Sunday, 7 February 2016

Grayson Perry - The Vanity of Small Differences

I had a delightful day out on Friday in the shape of a trip to Bath - a favourite city of mine with its stunning buildings and fine views. No matter what I do when I visit, it's always a pleasure to be there. This time, there was a particular reason for going.

Shopping over, I went to see the exhibition of Grayson Perry's woven tapestries entitled The Vanity of Small Differences in the Victoria Art Gallery on Bridge Street. The works were completed in collaboration with Channel 4 Television to produce a series of three programmes entitled, All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry, broadcast in 2012. I watched this at the time and was fascinated so a chance to see the tapestries was unmissable.

Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close

These tapestries are described by Susan Moore in the book accompanying the exhibition as being, "... a bracing walk through that taboo subject: class". They chart (remarkably without judgement) class difference and identity, kitsch and 'good taste', discomfort and certainty. I found the work at once amusing, challenging, colourful and absorbing in its detail and spent a long time looking at each tapestry and enjoying the humour and sadness in each one.

The Upper Class at Bay
The photographs above are not mine but downloaded from the Victoria Miro website as no photography was allowed in the gallery. I looked carefully at the work, read the small commentaries that accompanied each tapestry and then, on my way out, bought two books. The first was the exhibition commentary that included an outline of the project, excerpts from Perry's sketchbooks, a fold out photograph and detailed images from each of the tapestries, and observations by Suzanne Moore and by Grayson Perry himself. Although I have yet to read it all, first impressions suggest it will be a fascinating insight into the project and into his work as a whole.

The second book I bought was Grayson Perry: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl by Perry's friend Wendy Jones. This so far delightful biography (I'm about a third of the way through) has been my main read since my visit to Bath. The blurb describes the book as mesmerising and I can only agree, although it does include explicit accounts of aspects of his growing up that some readers might find difficult. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in Grayson Perry's work or in the life of an artist who has wrestled with the legacy of a very troubled childhood and discovered resilience and success.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Stitching on photos and extending the line

... and more stitching involving cropped sections of black and white photos, previously tried here. This time, I punched small holes through the photos before offering them up to white Fabriano ground paper to give depth and contrast. The stitching and lines within the photos were extended and mirrored in black Pitt pen. 

The main thing I'm trying to sort out, is the best method of fixing the photo croppings firmly without either sticking them on with glue so rigidly so that the photos ruckle and the ground paper distorts (that experiment failed to photograph acceptably), or attaching them loosely and then losing the desired really close interplay between shiny photographic paper (not easy to see in this photo) and the watercolour paper - which is the approach I used here. 

More trials to follow, some perhaps involving fabric, though I have yet to envisage how that will work ...

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Faint and delicate circles

I experimented this morning drawing circles with a small selection of graphite pencils, thick and thin. The idea was to  go simple and minimalist and to work again on just how pale and soft I could go and still maintain some impact. All this was in contrast with the crisp black and white photos I've been working on a lot recently.

 Near circles over one another: on top, drawn with the fine point of a graphite pencil, and underneath, with the angled end of a thicker graphite stick.

A series of circles on top of one another using the fine pointed stick, the base of a chubby graphite stick flat on the paper and underneath it all, graphite pencil shavings spread wide and soft with a finger

 Simple circle made with the base of the chubby graphite stick 

Graphite pencil shavings drawn with a slightly damp finger

Next, I may print out one or two of these onto thick drawing paper or fabric to see what stitching I'm moved to do.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Sampling in the round

I searched through my archives yesterday for photos featuring circles and things interesting in their roundness and found many - two drawings of mine and some markmaking, photos of the artwork of others, round objects seen and those not quite round, and parts of things, arcs and segments.

Here is a sample of what I found.

                           The base of an onion

            Expressive drawing with a finger, an oil pastel and a blue crayon.

            Markmaking with acrylic paint and a wax crayon

           An art installation at Heathrow Airport
           Artwork on a hoarding in Christchurch, NZ
           My son's favourite mirror
           A plaque inset into Writer's Walk in Circular Quay, Sydney
           Extraordinary architecture seen in Singapore, lit up at night 


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Designing something useful for a change

I rarely design or make anything that could in any way be called useful. However, the receipt of much-enjoyed coasters from my brother last Christmas have set me thinking. They featured some of his own photographs of places that we both love in Aberdeenshire and made a lovely personal present.

I have several friends to whom I send small birthday and Christmas gifts and now, as we are all getting older and are no longer in need of a great deal of new stuff, I often find myself struggling to find the right thing. The coasters idea seemed to hit the button and I've sent images off to Snapfish, the company my brother used, to be made into coasters for a college friend I've known for almost 50 years.

Like me, she visited Australia last year with a stopover in Singapore. I took these photos and several others at night as I looked over the waterways of Singapore and enjoyed the reflections, just as she must have done. I then played around with them in Photoshop, enhancing the colours and inverting, choosing colours I knew she would like and then cropping the results to the right size.

I will be fascinated to know how they turn out and I hope she will like them ...

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Cropping Circles

This time, a new take on cropping from my sketchbook, using circles made with a large hole punch to take focused sections from recent photos. I then took slightly larger plain cartridge circles (left) and a square hole punch (right) and simplified some of the images using a favourite 4B graphite pencil and a small piece of soft cloth to smooth out the shading.

And then one above the other?