Sunday 29 November 2015

Art_Textiles at the Whitworth

Magdalena Abakanowicz

 Monika Zaltauskaite-Grasiene
 Abdoulaye Konate
 Jessica Rankin
Susan Collis

 Beverly Ayling-Smith

On Friday  I headed up to Manchester to meet up with fellow members of Cwilt  Cymru . After a very productive meeting over lunch in the restaurant of the Whitworth, I had a look round the exhibition 'Art_Textiles'  which had an interesting selection of works,  the highlights for me above.

 The piece by  Magdelena Abacanowicz I last saw a few years ago  at Tate Modern  along with work by Do Ho Suh . His new work was also represented in this  show  but a departure from his 1:1 scale fabrications of buildings (  an image of which I chose for my Art Fund membership card).
It's  interesting to see work again in a different context and with new neighbours!

With my fascination with amulets , I loved  how Abdoulaye Konate had referenced  amulet covered  hunters shirts ( there was an antique  warriers tunic on display alongside)

The ethereal piece Quis Est Iste Qui Venit   by Jessica Rankin , stitched on organza , cast wonderful shadows and the more you looked the more you saw , with its' combination of seemingly unconnected words and images.  

There were several pieces by   Susan Collis with drop cloths and overalls with what looked like paint stains but that were actually minutely and intricately  stitched, work 'investigating ideas around perception, craft and the value of workmanship'.
I wished I'd kept my old labcoats with the poppers no longer functioning,  mysterious stains and laundry marks and  fraying holes!

In a similar vein,  in Beverly Ayling Smith's piece remembering, repeating and working through, tearing patching and mending are used to convey the experience of bereavement. Her work at the Society of Designer Craftsmen was  my favourite  earlier in the year. I'm still thinking of discussions about burial and winding cloths from Rydal Hall retreat  and how best to work with some of my indigo dyed  fragments of antique quilts  to enhance  their   worn  and fragile qualities.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Drawing Tuesday in the Ironwork Galleries at the V&A

The Ironwork Galleries  at the V&A  are  full of wonderful things to draw: locks, grilles, candlesticks  and it's relatively quiet. Owning 3 pewter  vases which I've drawn  many times ( large and small scale), I was attracted to the  display cases which  housed a variety of characterful items.
I started off with a 'blind drawing' to capture quickly their quirky shapes then started  on robust ewer ( below) before giving up as the light was so poor. I then concentrated on this delightful coffee pot.  It looks  Art Nouveau rather then 1750! I love how the patterns on the lid merge with those on the body and the particular patina that you get with pewter.  


  Some more lovely shapes but too high up to draw without a getting a crick in your neck. Another advantage of these galleries - an eye level view of the Chihuly glass installation
Then to the members room for  lunch, coffee and custard tart ( and a look at everyone elses sketchbooks) 

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Sketching at British Museum : Barkcloth Spirit Masks

Yesterday on ' Drawing Tuesday', we returned to the Barkcloth exhibition at the British Museum. Having seen the exhibition several times now, I knew what I wanted to concentrate  on which was these  three monsters ( or spirit masks )
 I started off with a  very quick sketch with a large graphite stick to work out  basic shapes  then started with pencil to work out the elipses of this beast. Lots of rubbing out ( the patterning was added with pen)

 What  interested me most were the  contrasting lines in this mask - the sharp spines of it's snout compared with the organic shapes of the grasses/ fibres. I used several techniques - scoring in the paper  with metal  wire then rubbing over with graphite ; 2h and 4b pencil lines; graphite stick; eraser ( Tombow   2.5 x 5mm).
I liked the effects I achieved - I'm aiming to draw from a blown -up version of this photo to really observe what's going on. 
No time to attempt the 3rd mask (' Cousin It') before  well-deserved lunch (  salad and Portuguese custard tart) . Then I braved the wind and rain to go to the  Courtauld Gallery for  glider paintings of Peter Lanyon - reduced entry with my ArtPass .  Just 2 rooms but spent a long time absorbing their atmosphere. Wonderful.  



