29 May 2016

Old work - what's to become of it?

Once again these small pieces (6"x4") have surfaced. I can't quite seem to move them into the charity shop box...

These riffs on edifying mottos from samplers were made about 15 years ago, in a burst of wild spontaneity. Couching on scraps of silk dupion. The words are:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent

What is unsought will be undetected

The appetite grows by eating

One day ... not just yet ... I shall take them out of the clip frames and use them for notebook covers. One day, when they can be united with a bagful of precut pages that are somewhere in this room and will emerge in the fullness of time (ie the two weeks remaining for it to be sorted out) - then the sections will be sewn together and the cover made. (The books to be given as presents, and found "too good to use"?)

The sorting out of my studio(s) brings up, yet again, that big question: what to do with old work? Finished work and samples both. What to do with it all when has it outlived its usefulness - and should it be disposed of just because it's no longer "useful"?

It's hard not to "personify" pieces of creative output - they become our children. Can we simply discard them? Yet, when drastically downsizing, what's the point of keeping all this stuff? For many of us, the greatest part of creative pleasure isn't the finished object, it's the process of making - of seeing the work evolve through our thoughts and under our hands. Rather like helping a child grow up. At which point they leave home ... our job is (almost) done.

Hmm, pursuing this comparison, I'm straying into confusing the work-as-child with the mother having outlived her usefulness. A murky area! But perhaps some of what keeps us from letting go of our old work is rooted in that emotional arena. An investment of time and energy and love, made tangible in the object. Which, if it no longer exists, is a personal loss.

Yet we do withstand losses. Less personal losses can be seen as trade-offs: remove extra furniture, however beloved, and gain necessary space. Give up the expensive holiday and you're able to use the money for something else. Everyday decisions; first-world problems.

So, there's this body of "old work" that no longer represents what you're interested in. Clean sweep, start afresh? One door closes and another opens?

Or hang on to it, "just in case"?

28 May 2016

"Practitioners of the figure" in India

"All the great Indian practitioners of the figure - Tagore, Amrita Sher-gil, FN Souza, Jamini Roy, Paritosh Sen, KG Subramanyan - rejected what the prodigiously gift, short-lived, sharp-tongues Hungarian-Indian Sher-gil called "academic naturalism", which she characterised as a style that believes "the sole function of painting and sculpture is to reproduce a given object faithfully, that is, with as h cretinous minuteness and servilitiy as is humanly possible".

So said Amit Chaudhuri, reviewing Bhupen Khakhar's upcoming exhibition at Tate Modern (1 June to 6 November). Who are these practitioners of the figure, "both shaped by and severing ties with the European Renaissance"?

A quick search reveals two "Tagore"s who were visual artists - Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951) was influential in the development of modern  Indian painting, and it was surely this Tagore that the author was referring to. The better-known Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) "reshaped Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries" but didn't take up painting until he was in his 60s and was more abstract than figurative.
Three ink drawings by Rabindranath Tagore, exhibited at the V&A in 2011 (via)
Abanindranath Tagore was the first Indian artist to gain international recognition, says this site; "Tagore sought to modernize Moghul and Rajput styles in order to counter the influence of Western models of art, as taught in Art Schools under the British Raj and developed the Indian style of painting, later known as Bengal school of art. Such was the success of Tagore's work that it was eventually accepted and promoted as a national Indian style within British art institutions under the epithet of Indian Society of Oriental Art."

Of the "25 famous paintings" by him (here), this is Jamuna -
and this is "The Passing of Shah Jahan" (1901) -

Next on the list is the "sharp-tongued" Amrita Sher-gil (1913-1941) - sometimes known as India's Frida Kahlo.
Amrita Sher-Gil - two self-portraits from the early 1930s (via)
"South Indian villagers going to market" (via)

The style of FN Souza (1924-2002) "exhibited both low-life and high energy" says Wikipedia.
FN Souza, Abstract head, 1957
Souza's Crucifixion is in the Tate's collection 

Jamini Roy (1887-1972) was one of the most famous pupils of Abanindranath Tagore and drew inspiration from folk and tribal art forms. His 17-panel Ramayana (1940-44) is regarded as his major work.
Three Women is from the 1940s (via)
Jatayu, Sita and Ravana is from the same era (via)

Paritosh Sen (1918-2008) was a founder member of the Calcutta Group, established in 1942. He travelled widely around the world and his style of painting underwent many changes.
Paritosh Sen, Music Lovers (via)
Untitled (via)

KG Subramanyan (b.1924) is another pioneer of Indian art ... painter,sculptor, printmaker, muralist.
KG Subramanyan, Odd Encounters, 1996 (via)
Untitled (via)

27 May 2016

From an old notebook

The notebook was used in the weekend studio between 2006 and 2009. In 2008 I wrote  "I need to live in places I can leave on my own two feet, with what I can carry." and "If you lived in North Pole, Alaska, you'd always have to wait for the next plane out. (Unless you owned a plane. Now it gets complicated.)" ... wonder what all that was about. 

