Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Tania Kovats and Drawing Water

I'm currently reading Drawing Water by Tania Kovats. It is the most beautiful book. I was hooked from the moment I saw the delicious cover and read the reviews on the Amazon website. Now I have it, it is such a pleasure to thumb through and it feels so good in the hand.

The book is, at heart, an exploration of the wonder and fascination of the sea and all things connected with it alongside ways of representing it.  As well as providing her own explanations and context, Kovats approaches the subject through extracts from the poems, writing and accounts of a range of other writers.

Perhaps most interesting for me, she illustrates the whole with an unusual mix of carefully and sparingly chosen art works. She includes many of her own abstract works - all lovely. This book was an introduction for me to her subtle work.

Alongside these delights, there are maps and charts, plans and diagrams, and drawings, paintings and installations that range from two lovely watercolour sketches by JWM Turner, through the drawing of the design for the Forth Road Bridge near Edinburgh in Scotland to work by many modern artists that are new to me.

She writes throughout in a most thought-provoking way about the process and purpose of drawing which I am finding particularly interesting. She says that for her, Drawing is a mechanism for exploration as much as a tool of representation.  She explains  I draw to find my way out. Drawing fills the space when I'm not sure what I'm doing. It's ... my search engine. 

It is a book to savour and enjoy in small doses so that each revelation is given full weight and the quirky can be appreciated. I read it two or three pages at a sitting, often in the morning as I sit in bed with my first cup of tea. Then I think about what I've seen and read in idle moments over the course of the day  ... such pleasures ...

...and those words I draw to find my way out ...  now they really are something to think about!


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Mark making or asemic text?

I played the other day with the boundary between unstructured mark making and asemic text (explained here in a previous post) ... if there is one ... and this grid of  small sections was the result.


I took an A2 sheet of cartridge paper, a 2 inch decorator's brush and black acrylic paint and began making large gestural marks suggesting letter forms (W, I and M) and the shapes of bridge structures. I then added some words in a wide black felt tip pen - in particular, I wrote the word communication large.

I then took a cotton bud and made arcing marks in the shape of an open C to suggest the gently curving bridge cables.  The choice of the cotton bud turned out to be a good one as it didn't hold much paint and dried very quickly. It made gentle, dry marks across the page which contrasted well with the thick, firmer brush strokes.

Finally, I placed a 31/2 inch square card window over the sheet of paper and cut out squares that seemed to be most interesting.

 As always tends to happen when I do this kind of exercise, things became increasingly abstract as I worked and I have a small pile of other squares (with very little link to text at all) that I will play with tomorrow.

I'm thinking hard about all this and it's proving unusually difficult to decide on a path, but fortunately I don't have to right now. I have quite a long period of unstructured time that I plan to enjoy and just to see what develops.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Bridge poetry

Browsing today in my small collection of poetry books and online for references to bridges and the things they cross (especially water), I came across a poem by Alice Oswald: Another Westminster Bridge which expressed so vividly so much of what I've been thinking about in my work recently.

Another Westminster Bridge

go and glimpse the lovely inattentive water
discarding the gaze of many a bored street walker
where the weather trespasses into strip-lit offices
through tiny windows into tiny thoughts and authorities

and the soft beseeching tapping of typewriters

take hold of a breath-width instant, stare
at water which is already elsewhere
in a scrapwork of flashes and glittery flutters
and regular waves of apparently motionless motion.

under the teetering structures of administration

where a million shut-away eyes glance once
restlessly at the river’s ruts and glints

count five, then wander swiftly
away over the stone wing-bone of the city.


There are some lovely images here which I'm sure will inform my work ... the lovely inattentive water ...and ... water which is already elsewhere ... in particular.

Especially pleasurable is the fact that, through this searching, I've encountered a fascinating and thought-provoking poet ... more pleasure to be had here, I know.

And to illustrate this post, I've included a small selection of rivers and water in many moods from my archive. First of all is a close-up picture of a calm sea off the coast of Abersoch in North Wales. 


Next is a view on a misty evening in June looking across a grey Lake Garda between Desenzano and Sirmione in northern Italy.


Then, last of all, is the view in glorious sunshine from the footbridge over the Delaware River in Bucks County Pennsylvania that has been so much in my thoughts of late. 



Thursday, 26 March 2015

Asemic text with stitch

Since my last post, I've been experimenting with generating asemic text in stitch on organza. I found this far more difficult than with pens and inks / dyes on paper. It is of necessity slower and so much less spontaneous and this really inhibited the free flow of the lines I was creating.

However, I have a small sample to show which I have placed over some of the pen and ink work that I showed last time. As I stitched, I tried to echo the shapes in both written forms and in recent bridge inspired work with a view to using this technique to interrupt the solidity of some of the bridge structures.







This is very much work in progress ...

Monday, 23 March 2015

Asemic text

I spent a fascinating day in Cricklade near my home at a workshop in the company of Anita Bruce last Thursday. The focus of the day was asemic writing and its use in art work. We spent the day creating text-like forms with pen and ink and simple drawing and painting tools and using various papers (from cartridge to tissue paper). We then made our experiments into a simple hand-bound sketch book.

It was suggested that we might begin by using words from a piece of our own writing or a favourite poem, making writing-like marks in whatever way we chose - writing freely, in a range of sizes, on both sides of the paper, and writing the words backwards and on top of one another. I chose random words from Robert Frost's lovely poem The Sound of Trees which gave words containing a variety of letter shapes - and for me the pleasure I always get from reading the poem.

