Staithes Studios

March 24, 2017

davidgemmahang2

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!

what will come

June 15, 2016

photo of James Turrell-sketch of plane

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.

BillViolachildhood

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.

Gemma phone_20160320_009Gemma phone_20160228_001IMG_9118

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

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!

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the sound of rain moving in

October 17, 2012

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The tentative isolation of the first drops, being gently reminded by the clouds that they are fit to burst. The awesome power of a full rainstorm, the thrill and comfort of being able to soak it up from just inside. When the rain is really hard, feeling each individual drop hit you…or maybe that’s hail.

I managed to make this new book in time for the Manchester Artists Book Fair last weekend. An edition of 12, viewed here laid out,etchings and letterpress done, ready for folding, plus a few happy accidents.

Manchester Artists Book Fair

I really enjoyed the book fair this year not only for the inspiring talks beforehand, see below, and the feedback from visitors, but also for the brief but lovely conversations I had with a few artists about their practice. They offered useful insights into their own work and in a reflective sense on mine as well. The dedication and discipline of David Barton who works obsessively to articulate the feeling and memory of what a body is in his drawings was mind blowing. It seems to be drawing as a form of meditation on the feeling of being alive within such a vehicle. His books are a wonderful and rigorous testament to his project.  Also, speaking to Elizabeth Willow, the outgoing Hot Bed Press Book Artist in Residence, about spaces, boxes and movement was also exciting and encouraging. Elizabeth is currently making Something Wonderful happen in Lincolnshire.

As for the actual talks, under the banner of Collaboration and the Democracy of the Book, almost everyone spoke about responding to spaces – hurrah! I could say more but I’ll never post this if I try so here are the links to their projects, in no particular order….

Angie Butler and Phillipa Wood

http://www.yourplacemyplaceproject.blogspot.co.uk/

Michelle Rowley’s and Wirral Metropolitan’s collaborations with a university in Utah

http://www.movingfeast.co.uk/

Nancy Campbell’s beautiful work responding to Harbour communities in the Arctic

http://www.nancycampbell.co.uk/

Sarah Bodman’s many collaborations in response to stories and places

http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/saragal.htm

– in between – news

October 1, 2012

Duke of Wellington, Shoreham book shelf…end of August

 

With thanks to Matt and apologies for being so slow.

contained water

October 1, 2012

Lake Vrynwy was created in 1881 after the UKs first stone walled dam was built to flood the valley and  the village of Llanwyddn. It was created to provide and send clean water through 68 miles of aquaduct  to Liverpool and Merseyside where the population was growing larger than it’s source of water could sustain.The dam is 44 metres high, 37 metres thick and 357 metres long. A road runs along the length of it that you can drive or walk along. Another village was built to rehouse the villagers that kept the name of Llanwyddn. In times of drought the old village can still be seen.

On the other side of the dam is a sculpture park full of wooden sculptures carved by artists from Wales, Australia and Eastern Europe. Some really lovely pieces.

September 20, 2012

The delights of Portmeirion. A place full of up and down paths, little gaps to squeeze between, framed views and hidey holes. A playground to be lived in.

Places and Perspectives

September 12, 2012

From tomorrow evening I will be showing prints and books in an exhibition at The Gallery at  St.Georges House, Bolton. Click on the link below for more details.

Places and Perspectives Exhibition

she shew me

April 30, 2012

..only when I moved to Manchester was I told of my incorrect grammar. But back in Norfolk I could say without note that my sister shew me, along the river Wensum, things I’d not seen before. My sister, having now lived there longer than me, walked me through the city along the river with its huge weeping willows and shew me the old pump house near Barn Road, some good public art – it looks like it belongs there – on the Quay side and a parasitic birds house in a tree beside Cow Tower.  She shew me the Jarrolds Printing museum, only open on Wednesdays ( it was a thursday) and a new bridge – rusty metal and wood..mmmm near Pulls Ferry. We walked over to see parts of the old city walls, out past the football grounds and Carrow Bridge House, tucked away up the side of a hill. She says they reckon parts of the wall were taken as raw materials, built in and around. People are living with the wall in their homes today and might not even know they have a lookout post in the attic, flint arrowheads in the cellar.

We also walked into Surrey House the Norwich Union building that took up all the marble Westminster Abbey couldn’t afford, lining almost every surface with it. We saw an  early air conditioning system and a gold and green skeleton clock made for the Great Exhibition. The clock played 12 tunes, 1 for every hour, the workers disabled it as they couldn’t get enough work done, unable to resist the urge to waltz the  marble floors whenever the  chime called them.