31 March 2012

"Waste not"

Quilters with their enormous stashes - "too much to use in a lifetime" - should visit an exhibition called "Waste Not". It's the accumulation of one Chinese woman, turned into art by her son - a project that started as a way of pulling his mother out of her depression after the death of her husband. She accumulated things for reasons that are much closer to the bone than ours - in a time of adversity, in a poor country, you used everything. "Wu jin qi yong": anything that can somehow be of use, should be used as much as possible. Every resource should be used fully, and nothing should be wasted.  
This is the fabric section of the exhibit.
Song Dong says "I remember, during my childhood, my mother always bought scraps of fabric to make clothes, because they didn’t need to be purchased with the government-distributed clothing coupons. Later, fearing a shortage of goods, she continued to collect them. They are still there, neatly folded in the wardrobe. This fear of shortage invariably led to the kind of lifestyle in which anything that could be kept wouldn’t be thrown away."
Among the bedding, a handmade patchwork quilt is kept carefully in plastic storage -
The exhibition is vast - 10,000 items. So much, so much... each item with its own story. On the left is a pile of soap, which you notice only after reading the mother's account of  how she struggled to have enough soap for washing (and how difficult it was to keep clothes clean); she saved soap so that her children wouldn't be without it -
So many birdcages!
The washboards make a lovely collection (I'd have taken them home with me) -
"Waste not" has travelled to many places and is at the Barbican till 12 June. Prepare to be amazed.

30 March 2012

London revealed

In an idle moment (waiting for something to load on the computer) I pulled this little book off the shelf
It's a well-put-together collection of photos that goes beyond the tourist sites. Although there is the physical problem of the spine threatening to crack if the book is opened too far, it has well-chosen close-ups of delightful architectural details and satisfying two-page spreads. For instance, good use of the gutter -
Cables holding up the roof of a superstore in Brentford
And some clock towers -
Walthamstow civic centre and the Big Ben tower
Oxo tower and Gillette factory
London, or rather its western fringes, has quite a few art deco factories, some of which have been revived and repurposed. This is because of a trade agreement in the late 1920s that favoured imports to UK from Commonwealth countries - so to tap the lucrative British market, American companies built modern factories in the UK. The largest art deco factory, the cigarette factory in Camden, is now offices, gym, etc; the Hoover Building has a supermarket nestled round the back.

29 March 2012

Art I like - Richard Tuttle

The wire drawings - a short video here; image from here -

He's one of the first generation of artists who considered words/language to be part of art, along with Sol LeWitt and Lawrence Weiner. He creates works with words that approach the look of an alphabet - shapes that recall language but don't embody language, leaving room for metaphor -
More videos on his work here, part of his 2005 show at SFMOMA, "The Presence of Simple Things".  This is the wikipedia link, and here you can see oodles of images ... strange little objects, as well as bigger things, gallery installations - eclectic works that "defy conventional notions of material, form, process, and craft". This cotton, dye, and grommet piece is "Walking on Air" from a 2009 exhibition -
Post-minimalism can be fun! Tuttle has been working since the 1960s and has made numerous artist's books. Here's one of his sets of prints, Labels 1-16 -

Welcome relief

Altered text in the last ladies' loo on the left, Tate Britain.

27 March 2012

Tutorial Tuesday

Hours after making a solid cover for "Seeping", the letterpress book, and putting in the screw posts to hold it together, came the feedback in the tutorial. The cover was too solid, the endpapers unnecessary decoration, the colophon set in the wrong size - 
but the text idea and treatment were fine -
 "Night Journey" needed editing (was there a sequence?) and generally further thinking about -
All of which I could see when it was pointed out. That's the point of a tutorial, having another - knowledgeable! - eye look at your work, and hear a knowledgeable opinion. As more of the "bits" I'd made over the past eight weeks appeared on the table and were moved around, the idea of a collection developed - something to take forward to the show ... or perhaps something will develop into one big piece in the next four months, who knows?
I learned a lot. One task arising from the discussion is to play around with the group of objects, considering order and the spaces between things; another is to look at the work of Richard Tuttle, who sometimes makes books but mostly does installations.

26 March 2012

Mooching Monday

As the lovely warm weather continues (but we do need rain!), what could be more pleasant than to visit a few exhibitions and then sit in the sun with a cup of coffee? It was an opportunity to read through my notebook in preparation for the tutorial tomorrow, and remind myself of things seen, thought, and done since mid-january. I numbered the pages and compiled a rudimentary index to give a semblance of organization and control, but found that a large proportion of the writing was about the work in progress, which seems to be going round and round in circles, rather than taxi-ing down the runway ready for takeoff.
Somerset House had several free exhibitions - The Crisis Commission included this piece (image from here)
by Nika Neelova, the doors cast from a door in the building.

