31 December 2011

Hair du monde

In Paris, we were staying in an area that surely has the world's highest concentration of hairdressers - from the flat we could look down at "Star Elegance". It was fascinating to walk past the shops (slowly) in the evening and see what was going on - so lively, such social centres! They were jam-packed with men and women having haircuts, extensions, etc - and having their nails done, of course. I wanted to stop and stare, like this lady -


Instead of xmas cards I like to send out New Year greetings, usually in the form of a little book (like these). What with being out of town before xmas, and then being ill and listless and lazy, the little book hasn't happened this year. However, a trawl through the photographs (still part of the ever-ongoing organisation of photos) found some candidates for attaching to an email greeting.  I can't decide which to use - they appeal to me for different reasons, so perhaps writing about them will help with the decision process.

Candidate A was taken from a moving train. I have many photos taken from the train, most of them deleted immediately, but many remaining, with the blurred foreground and glimpses of the distance. This one is somewhere in northern Germany, not that that matters -- to me it has a feeling of brushing aside the near obstacles to get the distant view, and I see that as an optimistic thing. But the overall darkness looks so gloomy -
Sometimes a crop improves a photo - this is less dark and still gives that "brushing away the cobwebs" feeling (to me, anyway!) - but there's less of a sense of clarity of the distant view.

Candidate B is full of light - autumn light - not strictly "new year" -- though even after being out of school for some decades, I still see autumn (the start of the school year) as the true start of the year. Perhaps my attachment to this photo comes too much from the circumstances of taking it: entering a museum to see the coffee shop straight ahead, with this long slit in the dark wall to let light from the atrium into the hall. The cakes were as amazing as might be expected from a place that takes such care over its floral display. Looking at the shapes and colours of the flowers, and the dazzling light, makes me smile.

 In Candidate C, again it's the light that animates the scene - dappled light (like Hopkins' "pied beauty") - along with the cheery colours. On the downside, grafitti is grafitti... though the mural is clever, referencing its own making in giving the figure (a self-portrait of the artist??) a spray can. Is it suitable/meaningful for a greetings card, though?
And is it cheating to use a photo that was taken in 2009?

Puppy love

A pre-xmas scene on the Victoria Line.

29 December 2011

Art I like - Margie Livingstone

Seattle-based Margie Livingstone "makes objects out of paint" - layers of paint, no substrate. She cuts the paint layers into strips to make sculptural objects (from here) or even objects that look like particle board (detail from here) -

Previous work (up to 2008) consisted of gridded paintings of perceptions of space. She talks about her work in a video here. In her artist's statement she talks about "letting accident and discovery meet invention and experiment". Here's another object, from her website -

27 December 2011

Book du jour - folder

Made for a Christmas present, using last year's xmas-y (and sturdy) paper bag from the Tate Gallery on the outside.

Art I like - Laura Ellen Bacon

When Origin had a focus on basketry in 2009 this "nest" by Laura Ellen Bacon hung off the edge of the cube that housed the show (in the courtyard of Somerset House).

Not only is her work large-scale and eye-catching, the way it perches on the edges of things gives it fragility - or vulnerability. I imagine her wrestling with the branches, literally bending them to her will and vision ... much determination and focus is needed to make work like this.

Also the idea of something as 'natural' as a nest in an urban environment teeters on the edge, full of contradictions and disjunctions. What sort of bird?-creature made it? Did they think it would be safe here? Were they intending to use it as a shelter, or was making it just the expression of the nest-building imperative? Instead of laying eggs in it, was there some other agenda, a one-upmanship in the pecking order of the species? Or more rationally - did the artist want to use the structure a way of enlarging something that could go unnoticed- perhaps that animals and birds are adapting themselves to city life? Was it a matter of "there will be nice sharp edge/corner, what will look amazing there"? Does seeing this strange object in this strange place make us marvel at new possibilities? What sort of balance is it achieving?

The longer I look at it, the more strange and wonderful it becomes...

26 December 2011

Art I like - Daphne Corregan

Daphne Corregan's semi-figurative "Breathing" (2009) joins two heads/bodies/jars/pots. It is not a small work - about 60cm high - and is part of a series. (Another of her series is "Twins".)

"Daphne Corregan takes pleasure in distracting objects away from their original function by distorting and stretching them to impossible dimensions in order to magnify them and make them playful. Ceramist and sculptor, her forms originate on paper. It is these drawings which will determine the technique she will need to create them." (Read the entire Ceramics Today article here.)

She also makes "dresses" in heavily smoked clay, giving a range of blacks and greys. These are 145cm high. (Image from here, where you can see more of her work.)

She says of how she divides her time: a third goes to teaching, and of the remainder, half is used in making work, a quarter in research, and a quarter in paperwork and photography.

Her sources are travel to places where people still live in traditional ways, folk art, textiles; some pieces are a response to events like the Rwanda massacres.


 Lovely stuff - especially the 9B ... but it does rub off onto your hands and transfer onto everything else ...
I've been blackening entire pages of a notebook. Very soothing.