I wrote paragraphs about randomness and about workmanship, and decided not to bother re-reading those thoughts.

Here's something copied down, probably from a newspaper - "Almost no hyperbola can capture the magnitude of events on Wall Street" ... interestingly, after encountering the word "hyperbole" here - well, that's what it should have been, are there no subeditors these days? - it cropped up twice the next day, and not at all in the five subsequent days.

An "inspirational" quote - "It is by studying little things that we attain great art." (Yes, nothing is trivial.)

Some funny titles for possible quilts - Bowls with Holes; Random Abandon; Darkest before the Dawn - ah, I was working on ideas for the Breakthrough challenge, which ended up with potato printed rows of "eggs" with bits of bright fabric "hatching" out. 

And ... what falls out of the book but a pad of smooth white paper ... drawing paper? My daily-drawing-of-an-object-in-the-home has been paralysed by the lack of suitable paper, the seeming impossibility of being able to settle on a size.

More words, from a "morning pages" bit of writing: "I dream of series"; "having creative excitement makes me less grumpy"; "I see one of my functions as being a passer-on of things".

A title of a piece of music - John Adams, Short ride in a fast machine - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LoUm_r7It8 

Also in that notebook, a lot of uninteresting (now) pages. Nearly 10 years ago - much planning of quilts. 

Bowls with Holes

Holes cut from magazine pages - a random juxtaposition

Observational drawing

"Pincushions at dawn" - drawing shadows

26 May 2016

Poetry Thursday - an extract from TS Eliot


Time and the bell have buried the day,
The black cloud carries the sun away,
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?

Fingers of yew be curled
Down on us? Ater the kingfisher's wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.

from Burnt Norton (written 1935), one of Eliot's Four Quartets

Chosen at random ... from a random book -

from the shelf -

opened to a random page -

The book is the Folio Society edition, 1968, and has stood unopened for many years.

24 May 2016

Drawing Tuesday - Petrie Museum

The vitrines are crowded with artifacts, mostly pottery, from all the dynasties of Egypt, as far into "now" as Roman times. We were suprised at how many visitors the museum had.

I sat down in front of some convenient jugs and filled a page with their shapes. These are coiled pots and were not always perfectly symmetrical -

Lots of pen lines, no chance of erasing any. Trying for a decent composition on the page spread, but basically I started at top left and worked across each page.

The patterning of the snail shells spoke to me -
Pen again, not terribly accurate ... but it was about the pattern, yes?
They look better with dark accents, and a bit of shadow -

Later I found these tipsy jugs -
 But what was everyone else up to?

Michelle used several page spreads in her handmade coptic stitch book, then did something simple on the first page -
 Coptic stitched books, it must be mentioned, open up perfectly flat.

Janet moved on from single objects, here combining several in a well-chosen scene -
 Jo found the "spirit houses" entrancing -
 Caryl's landscape of ancient pots, carefully observed -
 Sue's fragment of a relief from Thebes, subtly coloured -

23 May 2016

"Home" thoughts

The more I think about this topic, and about the drawing project, the more that everything says "Home" to me.

In the photo of the rescued birdhouse, other elements of Home are the doormats, the threshold, the post waiting to be picked up, the way the hall flooring leads in ... what I know that flooring leads past, and the way it changes into carpet just beyond the stairs -
 This next photo is of someone unknown's home. I love their display of carved wooden trees and am intrigued by the things that people but in their window, to be seen from inside and outside but also acting as a barrier between us-inside and them-outside -
 Making the home a better place ... and the turmoil or even agony that accompanies the process. Protecting the possessions kept in the home, preventing their contamination with the tiny particles of sawdust, paint, whatever. Better to take them all out of the room to keep them pristine, and aim to cull some in the process of putting things back -
 Yet living in one's home is often an automatic process - you don't see the things in there, as long as they let you get around them and carry on a "normal" life. They pile up, you get used to them being there (my inevitable heaps of paper! the unread novels! those few dishes that won't fit into the cupboard!), and it can be a real surprise when someone asks, "what's that doing there?"

