an artists' view

an artists' view

Saturday, 26 February 2011


When I visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park last week, I noticed that there were lots of catkins out. Lambs-tails; catkins; words that evoke animals, they are particularly evocative of this time of year. The vulnerable, trembling growths, green with the promise of the coming Spring. The first real greening of the land. Catkins and Snowdrops are the heralds of the change in the seasons; and both are in full flower at present.
Gardeners are saying we should have a good show of Snowdrops, as the cold spell we had in winter last year will have encouraged them to flower more profusely. I hope so; nothing raises the spirit more than these tiny white flowers pushing through the cold earth.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Tie Dye

The textile course I'm doing includes dye-ing fabrics using procian dyes. These are very vivid colours, and the fabric takes up the dye much better if it is wetted beforehand.

The pattern above was created by rolling the fabric, then binding it
very tightly using cotton crochet thread.

I've bought some white bamboo thread, and look forward to dye-ing it, and then using it for knitting, or sewing.

This pattern was created by folding the fabric. It's almost an x-ray...........

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Felt Making

I went on a workshop to make some felt, the other week. All part of my exploration of textiles. The result was 2 flat pieces of felt, and a 'sausage', which is at the bottom of the picture. The 'sausage' I will cut into slices, and use as small circles of felt.
I made felt, many years ago (too many to remember!) and it was quite an arduous process, using a rolling pin, as I remember!
This workshop seemed much quicker, and easier. Have sheep begun to grow different fleeces these days, I wonder?
I was surprised at how much the wool shrank though! The pieces above are small; for comparison the purple one is 5ins x 6ins; each piece was about twice the size in wool, when I began!
On the textiles course I'm doing, we have 3 weeks to develop our own project. I'd like to do some more felt-making. Be interesting to incorporate the tussah silks into felt, too. We used the tussah silk to make 'silk paper'.

Friday, 18 February 2011

David Nash @ YSP

On Wednesday I went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, mainly to see the exhibition of David Nash sculptures, which closes at the end of February. I'd not seen the work up at the Longside Gallery, so got the mini-bus up there immediately on arrival.
When I walked into the Longside Gallery, I was struck by the 'jumble' of the sculptures. My initial feeling was that of 'Oh!', and disappointment.
Information was given on laminated cards, which you had to carry round with you; and I wanted to write my impressions, and keep my hands free, so I hadn't chosen to pick up the cards. The result of this meant I had no idea what the titles of the sculptures were. Usually I like to get my bearings with artworks by knowing what they are called; but I didn't have that security this time.
I had to negotiate my own way around Nash's work; had to use my own eyes and senses to make sense of it. Which is always the most rewarding journey around galleries.
I peered at the cracks in wood, asking myself 'was this intentional or accident?'; was aware of the surface pattern brought about by Nash's controlled burning process; I asked myself, 'how does Nash know when to stop?'

One piece, a geometric carved shape, coloured black/grey of burnt wood, had lots of surface cracks, which despite the action of fire, which had softened and opened up the cracks, had maintained it's geometric integrity, but resulted in a less regular form. In this piece I could see geometry - cells - the building blocks of nature. By burning the carved shape, Nash has revealed the processes of nature (and ourselves, as part of nature) - the irregularities, mutations, and changes that occur at the cellular level. The burnt carving showed the microcosm and the macrocosm.

There were 'gateways' of wood; reminding me of whale bones planted upright in parks and municipal spaces.
One which was free-standing in the gallery space, had many cracks, as well as the marks made by carving. Cutting away the different layers of the wood, allowed Nash to create subtle bands of colour.
I was struck by the many colours in the wood/s. Reds, blacks, greys, almost orange in some parts. Pine which was almost yellow; striations that created contrasts between the layers in the wood.
The textures veered between 'rough' wood, which had almost no work done on it by Nash, to wood which had been 'worked', whether by carving, or burning. It was a language of wood; what does it speak to us?

Nash's drawings were exquisite; one 'Red and Black' from 1992, showed lumps of wood, the red ones almost molten wood, burning into charcoal. Obviously Nash uses charcoal to draw with; I love the idea of making your own charcoal from your own wood! Growing it, tending it, burning it, and ending the process by using the charcoal to create with!
Personally I'm not keen on using charcoal as a medium, though I love to see it used by other artists. But I felt very inspired to return to charcoal, and find myself drawn to using it again at some point.

Outside stood 2 sculptures, the only ones I could photograph. Both had been burned by Nash. This carved 'ball' (the one on the right hand side in the top photograph) has been stood out in the elements throughout the summer and recent winter. Mould is starting to grow in the nooks and crannies. Leaves and detritus are collecting in the folds. The process of decay is taking place; the wood is changing as we look at it.

A close-up of the tall sculpture on the left of the photograph at the top of this page. A column, with a cleft cut into it. Much less evidence of decay; the surface is much smoother, almost like skin, elephant skin! Unlike the 'ball' shape, there is little evidence of carving on its surface. Colour of silvery grey, not black as one would expect from burnt wood. This sculpture shows Nash's way of creating unexpected colour from a limited palette.

One of the pieces inside Longside Gallery was 'Table with Peat and Coal' from 1981. It was exactly as it said in the title; a table made from planks of pine, with Welsh peat and Barnsley coal placed upon it, a still-life.
As I've been doing some work looking at coal, carbon, geology, and mining, this piece caught my attention. Here were signs of the industrial revolution; geological processes providing our energy needs. Peat giving us heat (and giving us the compost to pot up our seedlings!) and food; coal, the energy source of the 2oth Century. Both carbon; both including molecules of decomposed plant and mineral remains. Both resulting from complex, millenia-long geological processes.
'Table with Peat and Coal' gives us a geological history lesson! I loved this!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


I haven't done any Batik for years; decades, in fact. So it was exciting to have a go again, after such a gap.
I asked if I could get straight on to use the tjanting, the tool with which you draw hot wax onto fabric. Once I simply made marks on the fabric, without thinking too much about it, and not being concerned about the blobs and drips that emerge from the tjanting tool, I relaxed. It was a case of getting into the flow of it, and seeing what happened!
The colours are more 'muddy' than I wanted, or intended; the fabric dye wouldn't soak into the cotton as easily as I imagined. In retrospect, I wish I'd dampened the cotton before dye-ing. I'll do that next time.
It meant that the dyes all merged into each other; thus creating the overall brown cast.
It's not quite finished yet; I've not ironed out the wax, so I'll see how it looks then. The turn-around time for working with fabrics, means that patience is needed as you wait for one process to complete, before you move onto the next. And throughout, you're never entirely sure how the fabric will come out. This is part of the magic of textile work; the end result is often a surprise.
This can of course be a pleasant surprise......or not!

Friday, 4 February 2011

February; and window frost

This is a photo of some frost on the window; delicate tracings. It was taken a while ago; we're experiencing blustery winds and stormy rain at the moment, and the frosts are far away. The winter's still here though.
But small green spears of bulbs, and white bells of snowdrops are forcing their way through the earth. The year is moving on, and Spring is coming.

Artistically, it's a time of 'completions' for me. The beech carving that I began way back in August last year, has been sitting here gathering dust, so I've dug out a surform (rasp) and started to rub away at the contours. Who knows how long it will take me (!) but it's moving again.
I've also started a creative textiles course, and have been having lots of fun dye-ing fabric, and making 'silk paper', learning new techniques. It's given me a lot of ideas for how to develop my 'Journey Through The Past' large textile piece. I've more research to do for it, yet, but ideas are flowing, which is always a good place to be!

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