31 July 2011

How much is that doggy in the window?


Getting out a "new" sketchbook, I found it had been to Canada at some point and accumulated a little collection of the labels my parents wrote on freezer containers.


Searching in the back of the drawer, I brought to the light of day these rolls of exposed film ... how best to bring them to visibility, these images that never were ...?

30 July 2011

Tabloid into tiny book

When Steve Woodall of Chicago's Center for Book & Paper Arts came to visit Camberwell book arts, not only did he give us a fascinating talk but he also proposed revisiting Dieter Roth's project to make books out of the Daily Mirror newspaper. So we gathered ourselves, some copies of the paper, and sundry supplies - and got to work.
Fortunately we could use the automated guillotine downstairs in the letterpress department to cut the newspapers into different sized squares -
Here it is, one issue of the tabloid -
At the end of the session we quite a few little books either finished or in progress - perfectly aligned, clamped, spines glued and backed with scrim -
Coincidence and the cutter produced some interesting juxtapositions -

Book du jour

Thread Cloud 1 - variegated rayon thread zigzagged across and around small sheets of firm paper that came printed with grey "cloudy" smudges. Pages are joined into a concertina with zigzag and make a rather un-cloudy noise when manipulated.

29 July 2011

Book du jour

These pages, destined for japanese binding, have writing on the inside (not worth reading!). I stamped a dozen or so with black and red ink, and then machine stitched (no thread) with lines of straight stitch and areas of wide open zigzag -Under the pictures - what to do about "text" ? Tidy machine stitching, or loose ends all over the place?
Bursts of hand-stitch among the pierced lines ... to resemble words perhaps?

It needs to rest overnight ... decision in the morning ...

Why are artists books invisible?

Although I'm glad the National Art Library at the V&A has a collection of artists books, and that it can be browsed on line, I have some "issues" with the way artists books are presented there.

At the bottom of the page is a seemingly-endless row of thumbnails. I've been looking at them one by one for ... how long? simply ages ... and still they go on ....

The "search" facility at the top of the page applies to the entire website. Nor can you actually search for what you want to search for! I searched for "tetenbaum" because I know the art library's special collections hold some books by Barbara Tetenbaum. Up came the results for "team" - with the always-annoying question: You searched for X, did you mean Y --- to which one cannot answer NO!

Drives you crazy, that does....

So, when your search in google etc lands you on the page showing artists books (http://www.vam.ac.uk/users/album/15001) there is no way, apart from paging through all the thumbnails, to find the one you specifically want information on. You're likely to give up, as there's no way, apart from reading the description of every "thumbnail" shown in the endless list, to find what you're looking for.

And about those descriptions - informative and interesting as they are, sometimes the author/book-artist isn't even mentioned! Standard library cataloguing puts the author first; probably a collection of artists books is more easily kept in order via titles, but not to mention the maker at all falls short of good practice.

End of rant! Despite little things like this, I love the V&A's library in its wonderful room and with the amazing resources. They allow you to take in your camera and take photos of the pages of books (an efficient way to keep visual research notes). You have your seat for the day and can nip out for a coffee or lunch or even a wander round the museum. I do hope it's spared the ravages of funding cuts.

Art I like - Jack Milroy

Jack Milroy uses his computer and printer to make archival inkjet prints that allow him to manipulate found or created imagery, which he then puts under the scalpel to create cut paper and cut film constructions. Here's a closeup of "Flight 4" -
Usually his work is suspended, but "Into the Dark Wood" is encased in perspex -
See work from his recent exhibition in London here - it included this resonant piece (image from here)

28 July 2011

But is it a book?

It's made like a book - but could be a dramatic ring. Wave your hand about and the pages flutter. I just have to work out how to get it to stay on to the finger...

Looking in and stepping back

A short cut from Tate Britain through "the square" at Chelsea College of Art led past this exhibition by Roger Ackling: "The placement of the work is an important part of Ackling's practice, taking into account the architectural setting and the relationship between individual pieces. Through this process the final installation becomes a part of the art work."

This installation consists of tools and discarded boxes (with his trademark sun-made marks) and has the feel - to someone passing by and glancing in - of a vanished rurality. The reflective windows compress the three-dimensionality of the urban setting; by separating the exhibition from the space beyond the gallery, the glass paradoxically brings it into that exterior space, in an interaction that in retrospect gives another meaning to the stacked tower-blocks of the boxes.

Book du jour

Not sure if this is "finished" now - I'm tempted to cut up the pages some more and put them in a different order. But it's just an experiment so it might be time to move on!
Two things were at work here - using various inks to make short vertical strokes on different papers, and the zigzag joins, sewn on the machine, which derives from seeing one of Sarah Morpeth's books ("Robert's Book").

Next -- for one book, however feeble, should lead to another -- is to do more with the zigzagging.

27 July 2011

Book du jour

This one is called "the central idea" and indeed you only see the entire "idea" at the centre of the section -Turning the pages toward, and away from, the centre, you see half of either "when does drawing become writing" or "when does writing become drawing" (which is the point of interest underlying my proposed - and yet to be formulated - essay topic) -
The paler soak-through of the pen made me think of how the "back" of embroidery stitches can be seen through transparent fabric, and I started to draw some lines of embroidery stitches on the layout paper - but quickly ran out of stitches that I was familiar with the reverse of. Making the sheet of paper into little pages allowed trying out various stitches -

I was happiest with running stitches (the simplest!) going from one page to the other, and have started some books using lines of running stitch as "text".

