Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Cannot believe I have reinvented myself

Is it possible that I am effectively speaking "techno" in digital stores and, what is more, actually taking product, going home and working through all the glitches either on my own or with assistance from experts in Southern India or the Philippines (to name but two). Well, it has taken me long enough to move from a state of total panic to something like confidence. The solution is there, just wait a while and all becomes clear.

Great to meet a creation such as the iPhone which sings out "use me, have fun and pleasure in all you do" (thanks, Apple). Goodbye to the Kindle e reader, acessible in more stylish form on iPhone, hello to portable netbook (sadly not another Apple product, maybe one day).

Not to say that this revolution in communication is the answer to everything, of course not, we are still bundles of irrational needs and emotions. It is just a medium. But (maybe I am sad) what a thrill to talk to people the other side of world and have them sort out your computer even if it takes an hour (their call). It is thrilling to be part of this huge change in human experience. I believe robots are next - but not just yet.

I like this too ...

Art Spiegelman, cartoonist, explains his working method:

".He is so paralysed by the pressure of creating the perfect sketchbook that he prefers to draw while on the phone, on Post-It notes or envelopes, which he usually throws away. If he is drawing on a newspaper scrap, it is easier to shut down the left side of the brain, so the right side is free to move around: he won't know what the drawing is until it is finished".

From : "The curse of the 5000 lb mouse" Angelique Chrisafis in Guardian, G2, 11.06.09

Sunday, 26 December 2010

"Every good work must be ruined"

I like this:

Finnish architect Marco Casagrande writes in 1.1 Architects Build Small Spaces (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, August 2010)

"First I design and then I ruin my own design. Ruin is when man-made has become part of nature. Every good work must be ruined.

When the ruin happens, control gives up so that nature can step in. This point is where the stories begin. Accident is greater than human control. Accident is nature. Architecture is a living thing."

Is this partly what Robert Smithson means when he refers to buildings and places "rising up into ruins"?

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Happy Christmas

My kind of Santa
- with thanks to Hermes
, Paris

Happy Christmas to everyone!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Ai Wei Wei

A few weeks ago, Alan Yentob profiled the Chinese dissident artist, Ai Wei Wei in the "Imagine" series (BBC1). Wei Wei has up until now been mainly known in the West for his part in designing the famous "Bird's Nest" stadium at the Beijing Olympics (together with Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron) but he works in many other media, such as ceramics, jewellery and sculpture.

Wei Wei was deeply affected by the cultural revolution. His family was exiled and made to live in poverty until the death of Mao in 1976. Wei Wei then left for his “home”, New York, and remained there for 14 years. He was strongly influenced by the conceptual art of Warhol and Duchamp.

He returned to China after the protests of Tiananmen Square in 1989, and as a political and avant-garde artist in the repressive state of contemporary China he is a target for the authorities. In 2008, for example, he sustained life threatening injuries from police following an art work he made which exposed the true extent of the losses in the Sichuan earthquake.

Wei Wei depends greatly on the internet and on feeds such as blogs and Twitter to keep in touch with the global culture. He regards this as a cultural space in which it is possible to clearly express who you are and to fight for your rights. These are fundamental for any artist, he says -
Only when art has connection to ordinary feelings or commonsense does it become most powerful”

It is interesting to compare him with Damien Hirst (see recent blog "Playing to the galleries"). They live in totally different societies and have completely different backgrounds, but both are hugely successful conceptual artists, working on an often spectacular scale. But Wei wei is a political artist with an avant-garde background and agenda.
.It can't be right that art has to depend on the market. Liberty is what makes art unique”.

Hirst comments elegantly on decay and the presence of death, a great taboo in the consumerist Western society. He is subversive in this sense but operates within the market, as his comments make clear. Art for him seems to be partly a business.

Wei Wei's famous project currently at Tate Modern comprises 100 m porcelain sunflower seeds made in the traditional way from the finest clay. First the white seed-shapes are fired in moulds, then, once painted, they are fired again. They are indistinguishable from the genuine article. The process took two and a half years and involved a team of 1600 people.

