpful staff (ditto) - as well as events and workshops related to business growth, from VAT to pricing strategies to stress management...
The Issue Hall at the London Library (via its blog)
The famous London Library - "the UK's leading literary institution" - was founded in 1841 and has an annual membership fee of about £40 a month, which is understandable as it's self-funding. It has over a million books, and there's a booky blog.

Also a subscription library, but in a niche at the other end of the spectrum, is the Marx Memorial Library - subs are £20 a year. The lending section has 46,000 volumes covering a range of subjects including Marx, Engels, Lenin, the Spanish Civil War and the History of Socialism and the British Labour Movement. The reference collection has an extensive holding of journals dating from the 1850's. The Printers Collection is made up of the records, memorabilia and historic artefacts of the printing trade unions of the UK and Ireland.
Marx Memorial Library and Workers School

01 September 2014


Pamela Griffith, First of August, Wattle Day, 1980 (via)
Wattle Day has been celebrated in parts of Australia since 1910; since 1992, National Wattle Day falls on September 1st. (Thanks to Erika for sending along the image, which is held in the National Gallery of Australia.)

Wattles, in this context (there are many kinds of wattles!) refer to the acacia tree. The Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) is the floral emblem of Australia. There are nearly 1000 species of wattle, and it has great resilience. It welcomes in the spring and is one of the first plants to regenerate after fire.

Wattles have featured on several Australian stamps -
1959-60, designed by botanical artist Margaret Stones

Monday miscellany

An unexpected combination
If only these were on sale in the museum shop, instead of going for recycling!
From the Science Museum's "Rubbish" show

Sunny place for a herb garden - but needs a ladder
(it could work on my bike shed roof)
Wang Shu's Ningbo Historical Museum (via)

Looking forward to the Anselm Kiefer show at RA, opening at the end of September ... meanwhile here's a video of him in conversation with Tim Marlow - royalacademy.org.uk/article/117

Useful concept - "taking a mulligan" (as found here) -
The Wikipedia entry for Mulligan is as follows: "In golf, a mulligan is a stroke that is replayed from the spot of the previous stroke without penalty, due to an errant shot made on the previous stroke. The result is, as the hole is played and scored, as if the first errant shot had never been made. This practice is disallowed entirely by strict rules and players who attempt it or agree to let it happen may be disqualified from sanctioned competitions. However, in casual play, mulligans speed play by reducing the time spent searching for a lost ball, and reduce frustration and increase enjoyment of the game, as a player can "shake off" a bad shot more easily with their second chance."

From Knud Leem's pioneering ethnology of the Sami, 1767 (via)
Special box preserves tiny book (57x34mm) - and makes it easier to find (via)

31 August 2014

Seen on the street - east London

We were on our way to The [stitched] Cornershop
and got distracted by a few things along the way, things that might otherwise be overlooked ...
Sprouting lamp post
Wounded lamp post
Dropped shopping lists to photograph in situ (it's an art project)
Meaningful pavement markings
Cryptic pavement markings
Saw-marked wood crying out to be used artfully
Stump in the middle of a vast grassy sward
Stump plunked into a pockmarked strip of earth beside the canal 
Tower-type constructions that will be part of a tower
The Cornershop was delightful - especially the magazine racks -

Seven months in the stitching ... well done Lucy Sparrow!

30 August 2014

Translating the Iliad

Book 1 took 73 days to stitch (via)
Translating Homer's Iliad is what Silvie Kilgallon is doing - translating its 24 books into stitch. Each greek letter will be a stitch (a cross-stitch), with colours changing throughout the books, starting with red and moving letter by letter so that the final book is blue.

Book 1 is finished, and Book 2 is the longest book. "I need to stitch faster" she says on the project blog, Stitched Iliad.
In progress - any embroiderer would love to see the back (via)
From the Guardian's article:

"I started the project in response to a curator showing me a newly built, empty gallery space and asking me what I would put in it," she said.
"My mind immediately sprang to the Iliad.I'd been researching translation, transmission and reception of text issues, so my immediate question to myself was 'Can I produce a translation of the text that allows an audience of non-classicists to appreciate it without understanding the text itself?' The colour translation was my solution."
The initial red colour scheme was inspired by the war, anger and bloodshed featured in the Iliad, which is believed to have been written between 750 and 650 BC.
Research has shown that cultures generally follow a similar order in developing names for colours. Black, white and red appear first, while blue is one of the last colours to be named.
Kilgallon said this was the reason the project starts in the primal colour of red before transitioning to blue, a colour indicative of a more technologically developed society.
She works on her Iliad in public places, "prompting conversations and interactions with an audience receptive to both the story of the Iliad and the story of the stitched Iliad."

