Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Inspired by Nature's bounty

Alan Reynolds: Summer: Young September's Cornfield (image from here)
This morning I went into our local museum to see an exhibition:  Angie Lewin - A Printmaker's Journey.  An exhibition of Angie Lewin's work alone would have been interesting enough, but this is so much better: a collection of pieces which the catalogue describes as an introspective exhibition: one which gathered together major influences, affinities and works of importance to her own visual journey, past and present.
I enjoy seeing Angie Lewin's work.  I so admire her compositions, her collections of evidence, memories of being in the landscape.  My favourites, however are the images which capture the shape of the landscape such as Skye to Harris (below)
and especially Black Island - both in the show.
The piece of hers which I loved the most in the exhibition is a watercolour: Wooden Dish with Uist Pebbles (image below from here).

One delightful surprise was a painting, Brimham Rock, Yorkshire by Graham Sutherland which I had not seen before.  What a powerful image.  The painting, a gouache on paper is the original from the Shell poster shown below (image from here).  The frame and lettering diminishes the power of the original.  At first I thought that it was a tree, but no - the rocks exist. 
Astonishing, the painting is representational, but moves, pulls in the viewer, enticingly looking like a tree in wind, then contributing to the otherworldliness of rocks and their surroundings.  (image below from here)
Another delight, another discovery for me was Monica Poole's wood engraving Under Water (image below from here).
And yet another new artist to me, and attractive, unusual work is Paul Scott's Scott's Cumbrian Blue(s), The Garden Series, Willow Cuttings (image below from here).
All in all this morning reinforced my general feeling that I get more of substance these days from small specialist exhibitions rather than the huge blockbusters, not least because I encountered only two other visitors this morning (and they soon left, leaving me alone) rather than crowds.  I now have lots to savour.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Hawthorn blossom

The blossom on the hawthorns round us is at its peak right now.  I remember hearing that David Hockney waited and revisited hawthorns until just this perfect point before rushing out to capture the abundance.
(image from here - more Hockney hawthorns here)

Monday, May 01, 2017

May day

We have had both sunshine and rain today, as is appropriate for May Day, heralding the end of Spring and the beginnings of Summer.  I have been remembering traditions I took part in when I was small - even when not so small: I washed my face in the May Day dawn dew in Edinburgh until I married and left home.  One of these women pictured here could have been me as I did go up Arthur's Seat a couple of my years at university to complete the ritual (I wasn't there then - 1965 was my first year at university, so that May I would still have been at school).  Those were the days before we thought about acid rain and other general pollutants!
I was only in Greece for one May Day that I remember - it must have been in the early 1950s.  A group of aunts took me out to the country the day before in order to gather wild flowers and branches of flowering shrubs which we then wove into a wreath to hang on the balcony.  The wreath then stayed there until Midsummer.  It certainly was not as professional looking as the one illustrated above from here.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Celebrating process as well as outcome - in pottery, and weaving

This morning we went to the Craft Study Centre in Farnham to visit two exhibitions.  The first of these was Leach Pottery: the sound of it.
Bernard Leach's individual pots are showcased, as well as design drawing, and production ware - and are put in a making context with a film of the potter himself working and talking.  Also there is current work from the Leach Pottery now. (The pots in the display cases also made fascinating shadows.)
It is very much an exhibition which focuses attention on the making as important as the final object.  An interactive display produces the sounds of the stages of making - sounds in the various departments, including the music playing while the potters work.

Upstairs the exhibition is on the tapestry weaving process: Artists meet their Makers.  This examines the process of making tapestries from art in other media.  The artists in this case are Henry Moore,
Underground sleepers (woven sample left, and cartoon right by weavers Penny Bush and Pat Taylor - the project went into limbo when Moore died)
Henry Moore: Underground sleepers
Rebecca Salter: Untitled 2015-32 Old Holland Neutral Tint ink on Japanese paper
The tapestry of Rebecca Salter's work, in progress (Michael Brennand-Wood's finished tapestry piece seen on left of pic., and Basil Beattie's painting and tapestry just beyond loom)
Philip Sanderson was taking a break from weaving
Woven samples, yarn choices, and ink swatches for the Salter piece.
Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings, (seen below watching the weaving process)
(image above from here)
Michael Brennand-Wood: Transformer (woven by Philip Sanderson)
(image above from here)
Philip Sanderson has a piece of his own work in the exhibition too.
Cordis Prize 2016 shortlisted tapestry: No.13 Thurst Block Shoe 
I found the exhibition interesting, informative, and inspirational.  I am not weaving, of course, but it filled me full of work enthusiasm.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sea level rising

I recently heard an interesting radio programme about how the Solomon Islands are steadily disappearing beneath the rising seas.  And coincidentally I was cleaning up some files containing designs from my knitwear days - one of which involved mermaids.  So inevitably a doodle presented itself:
Mindful of mermaids (design in progress)
Ideas and designs recycle themselves in my thinking, no matter how far I have drifted from their origins.  While I determine to 'rationalise' the physical matter around me (i.e. downsize the stuff), the attic that is my brain still holds on usefully to all sorts of junk.  Repurposed, I now find that I prefer the mature reconfigurations. 
Just as well, really.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Beauty in a hard place

