Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Explanation or excuse?

Several years ago, when my nephews were young they used to spend every summer with my parents, and I would take them all on outings.  One such was to a nearby bird world.  Weather-wise it was a rather drizzly day, so many of the birds - especially those from warm climes - looked miserable.
There were not many photo opportunities, but I was struck by the sculptural form of the northern bald ibis on a boat.
I found this photo the other day, and was struck again by the attractiveness of the bird's form as well as by its apparent look of total misery.  Of course I am probably anthropomorphising its mood, as other photos I have seen do not show it looking much different.  But even so, when I think about what we humans are doing to so many environments in the name of progress, but really perhaps it turns out only for the comfort of a few - in which I count myself - I wonder how we would start to account for our actions.
Nature of course is well known for being raw in tooth and claw - it's just that we humans get the prize for having pursued this beyond any wildest dreams.  While I was thinking over how one could begin to explain ourselves to our fellow inhabitants of the planet, I came up with an image using the ibis.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wondrous encounter

Today I found two films by Alison F Bell.  The films involve textile work -
and one on the sea shore.  Both move me, and for me require no further words.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ruthless, yet benign and far-sighted

Jung Chang has written a third enthralling biography.  I very much enjoyed, appreciated, and was enlightened by Wild Swans and Mao: The Unknown Story.  Today I finished reading the extraordinary life of the Empress Dowager Cixi.
I had a vague recollection of the Boxer rebellion from my history lessons at school, and in my early 20s when I was commuting to work in London I read a great deal about Chinese communism.  But I had never heard of this remarkable woman, a concubine of the emperor who saw what needed to be done to bring her country into the modern age, and found ways to take the power again and again to carry out the reforms.  Astonishing that we have not all heard of her.
(image from here)
She was far from an angel; she was just as murderous as any despot, but the good she did seems far to have outweighed the bad.  Learning some of the history of a period which had fallen between the cracks of my previous reading has been fascinating too.   It is such a pleasure to benefit from slow, well researched and well written input as an antidote to hard to avoid fast thoughtless 'news'.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


I'm happiest when thinking about several - or at least a few things at a time.  So when I am stitching solidly, my brain is busy in other areas.  Today I have been exploring ideas about three dimensions - an alley I stroll down from time to time with no specific direction as yet.
There is stitching to be done every day - I've almost finished the individual pieces of Soliloquy, only a couple to go.  And of course the ongoing getting rid of stuff.  But my main focus today has been on another ongoing task: to work up a few drawings for lino printing later in the year. 
I managed to get a trio to the back burner point - meaning that I'm largely happy enough with them to leave them until I am ready to transfer them onto the vinyl for cutting. 
My starting point for these was the passing thought that apart from when printing, I rarely wear an apron any more, so a tentative title for the trio is Studio aprons.  I have also been feeling sentimental about bits of knitwear I've recently finally cleared out, and so the aprons have designs I created in those days.  I do hate waste.

Friday, August 11, 2017

More runners

The stamps generated this version of the runners.  The Greek ones date from the Cyprus problems which involved Britain, in the 50s.  My father had to put up with a lot of gentle criticism in Greece that summer, and it was the first time I thought about politics. 
The German stamp fitted visually as well as thematically, then the runners arranged themselves.  But something was needed to bring all together.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

A feast of figurative

(image from here)
The primary reason for going to Pallant House yesterday was the John Minton exhibition.  I first came across John Minton's work on book jackets, and I have loosely known his work without really knowing anything about it or him.  So, as the Pallant puts on such good exhibitions of British 20th century artists we grasped the opportunity to find out more.
(image from here)
And I find I really like the work - especially the early paintings, and those from his travels.  Indeed the early works very much brought to mind the currently fashionable artists of the St Judes' stable.  I very much am drawn to the flat presentation of figures - yet so expressive - and the delightful elegant scribbled - and yet emotionally informative detail. 
Children by the Sea oil on canvas (image from here)
In the picture above, all the plants and Cornish details are incorporated like the stones in the walls - graphically, but as they are in fact too.
I am still absorbing and enjoying what I have seen.
Summer Landscape gouache on board (image from here where there is a review of the exhibition)
Landscape near Kingston Jamaica ink and watercolour on paper (image from here, with another review)
Melon Sellers, Corsica  oil on canvas (image from here - with more images)
Exotic Fruit (image from here)
For the time, I find his colours extraordinarily vibrant, and none more so than in his paintings of Corsica, Spain, and Jamaica.  And stunning in the enigmatic painting The Entombment, below with its beautiful Corsican cross.
The Entombment oil on canvas (image from here)

Here is another review.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Prints at Pallant House

Marie Laurencin: Depuis ce Jour Fatal etching (image from here)
The current exhibition in the Pallant House print room is Women Artists: The Female Gaze.  The prints are from the gallery's collection, and what a splendid show they make.  My absolute favourite is the one pictured above, but it only just squeaked ahead of so many others.  These are but a few which particularly caught my interest:
Cornelia Parker: The Blue Room lithograph (image from here)
Kiki Smith: Blue Girl etching (image from here - I'm not exactly sure if this is the right image, but the print I saw was almost exactly similar)
Paula Rego: The Guardian etching (image from here)
Shani Rhys James: The Hand Mirror etching with aquatint (image from here)
Cathie Pilkington: Eve and Eve mokulito lithograph (image from here)
Jennifer McRae: The Absentee lithograph (image from here)

