Discussion

Textiles and Prints Sicily @ the Exchange Gallery

Posted by on Jul 22, 2018 in Discussion, Exhibitions | 0 comments

The most persistent memory of our journey through Sicily is of the wild flowers – particularly the swathe of purple, blue and deep red of wild sweet peas that astonished us in the countryside near Gangi.    Another memory is the consistent hum of bees when we walked through fields or areas of vegetation on the hills. This is a  noise I have not heard in the UK for a long time, it brought back memories of childhood and feelings of regret for what we have lost, at least for the time being.   We essentially walked downhill from the centre to the sea but there were ups and downs on the way as we made our way over one of Sicily’s  ski-slopes (Piano Battaglia) and then over some expanses of rock.  The descent into Cefalu was beautiful – intermittently seeing the deep blue of sea in the distance, then some small boats, then a jet ski-er. As we got nearer there were more and more flowers again. We had a long walk along the front to get to our hotel – all the time we could see the cathedral towering above the town.  The highlight of Cefalu for us was the Duomo – a magnificent Norman building – built by King Norman II in 1131. It is set in a wonderful sloping square, which is filled with cafes and restaurants. The evenings were balmy and perfect for an evening glass of wine in front of the amazing building. It has the most wonderful Byzantine mosaic (we could only see the reproduction as it was being restored) of Christ which dominates an otherwise sparsely decorated building. There are many ancient lanes and a wide promenade stretches alongside the length of the sandy beach. The sea is safe for swimming, although rocky in parts and clearly draws Sicilians from a wide area on hot days.  It was a restorative place in which to rest after the walk.    ...

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Art as Truth – really?

Posted by on Apr 9, 2018 in Discussion | 0 comments

Art as Truth – really?

Going to the King and Collector Exhibition made me think again about the idea that art is a truthful  occupation. Not invariably I would say. Sometimes it can be a way of constructing a very deceptive front.   King Charles I’s own collection of artwork, commissioned by him, conjured up an image of a rich, peaceful kingdom governed by a serene monarch. Nothing in fact, could be further from the truth. A bitter civil war was in prospect or actually taking place during reign, he was a poor ruler and constantly raising money for ill-thought out campaigns. If we had only his private art collection we would consider his time on the throne to be serene, surrounded by a beautiful and accomplished wife and attractive children, the landscape untroubled by any  clouds of foreboding.  It reminded me of the uses of social media, where by posting appropriate photographs and texts a ‘curated’ life can be presented which is very much at odds with reality. One which can elevate social position and standing or be of use in ‘networking.’ Ultimately things ended very badly for Charles I – his death was violent and horrible. I wondered whether he had ever considered the possibility that his actions were stirring up such hatred and anger.  I have even read some articles that have drawn parallels between Brexit and the Civil War, there are a few about by historians and journalists  and there certainly seem to be some similarities – though I obviously hope they stop at voting patterns and strength of feeling, and that we are able to settle differences more peacefully. The repercussions are likely to be as long-lived.  The three pictures in one portrait of Charles I were meant to help Bernini create an accurate sculpture of the king – even to have a sculpture made required the permission of the Pope. I guess they had a very clear understanding of the powerful impact of image....

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Textiles and prints : King and Collector exhibition at the RA

Posted by on Apr 7, 2018 in Discussion | 0 comments

Charles King and Collector  – Exhibition at RA I visited the wonderful and thought-provoking exhibition of the royal art collection of Charles I, soon to end at the Royal Academy, much of it reunited for the first time since the sale of the collection after the King’s death. A good way to see beautiful art and brush up (or learn) history. It was surely a seismic event for the king to be beheaded and then, only eleven years later, for the new king to be installed, the monarchy restored, yet now this tumultuous and painful period in history can be summed up in a couple of lines. Would his older brother Henry – apparently ‘brilliant’ and ‘charismatic’ have made a better fist of things?  Charles I was  a weak and capricious king – now it’s hard to understand how he could be so consistently dim and utterly incompetent, endlessly provoking Parliament unnecessarily. The Duke of Buckingham seemed to be able to make crass mistake after crass mistake without the king realising what a liability he was. George Villiers (named in a number of roads round London) was eventually assassinated. Whatever his limitations as a king, Charles had  a deep appreciation of art and had a sophisticated strategy to collect great pieces. He was inspired by a visit to the Court of Spain during some protracted and ultimately futile marriage negotiations, to emulate his host and start collecting in earnest. He then took on professional advisers and bought discerningly and well.  Charles’  collection ranged from tapestries to miniatures. There are some wonderful Hans Holbein portraits  – drawings and paintings. The faces are full of character and individuality,  you feel they could easily break into speech and possibly have life beyond the paper or wood.   Charles was well served by his court painter, Anthony van Dyck. There is not even a hint that things were not well with the monarch and his realm from the serenity of the paintings. It was sad to see that Van Dyck died so young – his last self-portrait again betrayed nothing of the nearness of his death – he looked carefree and healthy. He clearly had an eye for the commercial (good for him) and focused on portraiture because it was so much better paid than, for example, printmaking. Apparently his plates were used and copied for many years after his death. Like all blockbusters, the exhibition was quite crowded but the size of the rooms at the RA lessens the impact of this and enable the huge pieces – like the Mantegna ‘Triumph of Caesar’ – to be shown in a way that trumpets their magnificence.  Go quickly – it ends soon.     ...

