31 May 2010

Very quattrocento

In renaissance Italy it was the fashion among the young men to wear different coloured leggings - you've seen it in paintings - but just try to find an image when you need it...

30 May 2010

Rechurch Street

Jolly grafitti along Rechurch Street, in the "artists quarter" of the East End -

And a collection of empty bottles and cans, within a collection of electricity meters -

29 May 2010

Yesterday in the studio

One series is ready to hang -It's mounted on foamcore, wrapped with cotton -
The 7" x 10" quilties are held on with some Velcro Instant Hem Fix - double-sided sticky tape for use with fabric - it's supposed to hold till it's washed. I haven't tried it before and hope it delivers its promise. (Might add a few stitches, just in case...)

Another project was to make some cards with contact details. Ordering business cards online would have been easier, but they wouldn't have arrived in time and the cheaper ones of course are single-sided, which didn't fit my "concept" - so I decided to photocopy some pages of the TravelWriting, print my details on the back, and cut them up into strips to make into "cards".

I was so excited by the first lot of photocopies, and my idea, that I forgot to print the details before cutting them up! But hey, they make cute little fish, don't they -
Here's what the real things look like before they get squished flat -
And I finally started the second Travel Blanket. The plan was to make four - and I have ideas for quite a few more - but time is running out. The two transparent ones are meant to go in a couple of the windows, and to be the same size as Tony's big pictures in some of the other windows.
This one is about sails and wind and the sparkling sea. It doesn't have a title yet (I do like to have a proper title at the outset - it helps the focus). The white lines are my guides for cutting it up and reconstructing - a slightly scary process - it might be a good idea to use some tear-away stabiliser on the thin material -
Then a few more sail-related things will get added - reefers (the dangly bits for tying up the sails) and some patches, maybe.

This is the companion piece, incorporating bits of porcelain -

Commonplace books

Do you keep a commonplace book - a place where you gather nuggets of information, quotable quotes, things you find interesting and want to think about later?
An article in today's Guardian looks at ways of organising all the "stuff" that gets written on post-it notes or backs of envelopes, or bookmarked on the computer - and is never looked at again. It suggests that, rather than organise it on your computer, you write it down by hand: "Commonplacing is about internalising that information: engaging deeply, processing it so that it becomes part of you. Writing by hand seems to help; so does not instantly sharing everything."

More info about commonplace books (and encouragement to start your own) is on this site (also it's the source of the image).

Their history goes back to the Renaissance, when readers of the now-widely-available printed books would organise their reading and cultivate their minds by writing excerpts into commonplace books under topics - and if you were too lazy to think up your own topics, you could get ready-printed books to fill in. This was "the intersection of manuscript and print culture". Now, they represent the intersection of online, shared culture and the private realm.

28 May 2010

Celestial phenomena

Dawn - about 5.20 am at London's latitude, this time of year. The horse chestnut outside the bedroom window is a delight, this time of year. (In a few weeks it and the "weed trees" that have grown up will make my studio dark, dark, dark...)
At about 7pm, this icy rainbow (also known as a parhelion) to the north - I wanted to stop people in the street and say "look, look", but they all had their own agendas of course, never looking up at the sky -
There's a spectacular photo of an ice rainbow here. These "sundogs" are caused by light passing through high-altitude cirrus clouds that contain plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals which are facing parallel to the earth’s surface - sort of like a prism.

Yesterday in the studio

I've been trying to leave the work surface clear, on stopping work, but not always succeeding -Putting things away can be an, er, meditative activity ... to get you in the mood for work?

A piece that might or might not happen, at this stage, involves the sweeping lines made by sails in the wind. I had jotted down a thought or two -
but more research was needed, so I found photos of sails on the internet, including some excellent ones on Tony's website (it was those that gave me the idea in the first place) which showed the seams clearly -
While putting things away, I found some more tracing paper and made another couple of dozen boats. To my surprise, the folding and shaping took just over an hour -
One or two have graphite rubbings (frottage...) inside, between the layers of paper, where the graphite won't get smudged -
Also I finished stitching a long piece of silk organza, and painted it. It was destined for a "travel blanket" that I might not have time to make -
With the folds still in, it looks like ripples on sand dunes. Next (or rather, later), I'll do this with polyester and heat set the folds.

27 May 2010

Painting stories, week 6

Thumbing through a magazine from the cupboard while waiting for the class to start, I found this photo and thought it might be a useful setting for Mr Fox and Lady Mary -We were encouraged to think about our palette and to put some sort of "colour structure" underneath the overpainting -
I'd mixed a large amount of the sludgy purple to add to the other colours -
At break time, it looked like this -
After the break, it seems like not much got done - but I was busy mixing and painting the whole time (often re-painting). So, now we have a stage set that needs populating, perhaps via collage -
Artists we looked at briefly included Madhvi Parekh, Bhupen Khakhar, and Ghulam Sheikh - Indian artists new to me; they all use ways of showing more than one scene from a story in one painting.