When we visited the Centre of Ceramic Art at York Art Gallery last year I picked up a leaflet for the Ceramic Art York 2016 event (as seen on the desk in the photo above).  I did so mostly because of the design on the cover.  As so often happens, the leaflet was lost from my view and life intervened, until today when tidying a certain corner.
Before disposing of the leaflet in the recycling I decided to pursue that initial attraction and look up the artist: Rebecca Appleby.  In her ceramic sculptures I find that she has captured those brutish elements of urban detritus which so many of us find beautiful. 
I am attracted by her sculptures,
but am even more drawn to her collages/drawings
and especially to her paper maquettes.  All images are from Rebecca Appleby's website.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

I have never worn an Easter Bonnet

But quite a few folks seem to enjoy extraordinary creations:
image from here
image from here

each link leads to many more examples.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

Three threads (part 3)

I have not thought about Sidney Nolan's work for a long time.  My first interest in him was drawn by Leda and the swan (image above from here).  I was a teenager and somehow had acquired a postcard of the work.  I knew about his Ned Kelly paintings, and other divers works; but I still do not know much at all about him and his work.
Sidney Nolan: In the cave (image from here)
I was fortunate while living in the USA to meet and make the acquaintance of his stepdaughter Jinx Nolan.  This was while I was still working in publishing, but she encouraged me to think seriously about coming to art later in life, and I found her and her work inspirational.  I was also inspired to seek out and read her mother, Cynthia Nolan's travel books.

Sidney Nolan: Woman and Billabong (image from here)
The exhibition at the Pallant Gallery was an opportunity to see my first display of several of Sidney Nolan's paintings.  Well, both my friend and I were wowed.
Sidney Nolan: Kelly, Spring (image from here)
All the emotion I had been lacking in the Pasmore exhibition was here, and how!   I love all this mythology, gesture, drama!  I was wondering how I could have lived this long and missed this much great art.  But maybe it's good to know that there are still artists out there whose work and working I still have to discover to my greater nourishment.
Articles here, here, and here, and a review on radio here.  I bought the catalogue where I shall start my researches.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Three threads (part 2)

Victor Pasmore: The Quiet River:The Thames at Chiswick (image from here)
Before the actual visit, the first of the three exhibitions at Pallant House which drew my interest was the Victor Pasmore, especially as it focuses particularly on his development into abstraction.  I first encountered The Quiet River in the Tate gallery in 1968, and bought a postcard which I have still.  It had a profound effect on me, both emotional and intellectual.  I enjoyed..., enjoy that abstracting of elements within sight, such as is also seen in The Gardens of Hammersmith 2 (below, image from here).
I also enjoy his much later wholly abstract work, which I have always believed was a progression from the kind of works pictured above.  Despite Pasmore's claim that his abstract work is purely abstract and not an abstraction of something, I still find visual connections.
Quiet is the Island (not in the exhibition; image from here)
Development in Green and Indigo 2 (image from here)
The exception is in his three dimensional work, the sculptural pieces with wood and Perspex - which excite interest but not pleasure for me. 
Abstract in White, Black, Brown, and Lilac (image from here - where there is a review of the exhibition)
Those I do see as a kind of intellectual exercise in composition, placement, shape, shadow, form, etc. - which could be said of the work like the two pieces pictured here immediately above the abstract if they were seen without any knowledge of the earlier paintings, I suppose.  But with that knowledge, that acquaintance informs and engages a more personal relationship, I find.
The time I spent scrutinising and pondering Pasmore's approach to his abstract pieces had led me to see them increasingly reaching for a kind of graphic purity - distancing them from emotion.
I found it a fascinating, thought-provoking exhibition, but I found myself needing to revisit The Quiet Thames before I left, and immediately on exiting the temporary exhibition space into part of the permanent collection was drawn by the emotional pull of a huge Michael Andrews painting - coincidentally also of the Thames.
Michael Andrews: Thames Painting, The Estuary (image from here, the recent exhibition at the Gagosian gallery in London from which it had just that day been returned and rehung)

Friday, April 07, 2017

Joyous Spring outing

Not a breath of wind, no clouds, full sun, birds singing, and hardly another person around: our outing to Heale House garden was blissful.  We had been there twice before, but many years ago, and had kept meaning to go back.  A friend reminded me of this when she told me of her recent delight there, and so we chose to go today.  And what luck with our timing!  Not only was the weather wondrous, but the blossoms on the trees were out and pristine. 
The house and garden are in a fantastic situation, in the curve of a branch of the river Avon, which creates views and opportunities for naturalistic design around the more formal gardens.  Surrounding hills create a delightful wide valley which (apart from the occasional fighter plane! from the nearby air force station) was soothingly restoratively peaceful.  With hardly anyone else in the gardens, and with so little other intrusion from the outside world it felt like we had sidestepped the everyday. 
Even Heale Cottage (the large house with the thatched roof and the only visible neighbour) looked like an illustration from an 18th century novel.
Bright sunshine is not the best condition for taking good snaps, but everywhere I looked - vistas and details - demanded to be captured, to be savoured later.
In one corner there is a Japanese bridge leading to a now rather dilapidated tea house.  But it all looks fitting with the magnificent surrounding blossoms.

So many shades and shapes of green - so much beauty, and promise of beauty to come.
This outing was both restful and stimulating in so many ways!  We won't leave it so long to return again - although we should not count on being as lucky as we were today.