an artists' view

an artists' view

Sunday, 30 September 2012

richard hawley & simon armitage

a fuzzy Simon Armitage, signing books, to ghosts in the machine!

A busy week, last week.
On Tuesday I went to Leeds to see Richard Hawley; on Friday I saw and heard Simon Armitage, in Wakefield.

Richard Hawley was awesome. He played a lot of songs from his new CD, 'Standing at the Sky's Edge', which I've been listening to avidly, for weeks now. It really mixes his trademark 'crooning', with something more psychedelic, and guitar-based. There are lots of drones in the music, which I dearly love, and nature references within the song's lyrics. 
Also a lot of....quiet....then LOUD....sections; where Hawley's voice is soft, and the main focus of the song. Then there is a shift to loud, rocking guitar-based sounds. His lyrics too, are subtle, and don't always go where one immediately expects. He eschews cliche...which is always delightful. 
The stage set, too, deserves a mention. He had trees, standing behind the band, appropriate in view of the subject matter of the new songs, and the way he referenced the natural world. 
I presume the trees were in pots of some kind; and they had magically maintained their green-ness, and leaves. During the show, they were light-drenched in hallucinogenic colours, like stained glass windows in Gothic cathedrals. 
I was struck by the connection, as the Gothic cathedrals have columns, with carved greenery and leaves, marching down aisles, creating a forest of stone. The ceilings are intertwining branches of stone, supporting the roof, and impressing the viewer even more strongly of the outer world of nature, brought inside the religious buildings.

My feeling of being inside a cathedral, was emphasised even more, by the fact that Hawley had a music stand beside case he forgot his lyrics? It looked like a church lectern! The world according to Rev Richard Hawley! Mmmmm!

Simon Armitage was appearing in Wakefield as part of Wakefield's first Literary Festival. He did his reading at Westgate Chapel, which accommodates  a bigger audience than the Orangery. Simon was reading from his book which documents his walk (from North to South; against prevailing weather and wisdom!) along the Pennine Way. He was humorous; serious; interesting; profound; just what you want and expect of a poet!
He was asked if he'd listened to music on his mammoth walk, as he's well known as a massive music fan. He replied that he deliberately didn't take his iPod, as he wanted to immerse himself in the experience of the walk, and get away from those things we use everyday that can distract us from the world around us.
He did say that he'd been in a pub, on one section of the walk, and put some music on the jukebox, and it sounded almost physical. That he felt as if he could have reached out and touched it. That it was hallucinatory.
Such is the power of music. It can create synaesthesia within us. 
Simon Armitage's gig, then, connects to Richard Hawley's. The connection of their experiences of music; and the power of both music, and the natural world. When I experience these connections, I am lifted, and my soul is fed.       

Monday, 24 September 2012

Spurn Point; 'Textures of Spurn'

View through the lamproom window of the lighthouse at Spurn Point. Looking to the north (east) of Spurn Point.

We visited Spurn Point yesterday, to see Alice Fox's textile (and print) exhibition 'Textures of Spurn', on show at the Lighthouse. It was an opportunity to not only see the work (I've been following her artist-in-residence blog) but also to go inside the lighthouse, which is no longer in use.
Despite the weather; cold, windy, cloudy, with occasional rain; the views were fantastic, and the shape of the spit of land was made visible. 
The clouds were dark and threatening; the wind hummed through the telegraph wires like an Aeolian harp; the sea boomed and crashed.
It was an elemental place, and we were scrubbed clean by the sand blown across our bodies; faces and hands, scoured. I returned home with sand in my hair; dishevelled.
We walked the 3.5 miles from the car park, down to the lighthouse. Walked the steps up (and down) the lighthouse. Then walked the 3.5 miles back to the car. 

It was an exhilarating walk. A walk of memories, of previous visits to Spurn. And worth the walk, to climb the lighthouse steps, and see Alice's artworks. 

Alice Fox's enormous textile piece, 'Spurn Cloth #1', tied, and displayed around the circular space of the lamproom at the lighthouse.

 Another view of the lamproom textile piece, 'Spurn Cloth #1' by Alice Fox.

'Spurn Cloth #2' by Alice Fox. Hanging down two floors of the lighthouse space, at Spurn.

You can see Alice's blog, which tells the story of her residency, at

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Dyed, Printed, Stitched & Spun #1

The cotton is dyed using onion skins, a lovely orange brown colour. I've printed onto another piece of fabric. And the wool, is from my first attempts at spinning using a drop spindle! Not fit for knitting with, but very useful for adding texture to a fabric piece.
Not sure quite where this piece is going yet. I need to do some machine sewing on it. I tried handstitching, but it will just take too long, despite the added control it gives me with my mark-making. I'm hoping I'll be able to do some handstitching embellishment over the top of the machine stitch.