Art I like - Eleanore Mikus

Eleanore Mikus is a New York artist and art professor who folds paper. Simple and beautiful.
She is aiming to make "a kinesthetic moving surface". See more on her website., and also her drawings and paintings.

The description of a 2006 exhibition at The Drawing Center, Eleanore Mikus: From Shell to Skin, said:

"Mikus’s early work received considerable attention; her paintings were exhibited at and eventually purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in the 1960s. Yet despite initial success
and a long teaching career at Cornell University, Mikus’s work seems to have largely been missed by art history. ... Seemingly minimalist and reductive in style, Mikus’s paintings and folded paper works actually result from experimentation with and refinement of additive processes, as she continues to work and rework her pieces for many years, often returning to them after long periods of time."

26 May 2010

Yesterday in the studio

After the big push at the weekend, I have nothing substantial to show for the days since. Just a few more "boats" with TravelWriting. And a slightly cleaner, tidier studio ... I've been hunting for a spool of invisible thread, but all I can find is the fusible thread (and dozens of spools of other threads) - at least they're all together now rather than in various project bags.

One of the Travel Blankets is ready, apart from finding a very thin and quite strong rod to hang it on - and it would help if the rod was invisible... Starting the next one is a bit of a hurdle. It's meant to be sail-like - or rather, have sail-like markings on it. Obviously the next step is to find some photos of sails, and check out the rationale for the markings.

Meeting some friends from the art course last night, I tried to talk cogently about the TravelWriting project. You know how it is - "I know what I think when I hear myself talk". People had some great ideas for ways forward, onward, upward with this - thank you! So, part of the studio time today was spent thinking how physical maps might be brought into the project. Over on the TravelWriting blog, you can see my first attempt - the Overground route indicated on a map from nearly 100 years ago. This is a London street atlas that predates the now-ubiqitous A to Z. Even older maps are readily available - but that's something for another time.

One thing that's holding me up at the moment is the realisation of all the finishing touches that really will need to be done before the exhibition opens. Not just gathering and boxing up and transporting everything to the gallery, and hanging up dozens of the Sky Boats, and reconstructing the Journey piece from the foundation show - also writing words about the various pieces, pricing things, getting a card made that has my contact details, mounting the little textile pieces (indeed trying yet again to find canvasses the right size), deciding whether to display any of the long textile pieces. Fortunately Tony "only" has to hang his photos, and he's well ahead with having them ready, so he's started on the list of works - which of course can only be finalised once we've decided what's where. Are labels needed as well? I have a master list but even so there's not guarantee that something important won't be forgotten...

Quilters move on - Dinny Turner and Michele Walker

Dinny Turner's quilt "Where are you" is possibly the most contentious quilt ever, at least in the UK - when it won best of show in 1989, there was outrage - it was "badly made", the corners didn't match. People pinned angry notes to it, and it had to be hung up very high, out of reach. A concept quilt, way ahead of its time, it has stood up well over the years - unlike many of the overcoordinated careful constructions made of the current "flavour of the month" fabrics.Dinny Turner trained in textiles at Chelsea and now lives in Norfolk. Her work has moved away from textiles, into other recycled materials, like this piece shown in the Harleston storefront event in 2008 -
Another cutting-edge quilter who no longer quilts is Michele Walker. She wrote The Complete Book of Quiltmaking (London, 1985) and The Passionate Quilter (London, 1990), and was well known for her "tire tracks" quilt using plastic. This quilt, shown in 2003 at Shipley Art Gallery, also uses plastic -"A rectangular quilt depicting a pair of large white feathers against a black rectangular background. The artist began work on the piece after reading a text published by Compassion in World Farming, and the underlying theme relates to factory farmed poultry, especially turkey rearing. In addition, the feather wings make reference to the 'running feather' quilting pattern used in traditional North Country Wholecloth quilts. Walker is well known for her unique use of both the traditional methods and contemporary materials. By using these strong political and environmental issues within the work Walker forces the viewer to connect with difficult and emotional facts."

In 2002 her "Memoriam" quilt used plastic and wire wool -
" 'Memoriam' is the last quilt in a body of work which draws inspiration from the patterns, stitches and ethos of traditional quilt making - the incorporation of everyday, cast-off scraps and fabrics used to make both decorative and functional bed covers. Walker's ability to both understand and interpret the origins and traditions of this craft provides her with a medium with which to engage with social, political and environment issues in a way which is both accessible and relevant. Walker states, 'My work deals with re-interpreting the traditional quilt. Inspiration comes from what I experience and observe around me. It is essential that the content of the work reflects the time in which it is made… I aim in my work to challenge the associations and meaning of the word quilt.' " This quilt was included in The Fabric of Myth at Compton Verney in 2008, and is currently in the V&A quilt exhibition, along with work by others in the "Take 4" group.

