31 August 2012

Art I like - Mary Pritchard

Mary is a photographer and ceramicist. Her project at Central St Martins, "Rooted in time", looked at ancient heritage trees (including the Crowhurst Yew), and all her work reflects different aspects of the natural world. Her work also encompasses "potential beauty in the ordinary" and memory.

I don't know how Mary's layered, almost cubist, photo of this old tree came to be in my photo files; I think it captures an important aspect of "treeness".

Found art Friday

Railway bridge, London SW8

30 August 2012

Arts event, Lewes

While sorting out heaps of paper yesterday (it certainly piles up, given half a chance!) I found the leaflet for artwave2012, an open studios event in and around Lewes which has two weekends left to run.

One of my books, the one with the swaying trees, is part of "The Nature of Art" in Swanborough - 
 What struck me most in the entire leaflet was this painting by Dawn Stacey, which cries out to be a quilt, don't you think? -
It's no surprise, on looking at her website, to discover that her first degree is in textiles. Here's another of her paintings, "Fragements of Memory" -

29 August 2012

Daily drawing - the right materials (and a warm-up)

Setting up the habit of daily drawing is something I've attempted several times - but the habit has never stuck, because I didn't make it past the first week. Not enough motivation ... or something ...

It's impressive to come across people who do have that habit (or need, compulsion, obsession) - one such is Patti Roberts-Pizzuto, who blogs at missouribendstudio. She raises a concern that is close to my heart - using the right materials, satisfying materials. Recently she changed from using commercial ledger sheets (left side of pic) for her daily drawings
and now (right side) traces the main lines of the sheet before starting doing the drawing - or, is the tracing part of the drawing... I'm thinking that this "mechanical" start to the task would be a good way for someone who draws reluctantly but would like to be more enthusiastic about it to get into the habit of daily drawing - you know the first thing you'll be doing and it's not a scary thing, just making a set of lines, right? ... and then before you know it, even while you're warming up by doing the lines, you have an idea for what to draw... or simply want to use a different pen .. or something comes along to respond to  ...

After all, it's only a drawing, right? And there'll be another chance to do something different tomorrow!

That digresses from "the right materials" - we all have favourite pens or pencils or whatever, and they work differently on different papers. Patti realised that commercial paper wasn't giving satisfaction, and has ordered in a lot of handmade paper. I love the idea of having a big stock of something that you know is right for you - it removes another of the barriers to getting started if you don't have to make a decision about which-paper-which-pen every day ... you can Keep It Simple and concentrate on the doing. You have a pleasure to look forward to, not a chore.

Reflection - erasure updated

Being "public" about the thinking behind the work I've been making  causes me to think and write about it more clearly. Sometimes "I know what I think when I hear myself talk" - and usually my initial thoughts are left to mellow, and rigorously edited, before being posted. Another consideration is that it forms part of the "reflective writing" for our final assessment. 

[I found this post, written at least two months ago, while going through drafts - it's too late to be part of the assessment ... more of a historical document now. I'm intrigued to read a piece of writing that I've entirely forgotten about, and had saved with the intention of reconsidering and editing it.]
My work on erasure goes back to a comment, years ago, that a friend liked to go through her old notebooks and cross things out because they're finished with. At the time I was incredulous at this destruction of evidence of the past - this was an entirely new idea to me. I was stuck in the groove of "all writing is sacred and must be kept; anything that has had time and effort put into it must be kept" and also "you never know when something will come in handy" or indeed, when you might have to make-do because the money has run out. (Well, after those affluent times years ago, we're getting dangerously close to that money-running-out scenario, so those of use who spent a lifetime making-do are ahead of the game!)

The struggle with letting-go is probably familiar to a lot of people - part of our "personal journey". Through a set of chronological coincidences, I get to rationalise this letting-go as part of my art project, so that should make it easier, right? Or at least, it makes it justifiable, or worth spending time on. However, at this point "letting go" is tangential to the revised project, even though that revision is a revision - from "journey as line" to "line as text" (and possible, line as text-without-language). 

Before the complete erasure - before the inky books and the filletage - was the over-writing. From this I wanted illegibility of the text and "just the look of the thing", and also to spend time doing something that is pure enjoyment for me, ie engaging with the (polished, crafted) thoughts of good writers, and through developing the format of these works, improving my own crafting and polishing skills. I was aiming, in the aesthetic, for something not obviously mysterious. A clarity of what the work is -- how it can be "read" -- and a, what, an intriguing ambiguity behind that, so the reader doesn't have to "understand" the text and yet doesn't feel it's a "foreign language". [It will communicate through the feeling it evokes.]

