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.

Scarthin Books sign

on a hard seat over winding roads through the Peaks past Matlock Bath with it’s arcades and  motorcycle tours to Cromford and Scarthin split by a road whose traffic echoes up into the valley, competing with the crows that nest up in the rock face opposite the hotel on the hill. An afternoon spent with the sun on a duckpond and burrowing into books at the wonderful Scarthin Bookshop. A wonder around winding roads, snug bridges, run down mills, sturdy stone houses with leaded windows, killing time watching fly fishing in the river, more crows overhead, to the accompaniment of trees shedding beautiful colours, to meet a dear friend for a drive home talking of how to live and how to die and how to help mark it all, sharing stories and songs of love and family.

In Norfolk I’m introduced to 2 large cedar trunks and conjure plans of woodcuts to note and hold High Barn, a family home thats held some magic space for decades. Long chats and journeys, trying to make sense of what’s come before and what’s to come. A visit to the Morgan car factory, watching everyday people do wonderful things with wood, metal, leather bowing to their hands. Ash is used to make the modern day carriages.
In London a walk around the new serpentine building, Sackler as Cerith Wyn Evan’s neon sentences lead me along the outer perimeter, past sculptures that illuminate the words from the corner of my eye. Internal dark arched brick spaces where flutes play the air.
Cerith Wyn Evans, flutes
Anslem Kiefer at the Royal Academy. A a revelation in wood, paint, thick materials, heavy marks and thoughts of the body apparent in it’s absence, the tall brooding sunflowers, a huge pile of canvasses, wedges, dust, boulders of clay in a circular room, meteoric, wonderful.
Parsifal III 1973 by Anselm Kiefer born 1945
Large solid books, printed and painted, from board, from lead, from plaster skimmed card with print and watercolour and electrolyte, an object unapologetic. Landscape engulfing, looming large.
kiefer-buch1
Wood everywhere along my journey, in a printed leperello room in the RA and at Sutton House in a panelled room full of carved trunks and chairs where Stick in the Wheel sang out London’s song and it felt as if they were singing the furniture and the walls and all of the house that has stood through so many years and stood there still as sirens flew past it’s old glass windows.
We stayed in a beautiful house full of care, it being made good for over 3 years now, sandstone, zinc, brass taps, wood, wood, wood, soft light, slept sound with dreams of singing wood.
trees somewhere

box plot cutting

July 31, 2014

Taking a break from cutting furniture and making the most of some of the slow hot days we’ve had recently I’ve been hiding under a dog rose bush making a new wood cut on the allotment. Working in response to the allotment plot, drawing imagery from my own space and those around me.  With the wider idea of having a contained piece of land to pioneer in mind I’ve been cutting the sides of an old wooden box.

Allotments are wonderful things, affordable and open to most ( I hope) in this world where land is at such a premium and owed by so few. I feel very lucky to be able to have this spot but everyone should be able to have a piece of land to work in some way if they want to. I’m pretty sure that the law still says if there isn’t land enough for allotments you can ask the council for more.

Anyway, here are some photos of the sides of the box, placed in the spots I drew from. Everything is growing so quickly at the moment that the views are not always that easy to recognise, it’s not my cutting skills.

box 3

box1

box2

box5

box4

time spent

July 21, 2014

 

View from Cheetham and Crumpsall Allotments

 

A view into Manchester from Cheetham and Crumpsall Model Allotments. A morning a week was spent working in this lovely setting.

eastern electricity building

Seen whilst walking the river in Norwich. Apparently artist Rory Macbeth painted the entire text of Thomas Moore’s Utopia (44,000 words) on the old Eastern Electricity building. Searching will bring up internal photos too of rooms painted in red text.

Maurice Carlin at Bluecoat

A scroll piece of printing, physically scanned from the floor of the space, made over the duration of The Negligent Eye at the Bluecoat Arts Centre by Maurice Carlin.

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A view from part of the DLA Piper Series: Constellations at Tate Liverpool. The exhibition covers 2 floors and shows work grouped together by association. I enjoyed the opportunity to see the backs of frames and to view many works arranged together within space rather than crammed on a wall.

pond

Plans for a new project come together. Making escape paths out of patterns in a pond with Helen Mather.

