March 24, 2017
March 2, 2017
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.
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.
January 9, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
August 10, 2016
June 15, 2016
Last year looking round the renovated Central Library in Manchester I took myself up to the top floor where I used to go when I had time to kill in the city. I’m sure it used to house the literature section and had a slight attic feel, with a raised walkway around the double height book shelves. Now it feels a bit like a spaceship, the shelves all sliding in and out, closing into modules when you don’t need them. The closest I’ve ever been to the set of Chockablock apart from friend’s narrow boats I suppose. There I found a book about James Turrell and sat in the sunlight to read about his work. The pictures above illustrate the story he tells of his childhood, how he was conceived in 1942 on the eve of a real or imagined attack on their home city of L.A. when his mum and dad celebrated the completion of a birdroom they had built around their flat roof for Mr Turrell to call in the birds. The windows filled the walls and opened wide for the birds to come into the room. James Turrell tells of his dad spending long evenings in the bird room singing with the birds. The birdroom became James’ bedroom but he always shared the space and his dad’s attention with the birds. The windows had dark green curtains lined with tar to blackout the light. As he grew up Turrell explains that he took a pin to the blackout curtains to assert his self on the space.
This spring I visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and saw the singular work of Bill Viola for the first time. At the end of the exhibition in the study room a film, books and quotes from Viola were presented for contemplation over green tea. Another story of childhood written on the wall.
My favourite of piece of Viola was The Veiling, 6 or so pieces of gauze suspended in a queue. A projector at each end playing separate films towards each other, as the image reaches further into the queue of gauze it enlarges and defocuses. Each film depicts movement through a dark space, light brushes trees, a figure. The movement sweeps the image across the surface of gauze and through the queue of gauze behind, a stagger, a shift in space and time.
Finally, just yesterday whilst following up links to another show at Touchstones Gallery I wish I’d not missed – Natural Makers, I found the wonderful work of Laura Ellen Bacon online with a piece she has written about her nesting instinct describing in loving detail the inspiring sensory memories of den building from an early age.
I’m guessing many of us will have taken paths in life influenced by instincts and memories from childhood..I wonder how many directly link their work to experience. I now live in a place full of childhood memories. Strong physical, sensory memories. Not my original home but a place similar to home, full of places that inhabited my dreams . I’m remembering and wondering what will come of it.
June 1, 2016
So the bank holiday weekend is over, I spent each day sitting by my work or wandering the streets of Saltaire seeking the red flags of the open houses. As I secretly expected, I did not keep a diary as there was too much to see and do and if brain imaging technology was more advanced after each day my brain may have resembled the image above. The accumulated seeds of trees and plants (or creative endeavour) finding their way, settling and pattern making into something akin to fabric. A bit of a mess but also quite lovely and full of potential.
So all I can do now is nod to a few of the wonderful things I saw there and wonder how those things will settle and inform me over time.
Being Inbetween a series of portraits by Carolyn Mendelsohn that make grown women cry for the hope and dignity displayed by the 10-12 year old subjects and that likely, they recall of themselves and strive to recover.
‘I don’t know where they are coming from‘ – the confidence to follow your instincts. To allow a breadth of skills to inform current practice -a graphic designer and a painter showing wood and glass assemblages respectively. An architect applying draughting rules towards figurative abstraction.
Finding your place and making space for it – Tapestry working in situ.
Beautiful photographs that can never be fixed.
Delineating topography through mark making.
Corrugated iron sheets + arch = pavilions for every country – photo montage
Imprints and a stitch: care taken to notice and care given to value us, and our relationships with clothes and each other in Lasting Impressions.
So long Saltaire, thanks for all the chats.