30 November 2012

Found art Friday

We are having a room replastered - skimmed is the technical term, I believe - a process that is stretching over several weeks for various, rather tedious, reasons. However this process is not without compensations, one of which is discovering these lines made by the plasterer on a yet-to-be-finished wall -

They cry out to be taken as rubbings and then inked.

Meanwhile the room is halfway there, and getting a little drier every day -

"Drop me a line"

Exhibition just ended at Laure Genillard; Drop Me A Line includes artists who have at one time or another used the linear in their work; their lines may be two-dimensional or three dimensional, incisive or blunt, angular or loopy, descriptive or verbal ... inscribed on canvas, on the wall, or in space. Another medium for line is the page, and just as one line can be followed by another, one page can follow another until we have a book. The factor of making books also links the artists in this exhibition. [paraphrased from the intro by curator Clive Phillpot]
Left, Comeback by Telfer Stokes; invisible on the wall, one of Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawings; in the foreground, Peter Downsbrough's Here.
Left, Hamish Fulton, 31 Walks, 1971-2010; right, Olivier Mosset's untitled lithographs.

We discussed whether Helen Douglas's Bridge Line - shown without glass on the handlist - was using the glass for an extra effect (to put the viewer into the picture?), or whether it got in the way of making out the image ... or both ...
Other artists in the show: Jan Dibbets, David Tremlett, Pavel Buchler, Simon Cutts, Daniel Buren, Richar Tuttle, David Connearn, Richard Long, Laurence Weiner, Davi Det Hompson, Edward Ruscha, Dieter Roth, Ray Johnson, Gary Woodley, Hanne Darboven, Jan Voss, Adrian Piper.

The exhibition coincides with the publication of Booktrek: Selected Essays on Artists' Books Since 1972, by the curator, Clive Phillpot. A number of the artists in the show are included briefly or substantially in the book.

29 November 2012

Poetry Thursday - singing

A poem by Stephen Crane that those of us with less-than-beautiful voices can take some comfort from.

There was a man with tongue of wood
There was a man with tongue of wood
Who essayed to sing,
And in truth it was lamentable.
But there was one who heard
The clip-clapper of this tongue of wood
And knew what the man
Wished to sing,
And with that the singer was content. 

On copying

"The power of a text is different when it is read from when it is copied out. Only the copied text thus commands the soul of him who is occupied with it, whereas the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened by the text, that road cut through the interior jungle forever closing behind it: because the reader follows the movement of his mind in the free flight of day-dreaming, whereas the copier submits it to command." - Walter Benjamin

Is this like calligraphy, someone asked. Not really - instead of attention to the shapes and linkage of letters, making them into words, the attention of the copyist is on the text and the writer's construction of the text, in the slow speed of the copying (rather than the fast speed of the reading). It's about discovering what the writer meant, rather than what the reader makes of it.

Another question was, What does the copyist do - is it just plain writing? I think there are (at least) three sorts of copyists (apart from calligraphers, who are enhancing the text by the visual qualities of the lettering).
1. scribes, making a copy of a text for archiving or dissemination, in the absence of other technology
2. samizdat copyists, making a copy for dissemination, in secret
3. compilers of "commonplace books", collecting various texts that interest them in a notebook
The copying might be in plain handwriting (no.3), in an approved style of handwriting (no.1), or even with a typewriter and carbon paper (no.2) - though I feel that with the typewriter, the power of the text is different from handwriting.

28 November 2012

Another blue distance

A mountainous blue distance - on a flight out of Vancouver some years ago.

In store

Killing a bit of time in a department store recently, I couldn't resist taking a few photos - of things possibly desirable, possibly not...
Making measuring easier - but what about the washing up?

Musical cheese??

Preparing for an invasion of moths!

Cute little display in the (much reduced) fabric department


Singer's 160th anniversary. Printed plastic doth not a replica make, and for rather less money you can get a sturdy old Singer - like the one I learned to sew on, which looked rather like this -
It was electric, with a knee lever, and it stitched in only one direction (forward). We had various feet and a buttonhole attachment, but oh how I longed for a machine that did zigzag!

The machine was an 18th birthday present to my aunt, in the early 1930s. It came to Canada with here, and she left it when she returned to Germany. We used it and used it and didn't wear it out. Seems it was a Singer 99.

