28 February 2014

Monday miscellany - a little early

(oh DRAT - this was supposed to appear on Monday. I pressed the wrong button, and now everything is out of synch! Never mind, more to come ... later ...)

Love those maps of London! This one is by, and available from, Ollie O'Brien -
It's based on buildings - leaving unbuilt areas white. So you have to use "negative spaces" like parks to find your location, or places you know. (Maps aren't always about getting from here to there.)

The  1900 Golding press that printed suffragettes' handbills - there's a 1900 Wharfdale too; it
printed their posters - both are leaving east London for a new home in Norfolk. Read about the
last days at WF Arber & Co in Spitalfields Life

Another urban nuisance?  - first the foxes, now the deer -
See the pix and read the story here. They're taking advantage of parks and green spaces - and why not?

In the 1890s London had lots of orchards - the fruit was important in feeding the capital -
London still has many sites with fruit trees - including new ones planted by the London Orchard Project -
It seems that some orchards planted in the last decade are being neglected, and the project has stepped in to apply for funding to care for them. To deal with the urban fruit going unharvested, on streets and in gardens, local "scavenging" groups have been formed, often as part of environmentally friendly collectives.

Of course you'd want to know if there's a new orchard near you... My nearest is at Haden Court, planted in 2010 -

Exciting news - London is to have its first Cat Cafe, on Bethnal Green Rd. Food is prepared in an area inaccessible to the cats, that's fine, but I'm not sure about having them walking around on the tables... still, a cat's gotta do what a cat's gotta do, and that includes ignoring human rules.
Cats on the ipad - watch out David Hockney!
Catch the cute video here.

Textiles into ceramics - what came out of the kiln

At the last session of the textiles-into-ceramics class, some items were glazed and needed firing, and some had been dipped into porcelain slip and needed firing. Now they've been fired, and collected ... and here they are.

looking very fragile in the sand tray

some of it survived, and you can see the stitching

before dipping in porcelain slip (next time, use thicker slip?)
These are "clay books" in the sense that they're folded from one sheet of paper. Either string or skewers was used to keep them from flopping when dipped into the slip -

the dark marks are from screen-printing the paper with  black slip before
painting the folded form with porcelain slip

another close-up - showing the string

thicker string was used on this one

the skewers - as well as the paper - have burnt away
The porcelain books - much more solid, and about 3" (8cm) high - some with glazed "covers", all with unique numbers -
"velvet black" glaze, fired to stoneware
This book is about 15cm (6") high and is quite solid - pages have been patterned with stitched fabrics -

Many of these will be going (at some risk!) to the book fair on 15 March.

I hope to make more of the folded forms sometime.

27 February 2014

Poetry Thursday - Immigrant by Fleur Adcock

... awkward beaks ... (via)

November '63: eight months in London.
I pause on the low bridge to watch the pelicans:
they float swanlike, arching their white necks
over only slightly ruffled bundles of wings,
burying awkward beaks in the lake's water.

I clench cold fists in my Marks and Spencer's jacket
and secretly test my accent once again:
St James's Park; St James's Park; St James's Park.

-Fleur Adcock

(from London Poems on the Underground, and from Poems 1960-2000 (Bloodaxe Books, 2000); hear it read at poetryarchive.org)

Born in 1934, Fleur Adcock has lived in London for much of her life - 1939-47, and since 1963, working as an assistant librarian at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office till 1979, and as a freelance writer since then. Her poetry is about mundane events but often with a dark twist - a poetry of wry observation "conjuring the kind of intimacy that comes from shared assumptions and experiences" said the Guardian in a review of her recent book, Glass Wings.

This poem particularly appeals to me because it was near a bridge, in a park (but not St James's), that I met Fleur Adcock - in rather strange circumstances. The time was around the turn of the century, or maybe even a few years earlier than that, and Tony had found an event he thought might appeal to me - a "poetry walk" in Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens. To please him, and because it wasn't raining, I turned up ... to find not a walk but a poetry-writing session, with a theme of ballads. There were only a handful of us, and the others had been coming for some weeks, meeting in the building (an 18th century warehouse) that never seemed to be in use but is now transformed into the extension of the Serpentine Gallery. There were several more sessions, each with a poetic exercise, and I returned for all of them. You wrote something, in class or for the next one ... you read it aloud ... everyone was encouraged and encouraging, under Fleur's benign guidance.
Serpentine Sackler Gallery, over the bridge  (via)

26 February 2014

Portraiture course, week 6

This was the week of the "personal project". I got it in my head that my starting point was to be my "The Seeing I" book, so I took in various old photos and chose these to work with -
roughing them into a composition with 6B graphite, and going from there ...
Half way through the class, some details are emerging, and I've switched to a 4B pencil -
At the end of the class, everyone is there ... but not looking at all like the selves in the photos! -
Fraught with memory, these photos are. As for the child, I recognise her only from the photos - apart from the one with the plaid bow, a bow that got lost on that expedition to Hannover zoo - I do remember the hoo-hah of going to look for it (probably at my insistence), but don't remember if it was found ...