Today is bright and sunny, although cold; and we've reached the Equinoxial time of the year, so I shall be utilising the daylight that we have, and stepping out into my studio across the patio, to work on my canvases. After today, we'll be slipping inexorably into the dark. Winter is ahead of us. 
And I have begun knitting my very first pair of socks! Rather appropriate for the dark winter nights! Though too late for xmas presents! No, I think my first pair will be for me. I can iron out all the mistakes then!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

sarah lucas @ Leeds

Above is the cover of Sarah Lucas' catalogue from her exhibition at Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. The sculpture, 'Gourd', is a cement cast of..well, of a gourd! One of a series of cement casts of fruit and vegetables. 
The catalogue reads;
'her concrete marrows and squashes have the fullness of the votive vegetables offered to fertility gods around the ancient Mediterranean.'
I like the contrast between the softness of the fruit and vegetables, and the hardness of the concrete; the greyness of the cast, with the real-life colour of the grown produce.

Below is the sculpture, 'The King', created from casts of plaster and wood.
The catalogue says of 'The King', that it is 'a mechanistic spiral of dagger-like paired plaster penises suspended over wooden blocks.'
I saw a whirling wheel; a swastika; a cross; an altar; a circle; action; movement. Delicacy of structure - it hangs from wires looking as though a sudden draft would cause it to fall. And solidity of materials - casts of wood and bone.
It has memories of archaeology too; the ancient picks used by neolithic people, made from deer antlers, with which they built Stonehenge, Callanish, and sundry other stone circles and monuments.

The catalogue says of this exhibition;
'In 'Ordinary Things', a selection  of thirty-one works spanning 1993-2012, these processes take in cutting, moulding, handling, stuffing, displaying, and assembling , utilising conventions that move from the monumental to the ready-made, the formal and quick-build, via the representational, abstract and true-to-materials.'

'Lucas' use of found materials could be straight from the strategies of Arte Povera, that loose grouping of artists whose sculptures are resourceful compositions of objects and materials bearing the traces of use, responding to changing economic and artistic contexts.'

'Sarah just didn't think about making art that could easily be exhibited, or sold, or archived, or consider the practicalities of flogging it. In that way...her work was women's work, done because it had to be done, for its own sake. Its currency, like the flesh of the animals and vegetables Sarah uses as a medium, was soft and vulnerable, not hard and bankable.'

Friday, 14 September 2012


Sections of fabric, hand sewn with 'sashiko' stitches; organzie, machine sewed, layered over it. 
Some of the fabric is hand-dyed; others are scraps from my textile 'grab-bag'. Pinned on the wall of my studio, trying to get enough light on it, to photograph.
I now have to put some small stitches in, to attach the organzie to the fabric behind. I'm hoping it will go into the 'woolgathering' exhibition I'm having with Jill Hallsall at Westgate Studios Project Space, in November, for the Wakefield Artwalk. 
You can see another photo of this piece at 'stitching & dye-ing'#2 dated 17/06/12.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

patti smith; 'live at leeds'

Last Sunday, I went to Leeds to see Patti Smith. It's the 4th time I've seen her now; my first time was at the Rainbow at Finsbury Park in London, at Easter, 1978....when she had released her 3rd album, 'Easter'. I even remember what I wore!

The second time was after she'd released 'Gone Again', her 'comeback' album, when I saw her at Manchester. That was memorable, as we sat about 4 rows from the front, and had a splendid view. Also memorable, as I did the whole 'fan' thing, and hung around the venue before the performance. I'd taken a massive pile of her books, albums, and cd's, which she kindly autographed! She made a comment about my copy of her book of poems 'Babel', saying 'This is an old one'. It was the first book of hers I bought, when it came out. There was a little group of us fans, and she was patient, and spoke to everyone, and signed whatever was asked of her.
Tom Verlaine played with the band on that tour.

The third time, she was appearing on stage at Reykjavic, in Iceland. Jon and I had gone there, for a holiday, and I discovered from the hotel receptionist that she was in concert. The receptionist phoned up and booked tickets for us, and we walked through the city, to the venue, and enjoyed a stripped-down performance, with Patti, her long-time collaborator Lenny Kaye, on guitar, and her daughter Jesse, on keyboards. They were joined by an enthusiastic and dissonant cornet/trumpet-player! It made a special holiday, even more special!

