Sunday, 21 January 2018

Margo Selby : Pick by Pick at Rochester Art Gallery and Huguenot Museum

Yesterday I went  to a bleak and wet Rochester to see exhibition of work by  weaver and textile designer Margo Selby at Rochester Art Gallery and Huguenot Museum. She was running  a 'colour and stripe' workshop in the morning   which looked fun and giving a talk in the afternoon  which I went to with some friends. 

 The gallery was mainly  devoted to her more recent hand woven artworks  created using the  'Lampas' technique  initially developed and used by French Huguenot  weavers for decorative brocade fabrics. There were also cases showing her design work and samples.  

 Upstairs in the Huguenot Museum  her  commercial fabrics produced in industrial mills ( rugs,   furnishing and accessories etc ) were displayed.

 Her talk was interesting, outlining  her development as a  woven textile designer  from studying at Chelsea and RCA to the issues of scaling up  from hand woven samples when you only want 20m as opposed to minimum runs of  200m and learning how to market her products . Since moving to Whitstable in 2012, she's been focusing on her art practice, creating hand-woven works.  There were some questions asked about balancing art and commercial practice , she  acknowledged that she was lucky  to be able to do both ( while part wishing she hadn't used her name as the brand for her commercial work )
I couldn't resist  buying this scarf in her trademark 3 dimensional fabric in silk and lycra - I just loved the colours and the 'patchwork' design . I'm a bit poorly at the moment  (bland diet, no coffee, wine or chocolate!)  and didn't make it to my painting  class on Thursday so it cheered me up.  


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Painting Studio Time 1

I was unable to get a place on this terms 'Contemporary Painting Studio'  class  at City Lit and in any case I'm  already doing a collage class starting 22nd.  However Lucinda put together a 2 week class in a free room to fill in the time before CPS started  and I was very happy to have the bonus of an additional couple of painting days.  There's 10 of us plus Lucinda who is  working on her own paintings rather than teaching  but as ever,  seeing what other people are doing and asking/receiving advice is invaluable.
I thought about bringing in the large painting I was working on before Xmas but without the big screens to pin it  on  I decided to return to the  preliminary sketches I'd made of  Iron Wharf  in
Week 1. I also brought in  a couple of the prepared newspaper collage backgrounds  to work on 






Focusing in on a detail of the awning I  used transparent glazes to build up colour so the textures were still  visible . It's not finished yet , I need to make further changes to the composition and to details such as the ropes . 

Lucinda had brought in some cardboard so I put together a quick newspaper collage background, painted it with gesso and carried out a quick painting sketch. Not sure about the 'frottage' of paint over the corrugations   but  it's given me ideas about how I might use that effect to best advantage.  


As I've now used most of my newspaper collaged  backgrounds , with access to large quantities of PVA , I used up 2 copies of the days Metro in preparing some more. 




 On our walk on Boxing Day along Faversham Creek at low tide , I took some photos of the sun on the mud(! ) and the boats  and will make a start  in tomorrow's class about developing these into paintings. 



Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Exhibition Catch-Up

Rachel Whiteread 

I've  been in hibernation over Xmas  and New Year.  Apart from going out for dinner on Xmas day and the visit of some friends on 28th ,  we've been taking advantage of being well stocked with provisions  and not had to venture out in the horrible weather. Just as well as I've been fighting off the lurgy, going to bed early, getting up late and watching daytime TV ( loved Paddington!)  
I've been stitching on the piece ' wind me in the sea ' I started last January  (it is now a very large loop) and thinking about what I intend to do as a daily(ish) project, gathering collage  materials together, reviewing what I got out of the art courses last year. 

While excavating my studio, I realised I hadn't got round to reporting on some of the exhibitions I'd  visited.  On 12th December, on the way to Upper Street to collect my quilt after it had been returned from its travels with Knit and Stitch shows , I finally made it to Tate Britain to see the Rachel Whiteread exhibition, a fascinating exploration of negative space given form and substance. I particularly liked the works on paper, seeing how she develops her ideas and the 'bookshelves' with the details of the page edges recorded during the casting process.  

While I was in the Tate , I had a quick whizz through the 'Impressionists in London' . While it was interesting from a historical point of view, most of the art wasn't to my taste  although it  was great to be reacqainted with some of the paintings from the 'Turner ,Whistler, Monet' exhibition . 13 years on and pre-blog it remains one of those memorable exhibitions that changed how I look at thing.

