an artists' view

an artists' view

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

'Creativity' 2: Seamus Heaney

Following up the article from the Observer magazine, about psychoanalysts and creativity, here is a quote from Seamus Heaney which was part of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
Referring to poetry, the words are applicable to any art.

Heaney said poetry has.....

"that power to persuade the vulnerable part of our consciousness of its rightness in spite of wrongness all around it, the power to remind us that we are hunter gatherers of values, that our very solitudes and distresses are credible."

I love his words. They are so resonant.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Ice Age Carvings: exhibition at Henry Moore Institute, Leeds

On Saturday 19th June we went to Leeds, to see the Ice-Age Carvings exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute, next door to Leeds Art Gallery.

It was very beautiful.
Tiny carvings/mark-making on reindeer antler - bone - mammoth ivory - 'modified pebbles' - limestone slab - they were perfectly formed carvings. Quite a few pieces had worked holes through the material, and I wondered if they had been deliberately chosen by the curator/s to be shown at the Henry Moore Institute, because of Henry Moore (and Barbara Hepworth's) use of holes in their work?

This would emphasise the connection - between ancient archaeological artefact, and twentieth century British sculpture.
Reveal Henry Moore's modernism, rooted in carvings made 13,000 years ago? Because Henry Moore famously did look at ancient carvings / sculpture, and use marks and ideas from such artefacts, in his work.

Modernism was a response to response to ancient art, and Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth were the two most famous British (Northern; Yorkshire) sculptors to expound 'modernism'.
Their concept of 'truth to materials', whereby the material being carved determined the shape of the sculpture that eventually emerged, can be seen clearly in these ice-age carvings.

We don't know what other purposes the carvings had - ritual or magical use: but there probably was some other meaning intended, which we can only speculate on.
Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth had meanings in their work. As modernists they wanted, post-World War Two, to make the world a better place.
Looking at these exquisite carvings, the world is certainly a better place for their presence.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sashiko Sewing

Here is the completed section of the textile piece I've been working on, shredding my fingers in the meantime!

If you look back to the 21 May entry on this blog, you'll see the same piece as it was when I was about half-way through the sewing.

It is now attached to the calico, which I've hand-painted. There's a lot of work to do yet, but I will be able to do some machine sewing on it from now. That will move things along a lot quicker.

Thank goodness for Irene's machine!

Saturday, 26 June 2010


I read this article in the Observer of 20.06.10.
It comes in the magazine, as part of their 'School of Life; Ideas for Modern Living' series.
This one was called 'Creativity'. I thought it might be interesting to write it up here.

'Blue-sky thinking, finding the inner you...if you look up "creativity" on the net you'll be bombarded with sites to help you get in contact with your creative potential. I blame Joseph Beuys, that modern art guru of fat and felt, who claimed: "Everyone is an artist". We all feel we have something to say. But do we? Beuys didn't mean everyone has the potential to be a Picasso: he believed in the power of universal human creativity to bring about revolutionary change.

The psychoanalysts had a different take. Hanna Segal saw art as an expression of the depressive position and the task of the artist as creating another reality where the artist mourns for lost relationships and experiences that have given meaning to life. Segal cites Proust who, on meeting some long-lost friends, saw how frivolous they had become. Realising that his former world no longer existed he set about recreating that of the dying and the dead.
Art becomes a form of mourning.

For Melanie Klein, art was a form of reparation for destructive infantile rage against the abandoning mother.
For phsychiatrist Anthony Storr, meanwhile, reflective solitude was an essential component.
The cliche that genius is akin to madness is not so far off. Artists, particularly poets, suffer from a high rate of depressive illness.
So, no - creativity is not about "blue-sky thinking" but about destruction and loss, transformed into art through arduous creative process.
Sue Hubbard'

Does this mean that Westgate Studios, where I have my studio, is a seething cauldron of mourning, loss, depression, and rage?
I think the most important part of the article is the last sentence, referring to the transfomative power of arduous creative process.
Creativity is a crucible, where we can transform experiences that have formed us. This is why I like to look at other artists' work. Whether I 'like' them or not is irrelavent. I look for the process the artist has undergone, in order to get to the 'completed' artwork.

