time out

September 25, 2017

This summer I spent some time at Deuchar Mill in the Scottish Borders, at the invitation Helen Douglas, a book artist whose work I’ve long admired. Helen has worked and lived at the mill for over 40 years. Once it’s life as a working granary had ended Helen and Telfer Stokes converted the mill into a home and studio, giving it new purpose through their creative energy and the work made in the studio under the imprint WeProductions. The memory of water powered life at Deuchar Mill is apparent today. Some of the millstones are still held in it’s belly and the paths of the old mill lade that fed the water wheel can still be found amongst the nettles and alder trees. I found the idea of energy flowing through the land and buildings exciting and reflected on the ebb and flow of this whilst I worked.

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No final pieces were made over the 18 days, lots of playing and dreaming was done. I spent a lot of time in Yarrow Water, watching and drawing where it meets and moves around obstacles on it’s way downstream. I used the drawings to make a 5 meter long ink drawing of the river and took this drawing around the place, photographing it moving through the living / workspace.

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Later I cut a section of the drawing into Japanese ply and printed it. Finally I used the water drawings to choreograph light drawings, moving with l.e.d. lights in front of the studio at twilight. These drawings were documented with long exposure shots from a Diana F camera.

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Working and walking alongside my partner David Armes who made the most of the letterpress studio that has been recently brought into shape over a number of years with the help of Angie Butler  and her husband Si. It was a real joy to spend time out there.

 

 

 

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Princess Ljubica’s residence in Belgrade  was built as a palace and family residence with large central rooms for entertaining, smoking and talking, smaller scale rooms off these  for living. The rooms are now furnished to walk the visitor through each period in Serbian interior design…low level living, rugs and floor cushions move to wall based benching which gives way to the tables and chairs of more western modern living.   Wondering though the rooms on a sunny afternoon I followed the light patterns on the ceiling and a reoccurring portrait imagining what it might be to take residence.

 

 

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This weekend I’ll be off to the wonderful Bristol Artists Book Event.  It’s always such a good weekend – welcoming, inspiring and exhausting in equal measures, I highly recommend it. I’ll be sharing a table with David Armes of Red Plate Press so I’ll have a proper chance to look around this year.  I’m taking the hold, follow books made in response to walks around Staithes this winter.  Below is a spread from hold, follow – step, hollow, arch.

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I’ll also be bringing a new booklet – Accumulated Data – concertina folded wood cut prints, in an edition of 10 – detail in image below.  This work is made in response to the John Rylands Library, Manchester.  The original wood block was cut in 2015 and references the incidental and intentional marks that craftsmen, readers and other visitors have left on the library and it’s furniture.  You can read more about the project in the blog post from the time here.

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Staithes Studios

March 24, 2017

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Returning to Staithes this weekend for the last day of hold, follow at Staithes Studios Gallery. David of Red Plate Press and myself will be in the gallery on Sunday between 2-4pm, do come and say hello if you find yourself nearby!

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hill , above, is one of my prints on show in hold, follow at Staithes Studios this month. hold, follow is the result of a solid weeks worth of printing at Staithes Studios this winter, please see the previous post for more detail on this.  I’m showing a series of drypoint prints and artists books alongside prints by David Armes of Red Plate Press, see below for his print sub sea salt bed.

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We made these works walking and printing alongside each other. Following the same paths and with a similar aim towards holding a trace of the passage of time through life and the landscape. Visually we have made quite different work, together each series of prints can be read to inform the other.

 

 

hold, follow is showing at Staithes Studios until March 26th click here for more info.

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I was very lucky to spend 12 days of December working at Staithes Studios on the North Yorkshire coast. The studio belongs to Staithes Studios Gallery owners and printmakers, Stef and Ian Mitchell who had invited us to work there in response to the locality. Staying beside the studio and working alongside my partner, letterpress printer David Armes, we fell into an easy routine, to keep warm, refuelled and on task; both restful and stimulating.

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Each day we walked for an hour or so and then returned to the studio to print. Often David would go ahead of me, find a path, take photos and notes for his own letterpress prints while I walked round the harbour to draw the water meeting it’s banks whilst the tide was in. The natural bay and man made harbour at Staithes was a great place to continue my study in contained and flowing water.  I plan to work these drawings up into woodcuts.

