30 September 2013

Monday miscellany

Evening sunlight over the Thames
"arteverywhere" - Neighbours by Stanley Spencer, 1936
September sunshine in Kensington Gardens ...
... bringing out the colours of flowers
The Edwardian glory of Crouch End, from the top of a bus
Aerial view of freshly-tidied front garden ... it awaits a complete makeover
Do birds see colour? Yes they do, even into the ultraviolet range, which might be why they can identify individual birds that look exactly the same to us, due to the secretions of the uropygial gland that have been spread onto the feathers during preening. African grey parrots react to people wearing red clothing, or even red nail polish. Birds are also thought to be able to see light into the near ultraviolet range. This might be why they can identify individual birds that look exactly the same to us, due to the secretions of the uropygial gland that have been spread onto the feathers during preening. Birds can also detect and follow movement much better than humans: a bird and a person might both be able to see a mouse from a height of 250 feet, but a person can do so only if their attention was accurately directed to the mouse, while the bird can see it without even directly looking at it. 

29 September 2013

Quilted swimmers

"Swimming upstream #1" by Bonnie J Smith
How can swimmers, active in a fluid medium, be portrayed in the static medium of cloth, specifically a quilt? "Realistic" water is difficult to portray in cloth, or even by painting ... it needs a degree of abstraction, which the lines of quilting can supply, showing the flow of water. Still, there's an unease in the change of medium. A problem in catching a moment and all that's going on. How to freeze the movement, especially the movement of the water, so diffuse - transparent, even - against the solidity of the human form that is moving through it?
Floating or swimming? (via)
"Vermont Swimmers" by Catherine McConnell, now in the John Walsh collection
A gicle print of one of Tim Harding's water series (via)
Not a quilt, but a great starting point (via)
Painting from the Kizil Caves, central Asia - dating to 500 AD (via)
More questions than answers. Keep looking...

28 September 2013

Solace for the soul

Coincidence, or destiny, or maybe the 134 bus, brought me to Kentish Town, where the London Bead Co has a shop, right opposite the tube station. I have long needed some blue darning wool, so it was imperative to visit the shop immediately. The front room is full of beads and the back room is full of embroidery threads, and oh what a luscious display the colours make, guaranteed to lift the spirits ...

The "darning wool" is appleton's tapestry wool, 2 ply - which comes in quite a few shades of blue; slightly problematic as I knew the holey jumper was dark blue but - what sort of dark blue? (Shade card is here.)
Shade 784, next to the pinks, was my stab in the dark. It turned out to be ok, once blended with a very thin bit of black wool, because the holey jumper (cashmere and merion) was on closer examination, knitted from a thin mottled yarn. I thought I'd found all the areas of weakness and (moth) holes, but when the jumper was washed after darning, another hole appeared. (Here is some advice on getting rid of moths, though it doesn't mention freezing, the textile curators' treatment of choice.)

A silky little present to myself, much more satisfying (and only slightly more expensive) than a cup of coffee. The colour is gorgeous in real life - perhaps the feel of silk enhances the hue?

27 September 2013

Colour mixing 7

Moving towards the title page -
affeard-affront to apparel-apple 19-57
Payne's grey, lemon yellow, interference blue, titanium white, cobalt blue, prism violet, cadmium yellow
titlepage to advise-aero- 0-17
titanium white, payne's grey
pages 0-201
That got me back to where I started - the badly-painted pages that started this project. I hadn't written down the colours used, so the easiest thing was to redo them, getting near the colours already on the page -
showghe-shtetl to smallage-smile 1201-1221
red oxide, light blue violet, magenta, cadmium red, mixing white, phthalo turquoise
smorbrod-snake to spoliate-spor 1223-1251
light blue violet, emerald, titanium white, payne's grey, cadmium red, mixing white, cobalt blue
After that, it's been straightforward - using the colour last added to the previous page, start the new session by adding another colour, and keep going till you get back to a fairly pure colour, so that you can start with that next time. The challenge has been to squeeze out, initially, enough paint so that it doesn't constantly have to be extended with white - and on the other hand, to use up the mixed paint by the time you get to the end of the session.
 sprattle-spring to stridence-string 1253-1281
emerald, payne's grey, light yellow hansa, titanium white, phthalo turquoise, cobalt blue
 stroke-strum to tango-tap 1283-1321
cobalt blue, prism violet, mixing white, cadmium red, red oxide, cadmium yellow
Tardenoisian-tartar to toing and froing-tombolo 1323-1359
cadmium red, phthalo turquoise, titanium white, mixing white, red oxie, ultramarine blue
tonic-tooth to Trygon-tubercule 1361-1389
ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow
tumbrel-tunny to under--undulate 1391-1425
cadmium yellow, cobalt blue
These splodgy sequences are the paint that's "fallen off the bottom of the page" - caught on a piece of scrap paper, on which I write the colours used in that session. The idea of doing this only came to me quite some time after some of the page bottoms got glued together by the surplus paint, so a big chunk of pages is missing from the consecutive record.  The photos are trimmed and collaged to look like the splayed foredge of the book -
pages 1201-1425