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Textiles and prints : layers of colour

Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Discussion | 0 comments

Textiles and prints : layers of colour

Life is complicated. Illness makes it more so.  Although everyone dreads illness, few are able to empathise.  I have been working on a survey for lupus UK with some academic colleagues from Hull. We are trying to find out more about the impact of SLE (lupus)  on the ability to work and to find solutions to the very real difficulties.  SLE is like a tiger stalking you all the time, just out of sight, then springing out and attacking you. Low level tension continuously then sudden bursts of fear and pain.  First SLE is unpredictable – you never know where you are on the continuum of health and illness. If you are feeling good you are never quite sure how long it will last – you hope it will last for ever but know that a spurt of cytokines, a collection of microbes an overdose of sun and your immune system is on the go again.  Lupus hides,  it is invisible. No-one knows (or possibly believes) you are ill unless you actually fall over. Fatigue is a major symptom. Everyone thinks they know what it is like to be tired – they do, that is not fatigue. Fatigue does not improve with rest and yet infiltrates activity, making it eventually impossible. You need to rest but do not feel better for doing so. This survey is already helpful. It has shown that many of us with LUPUS feel these things. Where does art come in? It probably sounds daft to say that creativity can help  overcome illness.  At times it is impossible for me to create anything at all.  The physical side of creativity is rarely discussed but it is of major importance to me. A limiting factor. It is hard work being in a studio and trying to finish something.  This image is a screen print onto cloth. It is the sort of image I return to again and again. Layers of colour – tangled up with each other. Areas with two colours, no colours, one colour one on another.  Like the layers of LUPUS....

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Textiles and Prints; both at Matisse in the Studio

Posted by on Sep 20, 2017 in Discussion, Exhibitions, News | 0 comments

One thing you must do this autumn – sunlight and inspiration Make sure you go to https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/matisse-in-the-studio – it’s a wonderful exhibition of an eclectic mix of artworks and the objects that inspired them.      Jonathan Jones, writing for The Guardian  said the exhibition was less about art and more about the creative process (as if this was a fault). For me, and anyone else studying art, it makes it even more important to see it not once but many times. Mr Jones felt that the exhibition amounted to ‘genius crowded out by bric a brac.’   As a lover of bric-a-brac myself this would also be an attraction – a genius’ s bric-a brac collection, what could be more appealing? It is so much more – Matisse’s beloved object that he carried around throughout his life and with which he populated his studio – old friends themselves- are transformed into some of his most famous works.  Laura Cumming describes it much better for me – ‘a few of his favourite things’ ….’reused, reworked, transformed into new phrases and poems’ To  see how much-loved possessions, everyday things,  that Matisse had lived with and had studied  over many  years were transformed into great inspiring art that has come to be part of our lives. The creative process is in some ways a mystery to be entered into rather than understood. Some feel it can never be understood. I have now worked with two artists at West Dean – Sarah MacCrae (jeweller and silversmith) and Kate Boucher – who both use processes to work through an idea and develop it into the beginning of a finished artwork.  Both suggest taking an image, then concentrate on one area and then working into it. Perhaps drawing it twice as large, or half as big, drawing it upside down. The image then becomes yours and you make choices about...

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Art in Verona: not a print in sight.

Posted by on Sep 9, 2017 in Discussion | 0 comments

Visited the Torre dei Lamberti today  – a wonderful climb to spectacular views over Verona. I cannot think of any tall building of today, built with many more aids to design and construction, that matches it for beauty and grandeur. There are so many of these astounding buildings in Italy (think Siena) – this one essentially built to show off the wealth and power of one family.  Trying to work out what it is that makes it so imposing and yet attractive is harder than it should be. There is its age (started in 1172)  the warmth and solidity of the brick work, which alternates with tufa. This is a soft porous rock, a limestone, made of calcium carbonate which was supplanted by travertine or marble in many later Italian buildings. It is reassuring and magnificent at the same time.  A work of art that is part of the fabric of every life.  It was added to over many years and houses two great bells, the Rengo and Marangona, which regulated city life.  You can look out over the city, orientating yourself with ease, the Via Mazzini, the Via Stella, the station in the distance. The ancient part blending well with the newer areas over the river.  We came down from the Tower and climbed the great gothic staircase, the, Scala della Ragione, (stairs of reason)  to the Palazzo della Ragione, which houses the new gallery of modern art.  The buildings around it are so ancient that I wondered what modern would mean – but it was a very interesting exhibition in stunning surroundings. Light and airy and with plenty of space giving the exhibits – paintings and sculptures – room to be seen at their best.  It made me ask what makes an artist become famous all over the world, a household name – so many of these were distinguished but not widely known.  It was also clear how important art was to the modern Italians to express the tensions, the horrors, the joys of becoming a nation and then being asked to ‘return to order’ during the second world war.  ‘The Manifesto del Realism di Pittori e Scultura’  (The Manifesto of Realism in Painting and Sculpture.’) was a protest against this and Emilio Vendova an important voice in the idea that art was part of protest and politics.  In times of turbulence and violence art is part of the debate. ...

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