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Later over coffee David would describe the walk to me and then I would go, with scribbled notes, to find the path and take down my own notes and drawings on foil card to ink and run through the press on my return.  This routine varied a little depending on planned routes or the weather. A couple of walks were a bit longer and needed two heads to find the paths – we always walked without maps. Some days it was bitter in the harbour but warm up on the cliffs. Some days too cold or windy to draw much and I realised that the metal etching needle I drew with was conducting the cold right to my bones!  This actually helped as my preferred drawing style is sparse and in the poor weather I relied on the briefest of marks and the impact of the view on my senses to ink the plate effectively on my return.

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There were so many wonderful textures around Staithes to draw the eye but when I came to walk and draw the landscape my eye always followed the posts, the lines that demarcated paths and skirted the contours. Though the drawings and plates remained largely linear and figurative the textures stayed in my mind and at my fingertips and led my approach to inking.

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My intention had been to walk and draw a card at allotted spots throughout each walk. These would then be printed individually and together to give the impression of sequence and shifting perspective through a walk. I’ve always enjoyed layering images to convey a sense of movement and time. I had used the approach with (lightweight and easy to carry!) foil card to document a walk done over 5 days in 2009 and then reproduced in my artist’s books From Cromer to Hunstanton  and also as original plate and prints in Line and A Line, 2008 to convey the incremental changes of the cracks in my studio ceiling. Still, most recently I have been mainly focussed on relief printing and it took me a few days to warm up to drypoint on foil card, both in drawing and printing.  I’ve never actually had the opportunity to work solidly for such a period of time; there is always paid employment and life to distract. For those 12 days the shift in my printing practice was palpable and I’ve resolved to take time off  and schedule myself out of life next time I want to focus on a project.

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By the end of the 12 days I had made 23 plates and 69 prints. I’ve brought them home to contemplate and perhaps compile a few into an artists book. Then a select few will get framed for an exhibition back at Staithes Studios Gallery at the start of March.  I’m looking forward to revisiting Staithes in the spring.

A big thank you goes to Stef and Ian Mitchell of Staithes Studios for giving us the opportunity.

 

 

 

remains of an old town

September 12, 2016

Photos from a day spent at the old Fortress of Stari Bar in Montenegro this summer. There is plenty of information around the web about this site, abandoned after an earthquake in 1979 took out it’s aqueduct. Now an open air museum, work is being done to restore and conserve, key buildings have had their roofs replaced, one building appears to house an artist studio and performances are made in the amphitheatre. On the day of visiting music wafted across the site, the hot sun drew out the scents of the wild herbs all around while the small windows and nooks that remain in the thick stone walls provided respite from the heat for us and Stari Bar’s many cats.

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movement in the gallery

August 22, 2016

After spending two days on Value, Creativity and Human Flourishing, an interdisciplinary  workshop at MMU my head was full of thoughts and questions around what my values are, how well I communicate them and how to create the best spaces (in terms of artwork, art workshops and the wider world) to allow these values to flourish in myself and others. More on this  will filter through in future posts I imagine. What struck me most was that the sensations of freedom and openness, understanding and connection that many of us receive when in play and learning shouldn’t be confined to discrete experiences of ‘the arts’ but integral to life in general. Creativity isn’t a skill exclusively owned by those working in the arts, creative thinking is necessary in all areas of life.  Being open and playful isn’t about being childish, its about thinking creatively and being receptive in the moment.  I could go on, but I won’t, you get the picture.  In this overloaded but reflective frame of mind I visited the Whitworth Gallery to see the Whitworth Late performances that evening.

Epiphany, a collective of classically trained musicians who improvise together, played sound portraits of individual subjects who sat on a chair facing away from onlookers, towards the group.  Epiphany say that they play with no previous plans and purely play what they see or sense in their subject. These portrait performances were truly lovely to watch and I imagine the portraits were rather moving and wonderful to be in the midst of. The sounds washed over and allowed my brain to loosen its grip on all the information I had taken in over the previous 2 days.

Naomi and Epiphany

in the drawing

Later Epiphany performed a 45 minute improvisation with Naomi Kendrick drawing. Having watched Naomi previously draw with musicians Dave Birchall and Dan Bridgewood Hill, I’ve witnessed the movements, noises and marks made by the drawing feed the improv of the musicians and vice versa. I imagine that both visual and sound artists are unclear as to who starts what within any given piece. I really enjoy watching the performances as whole moving images; Naomi and her shadow moving as part of the live drawing. I’ve attempted to draw this in the past.  Watching Naomi with Epiphany, a much larger group of musicians, the drama within the performance was heightened further still as they moved around the ‘canvas’ appearing to tail, beckon and group around the low moving figure of Naomi drawing.  The movements of the musicians around the canvas echoed the ebb and flow of their music and the vigour and delicacy of the drawing action and drawn marks.