26 September 2013

Blinkin' 'eck!

You know those blinky little animations people put on their blogs or wherever, the ones that last for all of three seconds? This one really works - showing different colourways of a print -
Captured at a random moment in a screenshot - go see the real thing here
It's by Emma Neuberg, who is part of the Slow Textiles Group - they're having an exhibition and seminar in West Hampstead in mid-November - details are on the website.

Art I like - Linda Ekstrom

No sooner had someone asked me, "Are you ever going to get back to your lines?" than I came across the "Wreadings" of Linda Ekstrom.
Wreadings (Edward Jabes) 2003
She says: "Wreadings is a process in which the artist writes the text simultaneously as she reads the text. Considered drawings, these works are created in the style of blind contour drawing in which the artist looks only at the words of the book and never at the marks on the page." (What would a blind drawing of a journey on the tube or bus look like?)

Another of my ongoing interests is erasures, and Linda also does erasures ("Erasures reveals within the text of the page underlying patterns and repetition of words, and uncovers hidden meanings by erasing the extraneous") -
Erasures (live/veil/evil), 2003
Word is central to Linda's work, as related to the body and to space and memory. She seeks to construct meaning out of the common and domestic forms that abound in her world, "and to insert my practice into larger currents of religious thought, history and ritual expressions which define life, lived-out within the cosmos."

This is a view of her 2006 exhibition Unravelling, showing some of the other forms her work takes -
Do visit her website to see more.

Poetry Thursday - Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold" (via)

The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Written in 1919, in the aftermath of WW1, the poem has been much referenced in popular culture - in films, book titles, paraphrases; there's a list here.
See an interactive online exhibition about the life and work of Yeats, at the National Library of Ireland, here. Of the poem, the exhibition notes say: "This complex poem has visionary qualities and was inspired in part by George Yeats' automatic writing. It is primarily an apocalyptic comment on the tide of history, a response to the populist revolutions which were changing and democratising Europe. Commentators have seen references in it to the French and Russian revolutions as well as to the Irish. 'The ceremony of innocence is drowned' is thought to refer to the execution of Marie Antoinette, for instance, while 'the judge nods before his empty dock' describes the empty official courts in Ireland after the First Dáil Éireann issued a decree setting up its own courts in June 1919. The poem contrasts strongly with 'Easter, 1916' where the poet seems to welcome the ideals and revolution; here he sees it as an entirely destructive force."

25 September 2013

Situationists (and memory balls?)

Situationism. A movement that started in 1957 that lasted only 15 years (see http://libcom.org/thought/ideas/situationists). Connected with psychogeography. Influential in the May 1968 insurgencies in France.

" Situationist tactics included attempting to create “situations” where humans would interact together as people, not mediated by commodities. They saw in moments of true community the possibility of a future, joyful and un-alienated society."

When the Situationist International was first formed, it had a predominantly artistic focus; emphasis was placed on concepts like unitary urbanism and psychogeography. Gradually, however, that focus shifted more towards revolutionary and political theory" says wikipedia.

-Relevant to the way that people, in museums that have displays of domestic items, delight in finding the ones they had at home, back then. They aren't purchasing these "old things" but there is "mediation by commodities" nonetheless, how to avoid this...? When I get people involved in winding yarn for the memory balls, this is connection through remembered activity. It's participation, perhaps also involving nostalgia - an active act, not the passive act of looking. The kinesthetic sense is involved, plus touch, plus the sound (faint). Plus the interaction with a stranger.

