Yesterday I made my first trip to London from the South West. It's a lot longer than the 39 minutes from Milton Keynes! Tate members card in my pocket and no real plan I headed first to Tate Modern and a chance to see the new extension and take in the changes. I walked from Embankment so I could relish being on the South Bank and "be" in London.
I visited the Royal Water colour society as a walked by and there was a woodcut print exhibition, beautiful, mostly black and white. The Tate Modern felt somewhat shut, nothing in the Turbine Hall, the tanks were closed and though the Radical Eye exhibition was engaging; hearing Elton John talk about opening up to art was interesting, somehow Tate Modern wasn't really doing it for me and I'd had a plan to take the boat to my old and dear friend Tate Britain. The boat was a bit bouncy but it was good to see "Big London" gliding by on either bank.
Yesterday the Hockney opened and I headed there, somewhat cynically it has to be said, "What? Another Hockney exhibition, is there really no one else...?" I should know by now not to be so dismissive, I have loved Hockney's work for years and this is a really good retrospective, the colours jumping out to greet me as I walked into the Clore Galleries. Tate Britain feels like some sort of artistic home to me and this exhibition like meeting favourite relatives! How good to see his self portrait aged 15, the RCA years and then the famous ones and the loved ones, the Bigger Splash, the Grand Canyon, Yorkshire and then the iPad drawings and the photo work. It was also good to hear Hockney's dialogue on the importance of drawing and to see how he does that so expertly on an iPad!
Now heading back, how does this fit into my work? What do I want to percolate through into my own thinking? Let me show the "demonstrations of versatility" as he calls his disregard for having one style! It's good to see how other artists think and get permission from such a great thinker to be as an artist totally and whatever you are!
(The David Hockney exhibition is at Tate Britain and runs until the 29th May 2017)
A couple of weeks ago I had the lovely experience of going to a workshop run by one of England's foremost and respected abstrack artist, Patrick Jones. This was held in the amazing studio and gallery space in Appledore of ceramic artist, Sandy Brown. Both artists are expert colourist and being in the space with the work of Sandi Brown was a joy…. But I'm rushing ahead.
I have taught workshops for so long now and it's been awhile since I have been an attendee of one but being in a new area I thought it's time to sign up and meet new people. The workshop, advertised through White Moose Gallery in Barnstaple was billed as a master class in colour theory so I thought it would be good to go, I love colour and am always excited to learn more about it and hear another artists manifesto..It was a strange thing to be on the other side of the painting table and I found myself being quite nervous and wondering how it would go. I packed my painting things up the day before and set them all by the door ready to go.
Of course it was lovely and once we’d been handed tea in a handmade Sandi Brown mug and said our “hello’s” it was clear the day would be good. Patrick was hugely generous with his time and instruction. He gave us in many ways quite simple tasks we were to paint with two colours and to start with a red and a green that were the same tonal value but of course opposite colours. It was quite a challenge in fact to get that same value as what we wanted to achieve was the “bang” you get when two complimentary colours of the same tonal value are placed side by side. We could experiment with the other complimentary colours but I chose to stay with red and green all day. It was good to be focused and good to do something so different to my own work. I sat with him for a while after lunch and talked and he gave good advice as well as,, “don't be distracted”, “keep going”.
Towards the end of the day I looked into Sandi’s ceramic studio. Colossal works being produced in a huge kiln. A very inspiring and wonderful space. Always good to learn from others and be surrounded by creatives. You can see from the photos the studio is bright and bursting with colour. Happy Days!
I moved just over six months ago. Working in my new location has been exciting and new, a little bit like being on an extended holiday. But working in the studio has just felt cold, literally and not right. Why?
It's a major thing to move, we all know that and moving the studio is no exception. Moving into a space that was bare plaster and bare concrete floor, though full of potential, was not the worked out and beautiful space that I had left behind. I like to work in an ordered space, the Stowe Castle studio gave me an office space and a separate working room with a large painting wall... The Studio, Hilden was still full of boxes and furniture and though I'd painted the working wall, it's still must be slightly new and damp and nothing will stay stuck to it for long. There were boxes of my books everywhere, furniture in there intended for other spaces, a bare grey concrete floor.
One of my favourite art books is by Joe Fig and is called “Inside the Painter's Studio.” Where people do creative work fascinates me. Francis Bacon's studio was famously messy, so much so that when he died the floor had years and years worth of old newspapers, paint, paper plates, food and who knows what on it. In it's entirety it has been moved around as a hallowed exhibition piece, it's fascinating and people want to see it. Barbara Hepwoth's studio in St Ives, part of the house she lived and died in, is now like a site of pilgrimage, her tools laid out ready to work as if she has just popped out for a moment.
In the book the Artist's Way, Julia Cameron talks often about the sacred space in which we work, the rituals artists often need at the start the working day and the way the studio is approached each morning. In Buckingham I had these things in place, but here, though work is being produced my space was almost warring against my work and my joy.
There comes a moment when you realise this, something that switches on the idea that something must be done! For me it was being away from the space, out of the country and realising that I was not excited to be going back to it. The seemly monumental list of things that needed to be done before it could be sorted and the sharing of that with the one person (Pete) who could really help. So in the last two days of half term suddenly there was energy and activity and action, rooms were painted and furniture removed from the space and carpet laid in the spaces around the studio so that the approach to it was not just bare grey concrete and bare plaster walls. A bathroom went back in and an office space was created away from the studio space; no computer on my painting table. The tin of grey floor paint I had bought because it was £20 cheaper than a colour, unopened, was returned and a fresh joyful colour bought in its place.