Friday 13 November 2015

Simon Callery Flat Paintings at Fold Gallery

Yesterday,  after a bit of a search I found the Fold Gallery (  nearly going base over apex  missing the 'mind the step' notice).  I'd been intrigued by a posting by Selvedge on Facebook  about textile workof Simon Callery,  the exhibition finishes  tomorrow (14th) so didn't have much time to  catch it. 
From the blurb: "These large -scale flat paintings on show originate  in the landscape  where Callery has worked for the last 2 seasons alongside excavations led by the University of Oxford in Moel y Gaer, Bodfari, North Wales.  
The impact of this landscape and excavation site on the painting results in a group of works that expose all evidence of the making process as significant features in the completed works . They reveal to the viewer multi-layered external and internal surfaces and voids. The canvases have been soaked with highly saturated pigments and have been cut and stitched .They are ragged, torn and perforated."
There's a video here   where he explains about the processes involved.

 I spent about half an hour with these 4 pieces, peering at them from different angles, making sketches and taking notes of my impressions.
What I paid particular attention to was  comparing the top 2 pieces -  the top  one painted with ferrous distemper had been washed which gave a completely different  quality to the holes which were ragged and frayed rather then the  more precise cut holes in the 2nd piece painted with caput mortuum pigment.  In sideways view this gave completely different landscapes of flaps and ragged edges sticking out into the gap, almost touching.
I loved the variation in  subtle tones in the 3rd cadmium red piece  but as there were fewer holes ( and none in the back piece of fabric) , looking between the  layers  was more of  void. Having a 6 inch or so gap  between the layers of canvas gave  such life  to the pieces , it got me thinking how to incorporate that kind of effect in my own work  
I was less struck by the ' Wallspine (Leaf),  although the 3d variation of line  as a result of the folds was interesting. Perhaps it was the colour  which did not have the subtleties  and  variations of the other pieces

 When I got home I fished some of my indigo dyed old quilts out of my packed sealed boxes ( naughty!), looking with fresh eyes at this old log cabin with the torn back, wondering how I can  have both sides on view and how to work into them. Thinking about the qualities of holes.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Giacometti Pure Presence at NPG

 On Monday afternoon  I used my new ' National Art Pass' for the first time,  visiting the Giacometti exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.    I've got more interested in portraiture over the last few months,   ( the display at the Whitworth was intriguing even if the labelling  was infuriating!) Also , examples of  drawings by Giacometti  were referred to several times in my City Lit course  along with other artists in relation  to the use of line  to  explore and build up a sense of shape and volume ( and the 'ghosts' of rubbed out drawings  adding richness ).

There have been lots of  very favourable reviews  about this  exhibition  but  I wasn't prepared for how moving   it was. Showing artwork from a very early age, drawing his  close family over decades again and again,  you could feel how he  used drawing  not only to look  intently but to  try and capture  life.  It was intensely personal yet universal.

Among my favourites were the drawings of his mother, particularly the one above , on loan from MOMA.  The connection of  lines to from the  body to the room  draw you in, linking the subject to their surroundings ( as well as being an excellent lesson in perspective!) . There was also a lovely , loving painting of her knitting.
 It was touching to see the  work   recording his brother Diego from childhood onwards, again I like the ones that set the subject in their surroundings, in this painting  a bed in the studio. Of the sculptures, the one  above, in 2 flattened planes, was the one  I returned to several times.    

Thursday 5 November 2015

Drawing Tuesday at the Science museum

 Bit of a frustrating time  this Tuesday drawing in the Science  Museum. We met in the gallery devoted to 'Making the Modern World' and there some fantastic items to draw (  like the  early sewing machine!) However there were LOTS of school groups , no stools and all the seating areas were occupied. I headed up to the mezzanine level where there were some benches and display cases with interesting  items (' Plan Your kitchen Kit' anyone?)  but it was still difficult to get close enough to  look at things properly.

 I chose this steam engine model ( mainly for the reflections in the copper )
  I liked the 'blind drawing' not looking at the paper - it looks like  some Heath Robinson contraption.
 I struggled with the straight lines of the architecture ( why did I choose it - I much prefer organic shapes ). It looks marginally better  using Photoshop filters (below) but not much. I should have just gone for abstracting the shapes which is what appealed in the first place.  Next week I'll take my sketching stool with me .