I came across some old art diaries this week. Long before I started this Blog, I was making notes to myself about ideas, useful quotations and exhibitions seen.
In 2011 I discovered the work of American artist Deborah Sperber. She creates works from thousands of reels of cotton which form the pixels of an upside-down image. Viewed through a convex lens or acrylic sphere, the image is concentrated and turns the right way up. Very clever!
Writing about Sperber’s work in Embroidery magazine, Jessica Hemmings says: “light hearted can be underrated … in the current global climate, light hearted takes on an increasingly vital role of escape, distraction and easy intrigue that provides a necessary counterbalance to an increasingly disturbing reality.” Hear, hear!!
You may recall that a few months ago, I wrote about wanting to develop new ideas and move away from commissions. Well it hasn’t happened and I’ve been very grateful for commission work which has got me back into the habit of producing work again – and loving it. It’s better to do something than wait in a vacuum for ideas that don’t come! [See previous Blog 28/12/19 – Another Wonderful Book (Art and Fear)]
In my 2011 diary, I’ve also quoted Deborah Sperber on commissions: “I like responding to something rather than picking from an infinite number of potential ideas.”
It’s certainly easier!
When a work reaches it’s new home, I love it when the client sends a photo in situ. This week, I’ve received two lovely updates:
Puffin in West Sussex, UK
and Frida in California
This came from Carré d’artistes this week – worth sharing as none of us is able to travel at the moment…
At Carré d’artistes, we are convinced that art has the power to make us travel, to make us discover other places. Not only other parts of the world but also ourselves. As the Roman philosopher Seneca put it aptly: “What’s the point of traveling if you take yourself along? It’s the soul which needs to be changed not the weather”. This way, without any train or plane ticket, art is able to carry us along to those places we didn’t even think of going to: to the far reaches of our soul, due to the emotions it triggers within us.
I’ve decided to reveal the title of this work as many of you, my loyal Blog followers, are not based in the UK and very unlikely to see the Agatha Christie exhibition!
So here it is: The Raj’s Emerald
Also, I’ve finally discovered what’s happening about the event and why I hadn’t heard about it …
The main event, a touring exhibition with 80+ artists, has been postponed until 2021. However, from tomorrow, there will be an extra ‘Pop-Up Show’ at Powderham Castle, with about 40 artists taking part. The historic castle in my village (and yes, it is as grand as it sounds!) is re-opening now that lockdown restrictions have been lifted. It happens that Anna Fitzgerald (who is the organising the Agatha Christie event) is currently Artist in Residence at the castle and was asked at the last minute by Lady Devon if she had any art which could be hung for the season.
Unfortunately I found out about the event too late to be included in the brochure. However I worked so hard to finish the work on time so want to show it. (Apparently an email had been sent to me but didn’t reach me because of a typo in the address.)
Now it all makes sense – mystery solved!
Mystery at Powderham Castle, Kenton, Devon
July 24 – August 30
Restricted Opening hours – 11.30 – 3.30. Fri/Sat/Sun
So I finished my Agatha Christie (of the mystery title) work this morning. Framing tomorrow. Show at Powderham Castle opens on Friday. I really loved making this one!
The Indian embroidered braid in the turban is edging from a sari – I bought it many years ago while working for my degree, in a tiny shop in a side street in central London – The Cloth House which sells fabrics and vintage haberdashery.
The background ‘wallpaper’ is Indian braid which I found in a local charity shop a couple of years ago – I had no idea what I would be able to use it for at the time but it was beautiful and only £3! The pale blue braid is cut-work and was applied onto a background of gold paint. I knew that covering the background would be tight as I had a finite length of the braid. However, I hadn’t factored in the pattern repeat which had to be matched like wallpaper and required a greater quantity of braid. Also, being from India, there were slight irregularities in the pattern which made matching even more tricky.
Originally, the picture was intended to be just the prince alone, but in order to use less braid for the background, I added the monkey and parrot (with more than a nod to Frida Kahlo.) I laid the long lengths first and was able to patch in the smaller areas from the offcuts. Just enough! Quite a challenge but fun and very satisfying.
I am so excited about how the ‘mystery work’ is progressing. Sometimes a work just goes together easily (but not always!) I’ve booked in to have it framed next week in time for the exhibition – nothing like a deadline! Will reveal all (without the title) on this Blog when finished.
I have just started work on a new mystery piece! I can’t say what it is as it’s for an Art event which is the brainchild of Devon artist Anna Fitzgerald.
Local artists have been invited to create something to illustrate an Agatha Christie title (from a list of many!) for an exhibition with a twist. Visitors to the event will be given a list of titles and have to match them to the works for a prize. Great idea!
I’d decided to work on this after the Puffin, not knowing if the event would go ahead this year or be postponed till 2021 (due to Covid-19.) So imagine my shock today when I saw this poster on our village Facebook page – not only is the exhibition happening this year but it opens on July 24! Better get back to work!!
I completed the Puffin yesterday – managing to fill the gaps in the background with tiny shells from a ‘hippy’ necklace, dyed in various natural shades of green. On the bird’s breast are two oyster shells. The one on the left with the blue patch came from the client. The other (very white shell) was brought back from Australia from my visit to my son and his partner in January. We cycled along a river in Tasmania and the beach was littered with literally thousands of bright white oyster shells – not a farm, just growing there naturally.
Writing this Blog is a kind of therapy. I find it cathartic to record my thoughts, my inspiration, my work and all things art-related. As an art diary, it has become a useful record to look back on.
Lockdown due to Covid-19 has brought many changes to my life (as for everyone.) With exercise facilities and swimming pools shut, I’ve been walking more than I’ve ever done before. I’ve discovered many previously unknown tracks and paths close to my home where I’ve lived for 32 years. I feel fitter.
Like many people, I have felt more connected with nature – from the wildflowers changing in the hedgerows and the rapid growth of crops in the fields to the variety of birds at a local nature reserve. It’s been a joy to watch the antics of birds in our garden – baby robins fledging from a hedge and a pair of courting pheasants. I decided I wanted to get my paints out to record some special lockdown moments by sketching.
As a child, I used to draw all the time – my favourite hobby – but I’ve lost the habit. Getting started was hard – blank pages are scary – but I found it very enjoyable. Here are a few… These have been sketched quickly in acrylic paint with biro or pen added over the top (from my photos, not drawn from life.)
There have been memorable moments on my walks and great spotted woodpeckers seem to have featured frequently: a baby on the ground having fallen from a tree, hopping back up a bank to safety.
Two woodpecker holes in the same silver birch tree with such a noise coming from the nests inside – I wish I’d taken a recording. (I returned 2 weeks later but the babies had fledged.) On another occasion, a baby woodpecker was attacked in the local lane by a sparrow hawk. Some children brought the stunned bird to a friend’s garden where it recovered in a darkened cardboard box and flew away an hour later.
My usual work with found materials is slow to produce and I’ve enjoyed doing something totally different. Now the challenge for me is to keep going …
I sent a copy of Puffin in progress to the client – she was puzzled by the cardboard glasses in the background, which she didn’t recognise. They had arrived in the box of materials she sent and I thought they must have some special secret significance. But no! It remains a mystery. I have removed them from the work!