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Two small exhibitions of wide reaching projects exploring the Yangtze River in China. At Touchstones in Rochdale, Yan Preston’s work was intimate and communicated directly. Trying to reconnect with her homeland through simple creative processes Yan’s work is physical, performative, poetic and clearly documented. Though Yan’s exhibition at Touchstones is now over (sorry!) her website is well worth a look if you are interested in ‘landscapes, myths and values’. The image above was taken from Corridor 8 where you will find a review of Yan Preston’s show.

In ‘Normal Pool Level’ by Jorge Mañes Rubio at the Chinese Art Centre, Manchester  the artist explored the impact that the monumental Three Gorges Dam had on the Yangtze River and valley. Jorge presents objects collected, adapted and created over his 2 month residency that speak of the industrial processes, cultural shifts and economies he encounters. Presented with photos, drawings and lots of informative texts. This exhibition continues on until September 7th. I have just noticed that earlier in the month both Yan and Jorge shared a discussion at the Chinese Arts Centre, damn. I will get better at this!

Liverpool Central Library

Another weekend in another wonderful library redevelopment, this time Liverpool, where the domed Picton Reading Room and the arching hall of the Hornby Library housed the casts of books and keys made by Aiko Miyanaga and the Artist’s Book exhibition that saw people I know show work alongside that of Picasso and Goya, what a treat.  My favourite time was spent looking at ‘Averting Your Fate’ by Andrew Morrison of Two Wood Press, an excellent use of print block and text.

Holly

Hock

And finally, after 2 years of watching the leaves grow, the flowers come and they don’t seem able to stop. A metre and a half for each year waiting.

Just over a year ago we flew into Heathrow, the birds chirping loud and clear as we rolled into London on the tube, I realised I had not consciously heard bird song for a month. Were there no singing birds in Russia, Mongolia, China or even spring time Japan, or had I just not noticed over the ‘noise’ of everything else.

train from Osaka

After a 2 day ferry took us across the sea to Japan. We passed through Osaka on our way to Kyoto where the Sakura parties were in full swing. Wandering through the night streets full of people in high spirits, visiting temple gardens. Filing past dramatically lit landscaping and bamboo. Kneeling in our socks alongside business men and women at the edge of a raked gravel garden ‘ooh and aaahing’ at a full bloom weeping cherry tree, lit like fireworks, centre stage. Blossom trees spotlit in a park full of darkness and smoke. Wading into the darkness, towards the chanting, to find groups of people huddled together under the trees, drinking, eating, singing, intoxicated by but seeming to forget, the blossom all around them.

weeping cherry tree

bamboo woods

Sakura Spotlightjonny no. 5 cables

We took one train then another, up through the centre of Honshu to Yudanaka, a small town at the start of the Japanese Alps. This whole area seemed used for agriculture, fruit and nut trees as far as I could see, their wiry branches stretched out along supports, too cold for blossom yet. In peoples gardens the ground was worked right up to the back door, not much space for flouncy planting and landscaping, all the land is made use of, it seems like a simple thing, but I’ve never seem it before.

Shrine at Temple in Obuse

Twenty minutes down the trainline Obuse is well known for its chestnut growing with which it makes puree and sweets and tiles it’s pavements with chestnut wood. Here also lives a temple ceiling painted by Hokusai and an old school house museum full of things that we visited in a storm that flapped the windows and pelted the roof.

 

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Chestnut paving, Obuse

From sleepy gentle countryside to Tokyo, which blew my mind. Whether it was the enormity of city itself or the cumulative effect of 3 other countries and cultures in 3 weeks, once we entered Tokyo I was very grateful to be lead around and looked after. The train and underground systems are excellent, I managed to walk around in a daze for most of the visit without getting too lost.

Tokyo transport map

Tokyo UndergroundTokyo night

The city is layer upon layer in a constant state of rebuild. To be a twenty year old building is a rare thing apparently.

Tokyo day 

And old Tokyo buildings are resettled in a park museum on the outskirts of town.

 

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a month away – a day there

February 19, 2014

On our second day in Beijing we got to meet Qu from, the now gone but by all accounts wonderful, artist run, Homeshop. We spent a day wandering the city together asking, telling, asking, telling.

