Last day at work before Contemporary Quilt Summer School with Jo Budd on theme of 'Microcosm to Macrocosm. We were asked to bring an item with sufficient colour, texture and interest to work from . I instantly thought of the piece of wood I found on the Thames tow path on the way to work (and which my work colleagues were rather unimpressed with when I came in brandishing my trophy). I've had to rethink my bag from the planned small trundly suitcase to large backpack to accommodate it - see who I can demolish in the tube when turning round!
We'll be painting and dyeing so was looking through my stash for white or plain when I came across this wonderful piece of African damask batik which I shall sneek in my bag. I don't usually do much deying ( apart from Indigo ) although I like to use other peoples, especially when it has the added benefit of supporting livelihoods.
Apart from cooking, shopping and ironing , this weekend has been mainly spent Colouring-In having selected several potential ideas for Brentford Boat series
Some of the materials used - watercolours; neocolour crayons; grey pitt pens; inktense blocks and pencils. First time trying the inktense blocks (I love my pencils!) and I'm not hugely impressed - even with a gripper they're very crumbly, like conte. Nice colour range though - must add indigo and olive green to my neocolour collection.
Started off with watercolour which was fun but decided really needed tonal studies. So printed out traced sketches onto thick copier paper and tried some schemes out. Next step collage.
Inspired by the Culture Show special on the RA Summer Exhibition , we made our annual pilgrimage a bit earlier than usual. Entry was through the Central Hall and they'd changed the rooms around from previous years ( more room for prints and drawings in I and II than the Large Weston Room) so didn't follow a logical order as in the past! A lot of people are rather sniffy about the Summer Exhibition (refering to it as a car boot sale among other derogatory terms) but I love it for its diversity. I usually 'discover' new artists (at least to me ) and reaquaint myself with old favourites and this year was no exception
So let's do a tour!
First stop was the lecture room of Royal Academicians curated by Michael Craig- Martin. I loved the Antony Gormly piece -it looks organic , like a swarm of bees for a distance but made of geometric forms and Cornelia Parker's 'Endless Sugar' instalation of 30 squashed silver sugar bowls was subtle and mesmerising. You were so aware of the volume that had been sucked out of each piece and the subtle variation.
Next room 'IX' , has an embroidered piece 'Heartbeat' by Miranda Argyle - pleased to say much more prominent than her piece hidden away in the Small Weston Room in in 2009. It was 'Dagenham ' by Jock McFadyen that drew my eye- it looked at first glance quite ordinary but with a dramatic sky and then you saw the detail of a thin line of house and buildings
In room VII, being on the lookout for boat paintings 'the deadliest catch' by Jonathan Wolfenden caught my eye as did the subtle drawings( almost like a linocut) of 'River Lune' by Milan Ivanic.
I'm not sure I agree with the curator of room V that it is ‘only for people who are sensitive, intelligent and thoughtful. No one else will enjoy it: the works are delicate, subtle and rich.’ but it was without doubt my favourite. From the sarcophagus of bones by Olu Shobowale to the gouaches of Ian McKeever, there was much to enjoy. The sculpture by Cathy de Monchaux while uncomfortable was fantastic (in all its definitions) with its depiction of strange figures on unicorns like a renaissance painting in 3D. In the category of 'I wish I'd made that' was the painting 'Cartwheeler ' by Melanie Comber in oil and pigment and 2 works by Philippa Stjernswald: quiet , textured pieces in oil ,wax and mixed media.
By this time I was starting to flag (well there are over 1000 pieces in the exhibibition ), resisting the Pimm's,I managed to have a quick skim of Room III , agreeing with the critics for once that the hanging did most of the work no favours. No time to absorb the prints , drawings and artists's books apart from the intricate folded paper cathedral window patchwork of antique books by Francisco Prieto .
Just have to go back for a second visit
I know it's only advertising for cars, in a prime position for the M4 elevated section, but this clever statement at the end of my road, seen every day on the way to work certainly gets me thinking.
About the negatives bound up in positives (and vice versa). About how you never see 'to don't' lists but how often we work from them. About the things that hold you back.
At a more prosaic level , I've been thinking about how to incorporate it into the next block of journal quilts based on text. I have lots of photos and bits of peeled posters from the hoardings on the Great West Road - perhaps now is the time to think about using them.
I've been preparing lots of colour catchers with inkaid to go through the printer - following up some of the ideas I included the 'Sketchbook Project' My pages have been digitised and I'm wondering whether to join in the Sketchbook Project 2012 - it's coming to London after all.
I'm getting so much out of Elizabeth Barton's online workshop at 'QuiltUniversity'. Apart from the copious detailed notes, exercises and examples, the discussion forum is thought provoking - its interesting to see what influences other have and the ideas they come up with. In a 'real' workshop, you're so intent on your own work you don't tend to notice what other participants are up to!