Feeding into this also is my own frustration with what I think of as "complicated artists books" which have been so overworked that their richness has become a daunting series of codes, hurdles, traps, puzzles -- and the reader loses interest because they are deterred from trying to make sense of it all. Perhaps it's the reader's own "fault" that they don't see this work as intriguing? Is it about the artist showing how clever they are?  These complicated books hardly seem to be about communication. Maybe the lack of communication is due to impatience on the part of the reader, not taking enough time to really get into the book. Why would a reader want to, though ... there has to be some perception of connection, some arousal of curiosity - or perhaps these books only work if the reader knows of their background, eg the reputation of their author.

The work using erasure started [in January  2011] with an obliteration of the words in daily journals written more than a decade ago, done as a supplementary project because I had the books to hand, needed something for an exhibition, tried to carry the "journey lines" further, and liked the look of the results.

The over-writing probably goes back to the over-printing I was doing [more than] a year ago, using the "journey lines". At the same time I was starting to think of how line itself could be text, that is, how it could be "read" on a page. So the over-writing became a conflation of line and text - "line as text" becoming "text as line". It became a meditative practice, and in a small way an exploration of materiality. When I get back to "a quiet space" (after the [Wilson's Road] show) I'll do more of this. [Yup, did that!]

An offshoot is the over-written sonnets (which led to flirtations with punctuation and stitched syllables). I started memorising them as a way of generating the dense lines, and found that keeping 10 sonnets in mind at once needed a lot of revision. This has lapsed rather, and in that fact lie possibilities for follow-up work, along the lines of tests of memory. You really notice when you lose a section of sonnet - the lines don't add up to 14 - and you notice when you get the words wrong - the syllables don't add up to 10. As for getting the words right....

Perhaps the current manifestation of my project - loss of language - sprang from this close work with the sonnets. [And isn't loss of language - loss of memory - the biggest erasure of all?]


After breathing the pure serene of the 2,952 trophies in the Pursuit of Perfection exhibition at South London Gallery I toodled along to Brixton, where a juxtaposition of edifices recalled the glories of the trophy exhibition -

St Matthew's church, a "chaste specimen of classical architecture," was one of the "Waterloo churches" built in the early 19th century. The extravagant memorial, at the junction with Effra Road, is to Richard Budd ("of Russell Square"; 1748-1824) and was built in 1825. SirJohn Soane designed the artwork.

28 August 2012

It's all over but the shouting

The room looked so serene this morning, with the sun streaming in. (The work under tables etc is supporting work - research and reflective journals.)
I set the lights blazing so that Blue Distance is glowing -
And there it sits till 5 September, when we take the supporting work away and get ready for the party - the private view. It feels unreal.

During this week I'll be making a couple of books for the exhibition shop, and writing out all the names of people I've known or met throughout my life, to include in the Big Red Ball of Connectivity, which will be added to daily throughout the show - my working hours will be 12-2 and 5-8 (Saturday 11-5). The show is open 10am to 8pm from 6 Sept to 13 Sept - but is closed on the Sunday. Other departments at the college also have their MA shows - more info is at camberwell.arts.ac.uk - and next door, at the South London Gallery (till 14 Sept) is an amazing roomful of sports trophies, 2,529 of them, to be exact, of which this is a corner -

Also this week I'll be reading a novel, doing some housework, going shopping - having a normal life! And doing my morning stitching, throwing out some old stuff while tidying the studio (hopefully), and thinking ahead to what to make for the Al-Mutanabbi Street project and the Hadleigh book fair. And updating my website, maybe. 


You do strange things at the end of the day, don't you .... As I write, I'm waiting for glue to dry, having decided to fix the broken spine of the notebook, rather than buckle down and finally, finally - after about a month of procrastination - make the index -
There seems to be one task that gets inexplicably delayed - something  the doing of which signals: It's All Finished Now! (Perhaps I'm resisting that "finishing" moment?)

The index to Notebook 7 will take about an hour to do and will look rather like the index to Notebook 6 -
There's half an hour before leaving for college, and about half an hour useful working time on tube and bus.