Wei Wei wants everyone to interpret the installation individually, but obviously it can be seen as a comment on China's history, both ancient and modern. During the revolutionary period the sunflower was the symbol for Mao's power and its seeds were, ironically, all that many people had to eat. Even the vast total is only one sixteenth of China's population.

To see this programme try copying and pasting:

Snow crazy

Still stuck here in the snow. Even the few hundred yards that separate my house from a navigable road is proving to be a formidable barrier. An underground water waste pipe burst und
er the ice and turned the road into a kind of glacier experience, covered with large uneven chunks of ice, lethally smooth sheets and narrow grooves formed by brave drivers.

I have not been able to get to workshop for nearly a month now.
I am just hoping the thaw arrives soon.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Playing to the galleries

Hilary Spurling, famed biographer of Matisse, has written a review of Bridget Riley's new exhibition at the National Gallery in London. As a contemporary and friend of Riley, she understands the impact of this “op-art”, as it was then known, on a hidebound and traditional British art scene of the late 1950s.

Riley's work, which is about perception, the optical and dynamic interaction of painting and viewer, became immediately famous, and appropriated commercially. “We'll have you on the back of every matchbox in Japan” said the trustee at New York MOMA in 1965, year of group show “The Responsive Eye”.

Riley was horrified by the way her work had been exploited, but Spurling points out that her paintings had in fact touched a nerve and reflected a shift in ways of seeing, a new collaboration between artist and viewer. “One moment there will be nothing to look at and the next second the canvas suddenly seems to refill, to be crowded with visual events” (Bridget Riley).

Spurling compares Riley with the late Matisse, who aimed “to clarify, liberate and restore to painting its central emotional charge”. “My aim is to make people feel alive” says Riley.

What first caught my attention in this article was a quote about Damien Hirst and his bemusement at the notion of “art for art's sake”, rather than considering how work could be marketed via the commercial galleries. There would appear to be a greater integrity in art made in isolation, but this may be misleading. Artists, unless they have private means, have always depended on patronage of different kinds
, and interaction with others is usually central to making successful or pivotal art . I think of groups such as the Impressionists and the Salon des Refuses, or Die Brucke in Germany, or indeed the YBAs.

Commercial galleries are a contemporary form of patronage, and the work remains, as ever, a fabulously expensive luxury. Yet through the media it becomes an accessible part of our culture. But it is impossible to imagine Lucian Freud worrying too much about the commercial gallery. Maybe painting is a more private and reflective activity. Hirst famously has said that he always wanted to be a painter but lacked the ability and confidence, so he started making installations instead.

I was reminded of a comment by Pacheco at "The Sacred Made Real" exhibition of Spanish sculpture and paintings last year at the National Gallery. She thinks that painting draws the spectator in, whereas sculpture comes out and meets the viewer.

Copy and paste link: (


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A poem about kindness


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems


No comment needed

My cottage this afternoon

Monday, 6 December 2010

More snow

I braved the elements
once again today. It was a pleasure once I was safely wrapped up and going. The whole environment was transformed and all sense of time lost. Please copy and paste this link to see more!

Any Human Heart - best moment

I am watching this adaptation of William Boyd's novel on Channel 4. It is an informal romp through twentieth-century history, and the acting is superb.

The best moment so far was Gloria's (Kim Cattrall) memory of spending her last shilling on violets rather than a sandwich, "because she would always remember the violets but forget the sandwich immediately".

I love this idea that common sense, although pretty useful, is not always the best way!

Monday morning

This is the scene this morning - at least 6 inches of snow fell silently and unexpectedly overnight. Now I am really stuck here, do not relish wading through the drifts to go anywhere!

Plus car broke down yesterday, now it is stranded along the road.

So - no chance of getting to studio anyway! And
it looks as though the show this weekend is a write-off.

At least it is, hopefully, not life threatening, but
I worry for the wild birds.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

It's so nice to come home..

but it's even nicer to go out.

