31 May 2016

Drawing Tuesday - Wellcome Collection

In the Reading Room of the Wellcome Collection, a wonderful book was propped open on the table -
It seems to be a facsimile of Mascagni's "universal anatomy" - but no information about it was available with it, that I could see. It's not the book that the University of Iowa has a copy - those plates are 99x72 cm, about twice the size of this volume.

Mascagni (1751-1817) discovered the lymphatic system (folio with 41 plates published 1787; one is here). His preparations - made by filling the lymphatic system with mercury and then doing careful dissection, can be seen in the anatomy museum at the University of Siena.

That background information came later. While leafing through the book I found this image, with lots of parallel lines -
The central white area turns out, in the companion coloured plate, to be  the spinal column. I'm not clear which organs or muscles are represented, but liked the lines, and the lettering - and left out the lymphatics -
 Joyce liked a 19th century mask from Sri Lanka -
 Sue, too, drew a mask ... of sorts ... it's a scold's bridle, also known as a branks -
Janet B joined us for lunch after researching images for a secret quilt project.

30 May 2016

Extended drawing - last week's output

With nearly three hours of class time to fill, working on my Home project, what to do? House plans have fascinated me since childhood, when we had lots of home-building magazines around (my father built his own house three times over). Looking at the layouts in the magazines, I could imagine our family living in those houses - and most important, which would be my room, and how I would furnish it. No surprise, then, that a plan of the house that I currently call home started taking shape -
It's interesting to mentally walk round the house and try to envisage how the doors (red) opened (to the left? to the right?) and where the shelves and cupboards (yellow) are. The windows emanated green ... a bridge to the garden.

To do the upstairs at the same scale I folded the paper and traced the outline, changing as necessary.
Then added text -- the names of the rooms, and some salient features (eg, functional fireplace).

Meanwhile everyone was quietly getting on with things ...

The next bit of creative frippery was based on seeing this collage at Art16; name of artist escapes me. The cutout lines float over the background -
So I had to try cutting out something - words - from scrap paper. The words were written with white chalk on white paper, which could be seen at certain angles to the light, seen well enough to use as a cutting guide -
That was "just playing", though I might use it as a way of doing line drawings of furniture or other objects. Loosely positioned, it starts to be 3d and cast shadows.

There was still some time left to fill (I felt very unfocussed, can you tell?) so I indulged in a bit of smearing with chalky pastel on a big sheet of paper, using crude shapes and then the back of the cut-out words -
This is an offshoot of the rubbed-down charcoal last week, from which a pattern emerged. Ah, lovely serendipity! The artist's job is to notice what's happening, and take it further. So, we can all do the artist's job, now and then.

Today is bank holiday monday - no class this week. I shall try to use the time - 5 hours including travel time, much could be done in that span - following up a few ideas:
- move the birdhouse around the house and take photographs
- do small, quick line drawings of a dozen objects
- large bold line drawings (furniture?) - cut out, hung up, lit to bring out shadows
- 3D objects from the cut-out lines??

29 May 2016

Old work - what's to become of it?

Once again these small pieces (6"x4") have surfaced. I can't quite seem to move them into the charity shop box...

These riffs on edifying mottos from samplers were made about 15 years ago, in a burst of wild spontaneity. Couching on scraps of silk dupion. The words are:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent

What is unsought will be undetected

The appetite grows by eating

One day ... not just yet ... I shall take them out of the clip frames and use them for notebook covers. One day, when they can be united with a bagful of precut pages that are somewhere in this room and will emerge in the fullness of time (ie the two weeks remaining for it to be sorted out) - then the sections will be sewn together and the cover made. (The books to be given as presents, and found "too good to use"?)

The sorting out of my studio(s) brings up, yet again, that big question: what to do with old work? Finished work and samples both. What to do with it all when has it outlived its usefulness - and should it be disposed of just because it's no longer "useful"?

It's hard not to "personify" pieces of creative output - they become our children. Can we simply discard them? Yet, when drastically downsizing, what's the point of keeping all this stuff? For many of us, the greatest part of creative pleasure isn't the finished object, it's the process of making - of seeing the work evolve through our thoughts and under our hands. Rather like helping a child grow up. At which point they leave home ... our job is (almost) done.