These drawings, coloured with coffee, are of my first London home - the shared kitchen -
 and my own room, with too many books (the rest hidden under and behind other furniture) and the useless but decorative fireplace, the limited clothes storage, the sofabed, the desk which grew sideways to accommodate that latest thing, the computer -
 Fortunately that was before I discovered textile art, so no need for extensive fabric storage.

Ah yes, art ... this is towards an art project. So what might it look like? I'm drawn to this reflection, or layering -
 Here it is elsewhere, this time with the addition of holes, seeing into (or through) -
 Resonant, somehow, but I'm not sure where it might go.

I'm drawn to paintings of uninhabited interiors, like this one by Mark Entwisle
and Hammerskoi did similar, based on a place he had lived in ... a sense of quiet, with interesting light and spaciousness.

Extended drawing (is it for the birds?)

Later today, before class, I am to have a tutorial and, given the distinct lack of work done outside class, and the still-woolly nature of my topic, I'm dreading it.  However - perhaps these are the very circumstances in which a tutorial can be most helpful! 

Let's start with last week's class. I'd photographed the bird houses and put them outside the gate for people to take -

then drew them (big) with conte and charcoal -

and captured some very crazy - whimsical, even - thoughts about birds bedded down in feather duvets in the privacy of the birdhouse, rather than exposed in nests -

One of the sheets of paper had a tear, which made a door in the book/house structure - I saved that "for later" and started with the smaller pieces -
This fold-awayable, open-upable, inside/outside book structure is my go-to option at the moment. Why fight it? Much can be done with a sheet of paper and a few folds!
Nests inside (with a very dark area at the centre ... rather like the dark hole where the birds enter, or disappear) ...  On the outside, using an eraser to take away the charcoal. Not really "nests", more like strange spidery things...

Underneath is a pattern of negative spaces from rubbing away the excess charcoal before using the rubber to draw with -
Once I noticed what was happening, I was a bit more careful about where the paper got put for the next bit of wiping-off. I like the way it almost looks like a pile of papers, and their shadows.

But how does it work in combination with the book/house structures ...
Research, still. Pootling about. Not getting anywhere much, just at the moment. 

Too much thinking, not enough doing...

But nice to get feedback from last time, attached to the sheet of "aims and objectives" we fill out at the beginning of each session -
More to think about.

Meanwhile, one of the birdhouses didn't get taken to a new home, so I'm keeping it, for now anyway -
Seeing it in the photo makes me wonder where else it might comfortably sit ...

22 May 2016

Upheaval, continuing

Not all that long ago I showed some photos of my flat amid the chaos of renovation. Much has progressed in the two and a half weeks since the room was stripped. Now it's been insulated, rewired, replastered, and a skylight added -

This stage was preceded, of course, by this sort of thing -

Elsewhere in the flat, the chaos remains, with all the contents of that room, and others, needing "rationalisation" - basically, paring down to 10% (at a guess) of what has been and is hidden in cupboards and odd corners. The aim is to put back into the room ONLY what should BE in the room. So, I've lost my convenient hiding places for the books I might never get around to reading and the swathes of fabric I might never get around to sewing. 

Good, they need to go on to other places, new lives. But the hardening of heart needed to let them go is a wretched process. 

At the moment I'm concentrating on the books. This lot, some 3 dozen volumes, went to the Oxfam Bookshop early in the week -
As it was a sunny day, I put another dozen books "on the wall" and they disappeared in no time.

Which left the rest of the books that had been gathering dust under the desk, on Tom's carefully custom-fitted shelves - a practice piece, it turned out, for the bespoke shelving and cupboard-building that makes up a large part of his "carpentry" livelihood. 
On the left, the keepers; on the right, 44 books looking for new homes
The pile isn't down to 10% and there may have to be some new bookshelves somewhere, but 50% is pretty good.  I'd actually enjoy this if there was an obvious difference, such as a rewarding expanse of empty shelves.

And the sorting is the easy part - without a car to carry many bags at a time, getting the books (etc) to the charity shop takes time. So much easier to put them on the wall on a sunny day, and enjoy seeing them disappear.

This is from one of the older books (1929) that went out -