Glorious doors of NW10

Dating to about 1905.

25 December 2011

Musical interlude

One of the nice little surprises during our time in Paris was this band in the Metro, making a joyful noise and trying to get visitor participation - we added our messages to the paper they had taped up -

Seasonal greetings

21 December 2011

Last week at college

Last week of the autumn term, that is ... first week of December. On the Wednesday morning Karen and I met in the studio and did some "making" -

I had a yen to make a folder, rather like this one -

For the final "lecture" session in the hall at the Wilsons Road site, people from all the MA pathways mixed and mingled in groups that set out to define and report back on a task.
With groups in each corner of the gloomy hall, it was a bit of a madhouse. The group I was in moved to a table in the hallway and collaborated on a story/picture, representing ... what, exactly? Some people were uncomfortable with the "we don't really know what we're doing, but let's make something happen" idea of it, but others were more than happy to plunge right in -
In the short time available, it was starting to come together - and Lynn's presentation really brought the story together - even though we had made it without knowing what it was. The other groups had interesting outcomes too.
Afterwards, the graphic design group's term's work was displayed in the hall, and they had baked goods for sale towards the cost of their show catalogue -
Plus a chance to chat to the people we'd just met, over a glass of wine. Then it was out into the winter sunset  -
However - even though the next week was "officially" Reading Week - taken at the end of term, before the holidays, rather than sometime in November in mid-term - we had a special lecture from Audrey Niffenegger, who showed and talked about her graphic work, and its relation to her writing. I took no photos, but did make a few notes in the darkness of the hall: how she was influenced by Aubrey Beardsley's work, and her admiration of German printmaker Horst Janssen; her appreciation for the high-school art teacher who gave her extra help to learn printmaking; the advantages of teaching printmaking ("you get to work on this huge range of problems"); Henry Darger and his "Vivian girls";  crows painted onto gold leaf background ("Elysian Fields"); how comforting it is to have a huge body of work; and, if I read my writing right, this quote: "it's always fuzzy at the beginning". Do check out her website; the FAQs are enlightening!

Found gloves

Recently I've had to stop myself photographing various lonely gloves seen lying on the pavement or street. So it's a pleasure to see that Linda Stillman has been doing just that. She also makes good use of left-over paint from the palette used for her daily paintings.

20 December 2011

Still looks fresh to me

Katherine Westphal's "Interior with Dogs" was made in 1984 - and to my eyes, it hasn't dated. I like the knowing use of standard "quilting" techniques, given a twist. A lively composition and great use of negative space.

It's showing in Invisible Lineage at the San Jose Museum of Quilts until 5 Feb 2012.  "Invisible Lineage showcases the work of four influential mid 20th century fiber artists — Mary Buskirk, Lydia Van Gelder, Mary Walker Phillips, Katherine Westphal— alongside works of four late century artists, Pat Abrahamian, Pam Moore, Karen Hampton, and Janice Sullivan."

19 December 2011

Where do ideas come from?

Shaun Tan and Neil Gaiman discussed this -

"ST:...if you get two ideas that are completely unrelated ... and connect them together, suddenly it clicks.
"NG: That is often the answer to "where do you get your ideas from" - two unrelated things come together and suddenly it produces something new. Two or more things...
"ST: Yes, a minimum of two. It seems that they have to be unrelated, because otherwise your brain forms an existing association that's very hard to get away from. It's almost like you have to displace the emotion to examine it. If it's in its nice little gift-wrapped box, if it's packaged in the way that emotions in everyday life are so often packaged, we can file it away. But when emotion is attached to something that is completely outside of experience, it makes you examine it, as though it has no wrapper on it."

Here's a little exercise you can do in your next sleepless night: pick two unrelated things and try to connect them or 'grow' them into an idea.... you'll either get bored very quickly, or get so enthused that you won't be able to lie in bed any longer.
Beats counting sheep! (For the record - image from here)

18 December 2011

Book to page to ...?...

The evidence is that I bought this book in 2007 to keep track of the various quilting and editing committees I was on. My time on these committees has come to an end, so the book is being repurposed. It's too heavy and awkward for taking on my minimal travels, so I tried it out as a receptacle for Morning Moans - nope, that wiry spine gets in the way. All pages with writing have been torn out (about a dozen) and the unblemished book is now in the charity-shop bag. Someone else will be able to put it to the use for which it was intended.

The half-used, torn out pages are receiving my Morning Moans, and will be used and re-used ... because it's not important to re-read this sort of writing, and because I'd rather it not be read. By criss-crossing the writing, I'll have a rich surface to use in some sort of book structure ... or jewellery - like Devi Chand's perhaps
Or Megan Dunn's -
Or plain-old paper beads...

16 December 2011

Poetry takes to the streets

Traffic safety haiku on posters in New York - bold colors and clever words take signs that would otherwise fade into the background into the forefront. "There's a lot of visual clutter all around us," John Morse, the artist, says. "So the idea is to bring something to the streetscape that might catch someone's eye."