I've currently got lots of tracings of potential compositions up on my design wall - I love this technique for simplification, I get so caught up in the detail and particularly the colour in my photos and watercolours ( nothing new there -I've always skimped on the drawing phase and launched straight into painting!). If something works with just line then it can only improve once tone and colour are brought into play.
One of the exercises was to look back at previous work and see if there are themes. I already had it in mind to develop a series on boats ( from all my 'Boat Friday' walks along the Thames) and I had made a quilt over 10 years ago based on a watercolour at Pinmill.I also found boats had crept into other pieces of work like 'Serifos Storm' and 'Gythion Glow' (above)
Another exercise, looking at series of artists you admire, sent me looking through the book on Barbara Rae that I received as a Xmas present. Look - wonderful abstracted boats!! I had tried to give a link to Barbara's website on the discussion forum but the site was down. I found out why - she's just published a book on her sketchbooks and you can look through the whole thing here. Fabulous! I'm itching to go to the RA Summer Exhibition to see some of her work in the flesh again ( and buy that book!)
When creating in a new area, beyond your comfort zone, how do you know whether a piece 'works' or not?
This is something I've been thinking a lot about this weekend having viewed my 'Taplow Vase Reconstruction' on display at Slough Museum as part of 'Whatever Floats Your Boat' exhibition.
I'm used to looking critically at my quilts and assessing their content, composition and craftmanship , and whether they meet my intention. But in 3D it's much more difficult to assess, I don't have past experience to compare with, many of the considerations are different.
What inspired me about the Taplow vase were the gaps as much as the solid pieces, the ragged bottom of the vase, and how your mind fills in the holes. I wanted to make something that had the opposite characteristics to pottery- floating, light with movement , not attached to earth but of the air with the potential for multiple viewpoints.
Another discovery (which shouldn't be a surprise) - how you display 3D items makes a huge difference to how it looks and functions. It's relatively straightforward with quilts (although they can be hung upside down or in poor light- I once had a very thick batton inserted in a piece on display in a local art open exhibition that distorted it terribly. ) How much control does the maker have once work is submitted for display? How much should they have?
Unfortunately I wasn't able to be at the 'grand reveal' whether makers talked about their inspirations and making of the piece although I did print instructions on hanging it with photos of how I wanted it to look. I obviously wasn't clear enough about my intentions for the piece. The curators ( who worked incredibly hard to put together the exhibition in a couple of days) had attempted to make my piece look like a museum exhibit which is a perfectly valid point of view but not mine. But then if you put work into the public arena, is your view important? It was suspended from the ceiling but had a plinth underneath it so it looked as if it was resting on it.These plinths worked very well for some of the other pieces but in my view it made my piece look solid and clumsy, that the plinth was part of the work. At least it made me realise that no , this piece doesn't work: it shouldn't need to rely on how it's displayed to reveal the intentions behind it.
I'll have to think carefully about whether I include it in my portfolio- too much like a lampshade !!I don't think I'll be in too much of a hurry to make further 3D work!I've learnt such a lot from making this piece ( much of it unexpected ) but most of all the importance of communicating intention both through the piece itself but also in providing statements and instructions.
The exercises in the first lesson of Elizabeth Barton's 'Working in a series' workshop at 'Quilt University' have had the desired effect in getting the thought processes moving and connection made.
Looking at favourite artists and their series of work and how they've worked the variations I picked up a piece by Elspeth Owen I bought at the Hart Gallery nearly 20 years ago. A sphere of around 5 inches it has so many subtle colours and textures it feels as if you have a globe in your hands. It was number 74 of over a hundred such spheres and bowls and I remembered how they were laid across the gallery so you could see the transitions from one piece to another. I wonder where the others are and if their owners also have that sense of connection.
It was interesting to see Elspeth's website and the directions she's moved into - I would have loved to have seen 'Blue Moon' from 2004- a sinuous curve of pots representing the cycle of the moon. In 2009 during a blue moon she slept outside to discover something about the dark, about fear and about using her senses differently.
An outing to Slough today for Private view for TVCQ of exhibition'Whatever Floats Your Boat' at Slough Museum. Despite long delays on the train from Ealing due to vandalism and lack of 'natillas' (custard tarts) at the Portuguese coffee shop it was great to see the hugely varied textile intepretations inspired by items in the museum and/or environs of Slough. It certainly encouraged me to work beyond my comfort zone. Jane, Sandy and others did a tremendous job to put the display up in 2 days rather than having 2 months to plan it!!
I always feel a bit awkward posing in front of my artworks (not helped by 'hat hair' - sunhat was very necessary today in the heat) - I always look more relaxed in work photos, my 'natural ' environment.
A Conservation Biotechnologist by profession, in my 'playtime' I create art textiles inspired by the natural world. I am currently exploring ways of interpreting sketches directly onto fabric. Besides printing paintings and photos onto fabric using the computer, I am constructing densely quilted pieces overpainted with acrylic paint.