Another week of staying near Bath and popping in a handful of times. It was a good week for in-your-eyes sunshine and sparkle, so I spent a lot of time being delighted and stunned by vivid colour and dramatic tree silhouettes and backlit old man's beard (which festooned just about every hedge) and moody shadows and spiky seedheads and, well, everything really. Still, I managed not to crash while looking in all directions, which is a definite plus.
I timed this trip to be able to visit the Society of Wood Engravers' exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery (I toyed, earlier in the year, with the idea of producing something with the hope of being chosen for this show - they accept other relief print methods too - but decided it was a pricy undertaking with a miniscule chance of success). I continue to be unsure about wood engraving - as I've mentioned before, I can't decide if it's just too damn fiddly in every possible way. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition inspite of not working through that uncertainty. As ever, the level of tiny tiny skill is incredible and awe-inspiring, and I really liked a lot of the work. But.
But what, exactly? In some cases, it's to do with the darkness of so many wood engravings, which makes me feel quite down. In others, it's actually the amount of detail, so that a work ends up feeling like a showcase for the artist's skillbase without doing anything for, and often actually detracting from, the final image. A lot of the time it's just that, excellent though a piece might be, it's a bit of a dead end. Everything was for sale, and at decidedly (ridiculously?) reasonable prices, but although I could imagine hanging quite a number of them on my walls, I could also imagine never actually looking at them again. They would just be there, beautiful little things given very little attention. They didn't offer enough. That sounds mean, but I realise now that it's how I felt. Of course, it helps that my walls are already quite full, and that a wood engraving - because of all that detail, as much as anything else - needs some space, space I'm not convinced is there to give.
A further little thing. Not exactly a complaint, and I'm sure it's just me. The bigger pieces, not surprisingly, were mostly collages of wood engravings. Now I don't have a problem with that, but I would like to be told up front rather than discovering it for myself by peering closely. I mean, why not? I don't think it detracts in any way from the wow factor or the skill being exhibited - in fact it adds some pretty intricate cutting and sticking skills! But it feels more honest to me to acknowledge that no, this wasn't all done on one massive block, taking most of a lifetime to achieve, but instead imagined and built up from any number of engravings. Perhaps I'm being curmedgeonly on this one.
So far I know I've sounded negative, but as I said, I really did enjoy the show and some pieces I would happily have brought home and then pushed other stuff off the walls to make room for them. A handful of favourites from the show are below, though not alas my absolute favourite, 'Heracleum and Guinea Fowl', a large linocut by Sarah van Niekirk which isn't in the catalogue or on the website. Shame.
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.