This is the inexplicably large heap of supporting work that needs taking to college -
While gathering the reflective writing, I felt the need to write a summary of each project; that took a big chunk of yesterday. At the start of the day, the list was long; at the middle of the day, I found my timings were (inexplicably) rather underestimated -
At the end of the day, three low-priority items, including two I added "in case there was time," fell off the list.

Tomorrow:  getting back to the morning stitching, and making books for the shop at the show. Before that, though, a big sigh of relief that it's all in place!

27 August 2012

Nearly forgot these

These are the objects that started off the idea of "memory balls" - arising from a half-formed idea of different types of words staying in memory for different reasons ... something vague like that ... a thought I return to now and then. I found them still "in progress" and set to finishing them, cutting words from the big-print sections of the newspaper. The "long words and phrases" was easy to wrap -
"Self-image" was a little gift from the gods and I left it on the outside on purpose - we can all do with a bit of reflection on how memory is important to our self-image ... not just that having a good or a poor memory is part of "who we are", but a more basic thing - without our memories, without knowing who we have been, we can't "know" who we are now.
The "hard-working short words" ball was a nightmare to wrap - that fishing line has a mind of its own, and the little words kept falling out as wrapping progressed. Liberal dots of superglue at junctions of the line were helpful. Superglue takes quite a while to dry, so there were enforced waiting times between layers of wrapping.
I'll leave it here, while "hope" is still visible.

26 August 2012

Last-minute wrapping

The lavender ball worked well, and there is a rosemary bush by the front gate, so I did a bit of pruning and wrapped the twiglets into balls of various sizes -
 They aren't as fragrant as the lavender ... perhaps because the rosemary is fresh?

And these three small balls incorporate rusty bits from the toolbox that was on the canal boat, Forget-Me-Not, when she sank during a storm while moored outside Reading a number of years ago. She was subsequently raised and refurbished, and the toolboxes kept ... for this project, it seems ...
They incorporate big old rusty tacks. Lots more rusty things in that toolbox - what is it about guys and their collections of useless, delapidated tools and "bits"?

25 August 2012


All that's missing is the lights in the Blue Distance box. And the exhibit labels. And my new red "being part of the exhibition" shoes.

Oh those lights - having decided on the type of LED light, I spent hours making 4 little boxes to hold them (so many decisions about height, depth, materials). Then into town to the hardware store to get the other three lights, and rechargeable batteries - the cost approached £50, but never mind, some people have had greater expenses... On to the paper shop to get some glassine (45p a sheet) and there on the counter, business card boxes reduced from £1.20 to 50p - useful little boxes for holding things, so I bought four. And they happen to fit the LED lights perfectly, plus with the top coming off easily, the lights are easy to turn on and off. All that's needed is some tracing paper taped around the top, to diffuse the brightness of the light -
Unfortunately, the light with rechargeable batteries, left on all day while setting up the show, was quite dim by the end of the day. And though the lights have the convenience of a hanging hook and magnet on the back, they also three little screws to undo in order to get at the battery compartment.

Having the lights behind the blue books really does make a difference. That display still has a few kinks that need to be ironed out - with the lights behind, the space for spreading out the books is rather restricted - and though the names of the individual books, which are on their envelopes, are important (to me, perhaps only to me...) they are lost as there isn't space for the envelopes - and the label with the titles is likely to be on the other side of the display. (A uniform positioning of labels has yet to be decided.)

Some possibilities - dangling or lying about
 Another possibility is to discreetly tape the label onto the front of the book -
It will look different on the blue books, but the double thickness isn't appealing. This has to seep through the subconscious for a while...

Getting the show up

At the end of the day, all the clutter was taken away, the floor was washed, the assessment work put beside the displays. It'll sit there quite happily over the weekend. Sighs of relief are being breathed....

The ladder was the last thing to go. Ladders have been a problem, one way and another!

Across the way is "the dark room", for projection, and also the shop, with three further displays. Two people have their displays in the corridor.

A glimpse of one of the printmaking rooms, at the end of the hallway -

Lavender ball

Circles of lavender-coloured linen were sewn together, gathering as the sewing went along, and then filled with dried lavender and sewn shut. 
The ball was fairly solidly stuffed with lavender but had to be massaged into shape as the wrapping went on -
Boring beige ... with a lovely smell -
It took less than an hour to make.