Berenice, in the studio opposite mine, has given me a wonderful quote from the poet Seamus Heaney. I'll copy that up and put it up here. It gives an insight into creativity from the 'inside' as it were; from the viewpoint of the practitioner.
That's what the Observer article lacks; an insider's view. Interesting as the psychonauts comments are, they are not artists, so don't have the experience from the inside.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Morning Glory Give Away

Here are some of the Morning Glory seedlings that I'm curently growing for the MORNING GLORY GIVE-AWAY project.
So far 6 plants have gone out to their 'growers'.
15 people have agreed to be involved, and take a plant to grow on.
I've been playing around with how to construct the book, and considering designs for the cover and the back.

I can see I'm going to really busy once all the photos come back!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Neolithic Carved Ball

This is an example of a neolithic carved ball, which I came across whilst visiting the Isle of Lewis in 2006.

I've found a number of these on my travels around the British Isles.
Kilmartin Glen in Scotland has a lovely museum, and has a number of examples of them. Some are exquisitely carved, and have lots of geometric surfaces on them; others are very crude, and hardly marked at all.

In my painting 'Moontree', I used these different shapes as part of the design. Some are depicted as 'carved', and marked. Others in my painting were simply coarse 'blobs'.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Morning Glory Give-away

One project ends, and another one begins!

In the spirit of collaboration, and also thinking about art-work that I can make fairly cheaply, I've been thinking about incorporating some d-i-y punk ideals into my art projects!

I thought it would be interesting to work with plants; and despite choosing Morning Glory seeds to grow (see previous post for how fussy they are!)I'm growing some plants, and will give them away to other people to grow on.

Everyone who takes one will take a photo of the plant all grown up, and I'll put all the photos together in a handmade book.
Everyone who takes part, and provides a photo, will then get a copy of the handmade book!

So far 5 plants have gone out, 9 other people have said 'YES!'.
And 20 seedlings are coming up!
Looks like being a quite substantial book!

The feedback from people has been fantastic.
Lots of keen gardeners wanting to get involved, artists happy to participate, and friends and family who mix up love of art, with love of growing things.
This will take time to proceed.....very much 'time-based art'!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Irene's sewing machine

Last Bank Holiday weekend, I kept busy, despite the rain!
Went to get some more Morning Glory seeds - for a 'give-away' project I'm working on. Morning Glory are the most fussy plants - the seeds have to be soaked overnight: then put into propagators/plastic bags and kept warm: kept warm...but not too warm! And then when planted out, they're to be put out of direct sunlight.

It makes me wonder how they've ever managed to grow without the assistance of human hands!
Anyhow: the Morning Glory seeds are in various stages of germination - so hopefully the give-away is underway.

As the rain was in for the day, we pottered about at home. I got out my sewing machine, and sewed a new sheet onto the patch-work bedcover, re-creating it as a duvet cover once more.
It was the first job for the newly reconditioned Jones machine. It's got a new motor, and new treadle. And it works beautifully!
I was reliably informed by the man in the repair shop that the Jones sewing machine is 70 years old. Which makes it older than me, and a good 13 years younger than my mum. Mum gave me the machine a long time ago, but it's lived in my loft for years, as I couldn't get on with it. Now it's working so well, I'm able to flex my seamstress' fingers!

The patchwork bedspread is one I hand sewed over 30+ years ago, and is random squares of fabric sewn a not altogether accurate square!
It took me months to complete, back in the late 1970's. I started off by using odd bits of fabric from my mum and my sister. So it was me coming full circle, 30+ years later, to use my mum's old sewing machine (now mine!) to replace the worn sheet with a new one.
Come the cold winter months, we'll have the patchwork duvet to use and keep us warm and cosy. Something to look forward to in the dark of the year.
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