Hmm, pursuing this comparison, I'm straying into confusing the work-as-child with the mother having outlived her usefulness. A murky area! But perhaps some of what keeps us from letting go of our old work is rooted in that emotional arena. An investment of time and energy and love, made tangible in the object. Which, if it no longer exists, is a personal loss.

Yet we do withstand losses. Less personal losses can be seen as trade-offs: remove extra furniture, however beloved, and gain necessary space. Give up the expensive holiday and you're able to use the money for something else. Everyday decisions; first-world problems.

So, there's this body of "old work" that no longer represents what you're interested in. Clean sweep, start afresh? One door closes and another opens?

Or hang on to it, "just in case"?

28 May 2016

"Practitioners of the figure" in India

"All the great Indian practitioners of the figure - Tagore, Amrita Sher-gil, FN Souza, Jamini Roy, Paritosh Sen, KG Subramanyan - rejected what the prodigiously gift, short-lived, sharp-tongues Hungarian-Indian Sher-gil called "academic naturalism", which she characterised as a style that believes "the sole function of painting and sculpture is to reproduce a given object faithfully, that is, with as h cretinous minuteness and servilitiy as is humanly possible".

So said Amit Chaudhuri, reviewing Bhupen Khakhar's upcoming exhibition at Tate Modern (1 June to 6 November). Who are these practitioners of the figure, "both shaped by and severing ties with the European Renaissance"?

A quick search reveals two "Tagore"s who were visual artists - Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951) was influential in the development of modern  Indian painting, and it was surely this Tagore that the author was referring to. The better-known Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) "reshaped Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries" but didn't take up painting until he was in his 60s and was more abstract than figurative.
Three ink drawings by Rabindranath Tagore, exhibited at the V&A in 2011 (via)
Abanindranath Tagore was the first Indian artist to gain international recognition, says this site; "Tagore sought to modernize Moghul and Rajput styles in order to counter the influence of Western models of art, as taught in Art Schools under the British Raj and developed the Indian style of painting, later known as Bengal school of art. Such was the success of Tagore's work that it was eventually accepted and promoted as a national Indian style within British art institutions under the epithet of Indian Society of Oriental Art."

Of the "25 famous paintings" by him (here), this is Jamuna -
and this is "The Passing of Shah Jahan" (1901) -

Next on the list is the "sharp-tongued" Amrita Sher-gil (1913-1941) - sometimes known as India's Frida Kahlo.
Amrita Sher-Gil - two self-portraits from the early 1930s (via)
"South Indian villagers going to market" (via)

The style of FN Souza (1924-2002) "exhibited both low-life and high energy" says Wikipedia.
FN Souza, Abstract head, 1957
Souza's Crucifixion is in the Tate's collection 

Jamini Roy (1887-1972) was one of the most famous pupils of Abanindranath Tagore and drew inspiration from folk and tribal art forms. His 17-panel Ramayana (1940-44) is regarded as his major work.
Three Women is from the 1940s (via)
Jatayu, Sita and Ravana is from the same era (via)

Paritosh Sen (1918-2008) was a founder member of the Calcutta Group, established in 1942. He travelled widely around the world and his style of painting underwent many changes.
Paritosh Sen, Music Lovers (via)
Untitled (via)

KG Subramanyan (b.1924) is another pioneer of Indian art ... painter,sculptor, printmaker, muralist.
KG Subramanyan, Odd Encounters, 1996 (via)
Untitled (via)

27 May 2016

From an old notebook

The notebook was used in the weekend studio between 2006 and 2009. In 2008 I wrote  "I need to live in places I can leave on my own two feet, with what I can carry." and "If you lived in North Pole, Alaska, you'd always have to wait for the next plane out. (Unless you owned a plane. Now it gets complicated.)" ... wonder what all that was about. 

I wrote paragraphs about randomness and about workmanship, and decided not to bother re-reading those thoughts.

Here's something copied down, probably from a newspaper - "Almost no hyperbola can capture the magnitude of events on Wall Street" ... interestingly, after encountering the word "hyperbole" here - well, that's what it should have been, are there no subeditors these days? - it cropped up twice the next day, and not at all in the five subsequent days.

An "inspirational" quote - "It is by studying little things that we attain great art." (Yes, nothing is trivial.)

