31 January 2013

Memory Maintenance quilts done

I: Upkeep (50cm x 33cm)
Detail of Memory Maintenance I: Upkeep
II: Filling the gaps (88cm x 37 cm) 

Detail of Memory Maintenance II: Filling the gaps
III: Repair (96cm x 50 cm)
Detail of Memory Maintenance III: Repair
Especially in older age, our memories are tied to our identity. To keep them alive, we must revisit them often and rehearse them, using the red thread of connection to weave them together, mending the gaps, pulling our history from the dark cupboard of our minds into the social sunlight.

The ragged edges, the rough stitching, the fact that the newspaper will yellow, even now is starting to lift at the edges - these are part of the theme, the deterioration of memory and our efforts to keep it going. I'm not entirely happy with the titles and the statement, and should have been thinking harder while stitching, but they'll have to do. I want to move on to something different now ... and maybe later return to this format, perhaps making blocks with smaller edge pieces, or a different sort of web ("memory text") made with the newspaper. Or - done in a light colour - I've had enough of black for now!

The digital images have been submitted to SAQA's Metaphors on Aging, rather at the 11th hour. I know for sure they have 161 quilts submitted; they are looking for 30-35 pieces, so I don't hold out much hope of success for any of these bits of darkness, and in the final stages of finishing I've got very tired of them. Looking back at previous posts on this project, though, I feel I've met my own criteria of starting with the idea and working out how to present it.

What started with drawings of "ravelled patches" at the tail end of December has become three quilts (and at least a dozen left over blocks) at the tail end of January.

Poetry Thursday - Snow by Louis Macneice

Not pink, and not roses, but the snow is the real thing


The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Found at http://thepoeticquotidian.blogspot.co.uk/2007/01/louis-macneice-snow.html, and widely available elsewhere. 

Louis Macneice (1907-1963) was born in Belfast and educated in England (Sherborne and Oxford), and went on to have rather an interesting life; his work "was widely appreciated by the public during his lifetime, due in part to his relaxed, but socially and emotionally aware style. Never as overtly (or simplistically) political as some of his contemporaries, his work shows a humane opposition to totalitarianism as well as an acute awareness of his Irish roots." He has inspired many poets since his death, particularly those of Northern Ireland origin.

30 January 2013

"Transform, change, disintegrate"

After the first of three Saturdays doing a course on mixed media textiles ("transform, change, disintegrate") at City Lit with Louise Baldwin, what lies ahead? 

It was "disintegrate" in the title of the course that caught my imagination, given my theme of loss of memory, loss of language. The first session was such a whirlwind of possibilities that I had to hang very tightly on to my intention, rather than spin off into a frenzy of wanting, needing to try out this'n'that ... even so I felt a bit adrift at the end of the day.

Louise brought in many samples of possible techniques, and I'm trying to stick to just one - washed paper, which can look like this -
Machine stitched, then washed (by hand!) to help it fall apart
Again in the interests of simplicity, I'll be using black and white. (Limitations are good when you're easily distracted!) As a follow-on from the sponge printing in ceramics class ("if it works, do it some more"), I printed on tissue paper and discovered a way of getting already-falling-apart letters - the photo shows a layer of scrim laid on tissue paper -
Trying again; some of the ink migrates through the layers of tissue -
All-over printing with the sponge - quick and easy -
 Wax over layers of cut-out letters, plain and printed tissue -
 Stitching to bring out the letters - and a light behind it, gleaming through the wax -
Working on these two samples at home (the top is ink-printed scrim over magazine pages, with leftover tissue letters thrown in, and some lines of machine stitching) left me very dissatisfied - always a good sign! -
Dissatisfied at the look of the work, yes, and also at my lack of clarity of what I'm doing and why. The hope is to find a new or different way of working with the "loss of memory" topic, via the fragmentation-disintegration route, and the washed-paper effect could work well ... but it needs more than that, and I can't figure out at the moment just what that "more" is. So, a bit of patience, and lots of development work - the doing that leads to further thinking. After all, I haven't actually made any of the "washed" paper yet.

 For next time - some inked papers (will the ink be permanent when washed) -
 and fabrics onto which to sew them - scrim and metallic organza -
These are experiments - stepping out of my comfort zone. It's about doing and further thinking. I have no idea where this will lead, and am not even sure if I'm enjoying it at the moment. Getting back to a buzzing, energetic textiles-class situation was a bit of a shock - it was hard to switch off from what was going on elsewhere.

