30 October 2010

Revisiting an old project

Back in 1995, when Tony and I were travelling back and forth from Stroud Green Road to Wrentham Avenue in his rattly, beloved Suzuki, I started a project (in some textiles course or other) documenting the journey. First were the photographs, and some "mood drawings" and prints -
The bench beside the road, several turns beyond Hampstead Heath, is no longer there. "Spooky house" has been renovated and has, in effect, disappeared into the row of other "nice" houses on the street. The Suzuki was sold (and its replacement has also been replaced); the former church, latterly community centre, on the corner has become, after much aggro about the new tower, a mosque. Changes, changes...

Next stage - mapping, a travelogue including the points of interest. Monoprints (on envelopes that had been sent to us) incorporating map symbols -
More textured papers, intended for I no longer remember what; and the almost-final product, the boxes, made of photocopied maps at various enlargements, with a photocopy (this is the pre-digital era!) of the relevant photograph in the bottom. The boxes go inside each other, and I also made other boxes of handmade paper and various painted papers (and maps) soaked in melted wax -
To get this into the realm of stitch, there was an attempt to make a layered, textured "thing" -
The moths found the woolly bits and added another layer of history.

It's tempting to resurrect this project for my current course, and I'm curious as to how different-yet-basically-the-same it would be....

More old work

Charcoal drawings galore - what to do with them? Photograph them, for the record, and then into the bin -
Same with the sheets of work in colour, dating to the mid-90s - illustration, calligraphy, and watercolour courses at London College of Printing, City Lit, and Dulwich art gallery -
I'll keep the pink and blue chinese characters, which is a collage of squares of tissue paper - this was the sketch for a wall quilt, with printed characters, that was shown in one of the Cloth&Stitch exhibitions (1997?) and of which I don't have a photo.

A book-full day

First seminar with Les Bicknell - he had a variety of tasks to keep us interested, amused, and thinking. Listening to sound, and drawing it, and choosing some part of the drawing,
and then writing about that, and passing it around so other people would write other things -
We tried the making-a-sound at home: wrap string around your fingers, hang a wire coat-hanger on the string, put your fingers in your ears, and bang the coat-hanger against various surfaces -
Amazing what you can come up with in about 10 minutes -
There were two slide shows - I took so many notes -

Sculpture in Gloucester cathedral

I'm not going to get to this exhibition, but there are plenty of photos on the net, including a flickr photoset of 34.

It includes two spikey things - Calvary by David Mach -
The other, "Memory Vows", is by Sue Freeborough and is based on the nkisi nkonde sculptures of central Africa - the act of placing a nail in a spiritual figure constitutes a memory of that vow. The slideshow shows her drawings and the making of the figure.

29 October 2010

Studio reconfiguration - some progress

Before -
During -

After -
Tomorrow's first task is to photograph some of the items retrieved from the pinboard. They go back 15 years or so, and most will hit the bin.

On the other side of the room, a (temporary!) installation of everything that was under the bed upstairs, as well as everything that was on the studio bed before it was moved, and some of what was under the studio bed. All to be sorted through... some of these boxes go back nearly 15 years, some I have no idea how long ago they were filled (and forgotten). It's probably a good idea to date things, if only with "Throw out if unused by ...[date]". And then resist the temptation to look inside...

Running Fence revisited

One focus of my research for the "journey lines" project is paths, and things to do with paths/tracks, and things functioning as paths. Enter - or reappear - the Running Fence (1976); I've been watching this video about the Smithsonian's exhibition, which reveals (some of) the hidden aspects of the project: thinking about the role of the extensive documentation, and enjoying the many wonderful photos, especially those by Wolfgang Volz.

In the short interview on the video, Christo talks about making a full-scale model of his (and Jeanne-Claude's) projects in a secret location, to observe the effects of weather etc.

Running Fence needed 2050 post holes - all of which needed decisions on soil, depth, etc for stability. 600 were individually plotted - by hand.
There are many concept drawings of how the fence would look in various terrains.

To decide how the fence would enter the ocean, at least four technical schemes were considered.Negotiating the passage of the fence with the 59 landowners is another part of the story.
As this blogger writes, "The Running Fence project clearly succeeded in calling people beyond their daily charge, inviting them to be a part of a unique historic event, whose legacy now resides in their collective memory."

A fence that united people, rather than divided them.

27 October 2010


From my first tutorial on Monday came this recommendation, which I subsequently encountered quite by chance in the college library and have been reading with pleasure -The conjunctions of words make me smile ... and shake my head sometimes. "The practice of everyday life" was written by a Jesuit, published in French in 1980. It sets out ideas like "Memory is a sort of anti-museum: it is not localizable" and contains phrases like "a mobility under the stability of the signifier" (I went straight to the chapter about walking in cities; it's followed by a chapter on being imprisoned when travelling by train). De Certeau's book is required reading in some social anthropology courses, and theoretically it falls under the phenomenology umbrella; not that its theoretical leaning is important to me - my purpose is to find ideas underlying my art project, not -hurrah!- to pass an exam. (But I digress.)