Some funny titles for possible quilts - Bowls with Holes; Random Abandon; Darkest before the Dawn - ah, I was working on ideas for the Breakthrough challenge, which ended up with potato printed rows of "eggs" with bits of bright fabric "hatching" out. 

And ... what falls out of the book but a pad of smooth white paper ... drawing paper? My daily-drawing-of-an-object-in-the-home has been paralysed by the lack of suitable paper, the seeming impossibility of being able to settle on a size.

More words, from a "morning pages" bit of writing: "I dream of series"; "having creative excitement makes me less grumpy"; "I see one of my functions as being a passer-on of things".

A title of a piece of music - John Adams, Short ride in a fast machine - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LoUm_r7It8 

Also in that notebook, a lot of uninteresting (now) pages. Nearly 10 years ago - much planning of quilts. 

Bowls with Holes

Holes cut from magazine pages - a random juxtaposition

Observational drawing

"Pincushions at dawn" - drawing shadows

26 May 2016

Poetry Thursday - an extract from TS Eliot


Time and the bell have buried the day,
The black cloud carries the sun away,
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?

Fingers of yew be curled
Down on us? Ater the kingfisher's wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.

from Burnt Norton (written 1935), one of Eliot's Four Quartets

Chosen at random ... from a random book -

from the shelf -

opened to a random page -

The book is the Folio Society edition, 1968, and has stood unopened for many years.

24 May 2016

Drawing Tuesday - Petrie Museum

The vitrines are crowded with artifacts, mostly pottery, from all the dynasties of Egypt, as far into "now" as Roman times. We were suprised at how many visitors the museum had.

I sat down in front of some convenient jugs and filled a page with their shapes. These are coiled pots and were not always perfectly symmetrical -

Lots of pen lines, no chance of erasing any. Trying for a decent composition on the page spread, but basically I started at top left and worked across each page.

The patterning of the snail shells spoke to me -
Pen again, not terribly accurate ... but it was about the pattern, yes?
They look better with dark accents, and a bit of shadow -

Later I found these tipsy jugs -
 But what was everyone else up to?

Michelle used several page spreads in her handmade coptic stitch book, then did something simple on the first page -
 Coptic stitched books, it must be mentioned, open up perfectly flat.

Janet moved on from single objects, here combining several in a well-chosen scene -
 Jo found the "spirit houses" entrancing -
 Caryl's landscape of ancient pots, carefully observed -
 Sue's fragment of a relief from Thebes, subtly coloured -

23 May 2016

"Home" thoughts

The more I think about this topic, and about the drawing project, the more that everything says "Home" to me.

In the photo of the rescued birdhouse, other elements of Home are the doormats, the threshold, the post waiting to be picked up, the way the hall flooring leads in ... what I know that flooring leads past, and the way it changes into carpet just beyond the stairs -
 This next photo is of someone unknown's home. I love their display of carved wooden trees and am intrigued by the things that people but in their window, to be seen from inside and outside but also acting as a barrier between us-inside and them-outside -
 Making the home a better place ... and the turmoil or even agony that accompanies the process. Protecting the possessions kept in the home, preventing their contamination with the tiny particles of sawdust, paint, whatever. Better to take them all out of the room to keep them pristine, and aim to cull some in the process of putting things back -
 Yet living in one's home is often an automatic process - you don't see the things in there, as long as they let you get around them and carry on a "normal" life. They pile up, you get used to them being there (my inevitable heaps of paper! the unread novels! those few dishes that won't fit into the cupboard!), and it can be a real surprise when someone asks, "what's that doing there?"

These drawings, coloured with coffee, are of my first London home - the shared kitchen -
 and my own room, with too many books (the rest hidden under and behind other furniture) and the useless but decorative fireplace, the limited clothes storage, the sofabed, the desk which grew sideways to accommodate that latest thing, the computer -
 Fortunately that was before I discovered textile art, so no need for extensive fabric storage.

Ah yes, art ... this is towards an art project. So what might it look like? I'm drawn to this reflection, or layering -
 Here it is elsewhere, this time with the addition of holes, seeing into (or through) -
 Resonant, somehow, but I'm not sure where it might go.

I'm drawn to paintings of uninhabited interiors, like this one by Mark Entwisle
and Hammerskoi did similar, based on a place he had lived in ... a sense of quiet, with interesting light and spaciousness.