Fortunately at the end of the session Louise gave us some bits of paper - "It's a good idea to think about what you are trying to achieve from this work in order to evaluate how successful you are being." Indeed! And here are the questions we are to think about:

What image am I going to use to explore the theme?
Why have you chosen it?
What kind of change do I want to see being visualised?
What do you want this change to suggest to the viewer?
What techniques do you think would be useful to work with and why?
What visual research would be useful to inform your work and make it richer? When can you do this?
Through the process of exploring your theme are there things that you particularly want to explore like techniques, effective use of colour, invigorating your design process....
Are you working towards a finished piece or are you happy to explore the idea through sampling and testing?

The first question, what image, stumped me, so I quickly decided on Letters, and have spent some time since looking at Denise Lach's calligraphy book. I've chosen letters because they can become unreadable, and this could convey to the viewer frustration similar to that of the person who is searching for the words or can't even articulate that they have forgotten the words.

Paula Rego's new show

"Dame with the goat's foot and other stories" includes several copies of hand-coloured prints - each with a rather different emotional tone, not through the colours used per se, but in the way they are used tonally and to highlight different components of the print.

Also in the show, unsettling but compelling pastels, and a 3D version (a sculptural maquette; the figures are fascinatingly constructed) of Rego's latest work, The Playground.
Dame with the Goat’s Foot (II), 2011-12 (singing on the hill-top) Pastel on paper, 150 x 170 cm (image from here)
"The centre piece of the exhibition will be a series of six large pastels inspired by Alexandre Herculano’s 19th century story, A Dama Pé-de-Cabra, romance de um jogral (The Goat-Footed Lady, romance of a minstrel), a powerful and captivating tale originally dating back to the XIth Century. This series was shown in collaboration with Adriana Molder (b. 1975) at the Casa das Historias Paula Rego in Cascais from July – October 2012. "

See her works past and present on the gallery's website, .marlboroughfineart.com - better yet, see them in person till 1st March. And if it's a review of the show you're after, try howtospendit.ft.com/art/17881-visual-tales-of-the-beautiful-grotesque, from which we learn that those hand-coloured etchings are priced at £18K.

29 January 2013

Tree time

Seduced by the possibilities of making soft graphite even darker, by using a rubber (eraser), I looked up from my worktable and "saw" the tree. It's hardly a true likeness, but that wasn't the point ... it was about using these delicious materials (for an indefinite, living-in-the-moment space of time) and it was/is about looking, about seeing.

The tutor on the foundation course was, we thought, overly enthusiastic about "having all day to spend drawing" - but now, his words are coming back to haunt, and encourage, me. It's an absorbing activity, when you focus on the doing and not on how true-to-life the results might be.

Beautiful and functional

A woolly mop/broom - made in Vermont by a fourth-generation family business. Seen here.

Canada geese

Were they migrating? There was much honking. I don't recollect having seen the geese flying in such groups before ... or maybe just didn't notice them, growing up in Canada. What you take for granted, eh?

Pitt Meadows, BC, October 2010.

27 January 2013

Quilts in progress

 "Memory Maintenance" has become three quilts, sizes medium, small, and large.
 I've spent the day stitching the blocks of the large one to the background - black wadding covered with a gold semi-sheer. It's about 80cm x 45cm, and will be cut round the edges of the blocks once they are all attached -
Not that the smaller ones are completely finished yet. Soon.

26 January 2013

Al-Mutanabbi Street book collection

You can see all the books submitted to the Al-Mutanabbi Street project at bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/mutanmain12.htm - which lists the exhibition venues, in the UK and elsewhere.

Thumbnails on the three gallery pages can be clicked to show details of the books and to get the description and further information about each one. (I chose this screenshot because, ahem, my book is in it...top right ...)

Each is worth a closer look.

The background to the project is at al-mutanabbistreetstartshere-boston.com, and that site has a lot more information but doesn't yet include the artists who submitted their books in December.

With the sixth anniversary of the bombing of Baghdad's literary and intellectual centre (in which 130 people were killed or injured) coming up - 5th March - some of us in London are trying to arrange a poetry reading and small display of the books. Arranging this is certainly a learning curve! Readings elsewhere in previous years can be seen here.

Milk on my mind

They do say "one's an incident, two's a coincidence, three's a collection"...

At our most recent meeting, this week, Janet made this
The technique is to print (letterpress) on soluble film, then cut out the relevant words and apply them (in this case to a seashell), with water, which dissolves the film and "glues" on the letters.

That morning, or the day before, I had ordered some books, among them The Missing Ink: The lost art of handwriting and why it still matters, by Philip Hensher. Look what arrived instead -
To make this coincidence into a collection, consider milk paint. Yes, there is such a thing - you may know it already, but it's new to me. It's made of milk and lime, perhaps with pigments and perhaps also borax. This "ancient material" has a short shelf life, unless refrigerated, and should be used the day it's made. Here's a recipe; use it to give a vintage look to wood, perhaps adding a protective finish.