Also recommended was the John Cage exhibition currently at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge. Just in case I don't get there before 14 November, I bought the book today -Cage (1912-1992) used chance in his composition practice, and chance will be used to determine the layout in each of the exhibition venues.

Perhaps the wiggly lines in his graphic scores will resonate with my "journey lines", or some element of chance might be used in my project - or there could be an idea in his work or writings, just waiting to be found? (Of course you can say that about anything.)

Cage was a big admirer of Marcel Duchamp, and the introduction to the book says: "Today, John Cage's significance for artists is probably greater than at any time since the 1970s. After Duchamp, he is the avant-garde hero most likely to be invoked by anyone interested in expanding the conceptual boundaries of contemporary art. His enduring influence is due as much to his philosophical attitude and ideas, lucidly expressed in his writings, lectures and interviews, as to his work as a composer. An anarchist and exponent of Zen Buddhism, Cage exemplified the subversive spirit of Dada, persistently seeking to unsettle artistic conventions, categories, hierarchies and institutions."

Sky mirrors again

People are really enjoying the Anish Kapoor sky mirrors - I found myself there again on Sunday, a fine bright afternoon with lots of people in the park, and the usual bird life -Since last week, a path towards the large mirror across the Long Water has formed -
One name for such paths is "desire lines". I'm continuing the search for another term, encountered some years ago, used to describe such paths, especially those made by runners who prefer grass, alongside pavements. (During the search I found this walking project that links Detroit and South Africa; unfortunately it seems to have finished in 2006.)

Around the C-curve, the ground is turning into a sea of mud -
Security guards are protecting ... the grass inside the rope.

26 October 2010

Mysterious and gorgeous

Photo of a solar eclipse by E Allen Bicknell, taken in 1925. From a historical astrophotography website (here).

Art I like - Jiri Kolar

Jiri Kolar (1914-2002) is a Czech artist and writer. I first encountered his work in the Worlds in a Box exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1995, in the form of "Nest Box".
The shoes are shown on the website of the Virtual Shoe Museum:

" 'Shoes Or No Shoes' is a project developed over the course of the past 20 years by a Belgian couple of shoemakers, Pierre Bogaerts and Veerle Swenters. They decided to make a connection between their profession and art by means of collecting the shoes of famous artists. Many of these artists transformed their shoes into an artwork or donated a drawing or a painting involving shoes or feet. The SONS-museum includes a contribution of Arman, Baselitz, Fabre, Kabakov, Kippenberger, Oldenburg, Richter, Wesselman … among many others. The permanent exhibition is located in Kruishoutem - Belgium."

25 October 2010

Slight subversion

The author of the current Czech bank notes, Oldrich Kulhanek, found inspiration in them and created a "funny money" series.

22 October 2010

Tale of a cupboard

Well, we had to get the plumber to look at the boiler (which seems to be working ok now - except that the radiators upstairs are boiling hot all the time!).

So, the boiler is in a cupboard in the corner of the workroom and the rest of the cupboard is fuuuuuull of fabric and other stuff.

Well, the cupboard had to be cleaned out so she could access it...

So, we spent an hour taking everything out. (I rediscovered some useful black bags, and many other things.)
Well, most of it ended up on the bed. I'm not showing you that section of the room.

So, after the plumber left we cleaned up the cupboard and started to put things back in. Just the things that "should" be there. First Thomas added a shelf. Then the stack of baskets with white fabrics went back in. And my rolls of bookbinding etc paper. And there's a place for the ironing board to be put away.
Well, that's all very nice - but most of the things from the cupboard are still on the bed!

So, what does this do for my lifelong dream, realised with this room, of being able to leave the ironing board out?

Well, maybe I won't be doing much ironing in the next wee while?

ps - while clearing the floor I got rid of 90% of the non-portfolio-worthy worksheets from the foundation course. Some of the papers have been saved for making book maquettes.

First week

The longer stay in Canada meant that I started my new course, MA Visual Arts (Book Arts), at Camberwell a week late. I was plunged straight into the deep end, with Symposium 1 - a day of 5-minute (powerpoint) presentations from everyone on their current practice. (I didn't manage using PPT - obviously a skill I need. It's on my list...)