At last I braved the elements in my car today. Some time was needed for thorough de-icing so that I could see where I was going! The hero of the hour for this proved to be my steam kettle (see above). It did a brilliant job of clearing the windscreen and the wipers.

Once on the road, I did feel a bit vulnerable, especially right out in the middle of nowhere. I had to park the car at a farm and walk about a mile along a snowy and slippery track to the workshop. I have these fear thresholds, I kept thinking of what would happen if .... but then, what are mobiles for?

It was spectacularly beautiful out there in the valley, I saw hare tracks, a deer and a great cluster of crows gathering, and the trees and hedges and mountains looked so fine. The Clydesdale filly at the farm ran through the snow with excitement. Unfortunately no camera with me. Once I got to the barn, however, EVERYTHING was frozen solid, even the medium I use for my dyes. Fortunately I rustled up some hot water by boiling snow in the kettle and managed to do a bit.

Great sense of achievement to get out and back safely in these conditions. For me, too much domestic time becomes very stifling - and there has been quite a bit this week due to weather conditions. According to the new programme "At Home with the Georgians" (bbc2 iplayer) the home was definitely the pinnacle of aspiration of people in eighteenth century Britain. It was a status symbol and also, in practical terms, the only way to achieve a comfortable existence.
Thank goodness we have more options these days.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Serious weather and serious temptation

Very beautiful but .... I have not dared to venture out with the car since S
unday, and it is now Friday evening. Today we got post first time for a week. Fortunately it has been a chance to (almost literally) get dug in and finish my year's paperwork.

To let off steam, I have been negotiating on amazon for an iPad, the great must-have, but have been encountering scams and too-good-to-be-true priced items, which just turned out to be a way of obtaining personal e mail addresses. So, still no iPad, and none in sight for now.

I want to and need to get to my workshop, but as it is way out in the valley I need to be sure I am not going to get stuck in a snow storm, and marooned for the night or worse! Today I dug out the car, so hope for good conditions tomorrow.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Another year - Mike Leigh's latest film

This was such an acute film, and beautifully made.

It is the story of a year in the life of a couple in their sixties, kind, happy and devoted to each other. Both are professionals and live in London, far from their Lancashire roots. They are extraordinarily kind to the more inadequate people around them, offering constant support and hospitality. They worry about their only son, a lawyer with Citizens Advice, as he seems to have no permanent relationship.

Everything changes when the son meets someone and brings her home. The friends suddenly become "pathetic" and "tragic" and the subject of rolling eyes and stage whispers. There is a breathless and anxious moment when the confident and feisty new girlfriend tells them about her own parents (her father is a postman) and then tells them that she herself is an occupational therapist.

The gap between generations is brilliantly portrayed, the friend in the middle a lost soul seeking for identity through acceptance as a girlish and helpless woman, at last in the final frame seeming to realise that this role is false, and her friends are adults for whom close family relationships will always come first. And that perhaps she herself has much greater value and strength than she had realised.

I interpret this film as a comment on contemporary Britain and its increasing inequalities, where family and aspiring middle class values become more important than recognising that we are ultimately all individuals with varying needs and levels of vulnerability and sensitiveness. A wider sense of community is lost, and many people fall through the gaps.
Furthermore, since the credit squeeze, there is now a gap between aspiration and reality for almost everyone.

The film also touches on the way we sometimes mask our own needs by helping others, and on how destructive this can be.

Tuition fees - John Sutherland's views

Professor John Sutherland of University College London writes in Education Guardian about the confused or just plain wrong thinking behind the rise in the tuition fees to £9,000 per year.

He points out that cadets at Sandhurst actually get paid to attend because of course the army has a discernible political role. The same could be said for subjects such as medicine or science and degrees in these subjects. The financial investment in such subjects is almost certain to yield high returns.

This is not so obvious in the case of arts degrees, the benefits of which are more subtle and longer term. Rising fees will deter students, whatever the government claims. Also the more expensive a degree and the more commercial the approach to education, claims Sutherland, the more the nature of education is corroded. The student becomes a customer and demands a good degree rather than a good education.