I began very literally using my natural handwriting and words were quite recognisable but it was interesting how, as the day progressed, I gradually left true meaning behind and concentrated more on the shapes I was producing. Here is a range of the pages I produced ...

Meaning and words still very clear on smaller writing ...


Meaning disappearing on background text ...


Receding meaning - writing randomly on the back of computer paper with a felt tip pen ...


And two on tracing paper over computer paper where the meaning has disappeared ...




Although I had long been aware that many artists use text-like symbols in their work to great effect, the word asemic was new to me when the workshop was first proposed last autumn. I needed to check out its meaning and Wikipedia was the first to offer a definition on Google as follows (I've paraphrased):

... a wordless open semantic form of writing, often calligraphic in form but with no literal verbal sense. A vacuum of meaning is left for the reader to fill in and interpret. S/He has to decide whether to read or to look. 

In another source, Sheila Ceccarelli on accessart.org explains that it can be considered as the text that infants write before they can form letters. Having recently watched two of my young grandchildren 'doing writing', one with more recognisable success than the other, I could well see what she meant.

She provides two examples by teenagers in her drawing class which I found very useful, especially as the work done by our group was all executed in black and white.

I think that this has real interest for me and I'm sure I will use the asemic writing again, given time to absorb the ideas and find suitable ways to make use of the techniques.


Friday, 20 March 2015

Morris men, flowers and the moon

I am again late in posting for Roy this time after a very busy week - more of that over the weekend. I have just a few yellow photos to post this time with no theme and a surprise (and maybe a breaking of the rules) at the end ...

The first shows a morris dancer dressed for action in Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds near where we live. We went visiting there last summer and found the town square full of dancers dressed in traditional costume and many wearing bells, together with  a forest of yellow traffic cones - a lovely contrast between traditional and modern.


The next is a clump of daffodils in perfect flower in a friend's garden. Daffodils are out all around us here just now.


And the last two have only a hint of yellow at best but I couldn't resist sharing them with you. I hope you will excuse my self-indulgence. They are the record of a wonderful event that took place this morning. Centred over the Faroe Islands northwest of the British Isles today, there was a total eclipse of the sun. 

We saw it here in SW England as an 85% eclipse. We felt very lucky. Early in the day, the sky was covered in cloud and we had expected to see nothing. We hadn't bought special eye protection and thought, if the sky cleared, we would have to make do with a pinhole in cardboard focusing the image onto white cardboard. But as the eclipse progressed to about 70%, the cloud covering the sun thinned just enough and we were able to see the crescent of the sun veiled through thin high cloud - no glare and very a gentle image so no damage to our eyes. We took many photographs, one of which is shown here. 


The other photo is one taken as the sun came out fully and was too bright to look at directly. It's not possible to see the crescent but I found the light extraordinary. It was like the light we often get around a thunderstorm - and it dimmed as the maximum eclipse approached. With my camera adjusted to cope with the brightness of the remaining crescent of the sun, I was fascinated by the silhouette of the trees and took this photo ... and there is just a hint of yellow in the sky ...


The birds seemed confused and flew into the trees to roost. After the eclipse was over, they sang again as if it was early morning - a second dawn chorus. 

We found it most moving ... a reminder of our insignificance and our position as a commentator put it 'on a small lump of rock rating around an insignificant star in the immense cosmos' ... Oh my!

There won't be another total eclipse over the British Isles for about 70 years ... I won't see that one!



Saturday, 14 March 2015

Stitching to develop an image

I'm still trying out ways of stitching by hand the strong images I seem to be developing just now.

On the first sample of a motif from a bridge structure, I'm working to soften and disrupt and to integrate the image with its ground. I'm hoping also to suggest the water flowing beneath the bridge, an idea I've tried out before here with machine stitch.


In the second, it's more about developing and strengthening lines in the image of rocks beneath a favourite bridge at the Lynn of Dee in central Scotland


I'm not sure how well the simplicity I'm aiming for shows up in the top photo. Very little seems to have changed from the original image. And that's the problem with all this ... does stitching add anything, and, if so, what does it add? I'm playing around with that thought all the time right now.



Sunday, 8 March 2015

Textiles A World Tour

When I visited the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford with my husband in January, I bought a lovely book -  Textiles A World Tour by Catherine Legrand. It was irresistible at the time and has not failed to entrance.

The books is not a systematic world-wide study of textiles but is instead a sampling of the fabrics, patterns and simple garments of six traditional cultures - southeast Asia, India, central America, Romania and Benin. Each has a rich tradition of spectacular, highly coloured textiles.

The region in the book that I found most fascinating was the first considered - Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. This was the favourite for me because I visited Thailand a few years ago and have a wonderful Hmong textile that I brought home with me. Seeing the textiles in this book brings back lovely memories for me.

The choice, though, was a close run thing. The book is a feast for the eyes throughout. The pages glow with vibrant colour and suggest rich texture from beginning to end. There are wonderful clashing pinks and reds, rich indigo, woven and printed cloth and enticing glimpses of the techniques used to create them. There are also delightful insights into the lives of the people.




I dip into the book when, as this weekend, I feel starved of colour and in need of a transfusion. It never disappoints.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

3D Bridge

For sometime now, I've been working towards a 3D piece based on photographs of shadows on a bridge in Pennsylvania - mentioned several times before on this blog (particularly here and here).

It has reached this stage so far ... a maquette in paper of photographs and random monoprint cut into strips ...





Now to realise in stitch ... and more cloth from Fingerprint?