This was a lot to undertake in less than three hours, and I didn't have time to put in the ink in the spaces between the vignettes, which hopefully would pull it all together. Plus the composition needs reconsidering (size and placement of figures). My grandmother in her elegant hat (top right) came out rather badly and the central girl with the big white bow is simply all wrong, even though she probably looks the most acceptable of the lot.

As the tutor suggested, this is something I could continue to work on at home ... and I might do that, perhaps by starting again. (At least I'm finding it easier to get the faces into proportion by now.)

This exercise takes me back to the question of "what makes a person look like themself" ... and what makes expressions recognisable?

Further reflections

On hearing from a friend that a portraiture course was her idea of hell, I had yet again to reconsider why I'm voluntarily putting myself through what is in truth fairly agonising. Yes yes, it's partly about "the challenge"...

I did get immersed in the drawing-from-photos, and might go back to this project, drawing from family photos. (It helps that they're 2D and monochrome - but of course there's not the liveliness of having a real person in front of you. And yet ... they do help you to remember these real people...)

In particular, and for all sorts of reasons, I'm drawn to the photo of my grandmother with all her children in 1945, the war very much an unseen presence -

So many of the pix of Oma (1888-1988) would be interesting to draw - possibly because of the details in the old photos that you see only if you pay really close, sustained attention ... and what better way to do that than drawing?

Seen at the V&A

Looking six floors down, into the entrance hall

Tiny seating in the new furniture gallery

A cavalcade of teapots, ceramics study collection


Little ceramic houses, part of Xu Bing's installation

They look fine in 2D (mostly) - but there's not a square corner among them

25 February 2014

Catching up

Though I've been buzzing in and out of exhibitions, it's simply been a matter of looking around, picking up the leaflet, maybe taking some photos ... and not getting around to blogging - ie, considering, evaluating, reassessing, or just plain thinking - about them. And I mostly haven't been taking notes in my black book, as in days of yore. Here, for the record, and in no particular order (but stretching back to early January), are some I'm in danger of forgetting.

Canan Tolon is at Parasol Unit, north London, till 16 March - the show is called Sidesteps - love the room with blobby-painted tiles that look like remembered landscapes -
A convenient bench lets you sit and look around - eventually some part of the wall catches your eye, and it gets to look more and more like an imaginary place ... and you keep looking away and find your eye is pulled back ...

Her work is informed by photography but is not photographs - the painted marks resemble architecture -
(Photos from the gallery's website.)

Next door, at Victoria Miro, is Isaac Julien (till 1 March) - including a seven-screen film installation. One part shows a very modern, minimal, concrete house in a wild and misty place in Iceland - lots of scenes of warm vapour rising into the cold air, nice, but it fits into the "capital(ism)" theme with a narration about how easy it was to get money from the bank to build it ... and then the owner/builder just walked away from it - "the dream ended" - just like the banks in Iceland collapsed. Another section was a diatribe, delivered as monologue/lecture, about the art market, filmed in the gallery next door, which has a very long stretch of narrow steps to its top floor - a little in-joke.

Nearby, as you head towards the bright lights of Islington, is a little gallery (Art Space Gallery) that has been open for 30 years and is mostly underground. Work on show was by John Kiki, and very jolly too - "Myths and Goddesses". See the video here.
Rhiannan (2009) was shown earlier, elsewhere (via)

Not a gallery, but including a little art, was Professor Steve Jones's talk on snails, as part of the Gresham College lecture series. The book ("testaceous malacology...arranged for the use of schools") was published in 1839
and written by Edgar A Poe, better known for other writing. (Photo is one of the slides from the lecture - see them all here.)

"Pandemonium" (till 9 March) is an exhibition at King's College Cultural Institute, Somerset House, celebrating the life and work of Derek Jarman (once a student of humanities at King's) - painter, filmmaker, set designer, diarist, poet, gardener, activist. It marks the 20th anniversary of his death. The musical accompaniment to the exhibition, supplied via a headset, ranges from mendieval incantory music to work by some of his most important collaborators, and a nice little booklet of excerpts from his writings, printed in gold, is also supplied.

At London Print Studio some weeks back, "Captive Light", photo prints by John Phillips - panoramas of Venice and studies of Patarei, an abandoned prison in Estonia - prints exploring captivity - constructing false narratives? In his lecture he said one job of artists/writers is to constantly investigate technology, and mentioned "sidestepping the most common approach". Someone asked "where do we find subjects, when everyone is taking images" to which he replied that "we" need to look in a critical way, unlike popular use of cameras.

