The Old Lock Up Gallery somewhere in Derbyshire (not been yet) is running a secret postcard sale and asking for artists to donate work, the money made to be split between keeping the gallery going into next year (85%) and the charity Arts Emergency (the other 15%). Two good causes in one, thought I, why not?
I struggled with the address! First I put the 'Up' in, then I thought I'd got it wrong, hence the apologetic smile. Then I found the 'Up' did belong and put it back, so I've sent off a totally accidental piece of sort-of concrete poetry.
As an unconnected aside, I'm going to try to train myself out of putting two spaces after full stops - apparently it's no longer acceptable. Could take me a while.
I'm delighted that I am going to have a table at Hebden Bridge Print Fair in September. Also a tad apprehensive - what have I let myself in for? Actually, I can answer that one - quite a lot of printmaking! Also quite a lot of cutting board, and wrapping prints, and thinking about available space, and wondering how to arrange things, and deciding what's in and what's out (or is that a bit optimistic?), and making lists of what I need, and, and, and.
Yes, could be a bit busy for a while.
Two exhibitions in a week - something of a record in recent times. The annual Bath Society of Artists open exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery was a must, what with having a piece in the show (tucked very cosily in the furthest corner, but hey, not everyone can be centre stage), and was as enjoyable as ever. I need another visit with more time on my hands, but I thought I'd better make sure I went when I could in case, oh I don't know, cars or something. A favourite piece has to be Patrick McGrath's Hare on a Chair - an absolute delight, and 3D - but there are plenty more up there with it. Many favourite artists are in the exhibition year after year and begin to feel like (unknown) old friends. Anyway, here's a selection, with the artists named in the captions.
The second but last picture there is by Katherine Jones, who has had a year-long residency at Rabley Drawing Centre - not that far from Marlborough but nevertheless out in the wilds of Wiltshire, where the modern group of buildings snuggles down among the fields and is just about as peaceful a spot as you could ask for. I knew an exhibition of her work was due to finish before I could visit again, so I hared (and crawled) out there giving myself a whole 10 minutes before closing time (I managed to put myself behind some of the slowest people on the roads that day, I swear!). Um. Except that I hadn't checked whether the centre was open. And it wasn't. Not that I knew - in I waltzed and started looking round before I was alerted to the fact by a very generous lady who nevertheless gave me ample time to immerse myself in the work. At first I thought the work felt new and different, something of a dislocation from previous prints (of course I concentrated on the prints) but after a while I couldn't quite work out why I'd ever thought that, and the longer I was there the more it got under my skin. I wish I could go again, but don't I always? I'm just glad that I went and that I wasn't turned away.
A selection of not particularly illuminating photos - I was trying to avoid reflections as much as possible.
It trickles away, my time, so that the to-do list just gets longer and longer until things just fall off the end of it. Mind you, I'm sure everyone is the same to a greater or lesser extent, so why do I go on about it? Because it's so irritating and I know that a lot of it is down to indolence. Pull yourself together, I think. But by and large I don't.
Enough of this. To exhibitions instead. Actually they are a perfect example of things that fall off the list all the time, completely forgotten as often as not unless I am reminded of them once they've finished. But not all of them! I was very pleased with myself that I made it to the actual opening of Sandra Porter's show at the Museum in the Park in Stroud. Her work derives from bothans but you don't really need to know that - it's quite abstracted and I love it. While there were paintings and drawings too, I of course went for the prints - her are some lovely textural details below. Actually, getting to the opening was a mixed blessing in that space was, of course, pretty limited, but I'm sure I wouldn't have managed to get there at all otherwise so I'm happy enough.
I was disappointed to miss two other events, but so it goes. I got as far as the venue for the Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibition, The Edge at Bath Uni, but was stymied by lack of parking. Not an insurmountable problem if you have enough time, but I didn't - however, I've since discovered that it (or possibly part of it) will be showing at Trowbridge's Drawing Projects UK later on, so perhaps I'll manage to see it there. And the rescheduled Hepworth print fair fell victim to a lengthy (three weeks!) saga of two cars (please, don't ask). The print fair will have to wait until next year.
