And suddenly nothing is the same, and we all wish for a time when it was. I can't say my life has changed enormously, in that I didn't congregate in crowds, we didn't meet up with people a lot, we're both pretty much home bugs, but there's a cloud of fear over the country - the world - already and it's only going to increase. It seems wrong to say anything unfeelingly cheerful. It seems wrong to say anything unnecessarily miserable. Everything seems wrong.
I've made a list of things that Now would be a good time to get done - the mountain range of ironing, the chaotic tangle of the garden, a billion plates ready for when I can get to a press and print again - but knowing I should, I could, isn't the same as having any kind of drive to do them. I did start cutting back the dogwood (which, I can't help noticing, has turned into quite a sturdy tree since the last time I looked at it), and on the arty front I've done a little gentle collage from old prints towards a concertina book (on the theme of lockdown - what else?) but mostly I'm rereading favourite books. A comfortable slippers approach to life. Maybe it's not such a bad idea, for now.
Printmaking is great (well, it is when it's not driving me to distraction in one of quite a number of ways - never mind), and selling prints (specifically to people I don't know) is great too - it's proof that people out there think my work is worth acquiring for whatever reason. It's also great when people I know want my prints, of course, but a different great.
But it's good too if what I already like to do can, in some small way, help out. Donating art for charity is nothing new - there are auctions, secret postcard sales, fairs where a percentage of any sale goes to charity and so on. The charity is often the organiser of such events, but the Instagram project #oneofmanypostcard dreamt up by John Pedder comes from the artist end of things.
His plan is straightforward - an artist (let's say a printmaker - I think it started with printmakers) produces an edition or series of postcard-sized prints, and offers them up on Instagram (John sets a date for sending them out, giving the project more presence and excitement, and therefore ultimately more effectiveness). For free. Anyone who would like one says Ooo, yes please (until they're all spoken for), and in return is expected to make a donation for what they consider the print is worth, to a charity of their choice - or volunteer or whatever, something that aids a charity. And really that's it. On or around the chosen date. artists post, people receive, and make a donation - a small good thing happens, in this difficult world of ours, and that's a plus. And it's growing all the time, with a lot of excitement generated around the date, feeding into momentum for the next date, and the next. How big will it become?
I acquired a couple of postcards from previous release dates and was determined this last time (February 14th) to join in myself. A bit nervous - what if nobody wants them? - but the two dozen I committed to did go, plus a couple more to make me feel wanted (good grief). I sent them out to the USA and Canada, Germany and the Czech Republic, and all around GB, and already I'm hearing back from people. So many charities getting funds - however much, however little - they might not otherwise have received. Cancer charities, mental health ones, Crisis, funds connected to the Australian bush fires, saving cockatoos, helping the homeless, and doubtless many more. There's no need to say what charities recipients donate to, but I was touched by how many people chose to tell me. When I first decided to join in, I suggested that what the printmakers got out of it was inky fingers and a warm fuzzy feeling. I was right.
Or, I suppose more accurately, an exhibition, a fair, but still the weather.
I made time on one of my journeys to stop off at Rabley Drawing Centre, near Marlborough, for an exhibition of work by Emma Stibbon - large prints of various sorts, all of place. Urban, chill, fire all featured but I was mostly left with an impression of ice and darkness - I think that might have been largely down to her colour palette, but perhaps also my favourite works were of northern ice and, well, it's that dark time of year, isn't it. Her mark making is incredible - I found myself homing in on smaller and smaller patches. Rabley Drawing Centre feels as if it's in the middle of nowhere, up a narrow road and then down a track to the gentlest of chalk settings in the midst of fields. Its main disadvantage (if we forget about trying to find our way out in an impossible direction) is having to pass through Marlborough on the way there - charming, but regularly grid-locked. The only plus is the sense of achievement in reaching your destination at all! However, it's always been worth it, and no doubt I'll go on braving the crawling traffic to get there.
This last Sunday was the Hot Bed Press Christmas print and artists book Fair, held in the large but chilly downstairs of the building. It's taken me a long while to realise that I really enjoy selling at fairs - the chatting to people about the work, the weather, the traffic, the cold - whatever, really. I think of myself as someone who would rather shut myself away on my own, and, yes, sometimes that's true, but it would appear that inbetween such times I like to talk. It's never too late for a bit of insight, I guess. The music I'd hoped for didn't materialise, but there was a lovely christmas tree to compensate, and outside a stylish new board for the workshop, painted by Raul Gutierrez.