27 November 2012

Journal quilt progress

Like the red set and the yellow set, I'm making the blue set for this year's  Contemporary Quilt JQ challenge all at once. When I laid out the strips several weeks ago, they looked like this -
Too complicated, too "messy"!  I put them away carefully, knowing this was just a first thought.

When I revisited them, it was easy enough to discard a lot of the fussier strips and vary the sizes of strips in each quilt - and once the "black stars" were added, they sort of made sense -
Even though none of the "star" arrangements conforms to a named constellation, they will (randomly) be named after constellations. First, though, they need to be trimmed to size and the borders satin-stitched.

I used bits of an old towel for the wadding and about halfway along in the stitching of the first quiltlet noticed that it was shifting sideways somewhat alarmingly. After unpicking everything I carefully stitched the towelling to the backing, vertically, at 1" intervals. This did the trick. There wasn't a lot of extra fabric for the borders, and I really didn't want to start completely afresh to get it the right size.

What I'd thought of as dark suns (or moons, or stars) rising over the horizon of some intergalactic landscape seems in this set of JQs to be more like black holes. (Or floaters in ancient eyes.) Rather than tucking the black dots into the next strip (working downwards), I put most on top and caught them into the stitching. Some were added afterwards with different colours of thread.
This made for a lot of ends to be tied and buried!

26 November 2012

How's that again?

From the cookware department of John Lewis -
So.... you can use it in the oven, and it'll be safe in the freezer and the microwave, but you shouldn't use it there ... ??

I think they mean: Do not use on the hob.

Is it dishwasher safe?

What the label doesn't say - which the labels on some other casseroles said - was to let it cool before washing. (The shock of cold water on a hot dish can crackle the glaze.)

Next lot of journal quilts

To fit in with the "stellar sunrise" theme for this year's A4 journal quilts, I have a list of names of constellations for the blue set -
Pavo (the peacock); Eridanus (the river); Cygnus (the swan); Cetus (sea monster).

Will they be reproducible? The quilts have strips of fabric into which the black circles (the stars) nestle - the fewer the stars, the fewer the strips needed... So far I've not tried to depict the configurationof the actual constellation.

Lepus looks a bit less formidable than Eridanus, for a start - 10 stars instead of dozens -

Art I like - Mary Smull

"commercial needlepoint kit and all its contents" is the description of materials. Image from here; see more at http://www.marysmull.com.

For her "conceptual needlepoint," Mary Smull makes her own rules when completing needlepoint kits, and those rules become part of the title. She says: "My experiment poses two main questions. What is the relationship between rule- following and image-making in creativity? What is the relationship of convention to invention in aesthetic choice?"

"I work with needlepoint and other textile processes to expose the diversity of attitudes toward labor and the complex relationship between art history and domestic craft. Using established methods of Conceptual art – rule based making, appropriation, exquisite corpse – the work addresses unconscious biases we hold, both as makers and non-makers, about the way we value our time and the time of “experts” versus the time of “hobbyists”," she says. That agenda will resonate with a lot of people....

25 November 2012

Art I like - Nathalie Bandulet

The image of the printed tree bark, with the scars "healed" by stitching in red thread, comes from Liz Davidson's blog. See more of Nathalie's environmental work at www.nathaliebandulet.com. Her most recent exhibition was in Sutton, Quebec.

Life skills - using up fresh herbs

What to do with the rest of the bunch of herbs when you only need a tablespoon? They say to put the bunch of parsley into a jar or glass or whatever of water, but for me, the water goes yellow and the stems get gooey and the rest of the bunch doesn't get used.

Another possibility is to chop it up and freeze it in ice cube trays. This doesn't work well for people who mainly use their freezer as a way of dealing with moths in their woollens!

Fresh parsley pesto seemed worth a try. Recipes called for various amounts of "leaves only" - I used the one that matched the amount my bunch yielded, 1 1/2 cups -
Other ingredients, to be processed in a food processor (or with a whizzy stick) are 1 garlic clove (peeled), 1/3 cup toasted (flaked) almonds, 1/2 cup olive oil (I used less and put some on top of the finished pesto before putting it in the fridge), 1/4 cup (grated) parmesan, salt and pepper.
It was delicious. And virtuous!