Kokoro, painting by tattoo artist Horiyoshi III, included some calligraphy and, in the case, "tools of the trade" -
In the Courtauld Collection (free on Mondays, 10-2), till 20 May, "In Parallel: Mondrian and Ben Nicholson" - Nicholson visited Mondrian's studio in Paris in 1934 and they became friends, sharing an interest in abstraction; in 1938 Mondrian moved to London, a studio right next door to Nicholson.
In a further room is a related display called Lines crossed - about grids - using examples from the 17th century right up to 1995 - a drawing by Linda Karshan (image from here) -

And in the courtyard, 10,000 ceramic "daffodils" by Fernando Casasempere -

Sewing Sunday

Months ago I sorted out the fabrics for the "Shades of..." journal quilts, and on Sunday I got out the yellow bag to lay out colours, for when I had a little spare time and wanted to get on with them (or needed diversion from something more urgent?) -
I didn't mean to start sewing, but somehow at the end of the day they were all done; perhaps it was the encouragment of the blue sky outside and the optimism of the spring weather -
Like the red ones, these bring to mind "sunrise" on alien planets - dark stars appearing over the horizon. Adding the black satinstitch borders might change that?

25 March 2012

Blackened blanket

By Susie Brandt. The blackened effect is from heavy black stitching over the surface. Image from here.

A closeup (image from here) - how much thread is that? how much time? -
Do check out the links to see more of her work, and here for her recent "couch intervention".

24 March 2012

Book du jour

Graphite on strips (3 1/2", 8.5cm) of japanese paper - a rubbing from one of the smashed car mirrors. The intention was to ink it up, but once it was in book form, it looked good as is -
So I made another to ink up; the graphite is revealed by polishing the page, and the cover (such as it is) has flaps that fold out -
Nor was that it for the ink. This next structure came to me in a dream - long thin pages, mostly machined together, and then using the long thread-ends from machining to handstitch into separate pages in the loose part of the book. The neon green happened to be on the machine, and the red dots were lying around (I call this "the aleatory method" - it happens by chance) -
Lots of ink and quite a lot of time later - the green is vestigial and the red has been concealed -
 The structure is strange -
Finally (for now),  works in progress -
The two small books of newspaper aren't stitched together yet; I'd like to add "something" (other than thread or graphite!) but don't know what. The large book is tissue paper - it crinkles up nicely but is too big, or else doesn't have enough pages, and is the most unsatisfying thing I've made lately. During the inking the wet pages stick together and have to be separated before they dry and stick together - separating tissue paper takes a long time!

23 March 2012

Layered, stretched

Juxtaposing 70-100 postcards for each image, Idris Khan creates "a feeling of stretched time". Image from here.

Book du jour

Adding (japanese) ink to a small book - this one was made from a rubbing of pages that had "nests" of thread added, and then more stitching (and nests of thread) added to that.
The threads took the ink well but did leave a hint of the original colour, on close inspection.

To get the book dry I use a hairdryer and separate the pages during the drying process. It does rather play havoc with your hands -
To speed up the drying, I press out surplus ink between sheets of newspaper - sometimes with surprising results, like the ruched pattern from this stitching -
Working with the concept of "line as text" I also added hand stitch to some of the little books -
My favourites from this batch -

A tale of two kettles

Once upon a time, not all that long ago as human history is concerned, the kettle with automatic switch-off was invented. But the mechanism was not a perfect one, as so often happens during human history, and individual items broke eventually. Thus it was with my trusty kettle, after nearly a decade of constant use.

Unplugging it would ensure it stopped boiling, and this we did for months, until the little green light would come on no longer.

Thus, knowing of the acoustic demands of the "wonderful" new "improved" fast-boil kettles, a trip to the library was undertaken to check which were the quietest kettles. Beyond that factor, the decision was on price and style, and the new kettle has at last arrived -
As stylish as the old one it is not, and I'll miss that... but what is this ... setting the temperature to 85, 95 or 100 degrees ... 85 for white, green, and herb teas; 95 for cafetiere coffee; 100 for black etc tea. Modern life is getting too complicated.

Remember whistling kettles? Those too had acoustic demands...

Musical erasure

Milan Knizak's "destroyed music" originated in the 60s by playing warped records and went on to other treatments like sticking tapes over records, painting, burning, cutting up -- including erasure of notes, bars, etc from musical scores. Interventions that were hard on the record players, and undoubtedly on the ears of listeners too. But the 60s were a crazy time.

22 March 2012

Images to keep in mind

Some images from elsewhere that are speaking to me at the moment. Monochrome is the mood of the moment.

From Judy Martin's blog, a seam in fabric, in front of the landscape -
 From Ed Pien's site, juxtaposition of photographs -
 Ed Pien again, papercut with painted background -
Guiseppe Penone's "skin of graphite" series (seen at Haunch of Venison last year) -

Photo by Wolfgang Laib -
Painting by Avery Preesman -
 Work by Jan Schoonhoven -