-Encountered at the breakfast table, as Mr T read an article in Tate Etc (new issue just arrived) about leftist art. I knew the term but could not explain it. Fortunately the article had some good words of succinct explanation:

"The Situationist theory of "The Society of the Spectacle" posits that the mass media have invested inanimate commodities with life and energy while sucking it out of the poor consumer, who can experience the world only by proxy, his desires having been routed through acts of purchase and consumption."
Barbara Kruger - known for billboards
-Names associated with situationism - Guy Debord, Asger Jorn, etc
-Artists using situationist concepts - Barbara Kruger, Victor Burgin,  Banksy, Cildo Mierles.

Apple glut continues

It would be a shame to waste those apples ... this compilation of recipes may help. One can only make so much jelly, applesauce, apple butter, apple chutney - not only does the supply of saved jam jars run out, but there's still the jelly, applesauce, etc from previous years to eat up ...

Gathering together some recipe ideas, I quickly tired of the internet and started looking at the neglected cookbooks on my own bookshelves, many of which date back to the 1970s.

These two apple cakes are from the BBC Woman's Hour website; one has an interesting way with fractions -

'Cakes: Regional and Traditional' by Julie Duff, Published by Grub Street, ISBN 1904943195.
Potato and Apple Cake Recipe
I do admit that I find potato an unlikely addition for cakes, but on the other hand potato flour is often used in Europe so why should it be any different here? Certainly, once I began looking into the use of potato in cakes I realised that whilst not common, it was an ingredient that was used and after all it is not that much different to adding carrots, which are now so acceptable. This Potato Apple Cake is excellent and well worth experimenting to quell such prejudices.

225g / 8oz self raising flour
115g / 4oz cooked and mashed potato
½ teaspoon mixed spice
2 large cooking apples
150g / 5oz butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
115g / 4oz soft brown sugar
Little milk if necessary

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
Sift the flour and spice into a bowl and rub in the butter until it forms the texture of fine bread crumbs.
Stir in the sugar and the potatoes.
Peel and core the apples and dice them into small pieces, stir into the flour mixture, finally adding the eggs and mixing to a soft dough. Add a little milk if necessary.
Spoon into a greased and lined 900g / 2lb loaf tin and bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 1 ¼ hours or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly.
Remove from the oven and turn out gently onto a wire rack 

Apple Cake made with Oil


Of all the apple cakes, this is my favourite. It is a moist cake, particularly good at the end of a meal with a dollop of cream. It is also one of the few cakes made with oil instead of butter. Use a mild Ligurian extra-virgin olive oil if you can, but ordinary olive oil will do just as well.

Serves 8 to 10

3 quarters cup golden raisins
2 thirds cup olive oil
1 cup golden sugar
2 extra-large free-range eggs
2 + 1 third cups Italian 00 flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 + half tsp baking soda
Half tsp cream of tartar
Half tsp salt
1 pound dessert apples, peeled and
diced small
grated peel of 1 lemon, preferably organic or unwaxed


Soak the golden raisins in warm water for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350F. Pour the olive oil into a bowl, add the sugar and beat until the sugar and oil become homogenized. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until the mixture has increased in volume and looks like thin mayonnaise.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Add the dry ingredients gradually to the oil and sugar mixture, folding them in with a metal spoon. Mix thoroughly and then add the diced apples and lemon peel.

Drain and dry the golden raisins and add to the batter; mix very thoroughly. The batter will be very stiff at this stage.

Butter and flour an 8-inch springform cake pan. Spoon the batter into the pan and bake for at least 1 hour until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out dry. Remove the cake from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Tagliatelle al Limone e Erbe Odorose is one of the recipes in Anna del Conte's Gastronomy of Italy (Pavilion Books, ISBN: 1862051666, 29.95.

The one I wanted, immediately after hearing about it on the programme, was said to be on the website but wasn't there yet when I looked... Apparently it uses a lot of apples, from which the cake gets its moisture, not needing milk - and oil is used instead of butter.
There are of course a million recipes for apple cake, variants on a few basic recipes, with or without cinnamon, some with raisins, others spiked with booze, using sliced, chopped, or grated apple - or even applesauce. A while back we had some starter for Herman the German Apple Cake, which is delicious, but throwing out half the starter rather bothers me, and after a while you've had absolutely enough of the cake, and the freezer still has several, so you give up on the whole project.
This is a good apple year, except our tree keeps dropping the fruit, and most apples have mothy bits that need cutting out (treat for codling moth next year).
As far as apple desserts go, we are getting tired of apple crumble. Here's a simple but delicious, in fact amazing, apple dessert -

Pan fried apple slices

Version 1: Mix 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon with 1/2 cup (110g) sugar. Core, peel, and thinly slice 2 apples. Toss the apples in the sugar mixture while 2 Tbsp butter is melting in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat till the apples are tender, about 10 mins.