23 August 2012

Naming round, wound things

"Naming" each of the memory balls has been on my mind, though some would say they don't need names, that it's better that they are mysterious. It could go either way. I'd like to make a book with "portraits" of each of the balls, and some text ... a word, a quote ... but this is low down on the loooong list of priorities at this point.

Here they are in once place, in the order of their making -
Having compiled that, I remembered taking a photo of them laid out on the plinth - it shows the relative sizes.
Some are light and some are surprisingly heavy. Not all are comfortable to hold.

The "balls of words" - one of the sources of this line of thought and work - aren't quite finished, and of course the big red ball of connectivity will be made during the show. I'll be taking of photo of its progress every evening (if I remember!).

It would be good to have one or two with a scent - lavender (in the Victorian language of flowers, lavender is for remembrance) or rosemary ("There's rosemary, that's for remembrance: pray, love, remember" said Ophelia).

Materials and techniques revisited

One of my final "little" tasks is to go through all my files and boxes and heaps of paper - I'm looking for a couple of lost books, can't remember where I put them (which in itself is appropriate for my topic...*) and in doing so I found some "research" that won't be part of show or assessment - but I'd like to put it here,for the record. 

These are experiments with graphite, ink, wax, using various kinds of erasure: scratching out, covering over, hiding under layers of (variously dense) darkness and (variously opaque) whiteness. They are "play" and they are variously successful; they are layered somewhere in my repertoire of possibilities.

They need revisiting every now and then, to keep them from getting forgotten.

Seeing these leads to thoughts about the techniques and materials I ended up using - cutting holes (to reveal what's underneath); winding thread (to hold, hide, and sometimes leave showing); assemblage (words cut from dictionary pages); layered writing (as an attention device for me, and a change of meaning for the viewer);

*another instance of this "reflexivity" - nature imitating art - is the tortuous process of arriving at text for the labels for the pieces - full of erasure of various sorts -
But at last the titles and mini-statements have come together - just in time for the deadline.

22 August 2012

More deliberation

This morning I'm being totally indecisive about the height of the readjusted box. The helpful Resident Carpenter wanted to change it immediately on hearing about the new plans, so that it could be beautifully repainted, but I was unable to make an instant decision on height; had to sleep on it, and have some quiet morning time to try out various things. After all, there's much to consider - not just the balance between the size of the two boxes, but internal factors:  the distance from the top of the work to the top of the box will affect how the light is caught within the box and reflected. I have only the one light on hand, and have been making boxy holders of various sizes for it -
The depth will affect the placement of the books in the box; the tracing paper is meant to prevent dazzle when the books are picked up and looked at. (Even though it might be tricky to put them back the way they were, I would like people to pick up and look at the books - after all, the very last page really can be read.) The LED lights have a hook on the back for hanging up, and a magnet for sticking to metal, but neither of these help me at all in this situation! They have to be kept in a certain position and these little boxes are all I can think of at the moment.

Much as I loved writing these, and even though I'm happy with the format, I made a big mistake - and should have known better. "Think ahead to how it will be displayed" said Paul Coldwell during the walk-through crit of the Wilson's Road exhibition - I noted that at the time, but did I keep it in mind for this? Apart from the size of shelf and the lights, and people reading the books, there's the matter of putting them into position, and the way that, out of their envelopes, they lose their particular titles. These will be on the label on the wall, and it might not matter that they're closely linked with the individual books. (It matters to me ... maybe this is something I need to move on from? So much to think about...!)

At the moment the decision is between 16.5cm height -

and 17.5cm height -
(those happened to be the sizes of the small books I found on my shelves). The "real" shelf will have nice white sides, of course - and slightly more space. 

It's helpful to see the photos together - does the smaller look slightly claustrophobic? How will it be with four lights? Should there even be four lights - why not three, or two? (or just the one??) 

The relative sizes of the shelves, along with some hasty painting-in in Photoshop -
The positioning will be with the blue on the right, and they'll be about 60cm apart, enough for a person to sit between them.

In this scenario (the chair represents the person sitting winding wool) the tops of the shelves are at eye height (ie, my eye height) - they'll need to be a bit higher -
It's really good to get input from people of other heights.

Height adjustment of box, buying of more lights, installation of everything, and repainting in situ are happening today. That will free my mind for the few(?) remaining decisions and actions.