I know it's rather showy offy, but look at this collection of my collagraphs at the house of friends of ours. Am I embarrassed, and determined to brush the whole thing off as rather ridiculous? Obviously! Of course I am. Nevertheless, it's sort of exciting too, a little bit of a thrill. Inevitably I look at them and think, hmm, that isn't so good, that bit there, and really those colours, I'm not at all sure. And so on and so forth to the end of time. I'm not wrong either, but how often have I ever been completely pleased with my work? Put it this way, a second hand will definitely not be needed for counting on fingers. What I know I should do in this case is shut up and be pleased that out there, in the world, is a wall of my prints.
And where that six months went, I'm not quite sure.
Anyway, new year, another batch of good intentions. One is to be more active on here - surely I can at least manage to do that. I'm in a new studio - at Hot Bed Press, so with no excuse not to print more, what with the presses being in the same building, on the same floor and literally half a minute's amble away. It's roomy, bright (until they build the block of flats just across the road, but hey), still has some space in for the moment (not sure how long that'll last) and I love it to bits. So much so that I have trouble leaving it to reach those aformentioned presses, but I think I can train myself up on that one.
From which you can gather that I've not achieved terribly much recently. I did manage an edition for the annual 20:20 Print Exchange (and have only just added the print to my exchange page), there was an open studios event alongside the regular Hot Bed Press Under the Bed Sale, which was good fun, and I've been working away in slightly haphazard fashion at any number of collagraph plates, so not entirely nothing. Even so.
Oh, and a course with Sumi Perera at West Yorkshire Print Workshop. I didn't take away as much as I should have, in terms of expanded practice, due to a tendency not to move too far from my comfort zone, but everything was interesting and perhaps I've squirreled away more exciting intentions than I realise yet. We got to see plenty of her work, which as I might have mentioned before I find fascinating. Also the open print exhibition - some fantastic stuff, from which unaccountably I only have photos of one artist's work. And I did manage a few prints that I'm relatively happy with - the one above was one, an old piece overprinted with (inevitably) a collagraph.
A selection of work by Sumi Perera
My most recent source of excitement was taking a course with Sylvia Waltering to learn (I have a suspicion that it was relearn, but we'll glide lightly past that) how to make a clamshell box. Useful for putting prints or artist books in, but actually fun just for the boxes. I even went away and made another one (trying to fix the techniques in my head before they dribble away through that annoying hole somewhere at the back of my memory) and intend to keep up the practising, perhaps even experimenting a little on my own. I'm indulging my inner colour junky at the moment, but have every intention of trying for muted later on. Probably should come up with some kind of purpose for them.
Yes, time passes. It does that, I find, and nowadays fades off into the middle distance with increasing rapidity. For instance, some weeks ago I was going to talk about Fringe Arts Bath. Bit late now, so suffice to say that there were - as ever - some thought-provoking exhibitions on subjects including obsession, migration, walking the landscape, blue, as well as an open exhibition, and some excellent work everywhere I went. Here's a handful of images (hover over for information, where I've remembered to collect it) from, alas, not enough time spent at not enough of the scattered venues. And it was raining.
I was going to talk, too, about the sketchbook exhibition at Rabley Drawing Centre. No pics, alas, except of the decidedly rural location (I got myself pretty much lost, after, and had in the end to to retrace my steps or risk being stuck down some track with nowhere to turn, a truly horrendous distance to reverse, and the knowledge that I still had to drive halfway up the country preferably before nightfall). It was a fascinating show, with a million (oh alright, I think it might have been a hundred) very varied sketchbooks - and ur-sketchbooks. Very beautiful, some of them, but manifestly constructed for precisely that purpose. I recognised, though didn't always appreciate, the ones with gappy missed pages, other pages started with a few hopeful lines and then abandoned - those I knew were sketchbooks. It's partly why I don't bother much myself. I didn't have too much problem either with the ones full of stuck-in sketches - alright, so they had doubtless been curated, with scrappy scribbles not included unless they were terribly meaningful scrappy scribbles, but as someone who draws on such odd bits of paper as are hanging around I understand that the physical book form might never originally have existed. There were books crammed full of exquisite drawings, coloured in and, from my perspective, probably as good as or better than any finished work deriving from them - they mostly caused envy of the observational skills and drawing abilities. My problem was with the beautiful books, where sometimes you could see exactly how work had been cut up to make the pages. However lovely, I couldn't bring myself to think of them as sketchbooks. Still, it was good enough that I shall catch the show again - perhaps at Black Swan Arts in Frome - when it tours (tour venues and dates under sketchbook exhibition link above).