24 November 2012

Art I like - Elissa Levy

Usually fringes and fraying - especially fraying - send me running, but this has me looking and thinking -
Spin (Newly Born), 2011
Newspaper, gouache, gel pen, spray paint, 37" x 32.5"
The colour and the form held my eye, and I had to enlarge the photo (and read the statement) to see the content - the concentration on the core of the body, the allusion to phantom limbs.

The fringing reminds me of the reason those frontiersman buckskin jackets have fringes - to draw the rain off the body - it drips down off the fringes, rather than soaks in. The touches of colour are like a liquid, or something less physical, seeping out, ready to drip away. The central colour is core heat, like inside a volcano, or a very very vivid sunset foretelling a change in the weather. The delicate strips of paper will move gently as someone walks past. The newspaper will age and yellow. As a material, it reminds me of its use as wallpaper in the humblest of dwellings, layers on layers struggling to keep out the wind; the way wallpaper can come off at the edges....

That's what, from a distance, it says to me. In the context of her other work, that reading changes.

Danger signs - 66000 volts

Electricity substation, Hatchard Rd, N19

23 November 2012

Dangerous sewing results in bookwrap

Thriftily, for many years I collected frayed silk threads and other threadends, meaning "someday" to put them between layers of watersoluble fabric and stitch them into fabric. For some years I've had no watersoluble on hand. Recently some very fine net came to hand ... so why not put the threads between layers of net? This would in any case avoid the danger of the silk dyes running when the watersoluble was dissolved.

I put the embroidery foot on the machine and stitched away happily, getting into the free-machining rhythm. But the net dulled the colours of the thread, and it all looked pointless and ugly -
"Can this marriage be saved?" was the title of a series of articles in one of the women's magazines my mother bought regularly in the 1960s (maybe it was Ladies Home Journal?) -- and that's what I asked myself of this project.

Another bit of net and rather a lot of threads were at hand ... so this time I snipped in some vivid bits of fabric, thinking that if it was quilted in circles, the centres could be cut out to bring out the brightness of the fabric underneath.
As soon as I started stitching, however, there was a loud noise and I felt a little prick on my cheek -
That's a mighty small hole in that foot, but it had been working fine for the first piece; I must have pulled on the fabric suddenly and misaligned the needle so it hit the edge - and shattered - and a piece flew toward my face. Scary!

Surely there's a bigger foot around somewhere? Indeed yes - but only the one on the left is for a high-shank machine, and it's the one I took off this machine. The others (including the duplicate - how did that happen) must be for other machines, the ones I don't use -
A foot with a bigger toe is on order. Meanwhile, I changed the needle and checked the position of the foot carefully, then continued sewing happily (and more carefully - not tugging the fabric), trying to vary the size of the circles somewhat, and changing bobbin threads as the spools ran out.
Looking at the result, what disturbed me was the scribbles of heavy thread, so I dug out the ones that weren't firmly stitched in. By adding some more threads to the left side, the piece was big enough to make an A5-sized bookwrap - cut to size and with satin stitch around the edges. (Putting a cord round the edges first makes it firmer.)
The pouch on the left (its edge stabilised by ribbon) holds the front cover of the notebook, and the back cover slips under the ribbon on the right. All that remains is to add some sort of fastening* - this narrow ribbon seems not to be quite the right thing -

Next time, the flap could be just a bit wider. The bright bits of fabric do make a difference - not just for their colour, but for the change in scale against the indeterminacy of the thready background.

* some ideas for fastenings:

Quote for the day - timelessness

"It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned." (Oscar Wilde)

image from here

Recommended reading

Useful for many structures - as the little coloured markers testify. Available for $30 plus shipping via Keith Smith's website.

Anselm Kiefer at White Cube

This exhibition took place in April 2011 (see images on the White Cube website). Around the room, 24 large works in marvellous lead frames - Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen - and five "floor based" works, large open books in table-vitrines.
(click to enlarge)
I was intrigued by the "surgical instruments" that were part of the large paintings, distorted and rusted - unhygenic! - strangely anthropomorphic -

 "Few contemporary artists match Kiefer's epic reach, and his work consistently balances powerful imagery with acute critical analysis" says artlyst's short intro to the exhibition.

Found art Friday

22 November 2012

Life skills - a spot of bookbinding

"See one, do one, teach one" - here's the studio ready for a lesson in drum leaf binding.

At the end of the afternoon
 we each had a book -