By lunchtime the diversity of country of origin, field of former study, and projected work was getting a bit overwhelming. Backgrounds include writing, multimedia, graphics, moving images, literature, fine art, illustration, copywriting, dance, textiles and fashion. The projects I most related to were those using fractured type, journeys through buildings, conveying happiness, minimal landscapes, embryonic words, and subversion in libraries.
At that point we were running about 30 mins late - not bad at all. I remained in the room to try to let the jetlagged brain catch up with the onrush of information -
Outside, waiting for the bus, a moment of sunshine before rain -It wasn't till the next day that I finally finished enrolling, but now that I have a copy of the handbook and "the card" I'm starting to feel less of an interloper -
Of course one of the requirements is a "reflective journal" - reflecting our raw thinking - so far mine consists of scribbling on pink post-it notes (kept at the bedside) during the long waking stretches of the night, and on little yellow ones while watching art videos -
A big help with "reflection" is the blogging. I'm excited about the course and being with people who like developing ideas for books of various sorts, and looking forward to seeing where my research proposal - to develop the TravelWriting - will lead. Our first project is to rewrite our proposals (by 14 Dec) - this is the time for doing lots of research. Then, an essay ... the topic will probably originate in the research we do for finalising the proposal. And it's a good idea to do something practical - make book maquettes, for example - alongside.

Next week: a tutorial, two seminars, and inductions for the printmaking workshop and the letterpress workshop.

21 October 2010

Drawing with fabric, painting with thread

Louise Bourgeois' "fabric drawings" are on show in London till 18 December. "A life-long hoarder of clothes and household items such as tablecloths, napkins and bed linen, from the mid-nineties Bourgeois cut up and re-stitched these, transforming her lived materials into art. Through sewing she attempted to effect psychological repair: ‘I always had the fear of being separated and abandoned. The sewing is my attempt to keep things together and make things whole’."

This article
, which has pictures of her textile books says: "While she spent much of her career as a sculpture, working in bronze, marble, resin, wood, and latex; in her later years, she turned to textile art, producing two and three dimensional stitched and embroidered works in fabric. For an artist whose primary sources of inspiration were childhood memories, this return to textile art seems fitting, since she spent much of her time as a young girl working along side her mother in the family’s tapestry restoration business."

It has a link to an article in the New York Times, which answers my question: did Louise do the sewing herself: "She cut, pinned or basted the pieces, which were then sewn into the final work by Mercedes Katz, a seamstress who has long worked with the artist." One of the books is being produced in an edition of 25 - not without a few problems...

In the exhibition, the cumulative effect of the framed "drawings" is wonderful. Also, knowking that they're made of a lifelong collection of clothes and household linens, you see the importance of keeping (or disregarding) the signs of age in the textiles that were used.

Ghada Amer is a New York painter who uses embroidery thread. This is from a review of her recent exhibition:
"Though Amer's trademark material is brightly-colored embroidery thread, she primarily considers herself a painter. Her use of embroidery as paint intentionally confronts the traditional, male-dominated terrain of the medium and its academic equivalent in art history. Widely associated with femininity and domesticity (darning, sewing, needlepoint), the act of stitching is redefined by Amer's less tidy compositions. She often leaves excess threads and knots dangling; this additional layer of "mark-making" abstracts and obscures underlying imagery. Her technique also gives an organic, fluid sensibility to the meticulousness of the embroidery process. Amer reclaims lost territory: the skeins of thread accompanying her embroidered lines echo the drips and gestural brushwork of the Abstract Expressionists, and insists on an intimate reading of her work."

20 October 2010

More reading

Thanks to Pitt Meadows library for enlivening my fractured nights. The book on crows can't hold a candle to Crow Country by Mark Cocker, but the novels (by Canadian authors) were entertaining. The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson is the poignant story of Ambrose and Zappora. David Adams Richards' book is the first in a trilogy, set in a small town in New Brunswick; I found it annoying at first but persisted and find it sticks in my mind.

A Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart was just the ticket - there are many artists among the characters - using paint, textiles, and the landscape to make art. The book starts with a quote from Robert Smithson, and was full of quiet places as well as suppressed drama. I was impressed also by the description of dementia - losing your mind, losing everything - in the first chapter.

19 October 2010

For special days in the studio perhaps

My mother's collection of aprons - some never worn. I brought the taffeta and tassels home with me -

17 October 2010

Kapoor's concavities

As soon as I got back to London I wanted, even before catching up on sleep, to go see some famous-name art. What better than the sky mirrors by Anish Kapoor in Kensington Gardens?

The one in the Round Pond is called Sky Mirror, Red -
Non-object (Spire) reflects a part of itself -
Sky Mirror is reflect in the water below, and transforms itself all the time. The reflected sky seems to be expanding as you watch -
Perhaps the most intriguing is C-Curve -- there's nothing quite like seeing yourself reflected -
... or distorted, or upside-down --
I was intrigued by the way the plinth carried on - or didn't - in the reflection, in various views.

Turning the World Upside Down is reflecting seasonal changes till 13 March 2011.