The surprise was at the end - a selection of vibrant  paintings by Andre Derain paying homage to Monet  choosing the same motifs . I'll definately go back to have a closer look , I remember being blown away by his paintings  at the Courtauld in 2006 




Andre Derain 'Barges on the Thames' 


Thames barges mean so much more to me now having lived in Brentford   and seeing them on the Thames  and now with 'Iron Wharf' for inspiration. I made quick notes in my sketchbook, I particularly liked  the use of primary colours  and how the mast/ sail changes from red against blue to blue against red . 

On 5 December, I combined  a ' Drawing Tuesday' visit to Tate Modern with seeing ' A Sense of Place  by View Seven at the Menier Gallery 




I particularly likes the work by Susie Koren  ( above)  and Claire Benn - I'd loved her work at FoQ in 2016  and  it looked even better in this venue . 

 Back at Tate Modern, I had  quick look round Ilya and Emilia Kabakov -' Not Everyone will be taken into the future'. Not an exhibition I would have paid to go into but  being a member of the Tate  means I try out  things outside my comfort zone 


The installations  were interesting and  thought provoking ( 'Labyrinth(my mothers album')  was quite haunting , with the collaged family photos  and  songs ) What I found most inspiring were the large scale paintings based on collage - gave me ideas about scaling up of marks etc 
This Friday, I'm making a return visit to the Scythians at the British Museum ( another exhibition I went to when I should have been drawing  at Kings Place...)



The size  and intricate workmanship of the gold belt buckles  are indeed jaw dropping  but it is the  fragile objects  including textiles  found in remarkable state of preservation in the permafrost that I'm looking forward to seeing again .



Friday, 22 December 2017

A Year of Journal Quilts


I've been making Journal Quilts since 2003 and with QGBI  Contemporary Quilt  since 2007. For this year's  CQ challenge I set the theme 'Traces, Places'  but it's turned out  most of them have been based on breakwaters(!) starting with January's trial for 'Birchington Breakwaters' . I've still got  some  partially  made so I might replace the couple that  don't fit in with the rest.

Looking forward to next years JQ challenge which is 7 x 9 inches  - my theme will be collage    

CQ Journal Quilts 2017 September to December



I feel like I've finished my year of Journal Quilts on the theme of 'Traces, Places' on a high. This set from September to December,loosely based on breakwaters, are derived from collages and paintings  made on 10 week Contemporary Painting Studio class  at City Lit.  Considering how much I love colour, I've really enjoyed and benefited from using a limited palette  and  am looking forward to experimenting more with collage next year . 


Thursday, 21 December 2017

Contemporary Painting Studio week 10: making changes and review



I spent most of the final session of Contemporary Painting Studio making corrections and changes to the largest newspaper collage painting in light of analysing the 'Catenary'  paintings of Jasper John .

Remembering the lessons from 'Reading the Paint Surface' of turning source material photos  and painting upside down or on their side ,  I  worked initially on a smaller scale copy of the painting from last week
 Working on the painting itself , I used white acrylic to block out the curves that weren't working and  added more definition to the 2 dark outer curves
 I then re-instated the inner curve  and  attempted to capture the finer patterns and details from the collage using more glazes and controlled brush-marks. As with most paintings, as you develop 1 area, you have to  change and balance another  . The 2 outer curves are too solid now and  I still need to introduce a larger scale of mark ( a very large brush is required!) But I needed to stop work at lunchtime to let it dry as I had to take it home being the final session.
After lunch, I  worked into the painting I started in Week 5 , extending the shapes  and patterns from out of the collage into the areas around. 
 Lucinda  usually  highlights a few  contemporary artists each week, this time it was Diana Taylor ( who she'd  already mentioned to me in Week 8) and Karl Bielik ( examples below from his website)  
I thought the name and paintings looked familiar  and so using the search function on  my blog, I found his had been one of my favourite paintings at the RA summer exhibition last year. 




 We  stopped work about 3pm and cleared  up then set up a mini exhibition of our  best work  and then had a 'private view ' and review accompanied by  Prosecco and nibbles ( my little cheese scones were popular). It was really  interesting to   discuss what worked , what didn't and see the range and variety of styles, I've learnt so much from members of the group and their approaches to painting.