Book du jour

Daily bookmaking has been a bit ... missing ... lately - and this isn't really a book, it's a card - the only xmas card I'm sending this year. With any luck, ew-year cards will be emailed in due course - and daily bookmaking will resume.

Orange wrappers

About 200 orange wrappers from the collection of Lothar-Gunther Buchheim are on show till 26 February at the Buchheim Museum, not too far from Munich (but rather farther from London). As a collector of orange wrappers in the 1990s, I'd love to see these examples from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s - such amazingly cheerful graphics.

Alas, these humble, everyday objects are now rarely seen at the greengrocer or market.

The wrapper idea used as an advertising postcard here -

15 December 2011

Art I like - Susan Collins

I encountered the work of Susan Collis by chance at the De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill in 2009 - a show called Seascape. It took me a while to understand what she's doing, but now it's very relevant for my "journey lines" project.

As her work builds up, each pixel is a moment in time. I do the same, in a less discrete way - ie, with less separation of individual moments - while writing my lines: each line represents the duration of a journey, so each point along the line represents a moment in time. This is present time for the writer; past time for the viewer.

Collins' work is described thus: "Susan Collins' gradually unfolding, classically romantic landscape images are harvested and archived over the course of the year. They encode the landscape over time, with different tonal horizontal bands recording fluctuations in light and movement throughout the day and with broad bands of black depicting night-time. Stray pixels appear in the image where the moon passes through or a bird, person, car or other unidentifiable object passes in front of the webcam as the pixel is captured. The work is intended to be slow, a reflection on the ever increasing speeds we demand from the internet. Poised between the still and the moving image, the lens and the pixel, the prints explore how images can be coded and decoded using both light and time as building blocks for the work."

The picture above has been "written" over a number of hours, pixel by pixel, and transmitted from the site of the camera to the site of the screen, miles away. The pixels build up line by line - the light on the water is thus not the light from the sky, because the sky was written earlier. Once the screen is filled, the pixels start at the top again - hence the darkness, because by this time the sky is dark. A wonderful way of bringing the past and present together, and making us pay attention to the invisible workings of a medium we take for granted.

14 December 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Post-essay thoughts

"The liminal area between writing and drawing" continues to nag at me - which is perhaps as it should be, given that we had free rein to choose an essay topic and that we were told to choose something that's of interest to us. For months I researched and pondered the nature of drawing and of writing; then came a rather frantic period of setting down my findings and thoughts. Of course the moment that the "work" went to be evaluated, I had some clarity about its shortcomings - mainly, I used too many case studies and didn't restate my main findings in the conclusion - left them in the discussion of the case studies. So, it falls short in technical terms. And that's a disappointment, because I could have followed the "rules" and done it "right" - but instead I let myself get carried away with something I discovered very late in the writing, namely the "invisible support". After decades of dealing with scientific papers that (often unnecessarily) end by indicating the area in which "more research is needed", I fell into that same trap.

Originally the analysis was going to rest on social anthropologist Tim Ingold's work (2007) on traces and threads, but in the end this took up just one paragraph. If I'd thought to check whether he'd published more on this topic since, I would have found this book, published this spring -
which I bought recently. Opening it at random (to p 224) I found this:

"Drawing is a mode of description that has not yet broken away from observation. At the same time that the gesturing hand draws out its traces upon a surface, the observing eye is drawn into the labyrinthine entanglements of the lifeworld, yielding a sense of its forms, proportions and textures, but above all of its movements - of the generative dynamic of a world-in-formation. In recent anthropology, however, the potential of drawing  to couple observation and description has been largely eclipsed by an overriding dichotomy between the written text and the visual image ... What interests me is that the visual anthropology for which [Anna Grimshaw] calls should be understood as alternative to anthropology in writing. Do we not use our eyes to read and write, just as we do to observe a work of calligraphy or of drawing? Why else does almost every scholar wear spectacles? What does the characterisation of writing as non-verbal tell us about our understanding of vision?"

Interesting questions. It's going to take me a long time to read this book! The dilemma is - where to start? At the beginning ... or with the "drawing making writing" section at the end ...

Art I like - Tim Head

My sudden interest in dust has led (back) to the work of Tim Head (this is "Dust Flowers") - an accretion of computer "noise", which - by using the physical element of the medium to form the work - he has generated.

The site where I ran across the image says: "For Tim Head, the elusive and contrary nature of the digital medium and its unsettled relationship with both ourselves and with the physical world forms the basis for recent work. Computer programs are written to generate unique events in ‘real time’ on screens, projections and inkjet prints that focus on the intrinsic properties of these digital media. The programs operate at the primary scale of the medium’s smallest visual element (the pixel or inkjet dot) by treating each element as a separate individual entity. The medium is no longer transparent but opaque."

But Head doesn't work only in "high'tech"; he has done various drawings of horizontal lines - it was seeing these in a gallery that got me interested in his work. This is "Slow Life", from his website (where you can see a detail) - it measures 59x84cm -