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

An all-absorbing read

For months now I have been slowly making my way through Carr, O'Keeffe, Kahlo, Places of Their Own by Sharyn Rohlfsen UdallMarja-Leena Rathje told me about the book and the accompanying exhibition in Canada, and I was fortunate in being able to find a second hand copy here in the UK.
I thank Marja-Leena so much as this book has been like attending a rewarding academic course, making me look at the work of two artists I did not know to any great degree: Carr and Kahlo, and compare aspects of their thinking and communication with an artist I have read a great deal about over the years: O'Keeffe.  The book compares their art, their lives, and the achievements they made, covering the women's encounters with thoughts of nationality, gender, personal mythology, and success.  And examining their progress as individuals, women, with distinctive separate voices with visual statements different not only from each other, but from their contemporary artists.  The book examines similarities in difficulties they faced, as well as similarities in some aspects of their input and how that affected their output.
Harold Mortimer Lamb: Emily Carr (image from here)
Emily Carr: Wood interior (image from here)
Ralph Looney: Georgia O'Keeffe (image from here)
Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction White Rose (image from here)
Frida Kahlo (image from here)
Frida Kahlo: My Dress Hangs There (image from here)

Another immersive book I enjoyed a couple of years ago, which also included Georgia O'Keeffe was Three Artists (Three Women): Modernism and the Art of Hesse, Krasner, and O'Keeffe by Anne Middleton Wagner.  And this fascinating journey into the art of women of the Americas continues with my current reading of Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists by Donna Seaman.  I find it a brilliant continuation and expansion of my education in art history, which has been largely steeped in a European perspective.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Forward planning

It does not feel like the end of July here - more like sometime in September.  The evenings are chill with no heating, and the hawthorn berries get redder every day.  I want to do some lino printing in the Autumn, so took some time today to think about designs.  The doodle below is based on someone I saw in Hyde Park one sunny day last month.

Now I am going to try to inject some feeling of Summer into the day by making frozen gooseberry yoghurt - but I might need to put on a cardigan first!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Can't settle

I have many things to get on with, most of which need a deal of time, but I find myself distracted to focus on something different.  My main determination at present is to eliminate extraneous STUFF.  Stuff which has accumulated over so many years, and has been added to and accommodated as parents have died.
Stuff might prove useful, books might be read or re-read, stuff is too good to throw away, but now obsolete, or out of fashion, or in not quite spruce enough condition to give away, ....
Anyway all this in itself should make me busy, but the very process of sorting through the stuff - especially in this case the textile stuff - has tripped me up.  I found myself making a collage of bits left over from other projects.  And now have given myself yet another stitching project.
The base is a screen print on heavy calico.  The image is a drawing of part of the plan of Winchester cathedral.  Many years ago I was part of an exhibition in the cathedral and as I live relatively near I did the early morning shift.  With hardly anyone in the cathedral I spent an enjoyable time looking at the structure of the place, and especially at the medieval inlaid tiles.
I made screen prints of the tile designs too, and bits of those are in this new collage.
The figures are offprints from other projects.  I also added some text about the tile makers, and all that would have been ok - but the idea is to pull it all together with the kind of intensive stitching that I used for City living, below.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


I have been seeking a folk song.  Several years ago, while I was my mother's sole carer and thus not my usual otherwise alert self, I happened across a television programme of a folksong gathering.  A woman described the folk tale behind the song she was about to sing - perhaps in Gaelic (Irish, or Scottish, I cannot remember).
It was the story which gripped my mind.  I do not remember it at all clearly except the bare bones:
There were two sisters; one - let's call her Catriona - had a lover that the other - let's call her Fiona - coveted.  So while Catriona fell asleep at the low tide edge, Fiona tied her hair to the rocks.  The tide inevitably came in, and Fiona walked off with the lover.
I cannot remember enough details to google effectively, so have not been able to track down the folk song, or the tale.  I keep trying at odd moments, but meanwhile the worm has been at work in my mind.  The seaweed on the shores of the Outer Hebrides provided the hair.
It is not a literal illustration of a mis-remembered story, but what hearing the story generated within my well-established relationship with the sea.  After my return from holiday I have been working on the idea above. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Holiday stitching

I am still working my way through Soliloquy, a panel at a time - only eight panels to go before I stitch them together.  I did not want to risk them on holiday, however, so I took Classic viola to finish, and Quiet work.
The latter was my main occupation, with the leaves taking up the time.  I finished the rest once I returned home, and before resuming Soliloquy.
I have written in more detail about the development of Quiet work on my work blog.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Summer between storms

I had not seen the Hauser and Wirth garden in Summer, so I jumped at the opportunity to meet a friend there yesterday.  I was so lucky with the weather: I drove through a rainstorm to get there, and it poured for hours after I returned home, but whilst there we even had sunshine at one point!
Our own garden has benefited greatly from the rain, so a good day for gardens as well as catching up on friendly gossip yesterday.