28 June 2008

Wandering and looking

"I like the ease at which I can waste whole afternoons looking at things" says the narrator in one of the videos by Simon Martin that are showing at Tate Britain's Lightbox until 27 July. They deal with making art and looking at art. One is an "exploration" of an ostentatious bookcase made in 1981 by the design group Memphis; the other is a musing on the experience of visiting museums (etymologically very good places for musing) (or for amusement).In Wednesday Afternoon ("a minor masterpiece of poetic discretion", says the New York Times) "a male narrator with a neutral mid-Atlantic inflection ["an anonymous Canadian" - who better?] muses on the experience of the contemporary museum visit. Accompanied by a sequence of lingering shots of artefacts and interiors from the British and Victoria & Albert Museums ranging from the Elgin Marbles to casually dressed visitors - the narrator comments he is 'less interested in endless amounts of stuff pressing into the moment than in the unforeseen combinations of objects and people, the lashes of feeling, the semiotics of tourist leisurewear'." - so says the leaflet accompanying the exhibition.

Apart from the thought-provoking commentary, it was pleasurable to see scenes and artefacts and think "I know where that is" and "gosh, must get back there soon and look at that again".

What better way to "kill time" by wandering around museums -- places that transcend time.

Similar simultaneity, and other opportunities for using time in unscheduled ways, exists on (in?) the internet. Where to wander, what to look at? Click on a link and be surprised ... thus it was that "The Birth of Adam" by prolific Israeli artist Ron Gang caught my eye -Another kind of aimlessly creative looking happens in magazines. I photographed these in the Tate Britain shop because of wanting to remember to look up the artists, Dod Proctor (1892-1972, worked mainly in Newlyn, Cornwall) here -and several of the ceramicists listed on the cover of Ceramic Review -
You can see Carolyn Genders' work here.

If you keep your eyes open, you never know what you'll see. A few days ago, this postcard was lying in the street, waiting to be rescued:The painting is called Meadow and it's by Kitty Stirling (another of her works can be seen here). "Meadow" seems to cry out for some stitches in the foreground....

25 June 2008

Street jewellery

Several views of my new neckpiece by Linda Hughes, an up-and-coming Melbourne jeweller who makes amazing pieces in laminate. Along with the necklace - a birthday present, thank you Erika! - came a little book showing more of Linda's work - pendants, bracelets, brooches too - The essay by Sarah Jane Ross starts: "Historically the stripe has always been the naughty cousin of the polka dot. Not so cute and innocent, stripes have always been located in the margins of society." A thought to think on, on...

The essay continues: "the stripe is also menacingly draconian, dictating an edict but daring us at the same time. ... The stripe as an urban symbol reassures us, satisfying our society's obsession with safety and control."Even circles can be stripey, full of "trickery [that] renders the viewer unable to distinguish the background from the foreground."
Here is the vocabulary of the stripe, (not so) "subtly present in our urban environment" -
Once you see Linda's work you really start to notice the "jewellery of the streets".

21 June 2008

What's in a book?

Hurry to the V&A to see Blood on Paper, a display of artists' books. It's been on since 15 April and has only a week left - finishes 29 June.

Is a projection of shifting words on a wall a book (commission by Charles Sandison)? How big can a book be? What does a wallfull of splattered plaster snowballs (installed by Not Vital) have to do with books, anyway? Can a suitcase (Francis Bacon), or a cabinet (Damien Hirst), really be a "book"?

It was Anselm Kiefer's books that really grabbed me. Not just because they're so big, but because they're so beautiful. The pages would be hard to turn (you're not allowed to touch them of course) - that would make "using the book" an important matter indeed. Then there's the method and materials question - how did those particular marks get onto the paper - and is it paper anyway?Looking for a picture of a book by Kiefer, I found this 1.5m-wide spread from one of his Secret Life of Plants volumes on the blog of woolgathersome - amid a treasure-box of diverse and haunting images, poetry, and music recommendations. So much to follow up on there. And for the image-hungry I'd also like to recommend theartofmemory - which is opening my eyes to narrative via film stills. How about "pictures in search of sounds" then?

Hmm we seem to be moving away from books... Another favourite was the Spanish sculptor Chillida - this image is a 1995 print, Ibiza -
Also memorable: Cai Guo-Qiang, "the fireworks guy", was shown on video making a"suicidal fireworks" volume -- inserting a firework in a big book and exploding it. The finished book is lying meekly in a case, and there's a pic of it happening on the V&A site.

16 June 2008

Reductionist collage?

London Underground is updating its posters. When they get roughly torn off, some interesting abstracts emerge, don't you think?

14 June 2008


Some discussion of using a restricted palette in painting - even just two colours - and how this might translate into working with fabric, somehow fed into a couple of dyeing sessions, both based on turquoise. In the first I also used scarlet as the second colour and also a bit of indigo in some of the mixtures. The fabric is salvaged from some "vintage" German duvet covers; it's done with Dyrect dyes in the microwave -The fabric for the next session turned out, in the light of day, to be curtain lining rather than sateen, which may account for its rather muted colours (compared to what I was expecting). Rather more scrunching of fabric, and the second colour is black. These are procion dyes, and I found some splotchy scarlet bits to overdye -
Having found some threads that might work in whatever emerged from these fabrics, I was delighted to run across this pic by Klee in a 2002 patchwork magazine -- this was in the memorable Klee exhibition at the Hayward -
Looking through my books on Klee also turned up these inspiring paintings --
But I've designated the rest of June as Nothing New Fortnight and won't be starting a new piece with the new fabric just yet.

