16 March 2018

Another dustcloth day in the studio

The clearout project continues. Yesterday the bottom shelf of the paper storage got "the treatment" -
Not only has at least half the paper gone (via freecycle) but there is some clear floor - wrought out of this sort of chaos -
It's much the same for any studio clearout, isn't it?

Today's first task is the top shelf of the paper storage, which doesn't contain paper - it contains tools and ... surprises ... and rather a lot of dust, because it hasn't been disturbed for a few years!

I knew the stamps were lurking in the back, but had misremembered how many -
Various charities ask you to cut around the stamps and send them along (they get £20 a kilo for them). That little task would take me forever - I remember how long it took to tear the corners off the envelopes. They come from manuscript submissions at BMJ in the days before digital submission, when everything came double-spaced in several copies, in envelopes, hundreds of them every week. I'd seen Tom Phillips' use of stamps to frame some of his Curriculum Vitae series and realised that it was time to revive my stamp-collector activities...

Postage stamps are, after all, a craft material - some good ideas here - I'm sooooo tempted to put them back on the shelf and relegate them to the semifinals of the Studio Clearout game.

Another surprise on the top shelf was several boxes of postcards -
and there are bound to be more in another part of the room. Again, these hark back to the pre-internet days, and to the days when I was discovering all sorts of art and craft  and "needing" all sorts of "inspiration".

(Looking back on your younger self, there are things you wish you'd known - "focus on one thing at a time" is what I'd tell myself. But maybe the scattered-enthusiasm phase is something everyone goes through ... and some get to the focus-and-develop phase more quickly?)

The stamps, the postcards, and the tools had sat ignored on that deep shelf for at least 15 years. The tools did get used - I had a little trug from Ikea with the necessities, hammer, screwdriver, pliers, etc, and they all fit nicely ... but once Tom started using the room as a carpentry shop, it was a case of The Invasion of the Space-Snatchers. I shall empty that trug and put back what I need, and let Tom look through the rest -
The unwanted items can go out on the wall for someone to take home. (A very handy recycling method!)

Even with the stamps and postcards temporarily replaced, there's room for the ceramics materials, and a place to put more once they're found and sorted -
Isn't it wonderful to see empty space?

Now, a few of the "historical" finds along the way ....

.....life drawing (A1 size, charcoal).......

 ...... still life (charcoal)..........
............using pastels (thank you Veronica Slater for the demo at City Lit) .....

 .......reduction lino cut (Ormond Road Workshop; late 80s?)............
Senufo inspiration; also printed on fabric for cushions
 .......screen print...........
based on Braque's birds 
 ...........watercolour (A1 size)...........

..........botanical illustration.........

I did keep some of these, "for now".

Trial run - chips and dip

Trying out a recipe for hummus made with butternut squash and harissa.
Butternut & harissa houmous
The photo that comes with the recipe shows some flatbread for dipping, and there's a recipe for that as well, but it includes yeast and seems to be quite time-consuming. Gone are the days when I'd effortlessly whip something like that up - or need to.

Instead of chaining myself to the stove I bought some seeded tortilla wraps and turned them into tortilla chips - very quick - but you DO have to keep an eye on them or they can overbake very quickly -
Cut into triangles and brush with oil, transfer to
heated baking tray andbake for a few minutes
As for getting hold of ingredients - the largish supermarket across the street had harissa, but not tahini ("what's that?") - whereas the smallish "organic" shop up the road had EIGHT kinds of tahini -
So lucky to have great local shops (and cafes)! And a farmers market every week! It was not always thus........

15 March 2018

Poetry Thursday - Tiger Girl (Surprised!) by Pascale Petit

What joy to find, when flipping through an art magazine - RA spring 2018 issue - a poem inspired by, or related to, or springing from, a painting.* Instead of encountering history or conjecture or art-speak, we have something real to read - "news that stays news", was it TS Eliot who said that?

And look how composedly it sits on the page.

Tiger Girl (Surprised!)

When lightning flickers over my cot
and the air tingles

with the electric charge 
of the great cat's fur -

     I cross into the night
     where my jungle tent is pitched. 

wondering what is this angel
crouched above me,

     her coat of icicles,
     her eyes like meteors
     shooting into my face.

My hand is a brave monkey
reaching up to touch her fangs -

     while all the hairs of my body
     rise like wind in a storm

     as she brands me with her stripes.

Pascale Petit (b.1953) grew up in France and Wales. She trained as a sculptor at the Royal College of Art and was a visual artist for the first part of her life. She lives in London, where she tutors poetry in the galleries of Tate Modern and at the Poetry School, which she co-founded.

*If you closely at the top right of the page, you'll see the word FICTION - and on the previous page is a short story by William Boyd. But I'm not sure that poetry is "fiction" (nor is it "fact") - yes, like fiction (and all art) it's a work of the imagination, but why not just call it "poetry" - is that a scary word?

14 March 2018

Lisa Milroy at Parasol Unit

Known years ago for her paintings of shoes*, Lisa Milroy is showing paintings of garments ("Here and There" at Parasol Unit till 18 March).
First glimpse - real shoes and painted backgrounds, taken from
the patterning of the shoes, are on the floor

Composites - does the 2D clothing on the wall take you back to playing with paper dolls?

3D painting - the painting is on the fabric, sculpted as a garment
3D, as the "garment" starts to peel away from the canvas

2D painting - deconstructed garment

Viewers are invited to rearrange the garments on the wall ...

... so I did ...

Half "natural" garment, half painted ... which is the more "real"?