And here she was, as she described it 'almost live at Leeds'...referencing the classic 'Who' album. Of course she did a cover of their 'My Generation' on the b-side of her single, 'Gloria', so it was a reference to her own past, too!
It was a wondrous gig. She's always great, and connects to the audience with her stories and jokes. 
Lenny did a mid-way medley of a selection of songs from the 'Nuggets' collection he compiled.....they make a great covers band!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Heritage Open Day @ Westgate Chapel

Yesterday was a bright sunny day, perfect weather to visit Westgate Chapel, and help with their opening for the Heritage Day. The grounds are managed as a wildlife space; below the rowan tree, are these teazels. Teazels were used as 'combs' in the woollen industry.

The Chapel catacombs were open, and I managed to go down and have a peek inside. Despite the sun shining down through the grating (where the coffins would've been slid down) and the minimal lighting from the overhead light, it was a gloomy, and gothick atmosphere. Very spooky.

And here are gas mantles; the Chapel would have been lit by gas originally. These features from past times, add to the atmosphere of the catacombs.
A couple who were having a look round, asked, what would be better? To be placed in these brick tombs forever, or to be buried under the earth? I answered....'No contest, under the earth!' 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Heritage Open Days

This weekend is when the annual Heritage Open Days take place. Various buildings throughout Britain open up so we have the opportunity to see inside places where we might not normally have access.
Westgate Chapel is opening its doors to the public, so I've volunteered to go down and spend the afternoon helping.
I'm hoping to get a chance to visit the catacombs; in all the years I've been involved with the Chapel, I've never managed to see them, so cross my fingers for today!

Scarborough is having a number of open day events. Including, next Thursday, a special day about Star Carr! Sadly work commitments mean I won't be able to make that, which is very frustrating.
But the information leaflet has photographs of 2 of the antler frontlets which were found there. These are what make the site so significant.

Friday, 7 September 2012

'nature print'

Interestingly, as we moved into the digital age to create photos, and the old way of making photographs using darkroom, and rolls of film has been overtaken, there has also been an interest in making photos using 'non-digital' methods!
Above is an example of something called 'nature prints', which is basically placing objects on top of photographic paper, and exposing it to light. Instead of using an enlarger as a light source, these sheets are exposed to sunlight, and then washed in water.
We used to call them 'photograms' many years ago when I was studying art at college.

It's very low-tech, which I actually like....a lot.
I used it with a group I worked with. The results were variable. I'd done this beforehand, and exposed it in direct sun. This works much better than diffused light.
The group saw lots of images in it; an anchor; a sea; waves.
I like the subtle shapes and tones, and the ambiguity of it. I'll do another one. And we'll make another attempt with the group; when there is more sunlight shining through the windows.

Monday, 3 September 2012

'Birch Bark Rolls' from Starr Carr

In the museum at Whitby are these rolls of birch bark, that come from Star Carr. How I'd love to know what is inside them; what they were used for!

My friend Jackie has finally re-homed the 3 ducklings that hatched from her Mrs Duck; and the 6 kittens she caught have all gone to's been a busy summer for her! I've tried to offer some help, though she's done most of the work.
I've insulated the studio ceiling and have to get the floor sorted now. Then I can move the furniture in, and begin work again. I keep going in there, at different times of the day, to see how the light is, how comfortable it feels. I think it will suit me beautifully.

More fabric pieces have gone through my alchemical kitchen! And I'm awaiting the tea-bag dye-ing results.
And I start a City & Guilds Creative Textile course in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to that. And on Saturday is a Heritage Open Day at Westgate Chapel, which I've volunteered to help with. 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

looking at sculpture

Last summer on the Isle of Islay, I found lots of these carved grave-slabs. Warriors, lords/lairds, men-at-arms, men who in death, were carved with the necessary weaponry in their hands.
Some of the carvings have weathered, some are quite crudely worked. Others are exquisitely carved.

I'm not a 3D artist; I work on a flat surface. But I am intrigued by how sculptors work, and fascinated by their skills.
This is more of a relief carving, than a 3D, in the round, sculpture. But in my head, it's sculpture.
Currently on in Leeds, at the Henry Moore Institute is an exhibition by Sarah Lucas, one of the famous YBA's. The exhibition is called 'Ordinary Things', and Lucas has created sculpture out of everyday materials; tights, wire, shredded newspaper, wood, plaster bandage, concrete.
The concrete casts of vegetables are lovely. Her uses of wooden posts (what look like fence posts in fact!) to mount up smaller wood, and cast sculptures, is simple and effective. And raises ordinary-ness of everyday materials into art.
Some of her work is less effective for me; I didn't like the 'NUD' series, made from stuffed tights. But these do have a fleshy realism; as though limbs or intestines. A bit stomach-churning.

And in Leeds, I collected the tickets to see Patti Smith! H'ray!
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