Those exhibitions were many weeks ago, now, and on my last trip exhibitions didn't play much part, except for Trowbridge's Town Hall Arts' inaugural Open Exhibition - with two recent works in it, I made the effort to get to the opening before driving north. Again, a selection of work below, mostly accompanied by artist names (I'll make sure I find the missing one on another visit and fill it in later). The top two are mine. I hope the show's a success for Town Hall Arts and grows year on year.
The yo-yo travel continues - I do my best to catch handy exhibitions and generally succeed, but I'm determined to ensure that printmaking happens too - it's too easy to let it slide, to claim (not without justification!) that really I should be ironing/mowing/getting a grip. In all honesty, it's not as if I did a load of that stuff before the increased to and fro, so why would I now?
Bath generously provides me with lots of exhibition-visiting opportunities - this week I made an effort and took in the Breugel show at the Holburne Museum, but I'm afraid it was far too crowded and (I knew this before I went) I don't try hard enough with most pre 20th century work. I peered over shoulders, appreciated the liveliness, then far too soon took myself off to see uber wood engraver Anne Desmet's work in the next room. Which I enjoyed far more - though the fact that I managed to be the only person in the room did play some part in my enjoyment. I remember having some good ideas as I went round, but I've forgotten them and might have to go back to be reminded - probably won't be revisiting the Breugels, though.
There are plenty more visiting opportunities outside of Bath, including, these days, Trowbridge. It has certainly been the case in the past that I haven't been able to make the most of Drawing Projects - its available days and mine never seemed to coincide. However, that seems to be becoming less true, and this last week I did go in to see Greyscale, a show of work by five Australian artists - I particularly liked the mark-making in pieces by Lisa Jones. In a hallway there are two massive portraits in charcoal, which have enormous presence. Nothing to do with the exhibition, they are by Anita Taylor - Drawing Projects is her and her partner's baby. It would, I imagine, be a lovely building in which to have a studio - lots of white, a certain quiet elegance, plenty of light. I love the lettering they use for signage, too - again, a certain elegance.
And I have been managing to print, too - first for Bristol Artists' Book Event (BABE) at the beginning of April, and more generally since. I'm a little disappointed in myself that I shan't be putting anything up for the Bath summer exhibition this year, but being in the city for the ritual queue just isn't going to fit this time round. Perhaps I might be better employed, now that I'm making more of an effort, in working through some complete print editions - that way I might be ready for future opportunities.
For several weeks, now, my mouth and my eyes have been filled with flavours, jewels, metals, colours. Everywhere I look I am overwhelmed, as I try to find the words to capture what I see - I can't stop myself, it seems stupidly urgent. Saffron and ginger and nutmeg; gold, copper, bronze; russet and rust, burnt orange and port, toast and butter and honey. The splash of light in a shady corner, is it warm topaz, is it an amber glow? That garden acer, that one there, it's a preposterous lollipop red!
It's not even just the trees - bracken, bare hedgerow, moorland, they're all at it, with splashes of cornfield yellow and heady wine red, flamboyant pumpkin and speckled apricot. I'm even caught up in what I reject - caramel and toffee, flapjack and syrup all too sticky; grilled grapefruit, for all it captures a colour perfectly, and the toasty edges, doesn't feel right. Cinnamon works, foxy not; plum yes, aubergine no. But the irritating truth is that words are failing me. That there are so many blended, perfect shades out there for which I find it impossible to pin down any kind of helpful description. As a word person I find it hard to accept, although as a colour lover I'm happy to gaze at, say, the peachy, brackeny, auburny tones of the japanese maple in my garden and enjoy their nameless colours while they last.