Peking university Boya Pagoda

We walked through Peking University where old and new campus sit side by side. Anybody can go into lectures and participate in discussions with the classes and some owe their education to such opportunities. Groups who have discussion within the grounds have to be careful not to get split up.

new gate for poor area

We walked through an area where people new to Beijing often live. New rooms built one on top of another, within old courtyards, tight alleys winding through the warrens. The gate in the picture above newly built at one entrance to the area. We visited a grand, pay-in park, just next door, where the ruins of buildings stand as a memory of the western razing after the opium wars. In the space between the warrens and the park, washing hung in the breeze under the blossom.

washing in the trees

shadows in park

scooter mum

a month away – a day here

January 22, 2014

jade doorway

Just in time for Chinese New Year, my travel reverie arrives in China. I’ve been putting this one off as I so wanted to say something worthwhile about the place, it being a country that everyone seems to have an opinion on at present. My good intentions of reading around my subject got as far as China Diary by Stephen Spender and David Hockney, lent me by the lovely Sara Stabb,a book made after the two men were toured around the country for a month in 1981. It’s an interesting read with regards to two men’s views of China at the time and also how two artists and a country approach such a task.  I was only in China for 3 and a half days, still I will share some pictures and thoughts.

Erlian station

My first encounter with China was in Erlian, leaving the train to have it’s bogeys changed we found we couldn’t get into the station and then later on, couldn’t get out again. I became increasingly frustrated at the restrictions of movement, especially when there was a beautiful platform in full sunshine outside to enjoy. Had there been lots of people to control I could have understood it better, and I guess that’s why those restrictions were in place, but there were just a few of us milling around being kept from our trains and the sunlight – as i saw it. Of course our train came back from the depot at the correct time and we were let out and allowed to climb aboard, this did rather set the tone for a while.

We were met in a ‘small’ (see London) town by strangers with a loose connection and treated to their curiosity, warmth and generous hospitality. I explained my experience in Erlian to one of our hosts and he explained that, with respect, I just needed to do what I was told and sit and wait like everyone else.

courtesans room

I found similar restrictions in place the next day in Beijing. I just wanted to cross the road but I had to go 3 sides round a square to get to the other side. Now I think about it, this is a more familiar problem to me in England, than it seemed at the time.

forbidden palace gardens

We shuffled around the Forbidden Palace, cold in the Beijing fog/smog. Groups huddled, looking through their cameras at the empty halls and  palaces. The smaller palaces filled with collections of ceramics and jade (see top photo) and living spaces of the courtesans (3rd photo) had such perfect proportions. Perhaps because the rooms were screened off, seemingly left as they had been, with a thick layer of dust on the table in front of the windows,nicreasing the sense of longing, the spaces seemed perfect for being in, nestling in, waiting in. They conjured scenes of intimate and elegant hospitality. They seemed a little like cages too, screened off as they were.

forbidden palace door detail

door in palace courtyard

We climbed to the top of Yingshan Park with a  hot sweet potato to view the forbidden palace through our first cherry blossom of the year. Then we climbed back down stone steps to the sounds of groups gathered in song. Further on in the park we found others playing games, jamming and having discussions. It was a Sunday.

view from top of Jingshan Park

Jingshan steps

There were patterns painted, carved, moulded, engraved and lived everywhere and the marks of time patterning on top of all that.  I tried to soak it up without photographing everything. Still, more to come.

Jingshan park door detail

lions in Jingshan park

two months in brief

November 21, 2013

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A wedding book made first proof of steel sea etching

A large steel plate etched with the sea and proof printed many times as I learn how to wipe steel.

detail of 'basin';book of risograph prints

A book bound of orange fencing and Risograph prints made from canal basin line drawings, photographs, paint and watery objects. I’ll post a full look through the book sequence soon.

photo of an earthquake by Sarah Gillett

A visit to Margate and the Pushing Print exhibition featuring Sarah Gillett’s Earthquake installation,  above.

dreamland

A chilly afternoon with beautiful views, good company, warming ale and cheese.

sunset in margate

bookfair table

Another successful book fair in Manchester by Hot Bed Press, lots of lovely people and books, books, books.

A new routine, a little walking, a little making, a little walking a little making.

filled in doorway radcliffe

A visit to an archeology dig in Close Park, Radcliffe where an old tower was being dug, thought to have been part of a much larger complex.

trees in rainwater

solander boxes

A rush on Solander boxes, made for little crackd rabbit records yearly subscription.

allottment sky november

Autumn skies at the Southern Allotment, Manchster and outside the Walker Gallery, Liverpool.

liverpool sky november

leopard spots in mottled shade

September 11, 2013

During the summer I was able to observe at close quarters a leopard sleeping in a magnolia tree. It was a lazy hot afternoon and as I stretched out on a nearby bench the leopard shifted around the low slung branches mottled by the shade of the magnolia. People came and went unaware that a creature was at repose above them as they ate their packed lunches and had their mobile communications, even when they saw me observing the tree.

leopard lying in a tree

The leopard, in turn, observed me.