Kurt Jackson, The Thames Revisited - at Redfern Gallery - landscapes ... more varied than I expected, and oh so skillful. We were there at the end of the day and didn't have enough time to watch the video of him painting properly. See all the paintings here -

Also seen on Cork St, David Blackburn at Messums ... must say I'm stuck in the past, more attracted to his glowing pastel (Yorkshire!) landscapes than his current more abstract work. This one is from 1997 -

And photographs from Michael Wolf's series "Architecture of Density" at Flowers - which depict "the vibrant city of Hong Kong from an inimitable perspective" and at large scale. They "focus on repetition of pattern and form to cause a visual reaction. The result is a sense of rediscovery, as Wolf frees you of the constraints of a typical photograph." The gallery shot gives you some idea of the scale -

See more of his work on the gallery's website.

Did I already mention Republic of the Moon at Bargehouse Gallery? Like the Cork St shows, that finished some time ago. I particularly remember Katy Patterson's Moonlight Sonata - bouncing a bit of digitised Beethoven off the moon and then recording what comes back to earth - and Leonid Tishkov's crescent moons fallen, so brightly lit, onto Moscow(?) balconies.

To give this cultural digest a bit of balance, a couple of films, seen at BFI (cinema without popcorn and advertisements, hurrah!) - The Night of the Hunter, children on the run; and Lift to the Scaffold (aka Elevator to the Gallows), made in France in 1957 and quite tense, a real thriller.

And a film event of a different sort, screened at the Wiener Library, a film by painter Barbara Loftus, which developed from paintings of her mother's stories of her home in Vienna before fleeing Austria. I was transfixed not just by the film but especially by the story of the stories, their translation from something almost lost into something still not quite real. (If that makes sense?) The title of the film is Lieder Ohne Worte, Images of Memory.
An image of "the confiscation of porcelain) (via)

"Artists Textiles - Picasso to Warhol" at the Fashion & Design Museum is on till 17 May ... they allow photos and I have quite a few, so that will have to be a post on its own.

Two slightly disturbing (unrelated) still lives

24 February 2014

Monday miscellany

A reading nook? It's by Gathered Together (via)

Pots-I-like - this is by Gordon Baldwin, at the V&A
(in the wonderful ceramics galleries, 6th floor)

A glimpse of sun in London - photo by Metropolitan Police helicopter crew, via instagram

"Script moth" via pinterest
The title grabs me ... "script moth" (is it voracious?) ... can script, handwriting, be "holey" - maybe if you think of something flowing through the holes, eg communication...  Also, what would the moths be getting out of eating away at ink?  (Thinking about this could be a good cure for insomnia.)

... quilt-I-like ...
"Rim Fire 2013" by Gayle Simpson (from SAQA e-newsletter) - currently on show at Yosemite Museum
I'm guessing the orange is bleach discharge - excellent use of it!

100% - that's the score needed for a pass mark on the drug calculation exam that nurses take. Good thing too - with drug doses the decimal definitely has to be in the right place.

Even in high-up bits of London, it's been wet -
Queens Park, London NW

Medieval fragments -
from St Paul's, the one that burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. They're stored in a room somewhere in Christopher Wren's newbuild. Other behind-the-scenes pix are here. Which gives me an excuse to reminisce about how, in the mid-70s or maybe it was the mid-80s, I climbed with a friend to the very top, up stone stairs and then, between the domes (for St Pauls has an inner, shallower dome inside the lovely steep outer dome), and even further, up see-through metal-grille stairs, quite a few of them, into the cupola at the very top - which was invigilated by a verger(?) who was clearly bored out of his mind, smoking a cigarette and listening to Radio 3. Classical music at the top of St Paul's - brilliant! And the view... just about visible from those round, high-up windows. But then, the journey back down those staircases. You can't go that far these days, only to the Golden Gallery ... 528 steps.

Round about 1800, when there was scaffolding round the dome, an artist climbed to the top before dawn every morning (it must have been summer) to continue work on his panorama of London. The early start was needed so he could get a clear view before people woke up and lit their fires and the smoke filled the air. This was part of the Panoramania! exhibition at Barbican Art Gallery in 1988, and the artist might have been Thomas Hornor. A marvellous undertaking ... with a tough journey to work every day.

(Info on history of panoramas, and modern photographic panoramas, is here. And elsewhere.)

23 February 2014

Clay books at the V&A

Wandering in the beautiful, peaceful Ceramics galleries… and finding work by Sara Radstone -

and Halim al Karim  (whose BA was in ceramics (1988) but who now works with photography) -

Two sorts of "ghosts" in clay. Unreadable books … stripped of access to their contents -  the title doesn't fit with my understanding of what a ghost is; but what might it be?  From wikipedia: "the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestation, to the living"; they etymology also relates to "spiritus" in the sense of a breath or blast. "The modern noun does, however, retain a wider field of application, extending on one hand to "soul", "spirit", "vital principle", "mind" or "psyche", the seat of feeling, thought and moral judgement; on the other hand used figuratively of any shadowy outline, fuzzy or unsubstantial image, in optics, photography and cinematography especially a flare, secondary image or spurious signal."

Metaphorically, Nietszche's usage can enlighten us: he "argued that people generally wear prudent masks in company; but that an alternative strategy for social interaction is to present oneself as an absence, as a social ghost". An absence … a ghost can also be used in the sense of an impression of the past.