I made one new year resolution for 2015. Just one (well, one that I put out there, anyway). Which was to do a postcard's worth of artistic endeavour a day. It could have been anything - sketch, collage, print, doodles, even using it to mop up a spill of coffee - but the point was to establish some kind of a flow. Here I am on the last day of January, and how many have I managed? Four. Four, and three of those were accidental - I had the postcard-sized pieces of paper right there and they were more or less the size for the collagraphs I'm doing at the moment. The first (on the 1st) was a poorly-looking sketch done in a rush, late in the day, so that at least I'd be started. Ha! First and last, in all honesty.
So I think that counts as a big fat failure (talking of which, I didn't fare any better with the not-quite-formulated resolutions). However, I'm printing, which is good. I have a handful of monotype books all part-way through, which isn't quite so good because they should have been finished before christmas, but better than not even started. And I still like the postcard idea. It's just that I don't dare tie it to any kind of resolution, because it would seem that dooms it to failure before it's even started.
Just been to Bath (and environs) for a week, and been utterly wowed by Jeremy Gardiner's exhibition Jurassic Coast at the Victoria Art Gallery there. I've been waiting for this one ever since I saw it advertised sometime early last year, but I had a bit of a hiccup when I saw his piece of work in the Bath Open art exhibition last spring. It seemed so much less than I was expecting that I began to lower my hopes for the main event.
I was wrong! The whole exhibition was fantastic (including, I think, that selfsame print) and, if it weren't for the fact that I'm not entirely master of my own time when I travel south, I might just have spent the day there. And quite likely the next, too. I'm not sure that it would have helped me understand the work any better - perhaps a slow, steady week of visits, taking on just a few pieces a day? That might help me to get to grips with them. Might. They scatter my thoughts, somehow. So instead I just immersed myself in colour and shape and line and image, and felt all excitable and overwhelmed.
I'm not sure where I first found out about Jeremy Gardiner - possibly an email from the Pallant House bookshop promoting one of his books, though I'm not sure where I first found out about Pallant House, either. Some exhibition that sounded good but that I would never go to see? Whatever, his work immediately appealed. It involves a strong sense of place (the Dorset coast), geology, print, colour, all the sorts of things that get me going. And a sense of a mythology drawn from the landscape, I suppose (I'm still working my way through this idea, but although at the moment the whole theory is terribly vague, it has (in my mind) all to do with an intense reaction to a place, probably layering it with more (undefined) meaning than anyone could justify. I'll be able to present it more clearly if I ever work out what the hell I'm going on about).
When I first went into the gallery, I was slightly phased by all the paintings (and fossils) on layered wood structures - I suppose I'd just remembered print and half forgotten the rest. At first they weren't landscapes as I would recognize them - though watching a video, where the artist plonked one of his slabs in front of a view and pointed out Old Harry and other chalk stacks off the coast, really helped me make more sense of them - but I discovered (as you do, duh) that standing back from them made an enormous difference. Suddenly there was the coastline, the sea, there were fields and landmarks. Trouble is, you really want to study them in detail too, and it's surprisingly easy to forget to step back to, as you might say, see the woods for the trees.
Wonderful man, he allows visitors to take photos of his work. So I did. Lots. Here are a scant few.
The monoprints were differently fantastic - dense layers of map and fossil, shell and block, filled with colour and giving me a strong feeling that I would never get to the bottom of everything about them.
from Kimmeridge, September (2012) and Arish Mell, March (2012)
I'll be back down south at least once before the end of the show, and I'm just going to have to follow my own advice - pick a few (which won't be easy) and study them more slowly in what time I have. This time I left when the parking was due to run out, stunned by the richness of it all and with my head whirling with a great wave of ideas. Looking back at the photos now reminds me just how wonderful it was and how little these pics capture of it. If there weren't 200-odd weary motorway miles in the way, I'd be setting off back there right now.
I've been failing somewhat on the postcard front (two so far, one drawn and one printed) but have been preparing collagraph plates and printing, so that counts as success. Here are some (trees and backgrounds) - there will be more.
It seems in the last few days that every man and his dog considered how 2014 went. Fair enough, I suppose the end of the year is as good a time as any for a review. So what do I think about my 2014? How, broadly art-wise, was it for me?
Just like every other year I can remember, I didn't get round to even a quarter of the things I meant to. All my good intentions tended to wallow endlessly in a sea of not-quite-thought-it-through-enough-to-start-yet, and not-sure-it's-quite-right, and any number of other out-of-focus states. On the sort-of-plus side, I guess I thought a lot. On the minus side, I certainly didn't do a lot. There were highlights - near or at the top was a lovely lady who bought the last of my 'Chalk and Memory' prints, the framed one, from the '20' exhibition at Warrington, and then came along to the Manchester Artists' Book Fair and searched me out especially to tell me how pleased she was with it. How confidence boosting was that? But that was a work from the previous year and she made it into a highlight, not me; over all, the judgement would have to stand as 'Should do more'.
(This turned up on facebook, posted by Janis Ian. Yup, I'd go along with that)
So in 2015 that's the idea - to do more. There are events in the pipeline - book arts fairs in March and April, potentially a couple of group exhibitions in the summer, so really I have to do something, for those if for nothing else. But what I really want is to build up a body of work so that if opportunities arise I am, potentially at least, ready for them. That, and to experiment for no reason, just play about with printmaking and such, and see what comes out of it all.
And (I do hope I start this and keep it up) I intend to make a postcard-sized piece of work for every day this year. It won't necessarily be finished the same day - some are sure to be prints, and they mostly take time - but it will be started on the day and finished soon thereafter. I thought it might be a way to make me do something arty on a daily basis. Not quite sure what if anything I'll do with them, but the making of them is the main point. Here's to doing more.
I make prints and book arts, though nowhere near as often as I'd like - no good reason, just an inability to get on with things. I occasionally go on about landscape (with which I am mildly obsessed) and various of its elements, and I like to pass comment on exhibitions I visit.