Somewhat similar is milk art - an activity for young children of all ages -

Then, of course, there are paintings with milk in them - this is arguably the most famous -
Jan Vermeer, Maid Pouring Milk (image from here)
Those paintings are a collection in themselves ... a topic for another time perhaps.

25 January 2013

Art quilts I like

Fridays, there's the SAQA Art Quilt News email newsletter to look forward to. Usually there's one quilt shown in this listing of exhibitions of art quilts that really appeals to me, so I go looking for more of that artist's work (by searching on their name plus "art quilt" in Images). Often I use this research for an "Art I Like" blog post.

Today the newsletter contains three pieces that particularly appeal to me. The first is by Cynthia St Charles -
Winter Birds (detail)
I love the colours she's used in this prizewinning piece, and the subject matter - I'm a sucker for art with little birds on it. Cynthia shows her quilt-making process on her blog.

Next, Deborah Kuster -
"Living Off The Land" 30x22inches
Deborah lives in Arkansas and uses handweaving and objects in her work.

Finally, Emily Richardson -
Her subtle colours and semi-transparent layers (silk and hand stitch) aren't something I'd try to replicate ... rather, they are to enjoy, contemplate, and admire.

You can find the latest newsletter via saqa.com/news.php; click on "art quilt news" in the sidebar. On the newsletter is a link for joining the mailing list.

Found art Friday

Quote for the day

“Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
- Kurt Vonnegut

via swiss-miss.com

Witches' fingernails

The pollarded plane trees along London's streets really intrigue me. Is it the quest for negative space? The force of nature at work, spurred into greater action by the violence done to the tree's growing points? Is it a signal of persistence in the struggle against all odds?

In terms of art inspiraton, is it the quest for negative space? The structures feel random, yet nature isn't random, it's all systems; growth is charted in an organism's genes, and amputation doesn't change that system.

Maybe it's simply a memory of the Struwwelpeter story, read to me by my grandmother -
A merry tale (image from here)
While we're on the subject, here are some pollarded trees in art -
Pollarded Willows with Setting Sun by Vincent Van Gogh (image from here)

St Jerome by the Pollard Willow by Durer (image from here)
Pollarded Trees by Robert Tavener (linocut; image from here)
Pollarded Trees, Hotel Dieu, Toulouse by Lesley Trussler (lino cut and collage; image from here)
Robert Burkert, Pollarded Tree (lithograph, 1968; image from here)
Willownest by Nils Udo, 1994 (image from here)
Frances Hodgkins, Country Scene with Pollarded Trees and Wooden Gate, c1933 (image from here)
Installation by Patrick Doughtery in San Francisco, 2009 (image from here)
Etching of Gray's Court, York, by Rebecca Wright (image from her drawing blog)
Road with Pollarded Willows and a Man with a Broom by Vincent Van Gogh (image from here)
St Jerome beside a Pollarded Willow by Rembrandt (image from here)

Wonderful idea for a bookwrap

Seen at scrapsandstrings.blogspot.co.uk/
If you are compelled to hang on to those teeny, tiny scraps, why not use some to make a Bookwrap Gem?

Brenda has done something very simple and elegant, using trimmings from a bigger, strip-pieced item ... a great idea.

24 January 2013

Effective against hypothermia

This lovely blanket, knitted by Dr Harriet Hall, is being auctioned to support cancer research (read about it on the Science-Based Medicine blog). Bidding takes place here, and at time of writing is up to $510.

The story behind this auction is interesting. A "cancer researcher" named Dr Stanislaw Burzynski charges patients to enter his "cancer drug trials" - which a group called Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients says is nothing more than peddling unproven treatments to desperate patients. In any case, this practice of charging patients to be part of trials is unethical - and scientifically wrong, as it introduces a big bias in the trial population.

The auction site says:

In honor of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski’s 70th birthday on January 23rd, 2013, the Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients are fundraising for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Our goal is to raise at least $30,000 by Burzynski’s birthday, the approximate cost of entering one of his clinical trials of antineoplaston therapy. On his birthday, we will deliver a present to the Clinic, a challenge to Dr. Burzynski to match the total sum donated by skeptics, science advocates, and others who value good research into devastating forms of childhood cancer. The more you give, the more we ask of Burzynski.

All auction items, including shipping, have been donated to the cause.

If you don't wish to purchase:
Please visit http://www.crowdrise.com/fightchildhoodcancer/ and donate to St. Jude, a fantastic organization that does not turn away patients who cannot pay.

Read the outcome (and the back story) here .