Walker's research on sashiko led to an exhibition in Brighton that included large sculptural work and in October 2009 to a show at York, which you can see a video about here.

25 May 2010

Yesterday in the studio

On Saturday I obviously needed to leave the studio for a while and get out into the world. By Sunday morning the idea of "sky boats" had been worked out in principle, ie, how to hang them up.

Noticing the shadows on Sunday morning's trip to the farmers' market, I got the idea of printing these and using them for some of the sky boats. Others would be plain papers of various sorts - especially transparent ones. Maybe even dipped in way. Or oiled. Aiming for an ethereal effect.

So many different kinds of shadows!

Printing onto tracing paper proved to be quite difficult - the paper curled and the ink ran. And for some reason, instead of getting black and white (on Tony's 8-colour inkjet printer), colours appeared - I really liked the effect, but much tweaking of printer settings went on and different effects appeared before we got something approaching "monotone".We also had some metallic silver paper, and tried printing in black on some dark grey paper -Out of this selection came lots and lots of little boats -
For hanging, we tried fishing line (too thick, too "curly"); thread (too obvious; but metallic thread might work) and finally found a spool of invisible thread. Threading up each boat takes quite a while -- and until you're hanging them up, you don't know how long the thread needs to be. Some will hang from a rod in the large windows, and some will hang from the ceiling in one corner of the room -
Thanks to a "what if" moment, brought on by finding some folded paper next to the sewing machine, I tried some stitching, ready to be combined with TravelWriting on my next journey -
Finally, the first of the "cargo boats" - it's made from the cuff of a recycled shirt, machined with variegated thread, and at the stern is one of the porcelain plaques. I was thinking about all the ships that carried china from ... China ... to Europe, and elsewhere (and about how important pottery is for the archaeological record) - and trying to make something "conceptual" along the line of how cuffs encircle the wrist the way ships went around the globe ... but mostly I enjoyed re-using something that would get thrown out otherwise.
The black boats show the tearing of the paper (it has a white core) and the gold boat is some wrapping paper with stitching added.

23 May 2010

While cleaning up...

...I found a sheet of quotes overheard in daily life.
"Do you know what Nellie said? After a train gets to the station it goes back to all those other stations, that's what nellie said to me." --white-haired woman

After a concert, two middle-aged women are talking:
-That depresses me.
-How do you mean?
-If that's how a piano's to be played, what on earth are we doing?"

A middle-aged woman to her friend:
-...can't stand secondhand books
- [a look of "go on then, say more"]
- For the same reason I can't bear cinema - films seen by others already.

At a wishing well
"Don't tell anybody you're with, or it won't work - and you've got to believe in it. I made a wish last time ... and it didn't work ... but I still believe in it. --8-year-old boy
And a quote from AS Byatt, 1991
- I always work very far ahead in notebooks.

Yesterday in the studio

Remember when we photocopied copies of copies, until they went all grainy and interesting? Photocopiers today are just too good - it's hard to get that kind of distortion. Not sure how I'll use this - as a japanese-binding type of book, probably. I like that the writing/drawing gets "worn off" with repetition..."blanket for a night sail through the archipelago" - or whatever it will finally be called - is taking a bit more shape, with some of the porcelain bits going on one side and some on the other - held on with beads -
But after working on that for the allotted hour, things fell apart - I wanted to print, using stamps I made a while ago, but had forgotten exactly why I needed more print fabric... tried the stamps out any way - perhaps these bits will come in useful -
At the end, using up the excess paint in the sponge brush, some "clouds" appeared - the palette knife added the slashes of rain - the paint soaks in as it dries. This might become a 7x10 journal quilt -
All in all, I feel a bit discouraged and disoriented. Time to get out into the world and see some fresh things, an exhibition or two, or just walk in the park. Hey, it's the weekend!

22 May 2010

Painting stories, week 5

Colour - using a base mixture (sludge - a little each of blue, red, yellow) to unify a palette. Here, the basis was the dark green big square, made - how? - warm yellow, warm blue, cool red. I was thrilled to see that with a cool blue it made the teal and turquoise -Here's the palette with some of the mixtures. The white can "mess things up" -
At the end of the day, this busy-ness --
I mixed warm yellow and cool red (and could have added a bit of blue, but forgot!) and then mixed it with lots of colours on the right side of the paper - and gradually added squares around the greenish work. It's a mess, but putting paint down "somewhere" and seeing how it went with the adjacent colours was full of surprises. Also surprising were some of the colours you can mix, even when you don't know exactly what you're doing - the knowledge builds up. It's worth doing this regularly.

The photos of the palette are supposed to help me work out how to produce some of the more delicious colours - periwinkle blue, for instance, and a violet that is full of summer twilight....
I felt very confused for a lot of the class. It's a learning curve.

My neighbour worked with this lovely limited palette, which she had absolutely no problem mixing -
Here's her palette - the warm yellow is a different shade than mine, more like an ochre -