11 June 2008

Kettles again - and thoughts about planning quilts

Thanks to everyone who gave input on what to use for the borders of the little kettle piece. Your input really got me thinking, especially because there was no unanimous choice. So I went back to the stash and chose these.The fabric on the bottom was once a tablecloth that was once used on the boat, where the copper kettle lives. (And before that it was intended as a sarong.)

The borders are now securely attached, and today while stewarding at the London Quilters exhibition (which you can see, quilt by quilt, here) I started quilting them.

This piece is evolving step by step; I woke up one morning with the idea, and got on with it, and am enjoying seeing it develop.

Some people advocate doing all the planning before starting any of the hands-on stuff. In her article in the Summer 2008 issue of the SAQA Journal, Brett Barker advocates doing multiple sketches: "If you can manage to do three or four sketches, you will find that your idea will refine itself without any conscious thought at all." When her "creative" brain has come up with a final sketch, her "thinking" brain can make fabric choices: "Doing preliminary work through sketches allows me the freedom to create without stress - the hard part is done. I can now sit back, relax, and watch my idea realize itself in thread and fabric."

Sounds like a good way of working - or is it a counsel of perfection? Elsewhere I've heard people express horror that some people don't draw anything out before starting a quilt, don't use sketchbooks, don't spend "enough" time planning. Is that always so bad? Is it a Golden Rule to spend 50% of your time doing the planning? Consider the oriental method of working: visualise the result and then do the work; if the outcome seems good, put it away for a few months, then reconsider. Yet another approach is to "act like an artist": do something, and respond to the outcome.

Which of these is (or are) the most appropriate for something as labour-intensive, and as drawn out, timewise, as a quilt?

There are probably as many ways of doing the creative work for a quilt as there are artists making quilts. But let's hope there aren't "design police" ready to lay down the law on this - there are already too many "quilt police" busy inspecting the finished items.

10 June 2008

Birthday presence

The birthday weekend found me in Paris; on return I was given these lovely flowers -And when he got back from his photography trip to Yellowstone, That Lovely Man made me this special apple cakean produced this amazing pincushion he'd found in a little antique store - complete with its story; it used to belong to Elsa, who made clothing in New York -
and from nearer home, these tootoo gorgeous soaps -
There were other flowers, and also a special prezzie from Australia, but I'll say more about that another time.

09 June 2008

How's your noise footprint?

In an era where, as soon as you have three people in a room at least one will have a ringing mobile phone, and when everything seems to have its own annoying beep, and the buses talk at you, here are some prophetic words.

"Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life."--Jean Arp
This is Arp's "Silencieux", 1942.

04 June 2008

This will be a long post

because of the long pictures showing the quilt-in-the-making, which is 1.40m long (and 30 cm wide). It started with some stamped chinese characters, for which I used black acrylic paint on gold dupion. Characters representing flower, beauty, harmony, grace, peace, love got jiggled around to resemble (sort of!) the 4-character poems that are put either side of the door for the new year. I stamped quite a few and chose the ones that turned out best, then laid them out roughly on a long strip of fabric, to figure out what the finished size would be.The dark squares are placeholders for pieces of flowery silk damask.

Then the sections of batting were cut to the desired finished dimensions, and the "silk" squares positioned more carefully.
Here are the actual silk pieces in place. Most are vintage, and some scraps are quite small.
The luscious silks for the stripes that will fill the rest of the space had been pulled earlier.
Now those colourful silks are cut into strips ranging from 5/8inch to 1-1/4inch wide, lined up along the ironing board, ready to sew.

"The Harrods of the east"

... that's how Bergh Apton post office bills itself. Amazing range of goods!Including ice creams, which Clio and I enjoyed -Meanwhile, back at the ranchthere were Helen's Polish white bantams
(with attitude) -and kittens, five kittens -
(Onto every blog some cats must appear.)

I was entranced by the pondits reflectionsand the ripples that came, collided, disappeared -

03 June 2008

Sculpture trail

The Norfolk village of Bergh Apton puts on a sculpture show every few years--
The lovely grounds of some fine old houses get filled with sculpture - and visitors -
The woods and fields around the Manor House were full of interesting work by students at the Norwich School of Art and Design, including these turf pyramids -
a number of eggs (broken and put together again) hanging from a tree that had a birdhouse already in it; about a dozen clay hands waving, not drowning, in the long grass of the field; an installation with silk banners; this figure looming over and shadowed in the lake -
and this understatement -
Elsewhere in smaller gardens, smaller but no less thought-provoking works (this one by Ann-Mari Stevens) -And who can resist playing statues?The lissome lady is by Vanessa Pooley. The sculpture trail is also open on 7 and 8 June.

02 June 2008

Starts this week

... and runs till 12 July, in Dudley (near Birmingham). Its 48 pieces measuring 30cm x 120cm include my "With Every Heartbeat", which started as a journal quilt --Also "north of Watford", in the autumn Cloth & Culture Now moves to the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. I saw it in Norwich yesterday (its last day there) and found a revelation about what's being done with textiles in the Baltic states, which of course were occupied by the USSR for several decades. Textile traditions were one way of retaining national identity (in Estonia and perhaps Latvia and Lithuania too, singing/music was another) - but the works on show moved beyond tradition. Others of the 35 artists represented come from Finland, Japan and the UK, and the show includes 3D, which is not surprising, and video - which is.