The danger to underfunded and under-valued arts courses is that they will lose their rigour and educational value. Financial considerations will become paramount, and good academics will distance themselves from the teaching process in order to preserve any sense of meaning and integrity.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Human kindness

To continue the snow saga, it duly snowed early this morning and I did not know how I was going to get into Edinburgh. Snow too deep for my car, and I was wondering whether I could carry a large if empty suitcase a mile through snow to the station. By a miracle, a UPS driver appeared (on Sunday morning 8.30!) to deliver parcel to neighbours and he kindly took me down to the town.

Then a long wait, two hours, as I just missed one train, and the next one was an hour late. Much commiseration and exchanging of experiences among the stranded. People were concerned about missing connections, some gave up altogether and went home. Not an option for an extended Nigerian family who had come to Stirling to celebrate the graduation of a young woman (Master of Science) and accompany her back to Nigeria. I was interested to hear more about Nigeria and Lagos and about the new capital that has been built.

Managed to get to Edinburgh by 12.30, but all pretty quiet at the show due to dreadful state of city pavements in the snow. A friend agreed to take my stand home in her car once her husband had managed to get into town through 12" of snow in his village. I packed everything else in my trusty Poundstretcher maxi-case and headed for station.

There I managed to drop my return ticket under the train, but the train driver kindly gave me a reference both to the conductor and to the people on ticket barrier in Stirling, so I did not have to pay extra. How kind was that? Finally, my taxi driver, who had parked at the bottom of the little driveway here to avoid getting stuck in snow, carried my heavy suitcase right up to my front door, carefully placing in a dry place on the step.

So a mixed day. Mostly positive. I enjoyed being in my home patch after experiences in London and Newcastle, and catching up with friends and acquaintances.

This is not my usual blogging style, but the snow does something to me, creates a sense of helplessness and insecurity.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Back on home turf

To the cinema last night, to see "Winter's Bone", a film about a bleak backwoods community probably in Appalachians, USA. A young woman is threatened with the loss of her home and the care of her younger brother and sister (as well as her sick mother). She needs to contact her father or prove his death to avoid losing her property, and the story is about her search for him as she approaches members of the local community, most of them with a secret to hide.

I found the movie most inspiring because of the courage of the hero in the face of prejudice and bullying and powerful criminal vested interests and because of the respect she eventually gains.

When I left the cinema around 10 pm I was dismayed to find small ominous sparkly flakes of frosty snow falling. This usually indicates more serious stuff is on the way, and so it proved around midnight. I had to drive into the city this morning for a fair and spent most of the night awake wondering whether to repack my stock and take a taxi/train, or whether to hold on and drive in.

I did the latter, but I was in the minority. The motorway was restricted to one lane and for several miles I did not see another car. Everyone was doing around 50 mph, most unusual. In Edinburgh the pavements were slippery with ice.

But it was good to see the local craftworkers and have a blether. And I got home safely, though the back road up to my cottage was still covered with snow. I am now debating what to do tomorrow morning, as it is a two day show! Not a taxi to be had, so if forecast snow falls overnight I shall have to walk to station with empty suitcase and collect my things in that when show finishes.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Will power or inspiration?

Alan Bennett writing about Auden and Benjamin Britten in his play "The Habit of Art" discusses what this habit means - "the need to sit down and work every day, even the muse has gone walkabout". Bennett says that will power is more important than talent:
"Talent you can dispense with, but not will. Will is paramount, not joy, not delight, but grim application. Without grim application you get nowhere, but one would like to think one has more than that"

Comforting words
. But I don't think there is anything wrong with like some joy and delight as well!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

And more..

This weekend I was in outer London, near Kingston-upon-Thames, at the Landmark Christmas craft fair. A long way to go, but I wanted to explore a different part of the country. I knew the area slightly from teenage and early
twenties, so many memories.