This week I haven't been painting pictures but painting the floor and walls of my studio, it has felt like nesting! And gradually I can see a working space emerging that I can not wait to work in. The fresh green of the floor makes the room sparkle with light, finally I can put my books away on the book shelf because I'm not waiting to move them to sort the floor, the floor is sorted! Suddenly it feels like my space. While the floor has been wet (it needs two coats and has had to be done in two halves) I have found myself staring longingly through the window, excited to be in there. The aesthetic is right! All the drawing and collecting of ideas that I have done over that last few months hopefully now have a space in which to be hatched....
Being creative everyday, right to the end...
Bideford is blessed with a really impressive art Gallery, The Burton. The curent exhibition is of the prints of artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. It shows her printmaking throughout the extent of her life. This technique was very much part of her art practice but it is in the last decade of her life that she produced the most exciting and most beautiful work both as a painter and a printmaker, the two practices informing the other. These works are bold bright intelligent abstracts. Filed with the confident understanding about form and colour that years of practice produces but also the freedom and playfulness of a creative mind still very much still seeking and enquiringly moving forward.
There is a video as part of the exhibition that includes the artist own thoughts and words about her work and interviews with her biographer and friend. The film moved me quite deeply and I think this was because she was talking off the rigours of a well lived artists life, one that keeps on searching and keeps on being excited right through out your life, that it is not just the prerogative of young fresh artist to be very much creatively alive; that it is never too late for anyone to find a deep vien of inspiration. I saw this so often at Buckingham Art School. People of so many different ages finding something so exciting and creative. I felt a deep longing in my self to keep on seeking, to keep on looking and to keep on saying... knowing that there is much of ones creativity still to be mined. These last few months I have worked very much in a newly distinct way finding that the landscapes the stories and the life drawing are looking strongly connected. What will come of the next few months as I prepare my MA portfolio?
Stilling in this exhibition made me thrill at the thought that there is still so much to come, still so much more to say and do.
Yesterday I visited one of my favourite buildings, the De La Warr in Bexhill. It's an amazing example of Art Deco architecture in its hey day, clean lines, beautiful space, shiny modernism. It's tag line is "Est. 1935 Modern ever since". My parents-in-law live in Bexhill and we often visit the De La Warr, my father-in-law checking before we go if there will be exhibitions that I might like. There usually are and there's a great café too!
About five years ago before I started the installation piece Upper Room, there was an installation exhibited by Sonia Boyce called "For you, only you". It was later performed at Stowe School in the chapel so I was able to see it live. An amazing sound piece using a group of singers and one lone signer singing out against the muscle sung by the group, it a was startling piece of opposing sounds that deeply influenced the sound that I subsequently used for Upper Room. Yesterday in the de la Warr there was an exhibition curated by Elizabeth Price, Turner prize winner in 2012. She views the exhibition as an artwork, brought together in the same way she would have brought any other work of art together. What was especially striking for me was the sound. Various video and installation pieces have been used alongside visual art and historical and geographic works. The sounds from the videos all work together and oppose one another. Visually exquisite, the exhibition called "In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy" brings the four human states of sleep, work, mourning and dance into focus. The juxtaposition of these human states in one exhibition felt deeply moving and inspiring. Not perhaps four human conditions that are brought together very often and so it makes you think. As the exhibition ends you move from mourning to dancing, profoundly affecting the way one thinks about these two ways to feel....
I was almost alone in this exhibition, always wonderful and absorbing if this happens. Home again now to Devon, allowing these things to percolate, wondering what happens when it does.
"In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy" Runs until 1st May
Thursday the 24th July is the last day to see "Upper Room" at MKFF. Sadly I have not been as involved as I might have been due to getting Chicken pox! Upper Room has been well received and I had a blast on the first day doing the workshop and taking about the book at the MK gallery.
The sound has been tweaked again and I have cut out baffle's for all the canvases to protect the image from the speakers behind the canvas and to enhance the sound. Then everything has been packed up yet again into a van and this time shipped just up the road to MK. The installation has been hung in the gallery space in the Central MK Library, brilliantly helped by Pete, Milly, Dan and Jessica Rost, the event organiser. Once again a different venue and a different look. Back to a white background. The sound is much improved again and fills the space with the chatter of women. As soon as canvas 13 goes on and the sound of the foetal heart beat fills the room, it all feels good and the installation starts to come alive. Just seeing the installation means that so much is missed; It needs to be heard. I had forgotten some of the sound track so it was great to hear bits of it again today. Some new sections have been added and it has a much clearer sound. Each canvas has its own very clear "bubble" of sound. It is very cool to step from one to the other then step away and get the sound of them all speaking together. Dan and I are very happy with the "feel" of the sound now.
Upper Room opens this Thursday at 11am.
Milly and I are pictured here just as we were finishing the hang. We are wearing our official MK Festival Fringe T-Shirts....!
Upper Room is available to view from the 17th to 24th July 2014. It is in Fringe Space 1, in the Central MK library open from 11- 4 each day.