As for the weather, well for the last umpteen days it's been frosty with gin-clear skies. Stunning.
Every time I write in here, I say the same things - my, hasn't it been a long time since I last posted; I'm still driving up and down the country on a far too regular basis; I've missed a few more exhibitions. Alas, I say the same things because, broadly, everything is the same. I'm driving up and down the country even more frequently, but things are different only in a matter of degree. So please bear with me, because I expect I'll be saying the same thing in the next, no doubt distant, post.
However, I've managed a few things within that general framework. I had a piece in the annual Bath Society of Artists open exhibition, and one in Ormskirk's Chapel Gallery Lancashire Open,
and this last weekend I've had a table at the Hebden Bridge Print Fair, which was very enjoyable (they have an exhibition at the town hall too, on for another fortnight).
I also put some postcards into the Old Lock Up Gallery's annual fundraiser, which always feels worthwhile - and means there's been some printmaking in the mix, I'm relieved to say - and have made a few more patchwork landscape collagraph books, which please me ridiculously. And for now, that's it. I don't know what else might be just beyond the horizon - I'll see how life unfolds.
Logically I suppose there can't be infinite exhibitions to visit, though it can seem like it. I miss so many that I'd like to see, but I manage enough to scratch the itch. Mostly visits rely on propinquity, though I'll make the trek for something I consider that important, if it can be made to fit into life's schedule. I've managed a handful of shows quite recently, so here's one of them. I'd like to think I'll manage some more, but well, y'know, stuff and thing. We'll see.
Four Hot Bed Press members put on an exhibition at Astley Hall, Chorley - this trip was literally during the last two hours of the show, and onlt turned out not to have been within the very final hour because luckily I'd got the closing times wrong. Oliver Flude, Martin Kochany, Mitch Robinson and Gwilym Hughes were the artists, responding to the building during its winter closure. Four very different artists - though all with a relatively muted pallette - took four very different approaches to the brief, including watercolours of outdoor activity, digitally manipulated etchings based on historical portraits and reactions to the 'insignificant' within the building. This house more or less counts as on my doorstep yet I hadn't been aware of it. I wandered round it (see? plenty of time!), saw its amazing wonky windows, its four-poster beds, discreet staircases and the like, and found myself formulating how I might have responded to the hall. Differently again, no doubt. An interesting trip on all sorts of fronts - the exhibition, the house, the gardens.
Trowbridge's Drawing Projects UK hosts some great content - exhibitions, poetry meetings, classes, talks, and the cafe (Miranda's coffee shop) looks damn fine too - much of which I'm in no position to access for one reason or another, but when exhibitions are open on a thursday and I'm in the area, I go like a shot.
That meant that a couple of weeks ago I could visit the 2018 Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize show. It feels like a gift to have it available quite so locally, in a relatively small town, but Anita Taylor is helping to put Trowbridge on the artistic map and that's pretty amazing.
The exhibition is scattered through the ground floor of the building and, as always, helps to extend my definition of the idea of drawing. I find it difficult to take good photos there - huge works aren't easy in the space available, and glass reflects everything in such a light venue (some were impossible) - but I do my best, and only resorted to the catalogue in order to include the first prize winner. Here's a selection (click on photo, or hover over for info).
The first and second prize-winning pieces were both very large, amazing in different ways. I was stunned when I noticed that Moonlit Delphi had been made using biro, felt pen and poster paints - they seem (they are!) such everyday items - while Eden inevitably comes freighted with an unknown story. Boko Haram Kidnapping is all story, with the whole image formed from words - a passionate piece. While the Wind Drawing was one of many I have seen fairly recently (something of a fashion at the moment?), it's hard not to be fascinated by the delicate lines and their cumulative effect. My personal favourite (this keeps happening - I must stop thinking I haven't got time for them) was a video - someone slowly sweeping white shards into a line, from a blue bowl to the viewer. It was calm and mesmerising and I think I could have watched it all day on a loop.