It's mid-November - they'll all be gone soon enough. Already there are as many pools of leaves on the ground as leaves on branches (though when they're below as well as above it can double the colour spike) and soon all will be subtle browns and forgetfulness. That's fine - I love the starker land of winter too, and meanwhile, what a show there's been this year. What. A. Show.
I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to go on about autumn. Again. The point of this was going to be to enthuse about a fine crop of art exhibitions - most finished, inevitably, but that's no reason not to celebrate them. All six (six!) in one go would be overkill, but I could manage a couple today and the rest later.
First of the batch is/was Walking the Hills at Bath Contemporary - a collaboration between painter Malcolm Ashman and Norwegian digital artist Inger Karthum. I'd been looking forward to it for a good while, and I wasn't disappointed. Collaboration is something that has never quite appealed to me because of the lack of total control over one's own work that it implies. You would surely need to accept in advance that you might hate the joint result, and do you therefore put up work that isn't (in your eyes) so good, so that you won't mind if it's ruined? Equally, might you ruin someone else's? Or do you work out each and every collaborative piece of work together, in fine detail? It's very quickly obvious that I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I imagine every collaborative process is pretty much unique. Irritatingly, I've managed to leave this report long enough to have lost access to some of the supporting text from the show, but as I remember it the artists share an interest in memory and displacement. Sometimes the work done by each artist is easy to pick out - 'Paths', above left, for example, where the landscape is by Ashman and the paving slabs below by Karthum. Others required more attention, although obviously close observation makes the digital half of the collaborative images easy to identify. I still have vague, unformed doubts about digital art, but that doesn't stop me enjoying the end results, and these had a subtlety and complexity that fascinated me. The artists each had their own works in the show. too, and the playfulness of a number of 3D works created together added something extra.
Pinning down now why I enjoyed the show so much is proving difficult.Some of it was to do with colour combinations, some to do with the way each style of work really did complement the other. Most of it was that the collaboration was energizing, buzzy. For the first time ever I found myself wondering whether collaborating with an artist you trust might be surprisingly liberating.
Also finished now In Bath (but moved on to Oxford) is the Society of Wood Engravers' latest annual exhibition, which was at 44AD - the rooms there were just right for it. With every passing year I find wood engraving appeals more (still not had a go), and since I still don't go a bundle on the little amazingly skilled, fussy-but-dull pieces I assume that wood engraving is growing. Whether it is or no, here's a little selection - glass and light don't make taking photos easy, but I gave up on the most difficult ones and did my best with the rest. That's enough for one day - I'll finish off the exhibitions cluster next time.
Sunny days in autumn mean constantly being soaked in colour - I'm not complaining, it's glorious, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. The low sun enriches everything it touches. I'm not just talking glossy marmalade leaves caught on spiky, bare-branched hedges - a dark and dusty backdrop designed to show any colour of leaf off to advantage - or the lemon-butter coins adorning languid silver birches, or brilliantly sunshine gold trees set preposterously against others of wine-dark red (who needs New England?). What about the sky? As often as not it's so dense with textured shades of lilac and lavender, dove and gunmetal, that it looks as touchable as the land beneath it. It's all so intense, so unsubtle. Buildings are the same - red brick zings; green glass shouts of the sea. I drive back from my studio past constructions blazing with copper and rust, and at the right angle even the charcoal of the tarmac has more depth than is reasonable. It's insane.
It's mostly the sun. Some autumnal trees contrive to glow like belisha beacons even under the duller kind of grey clouds, but most of the landscape steps back into something softer, something that doesn't thump into my senses. I'm not sure I could manage quite that intensity all year round, but it's utterly amazing while it lasts, and - maybe it's me - it seems to get more colour-drenched with every passing year.
Anyway, while reeling my way along and trying not to veer off the road, the red brick and green glass caught my eye at least partly because I'd been printing with something like just ten minutes earlier - the fourth and final layer of my print for this year's 20:20 print exchange. Technically I'm ready a week early, this year, but as I won't be around to print next week, I suppose it's as last minute as ever.
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.