I'd included the initial collages , photos and painted sketches  so I could see how my work has developed. In essence what I've done is to take  1 initial collage and using copies of copies have gradually  simplified  and  enlarged it into something quite different yet the original source is still recognisable. 











I've come  a long way since my initial panic and indecision with having too many ideas  in weeks 1 and 2 . 
The breakthroughs came with the move to monochrome ( which I've stuck with but am starting to add a restricted palette of colours ) and in collage .
Then the introduction to using glazes of  transparent colour ( and the decision to stick with acrylics rather than move into oil painting as I'd intended)  
With my collages and sketches on display in the corridor and not immediately accessible, I worked with printed copies of the collages applied to canvases   and then made  copies of those paintings which I also worked into !
In week 6 , reunited with my collages , I painted them with glazes and started to prepare a very large newspaper collage to work with . 
This was the focus of the last few weeks, the challenge of scaling up marks and how the composition and relationship  of shapes changes. After a certain point you have to react to the painting itself although I found it useful to go back to earlier incarnations  to work out where I was going wrong.

 So what next?  I've booked a 10 week class on collage at City Lit starting in January having just scratched the surface on its potential, I want to know  more. I had too much going on to commit to a another term of Contemporary Painting Studio ( and it was filled very quickly by those who missed out ) but I've the bonus of a 2 week course 'Painting Studio Time'  set up before it starts. I think the time has come for a large painted quilt taking on board the lessons learnt from  scaling  up. 




Monday, 18 December 2017

Contemporary Paint Studio Week 9: Coming Together ( and importance of Catenary)




A much more productive time in week 9 of  Contemporary Painting Studio  thanks to  thinking about what I wanted to concentrate on in the last couple of sessions and some  prep work during the week.  I was particularly pleased with the 2 Journal Quilts I produced (above)

My prep work included   taking a high res photo of the finished A3 painting that I was reasonably happy with and printing it out  on my A4 inkjet printer using 'poster' settings   at 3x3 and 2x2 sizes  in order to have the scaled up marks to work from 
The 3 x 3 pinned up on the screen was very helpful for working on my large scale  newspaper collage . I used burnt umber /ultramarine glazes to make greys , it's still a  bit heavy - one of the problems with working on a textured surface and I need to pay attention to the edges of shapes. 



The  section of old quilt I'd primed with gesso  was even more textured  so I worked with it, simplifying the shapes from the 2 x2 print. Again a limited palette of Paynes grey, raw sienna , burnt umber and ultramarine  with some white reintroduced in areas.  

The first item on my 'to-do' list was to prime the quilted collages I'd prepared during the week with diluted acrylic medium so that my paint glazes wouldn't  bleed/sink into the fabric. 
I'd printed out photos of 2 collages onto Jacquard Inkjet Cotton sheets ( 2 x 1 poster setting stitched together) attached to linen tablecloth with bondaweb then quilted with horizontal wavy lines. 

It took a couple of hours  to dry ( I'd do it before class another time!) 
For painting I used  Winsor and Newton transparent acrylic paints in Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber and Ultramarine   mixed with gloss medium/Golden soft gel and diluted with water  and applied with dry brush . I loved how  the brushmarks were retained.
I had a question from one of the other artists  in the class who paints with oils why I was using my own W& N acrylic paints rather than the acrylics supplied . Apart from being better quality ,  highly pigmented   and truly transparent ( which is the effect I wanted  to achieve) , the main reason is having  a lot of experience painting with W&N watercolours, I'm used to the colours and colour mixing . Every paint brand has it's own characteristics - I also use Liquitex heavy body  for impasto  and Golden  fluid  for  textiles. 
Jasper John Catenary (Jacob's Ladder) 
Earlier in the week I'd finally made it to the Jasper Johns exhibition at the RA.  I  was  pleased to see  more of his joint project with Samuel Beckett  which had been one of the highlights of the print exhibition at the British Museum and like Olga, appreciated his more recent, personal work  over the  targets and numbers ( while noting the use of collage....)  


I was particularly struck by the particular curves of his 'Catenary' series  and started seeing them everywhere and realising that a lot of work I admire contains similar shapes.  

Susie Koren View Seven 



 I realised that  there's a similar curve in this painting and that  one of the reasons the largest collaged painting isn't working yet is because the curve is wrong.  So I knew what I had to do in my final painting session .