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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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.

what will come

June 15, 2016

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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.

photo of James Turrell-childhood bedroom

photo quote James Turrell story

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.

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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.

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Another instalment from a trip made last year.

When I heard that there was a park that had been built over an old freeway running through Boston, I had visions of the Promenade Plantee in Paris – raised walkways surrounded by clambering growth (at least that’s what I remember). I was a little disappointed that the freeway had been dismantled, the cars re-routed under ground and the parks set at ground level with little of the luscious planting of my dreams.  The spaces were neat, flat with many hard surfaces (I include tidy lawn in this) but they did provide an easy walk through the centre of Boston and many sun filled places to stop and view the modern city’s large towers from.  They also functioned well as an outdoor gallery, the lines of the park and buildings complimenting the sculptures.

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A TRANSLATION OF ONE LANGUAGE INTO ANOTHER – Lawrence Weiner, 2015

Whilst looking at the newly installed Lawrence Weiner mural a girl who explained that she saw the wall regularly on her way to the dentist said she preferred the old mural.  I shared my impression of the dazzling dense colours and asked her to not give up on it yet and give it another look each time she passed. Looking at the range of comments made about past murals on the site it is clear that each mural has been deemed a success by some and a failure by others, at least they have been allowed the time to grow in peoples minds.

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Just around the corner was a set of maquettes from an architecture competition, I think, my favourites of which worked well with the bright light of the day.

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A similar construction material to the Serpentine Pavillion 2014 around which I saw a man with bread, veg and fish strapped to his head wander and pose.

 

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As If It Were Already Here – Janet Echelman, 2015

I’d seen some of Janet Echelman’s work in print before but was delighted to find her living and breathing work on the greenway. After being impressed by the graphic and spatial relationships between the city and the previous works mentioned, it was wonderful to see something so huge, delicate and constantly shifting within the city…almost like installing a contained weather system into a small urban space.

Gemma phone_20150926_041Gemma phone_20150926_046I’ll finish this post with a picture of a singing bridge found on a windy day and a Karel Martin print seen later on the same day at the Le Corbusier designed Carpenter Centre for the Visual Arts. The bridge incidentally sung by sounding different notes as vehicles of different weights  drive over at different speeds, making singular notes or harmonies depending on how busy the bridge got.  Unfortunately my mobile phone recording does not do it justice so I won’t include it here. Happily the prints mirror the grid pattern that created the notes and give a sense of the singular and harmony.

Saltaire Inspired

May 9, 2016

Gemma Lacey.Longing Cabinet.wood print

I’m very excited to be showing work on the Saltaire Arts Trail over this May bank holiday weekend. There are open houses showing the work of over 50 artists , a Makers fair, participatory installations and photography exhibitions, workshops and all in a World Heritage Village to boot! As I’m new to the event I imagine I’ll be scrambling around to see as much of Saltaire and the art on show as I can without having palpitations. I’m full of good intentions to keep a diary of the 3 days as they’ll be so much good stuff to absorb. We shall see. The whole event is free and here is a mini map and guide. However you can pick up a full trail guide for £1 which also gets you into the Makers Fair each day. For more information see here .

If you want to find me I should be invigilating each day and showing some of my prints and books alongside Chrissie Freeth, Dave Gowers, Janis Goodman, Salma Patel and Steve Rayner at The Art Rooms in Salts Mill, underneath the Visitor Information Centre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a brief visit to Detroit

March 29, 2016

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Last year my partner David Armes of Red Plate Press was awarded a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship with which he toured and printed in some of the many letterpress studios in the United States. You can see the blog of his trip (and in effect details of parts of mine) here.

Amazingly, I got the chance to visit him, landing in Detroit during his final week working at open access print shop Signal Return and received the same kind and generous hospitality from the team and their founder that they had extended to David.  On my visit to the printshop I had the pleasure of hearing readings from Anatomy of a Museum a book  written by A.Kendra Greene recently published in collaboration with Lee Marchalonis the Printer in Residence at Signal Return.  The book is an account of getting-to-know the Icelandic Phallological Museum, with letterpress printed cover and mono printed endpapers, the book is well worth the read and purchase of.  Kendra and Lee also read from  their most recently completed collaboration and talked of the nature of such wonderful things happening through residencies and time apportioned.

On a kindly lent bike I got to have a scoot around the city.  I guess partly because the city, built for the car, has a much smaller population than it once did, the roads, wide and empty, are pretty safe to cycle on (though there’s quite a lot of bumps). In other U.S cities  I hear people don’t even dare.  Attempts seem to be made to encourage it in Detroit and I did see other cyclists, especially on the Dequindre Cut, a recently installed cycle route running from the Eastern Market through downtown to the river front.  Detroit also have racks on the front of buses where you can stash your bike and hop on.  Even with oil and gas as cheap as they are in the US cycling has still got to be the most economical option for a cash strapped city.

From the river front you can see Canada, in fact Detroit is the only place in the U.S where you look south to Canada. If you carry on along the front you can cycle the wide bridge to Belle Isle Park.  A leisure island home to, among other things, a nature zoo, aquarium, many picnic shelters, a beach, water slide and the Belle Isle Conservatory, built in 1904, run by the state of Detroit and quite lovely.

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I think this was part of the Nature Zoo

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Having just left a small friendly town in the U.K. I found myself getting the same kind of reception and community vibe from the Detroiters, perhaps again, this is because the population has dwindled and folks feel more inclined. Perhaps Detroit folk have always been warm and keen to acknowledge each other. Perhaps I was just looking for it.

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I certainly passed some places where sadness dwells; empty lots next to grand locked up houses, the vast abandoned Packard factories, Michigan Central Station.  I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to watch, not only a big powerful city but a city called home, fall like Detroit did.  At least now, it seemed like in many of these places sadness was being met with creative optimism. On the evening we visited The Heidelberg Project  a young troupe of gymnasts were posing and cartwheeling around for a photographer.  I got an excellent walking/eating tour of Detroit Market Garden who offer apprenticeships and run a twice weekly food bank with crops grown across the city.  There are lots more projects like this.  At least in these places it felt like folk were looking to move on and put something back into the city community whilst doing so, I hope it helps.

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I took these photos as the sun went down in Hamtramck a city nearby Detroit, the most ethnically diverse and feeling-like-home city that I saw in the US.  We gawped at the backyard wonders of  Dmytro Szylak along with a little girl and her mum and read in the comments book notes from international visitors.  Perhaps a little noisy and bright for some of his neighbours, but what a joyful gift to leave the world with.

boots with Ursula Von Rydingsvards' work

I spent the last day of the year walking the grounds of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. One of my favourite day trip destinations. I’d been led there unknowingly, I hadn’t known what was showing and so I arrived at the work of Ursula Von Rydingsvard with few expectations.  I’ve never even heard her name before. All the better for being wowed and wowed I was. The show finishes on the 4th January, so if you happen to see this, like large wooden sculpture and have a day spare now, go visit. I’ll post more after that.

May the new year be full of wonderful surprises and glimpses of genius that get your minds and bodies whirring into action.