11 February 2016

Poetry Thursday - The Lost Woman by Patricia Beer

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The Lost Woman (1983)

Patricia Beer


My mother went with no more warning
than a bright voice and a bad pain.
Home from school on a June morning
And where the brook goes under the lane
I saw the back of a shocking white
Ambulance drawing away from the gate.
She never returned and I never saw
Her buried. So a romance began.
The ivy-mother turned into a tree
That still hops away like a rainbow down
The avenue as I approach.
My tendrils are the ones that clutch.
I made a life for her over the years.
Frustrated no more by a dull marriage
She ran a canteen through several wars.
The wit of a cliché-ridden village
She met her match at an extra-mural
Class and the OU summer school.
Many a hero in his time
And every poet has acquired
A lost woman to haunt the home,
To be compensated and desired,
Who will not alter, who will not grow,
A corpse they need never get to know.
She is nearly always benign. Her habit
Is not to stride at dead of night.
Soft and crepuscular in rabbit-
Light she comes out. Hear how they hate
Themselves for losing her as they did.
Her country is bland and she does not chide.
But my lost woman evermore snaps
From somewhere else: ‘You did not love me.
I sacrificed too much perhaps,
I showed you the way to rise above me
And you took it. You are the ghost
With the bat-voice, my dear. I am not lost.’

Biographies of Patricia Beer (1924-1999) usually mention that her mother died when she was 14, and that she was brought up as a Plymouth Brethern, a sect that she described in a review of Max Wright's book about them as "poorly integrated with the world in which they live"; defections from the sect tended to take place in youth: "the first whiff of real education, however acquired, often did it."

Hear her read the poem here. Introducing it, she says: "The more one reads poetry or novels, the more one realises that almost every writer has a lost woman somewhere or other - a woman he deserted, as in the case of Wordsworth - that applies to Wordsworth too, but I was thinking much more of "surprised by joy, impatient as the wind" - a daughter who died, mothers, mistresses, girlfriends, daughters, grandmothers, anybody. Every writer nearly always has a lost woman. And it was a great stimulus to me to suddenly realise that so had I and this is 'The Lost Woman'. And this is as far as I've got in speaking about this event. "

10 February 2016

Patience, etc

(Apologies for the wavy photo - trying to avoid reflections from shiny paper!)
Coming upon this drawing by Richard Busk (Untitled, 2001, 60x84cm) in "Drawing Projects", I heard myself thinking "I just don't have the patience to do that" even as I registered my admiration for it ... and indeed, the desire to replicate it.

How many times have I heard the "patience" sentence from people looking at work at quilt shows, or even been told about their lack of patience when they're looking at my embroidery (which is not all that overwhelming).

A placatory rejoinder is along the lines of "you don't need patience when you're doing something you love" - and that came to mind as I contemplated the drawing - contemplation fuelled by "breakfast" at a local cafe -
In the book you read that a drawing is the history of its making - how was that drawing made? I looked for a starting point, clues to laying down and taking out, the sequence of actions - the clarity of the trees against the sky, the reflections; smudging elsewhere as the surface was built up, other marks overlaid.

What I thought was my impatience was something different. I would be quite happy to discover the structure of the scene, to collect up and put down its elements to flesh out that structure, to spend quite a lot of time doing that - if I knew what I was doing ... or knew what I was working toward. (Yet can there be a successful outcome without the danger of it going wrong?)

The problem was twofold, or perhaps manifold: what materials to use, what scene or subject to choose - and most of all, where (how?) to start. And how to keep going. And when to stop.


Patience - the capacity to tolerate problems. Not having patience implies a need to do only those activities that are free of problems. How realistic is that? How does anything (call it progress or call it learning) happen without some sort of problem that, identified and grappled with, moves things forward?

You're doing something you love - you don't need patience because you feel that, with a little attention and persistence, you can straighten out the current problem, be it the need to overcome boredom when making the same stitch another 120,000 times, or the difficulty of choosing just the right colour for that particular spot. What you need are strategies. You come to love what you're doing, imho, when you have "enough" strategies to deal with the problems and suffering that come with the task.

Well this is getting to sound like a diatribe, but it's just me at this moment - an impatient person - writing down something for my future (forgetful?) self to read and remember.

And speaking of remembering, the drawing from the book reminded me of those in a little book that turns up from among the books on my nearest shelf from time to time:

I wrote about it years ago (here) in relation to greenness, as it consists of drawings and photographs of gardens in Cornwall, based on Andrew Marvell's poem.
The text says that John Hubbard's charcoal drawings "might as easily point to the origins of mapping as to those of writing"; they "suggest a way through material, and thus carry about them indications of the way in which a wood or a river valley might function." Had I read that when first seeing the little book, record of an exhibition at the South Bank about 1990 (I don't recall actually reading the text, just looking at the pictures!), it would have been complete gibberish to me; the drawings themselves were incomprehensible
- what did they show? how can that be a garden? But I loved the poem, and the bookyness of the little book; it continues to give pleasure - and enlightenment.