I travelled there with my stock on public transport, so it was a tight fit to get everything in and
still reasonably portable. I used a basic concertina clothes drier for the display (this is just visible in the photo). It all worked well! I only forgot a mirror, but I found one in Kingston.

The fair was held in a old Victorian Gothic church (now an arts centre) near the Thames river at Teddington Lock.

Catching up

It has been an extremely busy time, much travelling to north of England and way beyond, and no time for blogging. Something like normal service resuming and today I was at Printmakers Studio in Edinburgh. Cleaned off my lithography stones but also need time to regroup in mind body and soul, so left it at that. Pleased to see that my two lithographs submitted were both in the Christmas exhibition. Pace my classical followers!

Pythia 1 Pythia 2

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

This is it

My, how this lifts the spirits. I saw this film on the big screen a few months ago, loved it because of the music and dancing and the creative rapport of a talented team. Now, how strange, it is as though I am watching it for the first time, seeing it differently.
Loving it again for the passionate involvement of the players, especially for the fabulous and sensitive and dynamic rhythm of MJ and his dancers and singers. Perhaps there is less poignancy now and we can just appreciate and enjoy.

On a different note, I also enjoyed the move, The Social Network, very different but exciting too.
A young man, Mark Zuckerman, with a big idea (Facebook) plucked from almost nowhere, follows his vision to the stratosphere.

On an even more different note, I have been watching Downton Abbey on ITV. Well acted, beautifully photographed and well written saga of Edwardian Britain. Echoes of this society still exist even in modern Britain, in my opinion, even just in folk memory. Maggie Smith holds the stage/screen with amazing presence.

But how far we have come in 100 years. In 1914 women had little overt freedom or opportunity, and the majority of the population, both male and female, had little choice or education, and their limited prospects depended on the approval of their live-in employers - or on that of draconian factory managers.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow

Lead books, Installation in Berlin, German

I have been to a documentary film about the
German artist Anselm Kiefer. He has lived for nearly 20 years in Barjac, southern France, and worked in a huge space, a derelict silk factory.

The film silently journeys through this space, the excavations under the building, the outside area and installations, and the huge painting studio. There is then a sequence of Kiefer working with his team of assistants, in the studio and the grounds.

His paintings are on a massiv
e scale, perhaps 6 x 10 metres or more, and are moved about on specially constructed free-standing trolleys. No holds are barred, the canvasses, already deeply scarred and textured, are laid horizontal, covered by roughly thrown paint or plaster or glue, followed by a layer of soil or dust. The canvas is then replaced to replaced to vertical and shaken hard "once". Some of this new texture remains.

Gallery in Berlin, Germany, showing a sculpture and painting by Kiefer in the background.

Kiefer is also a sculptor, working with different scales and materials. He m
akes relatively small wooden objects such as boats or submarines, which are moved by crane to sit against the canvasses. He has a fascination with lead, which is apparently quite instable on a molecular level and changes shape over time, for example in old cathedral roofs. Kiefer makes huge lead books, actual books with pages that turn. Sometimes these are incorporated into the paintings, sometimes they are an independent sculpture.

He also uses the earth as a mat
erial. In the film large earthmoving machinery scoops masses of soil or subsoil from one location to another, sometimes covered with liquid lead.

He has an apocalyptic vision, hence the title of this film, and is f
ascinated by ruins and destruction, and fragments of once great and strong buildings. One exterior installation is inside an enormous glasshouse. It consists of twisted steel girders and huge crumbling and broken chunks of concrete.

He also makes precarious almost toppling towers (as in illustration above), which have a bleak rawness and desolate poignancy.

There is an interview in the film. This takes place in Kiefer's library, and the artist talks about his ideas, his fascination with the Bible (from which the title is taken), and the figure of Lilith, a biblical figure who inhabited ruins. He also disparages the mind as a minor and small area of consciousness, claiming that the whole body, at a cellular level, is far more dominant than we know. Blood has almost the same composition of sea water, this reflects our origin and explains our deep longing for water and the sea.