Naomi drawing epiphany 3

the edge of the drawing

The 11 meter length of paper served as a simple canvas-stage but was also a very large area to cover in the space of 45 minutes and yet it did get covered, the image above bearing witness to a moment when Naomi in full stretch hit the edge of the paper nearest me and the mark recoiled on itself taking with it Naomi’s arm.  Check out Naomi’s blog post that articulates all this much better.

Naomi drawing Epiphany 2

after the drawing

 

A week later when I visited Huddersfield Art Gallery to view a performance in response to the Open House exhibition, I was most pleased to find that the artists’ talk that preceded the performance was by Sumi Perera, whose show Liminal Spaces is on til 15th October.

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prints with shadow from skylight in education room

I’ve had the opportunity to handle some of Sumi’s books at book fairs before but never had the chance to hear her talk about her work.  The method of description also portrayed the approach to thinking and making; there was lots of movement and connections between ideas, even Sumi’s outfit described her approach well with interesting shapes and textures.  As an artist with an early desire to be an architect, a training in exotic medicine and a history of garment making and an instinct for prudent use of materials, Sumi explained that her work is about exploring the human form and the environments we build for it. I guess in a sense working with what she has in an embodied and also a materials sense.  Mark making is done through etching, inked and non-inked prints, laser cut, screen print, stitch, formed paper shapes, wooden and metal structures. In Liminal Spaces prints are hung, draped, layed and layered, they expand across walls and are refracted by glass balls. Frames and shadows cast from elements extending out of the surface entreat viewers to seek a different perspective from the head on view. Sumi actively encourages people to touch her work, knowing that at least part of the understanding is in that point of engagement.  But as Sumi questions through making, the work presented asks us to question, look for patterns and connections between different frameworks, techniques and materials to encourage curiosity and perhaps help with a wider understanding.

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Printed paper, structure and shadow in gallery

For more info on Sumi Perera’s work see this printmakers council interview

 

The Open House exhibition was the end of a month long residency for a group of artists working in the gallery under two different briefs:

1 – Archives: Jim Bond, Liz Walker and Rozi Fuller set to work exploring the archives, creating a mini studio inside their gallery space to work on the project. This work resulted in a wonderful installation of puppet, archival objects and narrative animated film about an archivist carefully wrapping and labelling objects including himself.

2 – Wayfinding: David Armes explored the routes to Huddersfield Gallery through the memories and directions given by the people of Huddersfield. Over the month David set up a mini letterpress print shop in the middle of his allotted space and printed a textual map of the Gallery’s place in the collective minds of Huddersfield residents.

For more information about the Open House exhibition see East Street Arts.

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Having myself stooped and leant to view the work in Liminal Spaces it was wonderful to watch the dancers move in and around the work in the Open House exhibition. Here too they allowed object placement to direct their gaze, there were movements in response to the shape of objects, the layout of the space, the sounds and motions of a mechanised lamp.  A typewriter and adana presses were played, directions and recollections were sung and the spaces were animated by 6 dancers moving in small spaces in front of a big crowd.

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Turvey World Dancers respond to the work of David Armes in Open House at Huddersfield Art Gallery. Image by Roger Bygott.

I’d had the pleasure of taking part in a movement workshop run by Gerry Turvey the week before the performance.  Moving with a group of strangers in a gallery setting was both wonderful and challenging (for a typically solo dancer) and I felt honoured to share and witness the physical and emotional responses given to the exhibition.  And touched also for the artists to have had such risible responses to their work.  It seemed, with both the workshop and the performance, that the movements articulated responses to the themes and materials within the artworks that would not have been made visible or known any other way.  In so animating the exhibitions the performance and the workshop gave new life to the work and new possibilities for understanding and taking concepts further.

For more detailed information and many more exciting photographs of the performance go to TurveyWorld Dance responses to ROTOЯ exhibitions

What I enjoyed about all these events was how they subverted the gallery space and the way people behave in the space. It wasn’t particularly radical or confrontational, in fact in all cases here the manner was playful and gentle but thoughtful too. Each created a space that offered people the chance to spend more time in the gallery setting, get comfortable in the moment, being responsive to what was happening and have a dialogue with the work and the makers of the work. More of this!

reading buildings

August 10, 2016

 

In a lovely village in Norfolk.  Trying to understand how things stand up, how they have worn and how they’ve been fixed.

turn the page

June 22, 2016

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Come along to turn the page artists’ book fair this weekend