"To 'see' a landscape is only the beginning" ...

09 February 2016

Drawing Tuesday - Science Museum

On the way to the gallery, I spotted the engine of a V2 rocket, visible "in the round" -
Since struggling to draw it at the Imperial War Museum a while back, and again at the weekend, I was interested to get a different view of the pipes - but rather than stopping to draw it, proceeded to the gallery as planned.

Only to find this -
To get the angle (and to fit it on my page), I sat on the floor - and did lots of measuring, until it actually did fit on the page, with a little space to spare at the top, fortuitously as it turned out. Meanwhile a tour came round and I learned that this V2 rocket had been built after the war, by the British. Elsewhere it says it was one of eight engines built as part of Operation Backfire in late 1945, and came to the museum via Cranfield University. It has been standing upright since 2000.

Getting up to stretch, I went round the back and saw the bit that didn't fit under the ceiling -
and added it to the drawing -
The shadows helped with seeing the details, as did having brightness from the sunshine -
 Using the camera helped with a better view, too -
As the tour guide said, if these bombs had been developed earlier in the war, there's not telling what would have happened - once launched, they were unstoppable. After the war, the V2s became the basis of the space race, their scientists and engineers relocating to the US and the factories being taken over by the Russians.

History aside, here are some of the day's drawings.
Blind drawing by Sue M - 1868 steam train - such energy!

Lighthouse light - left, by Michelle; right, by Sue M

Budding's patent lawnmower, by Sue S

Janet B's final drawing: Nasmyth reflecting telescope, 1852
 
Carol caught the metallic gleam of the Lockheed Electra airliner

Gallery overview

08 February 2016

Extended Drawing - module 7

To set the scene, Anne sent round some images before the class - three by Antony Gormley, one by Leonardo, and one of her own -

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the room was set up...
In between demonstrations, we gridded up the paper lightly with charcoal, then added figures in a sort of see-through drawing and "3D" drawing, using circular motions to show the back as well as the front of the form -

In between we used paper towel to spread/diminish/blend the marks. And then we started adding vessels, from a selection that grew as people added more to the still-life and to their drawings -
 My view -
My drawing -
 Looking around at the end of the class to see what others had done -
Homework: look at Seurat's drawings, such as these -
or those here, an exhibition at MoMA.

In the second class we started by blocking out a sheet of paper in charcoal, and then it got serious. First a demonstration of using white chalk to put in - as much as possible with our fingers, taking it from a "reservoir" made on the paper (top right corner) - using it to put in the highlights, and to "feel" our way round the form. Trying to leave using the actual piece of chalk for as long as possible, for the very highest highlights. (The model is by Antony Gormley, and it's in the science museum.)
 Black conte also helps make the shape more definite -
The glasses were from the still life on the floor. Same technique.

And then we tried the "highlight method" with fabric as well as solid objects, and this is where the prepared charcoal was used.
Taking out the charcoal, with paper and later a rubber, on one sheet ... and adding it onto the other sheet. Developing the two drawings in tandem; negative/positive. I found this was a very congenial way to work, back and forth between the two, looking for highlights and looking for shadows and watching how they form a surface -
Another artist to look at - Morandi -
On the handouts - Giacometti, Seurat, Gormley -
 A room full of positive/negative results, a new way of looking at things, lots to think about -

07 February 2016

Details from the Ashmolean Museum

A treasure-chest of delights!
Dogs and deer from Uccello's Hunt in the Forest

From Piero di Cosimo's The Forest Fire; they hybrid beasts were "added at a late stage"
Sculpted buttonhole stitching -
Marble; bust of a pope

Terra cotta; model for Handel's statue in Westminster Abbey by Roubilliac
Birds -
Fleeing (?) from a scene of animal carnage on a tapestry

Decorous and contented, painted on china
 Fantastical scenes -
Unicorns in traction

The mouth of Hell (painted by Lelio Orsi, 1540s)
 Blue and white -
Musician on a chinese plate

"Ladies" on a wall-panel of tiles
Grand tapestries -
Embroidered, Spain, 1600

Woven, 17th century
A medieval alabaster, Adoration of the Magi -
(Another detail is here)

All seen too quickly;but consider another way of looking at things, which the Ashmolean offers as an Afternoon Tea Talk on 9 April:

Slow Art Day

"Discover the pleasures of taking your time to appreciate a work of art. Look at five works of art for 10 minutes each and discuss what you have seen over afternoon tea. ... Slow Art Day is an international event encouraging people to discover the joy of taking time to look at art."