Don't know what to make of this ... the title was something like "nine garments for one person"

Simple and resonant! this goes beyond words to our feelings about our clothes
Somehow I missed seeing the first floor gallery:

"On the first floor gallery, the exhibition focuses on ‘There’ and presents a selection of monochromatic paintings that explore presence and absence, loss, time and memory – all themes recurrent in Milroy’s practice. Included is the monumental twenty-metre wide painting Black and White, 2004–2005, based on the artist’s studio, and Shoes, 1985the only work from the 1980s in the exhibition, on loan from Tate and a touchstone painting for Milroy."

* "Shoes have been a recurrent motif in my practice since I began exploring ‘still life’ in the 1980s. Shoes, 2012 presents a single shoe repeated in rows against a grey background. This shoe is defined by two independent yet connected surfaces: the hard black shiny exterior and the soft blue-grey interior. The bright interior spaces of the shoe carve out hollows within the dark surface of the painting, turning the empty shoes into vessels full of light. This imagery keys the emotional dynamic of presence and absence and the physical dynamic of inside and outside, which reverberates throughout all my paintings in the exhibition, and chimes with aspects of Jayne [Parker]’s work. A number of my paintings feature a female personage suspended in a reciprocation between body and mind, while other works focus on the passing of time - both predominant themes in my practice.
Lisa Milroy" (via; the joint exhibition is at A.P.T. Gallery, Deptford, till 18 March)

13 March 2018

Drawing Tuesday - Natural History Museum

From the gallery of the Mammals room in the Blue Zone of the Natural History Museum, you can clearly see the dust on the Right Whale skeleton.  I drew the front view twice: with grainy coloured pencil, and chunky graphite stick - both watersoluble, but I didn't try out the waterbrush ...
On to the side view - I was curious about those floating bones -
The heart-shaped bone is the breastbone (sternum), but the others? One day I'll find out ... it's fascinating that whales developed from a land mammal, some 50 million years ago, and still have vestigial leg bones. 

The "nose" - an extension of the skull - is called the rostrum, and the baleen plates go into the cavity above the lower jaw.
HB pencil; coffee wash added later
Apologies for the strange lighting effects on some of the next pix - cafe tables with dim light or spotlights are not ideal for photography.

Janet K captured birds -
 Carol zoomed in on architectural details -
 Judith found lovely feathers on the Victoria Crowned Pigeon -
 Joyce was among the colourful minerals -
 Janet B found an unlikely pairing in the Mammals room -
 Mags was looking for pleiosaurs -

 Extracurricularly ... Janet B had been drawing in a faraway museum last week -
 ... this led to "homework" - draw "a creature" - from life or from a museum or from a photograph.

Mags had been up north on a retreat, developing surreal collage and mark-making in piano-hinge books, among other activities ...

12 March 2018

Productive laziness

It being Monday, I found myself with no reason, or motivation, to leave the house - and a backache brought on, surely, by walking in the mud yesterday. The temptation was to spend the entire day on the sofa with a diverting book, but certain things do need doing. That studio sort-out is top of the list...

So the plan was:  set the timer for 15 minutes and plunge into one or other of the bags in the studio, racing the clock to get it sorted before the timer's PING sounds the blessed release from the task. It starts when the Fitbit's reminder-buzz at 10 minutes to the hour (reminder to take 250 steps and "be active") is the signal to get up from the sofa, jog on the Invisible Treadmill till the Fitbit sends its "good stuff, you've done it" buzz. Then, set the timer and Just Do It. PING - and the rest of the hour can be spent on the sofa with the book.

The plan has been working well, given a head start with the departure of some old French paperbacks -
and also paper and pens gathered and posted on Freecycle, to be collected in the evening -
Adding to the collection of papers has provided an opportunity for a sort-out of the paper shelves - not the thing that's most urgent, but "every little helps". I discovered some lovely papers, including a big sheet of hand marbling ... makes me want to get back to making books -
The middle shelves now look quite spacious (whereas the recycling bin is almost full of the rejects) -
 This lovely print surfaced -
as did lots of "old work" - from the Art Foundation and then the MA course -
 and abandoned works like this double-sided excursion into drawing+stitching -
 Sonnets, stitched in syllables, then turned into rubbings - then abandoned -
 Experiments from the National Gallery's Friday lunchtime "talk and draw" sessions -
 Leftover painted papers that could so quickly be folded into concertina or "secret" books (large marks usually look good on small pages) -
Work from a short, intense course about stitching and monoprinting - I made various little books based on maps of Islington -
 Leftover fabrics from the course -
 ,,, they went into the big drawer of my own printed fabrics (ah the travel lines - screen printed at Camberwell!), can't get rid of those -
Serendipitous melted plastic found in a stack of papers -
 "What was I thinking" dept - concert and theatre tickets from 1989/90 glued onto thin japanese paper ....
The most important is the pink one, a community play in which my son, aged 10, had a part - "Full House" at The Old Bingo Hall, now Rowans bowling alley -
From 1994 or so, some marbling with inks, cut into the shape of an envelope (I'll use it soon) -
"Projects for 2006" is the title of this little "secret" book -
They included: learn how to use my serger; sew a shirt for Thomas; make "japanese" quilt for Thomas (done!!) and Fissures for CQ (done!); regular computer backups; organise photos. In the middle, more - decide whether to continue learning Chinese; fix up flat (bathroom); "leave fulltime work?" and "keep up & not be boring" - hah, aren't we all constantly working on that one!

Yet again this little booklet shows the magical powers of writing things down. Sometimes, writing down an anxiety helps to get it out of your mind; often, writing down a wish (however impossible it seems) makes it more real, or possible, as you start to consider how it might be achieved - and quite often, it is.

The next thing I found in that folder was a big, empty envelope with faint writing -
A message from Tony that I'm very grateful for, did he but know. 

It's a big help with the "redistributing my creative resources" project. 

Another help would be to take a few moments to write down what might be looked for, when looking forward.