GemmaJohn

What an amazing leopard you say, to be able to lie in a tree, hold a sketchbook and also draw at the same time…yes amazing indeed and most dedicated to their art. This leopard is so dedicated to art that they plan to lie in the tree for a whole 12 months, probably give or take a week or twos worth of roaming fields and stretching. For this leopard has a 12 month residency at Didsbury Parsonage Gardens and it is such a lovely tree. You can find out more and track their situation here.

Also at Didsbury Parsonage in September, an exhibition from two talented friends. Come see!

Inline images 1

august

September 2, 2013

A month in which I encountered a few things considered as such. Pictures only in words I’m afraid.

The John Jarrold Printing Museum

Is set in the old engineers room of the Jarrolds printing premises that was. A room full of type, setting, printing and  lining machines, a bindery and a group of people who worked their lives in the industry and now spend every Wednesday morning keeping the machines and themselves ‘work ready’ with commissions and demonstrations.

On the morning we visited they gave their time generously to walk and talk us through the history and processes contained within the various tools and machines. Illuminating and engrossing for both the letterpress-head and the ‘I’ll come along with you but I’m not expecting much’ alike.  They are in need of volunteers to whom they can  pass on their skills and multiple lifetimes of knowledge to keep the museum, it’s contents and what it stands for vital and relevant to future generations.

Why is the UK’s only working printing museum in Norwich?!

Jarrolds began printing in 1770 and continued up until the 1990s I believe and were apparently quite pioneering. The list below is taken from the museum website.

FIRSTS AT JARROLD PRINTING
Use of 35mm transparencies in colour reproduction.
Installation of the largest 4-colour litho press in Europe.
Use of scanners in colour reproduction.
Largest web offset installation at one time in Europe.
Changeover from letterpress to litho.
Attendance of printers at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Instigation of foreign language editions.

Voewood

I’ve been wanting to visit this home since I saw it featuring in a Rowan wool journal, I was not disappointed. A butterfly style Arts and Crafts house that has a concrete internal structure with beautiful brick, flint and tiling work, rounded corners, polished concrete and mosaic floors. The rooms are  comfortable domestic sizes with lots of interesting spaces, nooks and crannies that seem to be ironed out of new builds today. Full of colour, texture, and pattern, lovely objects and teeming with art work -painting, prints, photos, textiles, murals, mosaics: it was like a more vibrant and lived in Kettles Yard. We visited on an ‘Invitation to View’ tour  and got shown round with quite a large group by Simon Finch the man who restored the building after 70 years of institutional life. I optimistically brought my sketchbook with me. Like with Kettles Yard, I could’ve spent an hour in each spot, sat on the stairs or perched on the edge of a bed contemplating the paintwork,the stitch detail in a hanging, the inking of an etching, but of course there was only really time to scurry from room to room trying to soak it all up with my bulging eyes. The paintwork was especially inspiring to me, here and there, some patterns so subtle and playful referencing the shift and shimmer of light through a room.

Acid Brass

Played in front of the Whitworth Gallery this weekend as part of the Whitworth Weekender, a party to mark the closing of the gallery as it shuts for a year to extend it’s reach and footprint. Acid Brass were excellent and seemed, as they played in their dapper band uniforms, on the steps and roof of the entrance foyer flanked by dramatically lit gallery wings, like they were taking the helm of a large space ship that was casting off into space.

Leonard Cohen

On the last day of the month I was very lucky to get into the arena, a place I never thought I would go (because large spaces full of people scare me a bit and I prefer smaller more intimate gigs) to see Leonard Cohen, a man I never thought I would see play live (because he is 78 now and those tickets are always so expensive). Leonard played and sang for 3 hours, from the first song he was down on his knees singing Dance me til the end of time, he continued throughout with style and self-effacing humour to hold his audience rapt (apart from those who had drunk too much over-priced booze and fallen asleep) singing his deep, meaningful and downright dirty lyrics.4 encores. What a man.