Over the course of the last 6 months on my daily-ish walks down Abbeyfields in Faversham, I've been mapping and recording my impressions of this ' Place' inspired by Alice Fox course ' Place-making Winter. I've finally got round to compiling some of the drawings ( on Abaca tissue, Colour Catchers) prints, texts, fabrics into a ' book of Marks ' . The structure is based on that learnt on Dorothy Caldwell course in Puglia 2013 of sewn signatures with a needle woven binding . I've used it several times ( in Rydal, Greece, Weymouth ) but not recently so it was a bit of a relearning curve but I love the interaction of the pages.
Wednesday, 26 May 2021
I've been making Journal Quilts every year since 2003 ( and with Contemporary Quilt of QGBI since 2007) . This year they are to be of a theme and shape(s) of your own choosing but designed so that at the end of the year they can be joined together in some way for possible exhibition. My favourite / most successful set of JQ's is from 2013 when I chose 'Indigo' as my theme so that is what I've chose to revisit but deciding on size/ shapes took a lot of pondering on graph paper! I decided in the end on a combination of : 8 x 8", 10 x 10" , 8 x 10", 10 x 8" which I hope will give me enough scope for experimenting. So far I'm on track , having completed January to April and May's the current piece of ' trainstitching'
As part of Alice Fox's 'Place- Making Winter' course, for the last 6 months I've been recording/mapping my daily(ish) walks down 'Abbeyfields' in Faversham in different ways.
So I was delighted to participate in another project with Kimbal Bumstead as part of his residency at the BasementArtsProject this time making audio recordings on my phone in my 'Place' and then drawing from the recording with my eyes closed, responding to the sounds and textures. From the submissions made by the participants he has created a digital collage ' map' and a 'sonic journey' to accompany it. The result is interactive - you can move through the 'landscape' accompanied by the soundtrack, highly recommended !
Thursday, 18 February 2021
In addition to the City Lit Art and Ideas course , since November I’ve been participating in a monthly textile course with artist Alice Fox ‘ PlaceMaking Winter’ where we’re exploring means of recording our local natural environment . The different focus and emphasis ( on ways of retrieving the past and being in the present ) have complimented each other , but both share a lot of reading which I’ve enjoyed immensely. Books have always been important to me , to the extent that when asked about hobbies during a management course, I didn’t think to include reading as its more than that , its integral to who I am. For various reasons it seems I haven’t been giving myself permission/ time to read !
One of these books is ‘ Landmarks’ by Robert MacFarlene and lot of what resonated with me were the ways of looking and experiencing what’s around you, particularly the childs -eye view ‘ rapt by the miniature and close at hand’ . ‘wonder is now, more than ever, an essential survival skill’.
When the group shared memories , I realised mine aren’t generally about people but about places, plants and insects, colours, experiences . My first memory is of picking daisies and placing them in a pink eggcup ( I would have been less than 3 as it was on the lawn in our first house ) .
At the end of the final session of the course we watched some clips from ‘Afterlife’ by Hirokazu Koreeda . I think the memory I would choose to take into the Afterlife is of Prawle Point in summer 2013. I was sitting sketching the wonderful coastal scenery surrounded by rare plants , dazzled by hundreds of six-spot burnet moths flying around. It’s significant that it combines both my art and scientific sides. I was lucky that I was allowed to study art at ‘ A’ level as well as biology and chemistry ( it took some creative time- tabling !), continuing to draw and paint alongside my career as a botanist/scientist . What both disciplines share is a way of looking and thus my way of remembering
I’ve travelled widely for both work and pleasure and have always taken lots of photos. There are crates of slides and packets of photos in the garage unlooked at it 15 years. Like ' Funes the Magnificant ' I feel that if I started sorting through them there would be no time to experience the present ! I don’t feel the need to consult them however as I have ready access to my sketchbooks.
Quick drawings and notes made at the time summon up memories of places, time, and people I was with far more than photos as when you're drawing you’re already editing to record what’s significant . I’m really missing going to art galleries and exhibitions , seeing how other artists interpret and edit what they’ve seen and experienced, what they regard as important.
In this example from Xmas day 2002 at Thien Mu Pagoda Vietnam, dragonflies were hovering, there was background hum of Buddhist chanting. A monk admired my drawing and gave me a pear.
In 2003 I printed copies of some of the photos taken and drawings I made in Vietnam onto fabric . It was early days in experimenting and they weren't very successful and they were consigned to the scrap box.
However , through the process of layering and stitching , not only have I been remembering my trip there but it's beginning to result in pieces that are intriguing in their own right. This may be the start of a series but what would you call them ? Layers of Memory? Stitching to Remember?
A few years ago , for the Contemporary Quilt suitcase collection with the theme ‘ Childhood Memories’ I combined scanned photos printed on fabrics with a monoprint that reminded me of Bamburgh where we used to go on holiday. The black and white photos of my childhood in the 60's and 70's are mostly black and white but In fact it was very colourful time! So I used vintage charity shop fabric as backing and using machine quilting , stitched from the back with flourescent threads following the wild patterns.Perhaps because it was for public viewing it now it seems rather decorative and literal and my preference now is for a more abstracted approach.
Monday, 15 February 2021
For our last session this week, we will be sharing personal work produced in response to the course ( subject of another blog post) and in thinking about that , I've reviewed the themes and ideas that most resonated with me.