Wordless Wednesday

More delights from Art in Action

Ceramic sculpture by Nicola Theakston -Work by Carole Bury - drawings of birch forests -
and a close-up of her pleated tissue-paper technique (she adds varnish) -
Sarah Morpeth's beautifully arranged stand attracted a lot of interest -
She largely uses cut-paper techniques but had an interesting concertina book sewn together with zigzag stitch, the thread going from black to white to reflect the "disappearing" print on the pages -

More postal excitement

The rest of the books I splurged on last week have arrived. They include the QN book, which I was planning to buy at Festival of Quilts next month -- but ordering it early means there will be one less thing to carry home at the end of the day -I had to open the QN book several times (at random) until it opened to a pleasing spread -
and another -
"Pleasing" is of course a very subjective word. At the moment I'm pleased by abstraction - sparse pattern - monochrome, so the complicated, colourful work will need closer examination and thinking about.

I have a small library of the QN books and return to them again and again. There is much in them that continues to be fresh and engaging.

Art I like - Ana Maria Pacheco

In 1998-2000 Ana Maria Pacheco was artist-in-residence at the National Gallery and from that time I remember her sculptural work - above is "Man with Sheep" (1989). I'm still intrigued and touched by the sense of mystery in the wood sculptures, and find them very "complete" and satisfying on the surface level but with a strong feeling of things-unsaid, stories-almost-told ... in the way that no good story should be completely told, but leave much to the imagination.

At the National Gallery, "Pacheco’s contact with early, pre-Renaissance Italian paintings put her in mind of reliefs and rekindled an interest in confronting the challenges of working between two and three dimensions and using colour." Among her artist's books is "Only a brief time here" (2007) - 2D work for "a series of painted relief sculptures that Ana Maria Pacheco will execute in three different materials: bronze, alabaster and wood. They are painted in tempera with a wash of oil, and some include the use of gold and metal leaf."
See the other 18 images in the series here (from which the images in this post derive). Born in Brazil, she studied music as well as art before coming to Britain in 1973 to study sculpture at the Slade. She practises as a sculptor, painter, and printmaker in Britain and exhibits world-wide. Journeying is a recurrent theme in her work, together with mysterious narratives, melodramatic encounters, sexuality, death, power, magic, and secrets.

Among her print series is "Hairy Legs of the Queen of Sheba" - see it here.

25 July 2011

It looks (kinda) like a book...

Is it art, or advertising? Corner of Bayswater Road and Kensington Mall.

Calligraphic excitement

The ring on the doorbell was the postman, bringing the book by Denise Lach -It opened at random -
I'm very excited and will be spending time with ink, pens, brushes.... living in the liminal area between drawing and writing....

24 July 2011

Book du jour

Like last year, I got a small "academic year" diary, and again covered its nasty plastic cover with a bit of leather. Which will immediately start to look grubby - so it needed a case.

Inside the case - just so there's more than blank cardboard! - I wrote out my annoyance at finding that my fountain pen refuses to write (well, it's about 30 years old and has a rather contrary history):

wherearethepenstheindeliblepensthtwon'truboffonthefragileleatherthatbindsmybooksoemptyoftheyeartocomemust therebeareversiontotheubiquuitous(nopunintended)tothelowestcommon(ohsocommon)denominatoroftheonlypentobefoundineveryroomofthehousetheBICperuchasedina12-pacjandscateredblighely,eminentlyfindableandinevitablylose-able,itsinkhardenedwhenretrievedfromanookorcrannyunderthesofabehindthewainscotinacoatpocketamongthecutleryhiddenwiththebestpairofscissorsfallenbehindthedesk--orperhapstakenoutwiththegarbage(nottherecycling)--pensstillneedednotyetsupercededbytoughonkeypadbyavoiemailmessagepensthatpassethallunderstandingandholddrawn-outandwith-drawncontingenciesofpersonalityandvisionyetare,likeadiary,fullofvitalityneedingafuture

Hope I spelt that right. Thank goodness for word spacing, and punctuation!

One day I'll figure out the secret of getting everything accurate, but meanwhile, it works -
The masking tape? To hide the cracks in the folds!

23 July 2011

Fabric as a medium for art

Recently there's been a lot of discussion on the SAQA list about using fabric/thread as an art medium - would a quilt work just as well if it was a painting rather than made of fabric? Would an oil painting work as a watercolour? Etc. Olga's post on Ragged Cloth Cafe is definitely worth reading on this subject.

The latest Art Quilt News e-newlsetter had photos of several quilts that would have worked well as paintings, and then this, Layers of Memory by Diane Savona, that felt "right" in fabric -
Perhaps this is because its subject references not just fabric/thread itself but also a lot of attributes, memories, feelings, cultural assumptions that are connected with fabric, emphasised by including objects made of and related to fabric. There are layers of meaning, and the piece is self-referential - it "shows how it was made".

Art in Action

Where to start? What a wonderful event! So many artists taking part, and the whole thing is run by volunteers and so well organised. I went to the website just now and found that despite being there all day, we'd missed out on the Market, which has yet more makers and works to buy. Ah well, "next year". I did bring home a necklace made in Mali and one of Mary Lowry's gorgeous woven-shibori scarves, and about 150 photos, many of them of the patterns made by the tents and many more of the toolkits of the artists.
One high point was the chance to make a drypoint print on perspex, with Barbara Jackson. (I shall be doing more of this!) Tony took photos of the action -

Tony's favourite thing was this hand-built wooden sailing boat - beautiful -
Another high point was Julia Polonski's charcoal and graphite work in the Drawing tent -
Note the very few tools she needed to bring, in contrast to the many brushes and colours in use in the Painting tent -
More later...