I lost my instagram account earlier this month - pinched by a russian bot, I assume, since the linked email address suddenly became dot ru instead of mine. I accidentally (please don't ask, it makes me feel silly) set up another one the same day, and that was stolen next morning. I wasn't happy without one, so I gave it a few days before going for a third one, and that has survived so far, though you lose faith in the system. I disconnected it from here because I've long since forgotten how the code works and couldn't face finding out again in order to update it - I only mention the whole saga at all for the headline :-).
The Flourish part is, of course, the open exhibition at West Yorkshire Print Workshop. Yesterday was - again, of course - the last day, so off I drove, across the rather miserable Pennines. Flourish always presents an enormously varied offering, both in technique and style, this year ranging from Kate Desforges' gorgeously textural lithograph and Sara Lee's delicate and muted japanese woodcuts, through many other pieces of work, to Theresa Taylor's large copper sulphate etchings. Even in one discipline the different outcomes are fascinating - Maxine Foster combined her screenprints with other techniques (including bandsaw!), Hazel Roberts - who won first prize - produced colourful graphic screenprints, and Nicole Polonsky's work concerning her brother's suicide was enormously poignant.
Many of the pictures above are details from the original works. This was in most cases because where there was a lack of glass the detail and texture could really be appreciated, and I really did appreciate them - it's a shame that glass, useful and even necessary though it might be as a rule, must provide a barrier to the immediacy of the work.
One last arty thing to mention. I was waiting for a friend outside Leeds Art Gallery, so went in to see what I could find not far from the entrance. What I found was Mark Wallinger's 'Threshold to the Kingdom' (2000) - a slow motion video of travellers coming through automatic double doors at International Arrivals, to the strains of Allegri's glorious 'Miserere mei, Deus'. "The music adds an aura of spiritual mystery to the work and makes the unfolding action appear to be perfectly choreographed" the accompanying board tells you, and says everything that needs to be said. It was amazing.
There have been exhibition opportunities too - I had a piece in the Atkinson Gallery's summer exhibition, which I'm pleased to say sold on the opening night (I'm always pleased if something sells - on the opening night is definitely the cherry on the cake), and a piece in Chapel Gallery's open exhibition, and that sold too, again on the opening night, so what's a step up from pleased? Let's go with excited. I had three pieces in the Hebden Bridge exhibition set up to go with the fair, and two of those sold as well, so I reckon I can call that delighted. Seriously, it's all been a bit of a boost and rather good, and it goes without saying that I won't be mentioning the many other exhibitions I failed to get into, because the cherries would taste a little less sweet if I did that. I expect it's partly a case of try try try again (instead of bearing any kind of pointless and ridiculous grudge and feeling all petulant) but mostly learning my level with a degree of humility and realism. It might take me a while. It's not that I have an inflated idea of my abilities (well, I don't think I do), just that I'm not fond of rejection. Who is?
I've been to the usual scattering of exhibitions too. I was very pleased that Drawing Projects, Trowbridge, was open on a Thursday, so that I was able to catch the last ever Jerwood Drawing Prize (the next one being Trinity Buoy Wharf instead). It was, naturally, full of all sorts of goodies - here's a small selection.
I went to the exhibitions I had work in (although as usual I didn't make the private views - one day, I like to believe, things will be different). There are so many excellent artists out there and sometimes that can make you wonder what the point is, but of course art really doesn't have to be - really shouldn't be - about being as good as other people. I make prints because my brain spends all its time playing about with arty notions, and printing them helps to shift them on, get them out of my head. I have a love/hate relationship with the whole thing, and presumably after all this time I always will, but in spite of frequently playing with the idea of giving up for good on the whole damn thing, I'm not sure what I'd do without printmaking as an outlet. Hmm, seem to have allowed myself to stray from the subject of exhibitions.
Town Hall Arts in Trowbridge (what is it with Trowbridge at the moment??) currently has the Derwent Art Prize on show - perhaps not as show stopping as last year (I think - memory, eh, what's it good for?) but still good. Another selection.
I have the usual long, long list of exhibitions I want to see soon (ie before they finish), and almost certainly I shan't get around to at least half of them, but every visit is better than a miss, and that will have to do.
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.