Week 1 ‘ Art and Oblivion’ In the first session we introduced ourselves and looked at types of memory : semantic, personal, involuntary, procedural, cultural, collective, shared.
The readings were : Jorge Luis Borges ‘Funes the Magnificant’ )A young man who could reconstruct every moment lived or dreamt , spending so much time minutely reliving the past , looking backwards,no time to observe or be in the present ) and Marc Auge ‘ How we forget to remember’
Rachel Whiteread ‘ House’
Cornelia Parker Mnemic Traces ( memories found in objects that hold evidence of what the object has lived through ) ‘ subconscious of a monument 2005’ Room for Margins 1999 . Some of this work I was lucky enough to see at the Whitworth gallery in 2015
'If we remembered everything could we make sense of anything?'
Week 2 'Haunted - involuntary memory '
We looked at the ways in which memories are triggered, what is it that causes the ghosts of our past to suddenly appear? Readings were from Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’( ‘The way by Swanns’ translators intro and extract) and we shared our ‘ Madeline Moments’!
My memory to do with feel of fabrics and threads. I still have scraps from childhood dresses and wear a fabric mask made from fabric from one of my mum’s dresses. She’s still protecting me.
Artists looked at included Tracey Emin ‘ Why I never became a Dancer ‘ ( an approach to ‘ recovered’ memory in visual arts ) and Mike Kelley ( composite architectural models of all his school/ colleges constructed from memory
Our homework - to map spatial memory, quick floor plan of childhood home/ school or familiar building from childhood' Childhood Home'
We moved into a new build in 1964 ( when I was 3) . From 1979 when I went to university only visited for short periods until 1995 when Dad died and the house was sold. Revisiting in 2010 with Ian who was seeing it for the first time, they’d made substantial improvements , my old bedroom knocked through to make new bathroom etc it looked so different. The owner still remembered my mum on her Pashley tricycle with ‘ wide load' ‘ sign on basket from more than 20 years earlier.
Week 3 'Collective Memory'
This session explored collective and cultural memory with discussion of readings :Introduction and essay by Maurice Halbwachs from The Collective Memory Reader and David Rieff, In Praise of Forgetting.
Artists/ Artworks included : Cornelia Parker 'Magna Carta ( an embroidery) 2015', 'War Room 2015'
Ai Weiwei Dropping a 'Han Dynasty Urn 1995' ‘ Straight’ 2005- 2012 ( both of which I saw at RA exhibition.
Week 4 'Mediated memory' focused on photography as a medium of memory storage, and exchange – as well as questioning the reliability of our memory when shared with others or filtered through other Readings were : Susan Sontag on Photography; extracts from Mediated Memories in the Digital Age by Van Dijck - ( Pictures of Life, Living Pictures ) and a wonderful extract from Esther Kinsky's ' River' ( I ordered and am now reading the whole book !) A lot of the discussions were about authenticity.
Artists included Gerhard Richter and Christian Boltanski: sharing’ autographic’ memories. I particularly liked work of Idris Khan , every page of Roland Barthes 'Camera Lucida ' superimposed , illegible.
Our homework was sharing a photo ' Seeing/seeing yourself through the eyes of others' . I chose and sent photos before reading the texts ! ‘ The Day of Bees' July 17 2020. I also had ideas around ‘ memory storage' : crates of slides and packets of photos in garage , not looked at in 15 years ! Many people are spending lockdown sorting through old photos: like ‘ Funes the Magnificent’ I feel that if I started doing that there wouldn’t be any time for experiencing the present.' Day of Bees'
Week 5 ‘ Momento Mori’ ( remember you must die )
Readings: Chapter 10 of Gulliver's Travels; describing a race of immortals ( Struldbrugs ) living among the mortal. Lucretius 'On the Nature of Things'; an extract from 'An Introduction to Heidegger' ( Dasien's awareness of mortality)
Art works were mainly video/film : Mark Wallinger ‘ Threshold to the Kingdom’ 2000
The subject was challenging and might seem morbid (especially in the times we're living in ) but ultimately life affirming, in accepting mortality, to make the most of life as you don’t know when you will die.
Lucretius : "Life is granted to none for freehold, to all on lease"
Monday, 18 January 2021
We had a very fruity summer, discovering all the local produce in the area on my cycle rides. At the beginning of the cherry season, hand painted signs began to appear along the road directing down a bumpy track, past a small holding, through orchards to ‘Terrys Cherries’ (Sound Horn for Service). I’d ring my bicycle bell to summon him from the incredibly tall cherry-picker ladders. Terry is quite a character (and a bit of a celebrity – he’s featured in foody articles in the Telegraph). We tried about 8 or so different varieties, many of which aren’t available in the shops as they bruise easily. When the cherry season was coming to an end, in a field further down the road, a series of enormous wooden crates stacked against the hedge were transformed into a fruit stall. We bought raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, gooseberries, loganberries, and then later in the season, so many varieties of plums and then the first of the apples.
Ian’s office was the major project of the year. Months in the planning, Ian had his computer set up in the dining room which wasn’t ideal but we somehow managed to squeeze in the decoration and then construction of the bespoke bookshelves / built-in wardrobe by a local carpenter in between lockdowns!