20 July 2017

Poetry Thursday - Nine Triangles (for Breon O'Casey) by Christopher Reid

Eyelight thrown
on a dark question
to darken it further,

Time to take in
the view, the entire
daily tablescape.

Earthenmost shades -
and yet the effect
is of airy redemption.

That pledge of mud
the soul needs
to make its abstract journey.

Shapes huddle
in improvised families
out of the storm of seeing.

Wedges, half-moons,
rough squares: a simple
bag of tricks.

But everything
is accounted for
by these economies.

The epicurean
saint attends
to his plot of paint.

The world beyond
staying just the same,
only more so.
Found via an obituary of Breon O'Casey: "Moving out of St Ives to the village of Paul in 1978, O’Casey developed his vocabulary of geometric forms, the world seen through a collection of circles, triangles and squares rather than fields, trees and skies. This unique pictorial language is celebrated in Christopher Reid’s poem, Nine Triangles (for Breon O’Casey)."

19 July 2017

Feminist textiles and embroidered hankies

The Cut Cloth exhibition, and its associated events, were what spurred my recent trip to Manchester. I got there on the last day of the exhibition, which was held in the amazing Portico Library, with its delightful "original features" dating back 200 years - the library was opened in 1806. The central exhibition space , which also functions as a cafe - is a modern intervention -
The "Polite Literature" category would include the literature that was read in the Polite Society of the Georgian era, the sort of literature deemed sufficiently suitable for a wife or servant. But these shelves also hold some risque novels and a few books on witchcraft and philosophical and theological arguments. (Read more about it here.)

We had a simple lunch on tablecloths rumoured to be by Alice Kettle (and indeed she and ceramicist Stephen Dixon are leaders of the Crafts Research Group, year-long artists in residence) -
In the vitrines, historic documents - The Subversive Stitch by Roszika Parker was published in 1984, and the Art Textiles exhibition, curated by Jennifer Harris  was held at the Whitworth in 2015
Textile art and contemporary feminism
(click on the image to enlarge,  for reading the text)
 A few of my favourite pieces -

 In one vitrine, historical textile production in Manchester, which in 1853 had over 100 cotton mills and until early this century produced "wax cloth" for export to Ghana, and also Shweshwe indigo fabric, "German print", which was exported to South Africa -
Some days later, "the hanky workshop", led by Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective. She supplied a kit with hanky, thread, needle, instructions, a lovely woven label ... and there are other stitching-for-action kits on the Craftivist website -

Sarah's Little Book of Craftivism contains thoughtful, do-able projects that bring the political a bit closer to the personal -
I was also taken by the follow-the-dots stitching cards - Stitchable Changemakers
And being an embroiderer, I not only had to turn it over to see the back, but photograph it -
 Here we are, stitching away in the Portico Library - changing the world one stitch at a time!
The hanky, explained Sarah, is a way of gently confronting and connecting to "a powerholder" - onto which can be stitched not only your concerns about their actions and policies, but also encouragement for doing a better job in future ... with the added dimension that you'll be thinking about these topics and issues as you stitch. To me, that is much more sane than yelling angry slogans. But to whom, about what, would I write or give such an object?  When we said a few words about ourselves at the start of the workshop, I said I'd come because this was an area that I'd not been involved with yet in my life. And indeed, I felt very much out of my depth and hadn't thought who for, or about what, such a handkerchief missive might be.

At the end of the session I hadn't got very far ... and Sarah gave us an "extra length of encouragement" to take away - "little by little, we travel far"

Little by little I sorted out what to say, how to say it, and to whom. While I educate myself about "issues" that I might want to try to change, I'll focus on what I know: "the personal is political". Family politics; who holds what powers? So, first, the nearest and dearest ... what could I say to my son? His birthday was only a week away, so the text urgently needed writing, no time for dithering. It got done. The words had to be fitted into the space available, and the writing had to be a good size. That got sorted, and then I traced it onto the cloth with a black biro. 

After that bit of agony came the joy of stitching - with two strands of anchor cotton, or rather one strand doubled over through the needle, so the needle wouldn't get lost during stitching on public transport (the sturdy, reclosable envelope of the kit was very useful for carrying it around) -

 Finished -

 And the back .....

18 July 2017

Drawing Tuesday - King's Place

Looking ahead to the Japanese woodblock course next week, and knowing that King's Place has tables at which one can sit and ... draw ... or whatever ... I brought along a book of Japanese woodblock prints by one of my art heroes, Shiko Munakata, thinking to get a feel for how the technique might affect the depiction.

The book is quite old and quite heavy but is full of inspiring things, these among them -

I tried using ink for some birds ... it soaked through the flimsy brown bag (later I added white pastel). I also tried inktense pencil, and on adding water managed to add a huge blog, which soaked right through the flimsy brown bag. Yet another case of inappropriate materials!
 However, drawing the shape gave some inkling not only of how different drawing in is from cutting out, but also of how much easier it is to get dark areas with the one-step process of using ink than with the two-step process of water-soluble pencils.

My next bright idea was to cut out the shapes -
 and then a bit of tracing, which really makes you pay attention to the details of the lines, and again to the difference between delineation with pen or pencil and creating a form with a gouging tool.
 I started using the shapes as stencils and as frottage -
 Hope to develop this further before the course.

In the self-portrait exhibition currently showing, Joyce looked at the different ways painters depicted themselves -
 Judith worked outside, finding a sculpture and an urban landscape -
 Carol was outside, near the canal, until it started raining -
 Janet B was sitting comfortably but said she was out of her comfort zone with the architectural subject - "every time I looked, there were more and more lines" -
 Najlaa found sculptures by John Beck -
 Mags tackled "the big red thing" with biros of different colours -
 Tool of the week - biros of different colours - these are "ink joy" -
 Extracurricular activities

Mags had been making little sketchbooks (from a sheet of A4) and filling them in odd moments -
 and she was also going great guns on her train stitching -
 Carol started a new (larger) sketchbook with an iconic motif -
 Janet B has done a series of drawings of her other hand -

17 July 2017

The wild and the tamed

A sunny summer morning is a gift and not to be ignored. I have a (self-imposed) daily walking goal, in the absence of longer walks, and got out early on the Parkland Walk - convenient, peaceful, green, what's not to like?

One of the joys of walking is noticing things, and now that I'm using the phone camera for all my snaps, it is always to hand. Nor can I resist documenting ....
"Weeds" beautifully backlit by low-slanting morning sunlight 

Ingenious storage of supplies for the wood-burner (but...London is a smoke free zone?)

Prolific blooms, what are they?

I'm almost convinced these slow-down signs are on some
sort of random timer, rather than related to traffic

"Back home" in BC these fuzzy pink things (what are they?)
grow prolifically in slightly-wild places 
Recently repainted, this proud sign is on Stapleton Hall Road

...and round the corner on Stroud Green Road
(heading into the home stretch)
the cafes are open at 7am but shop shutters are still down

The local off-licence, Jacks, has recently had a face-lift - boy oh boy,
 has this area changed since I moved here (to Sparsholt Rd) in 1983!

New carvings have been added to this collection,
but the bamboo now obscures those in the other windows

More damage to the diseased chestnut trees ... how much
longer till they have to be cut down? I dread the day

From the corner of my block - it too is much improved in recent years;
I moved here in 1994

"Here" is the top two floors, a maisonette rather than a flat;
there are 33 stairs inside and another dozen outside

The garden, my expensive toy, belongs to the "basement" flat,
which now belongs to my empire-building son, thanks to inheritance
and my pension contributions. It was two years in the renovation
and is now rented out, but even so, that
was one expensive bike shed!