He says that boredom is a place where we can know ourselves. Children experience boredom, he says, and this is a blessing for them, but as adults we try to escape from it. He quotes an essay by Heidegger on this subject.

Kiefer is strongly influenced by Joseph Beuys, with whom he studied, and by the writings of the Jewish poet, Celan. He is deeply affected by twentieth German history, and most of his work reflects this.

I had no idea of the range of his work until I saw this film. I was inspired by the physical energy and scale with which he works, and by the power of his subject matter. He is the same generation as myself, perhaps some of us are haunted by history.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Steam textile mill in Burnley, Lancashire

Two weeks ago, I was in Lancashire for a few days, and had the opportunity to discover some of the history of the local area, known as "Pendle".

Barnoldswick from hill, showing the last remaining mill chimney

Lancashire was famously one of the "cradles" of the industrial revolution in eighteenth and nineteenth century England
Many small towns, such as Barnoldswick, Colne and Burnley, had numerous large mills where cotton was woven and exported throughout the world. It is difficult to imagine now. These towns, surrounded by beautiful green hills, are quiet and the mill chimneys are gone, except for the occasional museum piece.

I had the privilege of visiti
ng the only remaining steam textile mill in the world, at Queen Street Textile Museum in Burnley. This mill is preserved intact, just as it was when it closed a few decades ago. It is a perfect example of how the huge boilers created steam for the engine room, which then powered a great wheel, whose energy was transmitted throughout the entire factory to power individual looms. The racket in these mills was literally deafening. Another visitor told me that her mother eventually became completely deaf from this work.

Boiler room

Detail of steam engine

Weaving mill

Tapestry Studio at Stirling Castle

Yesterday I visited the Tapestry Studio at Stirling Castle. This project, which is organised by West Dean Tapestry Studio in Sussex, is taking twelve years. The weavers in Stirling and Sussex are recreating, on a very slightly smaller scale, the famous Unicorn Tapestry series, now in Metropolitan Museum in New York. These works will hang in a recently restored part of Stirling Castle when completed, and some of them are currently on view in the Chapel.

Two weavers work on the loom all the time. They are responsible for making the drawing or "cartoon" which is located behind the upright loom and acts as a guide for the very precise work. They also make numerous small woven samples of particular details before they start on the main piece.

It is fascinating to watch as they recreate small flowers and animals and details of faces. Louise Martin, one of the weavers, tells me that all the yarn is specially dyed so that they get the exact colour.

A detail from one of the new hangings in Stirling Castle Chapel

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Coming up for air The Red Tree exhibition

"The Red Tree"
View from studio window

Busy month, no blog for several weeks. But now quite a bit to write about. Firstly, the exhibition for The Red Tree, which was last weekend, was a great success. Exhibitors were: May Chipulina, Catherine Froy, Libby Yule, Jose de Unamuno and myself.

Lots of people came and
some of us sold work.

Diana Hand

Jose de Unamuno

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Digital doldrums

I have taken time out to sort out my computer system and save my files. It is a Pandora's box and takes a long time.

It is a bit like cleaning a house, pretty boring, but
it makes me feel better afterwards, in this case to know that my files are safe. Not to mention the fact that I have found quite a lot of interesting stuff that I had completely forgotten about.

Working with the computer is so fast and intuitive. It can easily run away with you. So not a bad thing to go into slower left brain mode for a while. Maybe that is what my very sluggish laptop is telling me!

PS I have got the laptop back to perfect again, thanks to PC World emptying it out and starting afresh. I am all digi-ied out for now.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The poet Rilke

I am reading again "The Hare with Amber Eyes" (mentioned in previous blog July 2nd). The author, Edmund de Waal, writes about his grandmother, a law student in 1920s Vienna. She is also a poet and that is her deepest and lifelong passion. She corresponded with the German poet Rilke during this time and he tells her:

"I find the great contrast between your two occupations positive; the more diverse the life of the mind, the better the chances are that your inspiration will be protected, the inspiration which cannot be predicted, that which is motivated from within".