Previously, for a project starting in 2011, she has stitched Book I in various ways, aiming to do it "twenty-four times, each time highlighting a different method of analysing the text. My first translation is a simple letter-for-colour substitution, which each letter of the alphabet being substituted for a different colour. When the Iliad was first written down all those years ago, it would not have had the breathings, accents, spaces, or lower case letters which modern classicists would now be familiar with; thus, my translation contains no spaces, punctuation marks, accents, or breathings. Later translations will focus on syntax, metaphor, location, character, etc. Hopefully when it is finally complete, it will be a work of spectacle, aesthetic beauty and complexity worthy of the title of epic."

For instance, here is that work in progress in March 2012 -
The colours are to do with names of characters and family trees.

Later, doubts set in ..."The aim of the first translation and the aim of all the rest is also different: the first translation dealt with metaphor, and how it reveals but also obscures, it dealt with appreciation and understanding. At the moment, I feel like all the rest are just… infograms. They’re just colour-coded charts showing the frequency of names and places. They’re analysing the text in a way which is supposed to be understandable, which seems almost completely at odds with my intentions in the first piece. ... Why do the same thing 24 times, unless you feel the idea is developing further each time (and I don’t think it will)?"

And so the project changed. I can just about imagine what it will look like when it's finished - amazing, in a word - and perhaps this sample of two of the Book I's, displayed during the Lichfield festival, will help you imagine it too -


Following its recent daily changes, and a severe bout of sanding -
the stripey painting is going to have to languish for a while. A rest, a pause, a break. Hiatus.

I've started something new - same size - for which I had a definite starting point in mind ... but it's the first mark you make that determines the future history, isn't it. The first mark was a blog of copper paint
which needed thinning out and then became rather gestural, to be followed by more of the same, in different ways, for instance, blobs sprayed with water -
and then a brushload of really wet yellow paint drawn across the top and left to run down, with more swashbuckling with a small brush, lots of fun! This is how it stands at the moment -
There is an element of stripeyness ... but the new painting seems to have a mind of its own, how good is that? The stripey one wasn't "talking to me" - I wasn't getting much input on what needed doing next. It was all becoming rather automatic.

At the moment the new one is saying "don't you dare go back to the original idea" - which was this -
Sonia Delaunay, 1928 (a dress fabric?) (via)

29 August 2014

Mixed media

The camera takes a look around the studio...
Top row: a layer of yellow paint (inspired by Cy Twombley's Lepanto); lot of biro marks make the paper ripple; snips of fabric (too small for anything else) knotted and strung
Bottom row:  ink and water make a notebook ripple; discharge paste screened onto cotton velvet; pressed flowers bondawebbed under organza

Top row: colour catchers; an inky accident in a Hungarian felt bag; threads - paper, silk, cotton, linen
Bottom row: writing implements, and others, recently used; cutting implements; fabric sorted in drawers by colour

Top row: more fabric behind glass; prints and drawings piled in chronological order; dyeing materials
Bottom row: unused small sketchbooks; pads and loose papers; neglected pens

The "neglected pens" that got this train of thought going are, or rather were, gathering dust in a corner of a cupboard. Thinking to throw out the felt pens - surely they'd be dried out by now, I've had them for 20 years - I also mused that they were not a drawing implement I ever choose to use ... why? because of the dull, flat line they make, and the unwanted darkening of colour when they overlap. But had I explored their mark-making possibilities - of course not.

A few minutes with a pad of scrap paper found that most of the pens were still alive -
As for the mark-making, some variables are: how the pen is held (angle to paper; firmly close to point or loosely at end); direction of line; spacing of lines; pressure on paper; speed of pen across paper. Slowing down was a revelation (I tend to want to Get It Done Quickly).

That was fun, and I really liked the "loose" marks and parallel lines, but I still can't imagine wanting to use felt-tip pens for a project. Hmm, never say never...

(This post is linked to Off The Wall Fridays.)