Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Glimpses of an exhibition

I realise there's been very little work output shown on my blog recently. I haven't been idle but almost no new work has been done. I haven't even had time to think much about what is to follow from here - and certainly not had time to do significant experimenting that might be interesting to show.

I have been much too busy finishing, preparing and framing my work for - Stitching A Cotswold Art in the Subscription Rooms, Stroud, Glos at the beginning of November. Further details can be found right in the thumbnail and in a post from last month.

To show something of what I'll be exhibiting, here is a selection of snippets.

Of trees ...

... of walls ...

 ... and of a (not yet finished) geology panel with heavy hand stitching.

And now back to work ... I can put it off no longer!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

White ... and black

As those who visit my blog regularly will know, white is currently a recurring theme for me - along with black. I find it hard to consider the one without the other. They are the ultimate opposites.

White often seems to be linked to beginnings - marking a new period of life perhaps, or the clean white slate ready and waiting for images or words. So, for this post today I have photos of white newness, of the start of things - but often photographed with black for contrast.

First of all, close to home, there is the much-enjoyed black and white 'cow' mug bought for our young grandchildren when they visit us - the next generation - definitely a sign of a beginning.

Then, in my effort to upgrade myself digitally (definitely a new beginning), I've bought an ipad air - white, of course - and in the most beautiful white box, lovely to the touch. Apple sure have design and marketing licked - very satisfying. 

And onto the ipad, I've loaded a free drawing app called Paper, recommended by a friend, though the first trial suggests that there may be better drawing apps.

Someone else mentioned Brushes 3 and on searching for information, I saw a link to an article discussing the 22 (yes 22) best ipad apps for drawing and painting. There are so many new things to explore ... though I don't think I'll bother investigating all 22 drawing apps ...

I've posted before photos of the black shadow patterns cast on the deck of a graceful white pedestrian bridge over the Delaware River. Today, I have the whole length of the bridge to show. As well as the shadows I'm very taken by the perspective angles on those cables, criss-crossing the image. The patterns in these images could mark a new direction in work for me. 

On a shelf, I have a small pile of Pink Pig sketch books ordered earlier in the summer in an on-line sale and full of fresh white or near-white pages, but with covers in lovely muted colours.

All sorts of new possibilities here - some exploration of those bridge shadows, no doubt - lots of plans for the future and much work to be done.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Grounds for Sculpture, NJ

In a previous post, I mentioned a visit we made with friends to Grounds for Sculpture, a wonderful 42 acre sculpture park in Hamilton, New Jersey. Now I've had time to reflect on our trip to the US and download my many photos, I've chosen my favourite sculptures from the around 270 pieces we saw in the park - not an easy task.

On the day we visited there were more than 150 of Seward Johnson's lifelike outdoor sculpture installations spread naturalistically around the park in a truly extraordinary retrospective of his work covering over 50 years.

Johnson describes himself as seeking to capture human gesture, and works in a highly accessible style, usually in painted bronze. He says of his work I use my art to convince you of something that isn't real. You laugh at yourself because you were taken in, and in that, change your perception.

This was exactly my reaction throughout the park. On noticing what I thought were groups or single figures in the distance, I then looked again to realise that they were life-size representations of people caught in common poses or interactions, or perhaps representations of iconic American figures or well-known Impressionist paintings. It was in essence sculptural trompe l'oeil - although to that comment, I would add that quite often I found the work unsettling in its realism or in the approach it took.

For this post, I've chosen three of my most remembered pieces of Johnson's work - though later in the week, I may post again to show some of the other very different, mostly abstract sculpture we saw.

Of all the pieces in his Celebrating the Familiar series which accounts for the main body of work shown, I very much enjoyed these two. The first here is of a grandfather with his grandson, fishing, and entitled A Day Off. It was extraordinarily realistic and gentle in feeling, but its position secreted amongst the trees made it particularly convincing and disconcerting.

The second is of a young man asleep on a park bench. I don't know its name, but it is typical of much of Johnson's work - simple, natural and utterly believable ... till you take a considered look.

There were many others I could have included but the most impressive of all for me was a 26 foot (almost 8 metres) tall sculpture of Marilyn Monroe, called Forever Marilyn and part of the Icons Revisited series.  Modelled on her performance in the 1955 Billy Wilder film The Seven Year Itch, it is a representation of that famous image of Monroe - when she coyly holds down the flyaway skirt of her white dress.

Completed in 2011, this sculpture has previously spent time in Chicago and in Palm Springs, California, where it often provoked controversy as being too revealing. Under the heading Art or Trash, a posting on the CBS website describes the piece as 'risqué' and inappropriate.

I found it most memorable if somewhat disconcerting, and found myself returning to it to look at it again at the end of our visit. Perhaps this was as much because of its sheer size as for the exactness and liveliness of the representation.

I think probably that some of its appeal lay in the extraordinary logistical problems incurred in moving it from one place to another. Made of painted stainless steel and aluminium, it weighs about 14 tons (15,000 kg) and comes apart in three pieces which have to be lifted with a crane on and off low-loader trucks for transportation.

There was so much that was true of human form and interaction in all these figures. This style of modern sculpture is not what I usually seek out, as I instinctively prefer the abstract, but I found it surprisingly beguiling and there was an element which stopped it tipping into the banal and stereotypical.

For all its realism, it had a shiver down the spine feeling to it which I can't quite explain. Perhaps it was the frozen moments of personal time and space we were invited to observe closely and to share, in a way not permitted to us with strangers in ordinary life. It felt like intruding but at the same time provoked great emotional reaction - sympathy, empathy or even distaste. I was drawn into wanting to interact directly with the pieces, and to touch the smooth, tactile surfaces, yet I felt a need to keep my distance and show respect ... extraordinary and unforgettable.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Behind the cell-phone power curve

An amazing photo taken today with my new iphone - I'm a little behind the telephonic power curve and on a journey of discovery.

In the space of ten minutes, there were huge puddles, torrential rain, blustery wind, amazing autumn colour and a tiny rainbow in the right half of the photo (not able to be seen as my speed at getting to the right feature on my phone leaves something to be desired!). It was all so beautiful - that colour sang in the watery sunshine.

What a great thing these cameras are - gosh, I can photograph at any time without having to carry special kit to do so, and all on a small device less than half the size of a postcard that can fit in my pocket! Who would have believed it possible 20 years ago?