Humble though my own efforts are, I very well know the importance of protecting one's inner, miraculous and unexplainable self from the humdrum logic of commonsense and rationality

Another time, writing about Vienna, he says:

"Cities often feel things in anticipation, a paleness in the light, an unexpected softness in the
shadows, a gleam in the windows .... in my own experience only Paris and (in a naive way) Moscow absorb the whole nature of the spring into them as if they were a landscape..."

I know this feeling in cities, perhaps it is the result of so much human energy focussed in a restricted space.

I have been busy updating my website for the past and am still working on it, but this page from de Waal's book caught my imagination yesterday (p. 217).

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Suburban nights

Quiet evenings catching up in my garden. Accompanied by a soundtrack of pigeons cooing, neighbours mowing, and even a horse galloping in the field behind.

My neighbours' plum tree comes right over the fence, ripe for plucking! On the other side an apple tree is spectacular but out of bounds.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

It's only rock 'n roll but I like it, I like it ...

... up to a point.

All this week I have been travelling into Edinburgh and selling some of my textiles at the Festival Fringe Art Craft and Design Fair.

Good company, good weather and, vitally, good sales. But very tiring. Four days I drove into the city, sinc
e I needed to carry things around and get used to the set up. Yesterday and today I took the bus, but it was a rush. Everyone has been most friendly, and it is brilliant to meet a wide range of people and learn lots.

I spotted this installation outside a nearby church. The orange figures are not real people but dummies.

For me they
oke many associations, from helplessness and oppression to extreme violence.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Inception - the movie

At last I made time to go see this movie. Was it worth it? I think so, just for the mixed-up and over-lapping narratives which truly denote the wild irrational energy of the unconscious. Violence, upside down cities and architectural interiors, out-of-control driving, delusions and reality of love and passion - all aspects which tend to be marginalised from our conscious minds because of their power to disturb. "Which is the reality?" is a question frequently asked by the characters as they move between different states.

My favourite, gasp-inducing sequence came towards the end of the film, when de Caprio and the female lead return to a deep place in his mind, the place where he and his (now dead) wife had created a kind of eternal world. They built a great architectural landscape of skyscapers and other high buildings, now gradually being submerged under water and eroded by the sea, in the grand tradition of dreams. Among these super-modernist archi-scapes are also old, crumbling traditional houses and other buildings, which are the echoes of our deep childhood mind.

I have never seen this relationship between architecture/buildings (different things?) and our unconscious mind portrayed so wonderfully. I sat up and wanted to shout out loud in the cinema with recognition and delight I only wished that I had had my camera with me, though I probably would have been ejected from the cinema if I had used it.

Some things about the film I cared less for. In particular, the context of extreme power and wealth in which it was set, and also the frequent dramatic and very violent sequences. I suppose these aspects are an indispensable part of its commercial appeal, but the basic surreal message of the film might have been more effective had it been made in a more subtle way. I got bored sometimes with the overpowering special effects and speed, as well

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the film and its appeal to the imagination.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Horse drawings - traditional

Not much time for this at present. I did go to Gleneagles tonight because there was a dressage clinic there and I wanted to do some drawing. But when I got there at 8 it was very quiet and just finishing, so I came home and went on making the scarves for next week.

This is such a busy period, I am up until 11 each evening working. Hopefully I get a bit of slack at the show next week in terms of being able to sit down for a while- though obviously I do not want too much slack. No! no!

These are some quick charcoal studies based on a photo I took in Lisbon earlier in the year. The rider is teaching the horse a movement called "shoulder-in", I th
ink. I have tried to look at the figures from several different angles and in simple tones.

Edgar Degas "Hacking to the Track"
oil on canvas c. 1892

When I read about and look at the marvellous Degas horse drawings and paintings, I realise how very carefully he prepared his free-looking compositions. He consciously was NOT spontaneous in his approach. I decided to try and work in a few simple tones at first,which I might be able to build into colour and paint, rather than only making drawings.