Version 2: Quarter, peel and core one apple per person, and slice thinly. Melt lots of butter (almost tablespoon per apple) in a heavy frying pan and add the apples. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till the apples are almost done. Then add sugar - a tablespoon or two per apple, according to how sweet you like it - and cook till apples are done. The sugar will melt into the butter and make a lovely sauce. Serve warm with whipped cream or pouring cream.
Another idea is "Crepes Alsace" (The Brunch Cookbook (1972), p154) - which involves making crepes, sauteeing apples with butter, sugar, and cinnamon, then adding vanilla, brandy, orange juice, and orange zest. When cool, fill the crepes, which are placed in a rectangular dish or pan, drizzled with butter, baked in a 180C oven for 5 mins, and served with whipped cream.

Cakes and desserts are not the only use for apples - you can't beat applesauce (or stewed apples) with potato pancakes, of course, but a trawl through the indexes of my cookbooks brings a few other savoury suggestions to light. 
From the 1953 edition of THE classic American cookbook you can get recipes for an apple and onion dish, apple and sauerkraut salad, apple-onion-and-raisin dressing, apples filled with sausage meat, sauteed apples and bacon, and apples stuffed with sauerkraut. 
Chez Panisse combines apples with cabbage, cooked or raw, and other exciting salads.
My standby in the late 70s, More-with-Less has only sweet uses of apples (but the argentine spinach pie looks promising ... another time ...)
 Two recipes for the liver-apple combination - the other uses chicken livers.
 Sweet things from Germany, but among them are rice with apples and Himmel und Erde - potatoes cooked with apples, mashed, served with bacon and onions.
Green apple salad, from one of the 101 Recipes series, is based on green mango salad.

Even without a juicer, you can make a healthy beetroot-carrot-apple-ginger juice -
Or, blend 11 large green apples (2.2kg), cored and chopped, with a large raw beetroot (200g), peeled and chopped, and a 5cm piece of ginger, chopped - then push through a sieve. Makes about a litre of juice.

If you don't have rocket to hand, you can use baby spinach -
 Finally, an unusual soup - apple and cherry - from Iran -
and cauliflower and apple soup, recipe here. And red cabbage and apple soup, recipe here or here.

24 September 2013

Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain

"Lowry and the painting of modern life" was, of course, full of pictures full of little people - scenes familiar to Lowry from his job as a rent collector, scenes of a working city and its working people. Yet as the century wore on, the crowded city developed more space - waste land and bombsites - and by mid-century the demise of British industry was evident. 

I was struck by the paintings in which dark churches were dominant, and by this landscape -
L S Lowry, Cumberland Landscape, 1954 (via)
Also revelatory was a display of books and journals (presumably) used by Lowry as he studied art -
We're so used to colour, and quality reproductions ... this was a different age! Of course books were not all that was available - Manchester had a major exhibition of impressionism in 1907-8, for example. Even so, it was largely from books and magazines that Lowry gathered a picture of French modernism, especially of Seurat and Pissaro tackling industrial scenes. And it was in Paris that Lowry was most exhibited, early in his career - he exhibited regularly at the Paris Salons, and in 1931 was included in a French biographical dictionary.

Much merchandising, in great variety -
There's even "Off to the Match" beer, "brewed in collaboration with Manchester's award-winning Marble Brewery and Tate's bar team ... created with all British hops - celebrating Lowry's Northern roots. The result is a refreshing summer ale" -
Interesting books in the shop, quickly flipped through - 
Photographs from the 1960s and 70s had much that was familiar from my time living in the North (late 70s) - but it's the book on the use of white in Lowry's work (the negative space between those tiny people), and in the work of other artists, that I hope to find in a library sometime. Here's Lowry in his painting suit, spattered head to foot with white paint -