Monday, 22 March 2010

Watercolour painting

Now the weather is a bit milder there is opportunity to do some "sketching" in the form of small watercolours. I usually do this while sitting in my parked car in the middle of the "carse" or valley after a session in the workshop.
The valley is a wide space, several miles wide, and very flat. It is bordered by hills and mountains.

The light and sky changes co
nstantly, particularly at this time of year. The fields and trees are still brown and pale green, the hills move from deep blue to misty brown and green. I love to try and capture the moment in colours and shapes. This is a simple pleasure indeed, and very personal. I work rapidly with the brush, and the results are usually soft and subtle. It is the "yin" side of my character finding an expression, I like to think. Whatever it might be, and even if it is uncool, I am thankful.

Photostencil (4)

The discovery of the photostencil system just continues to unfold.

Now I realise that I can make drawings as well as shapes, and use these drawings as prints, both on paper and on fabric. This opens up a new way of working, one which probably uses my abilities more appropriately.

Diana Hand Horse sketch on greaseproof paper

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Photostencil (3)

Crepe de chine silk printed with motif of my local town plan!
First fruit of the photostencil system.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Elin Jakobsdottir

This exhibition has been at Stills gallery, Edinburgh since November and finishes this weekend.
On my recent visits to Stills I have been captivated by the black and white film photographs in the main gallery, but today I made time to look more carefully.

The series of 24 photographs are "snapshots" of public places. I am particularly interested in this, see my work on the Parc de la Villette. Jakobsdottir uses the Tschumi method of a filmstrip to show her vignettes of life and place in everyday situations. Some of the photos show two people in silhouette facing different ways in Janus mode. Janus was the Roman god of thresholds and endings.

The catalogue claims that the photos are making the "familiar strange" in Surrealist mode. I am also intrigued very much by this concept, but I am not sure how it relates to the Janus idea For me the photographs work best as a whole piece glimpsed in passing, rather as they were indeed in motion. This way they do evoke a sense of place and loss and gain. They do remind me of the Manhattan Transcripts, with its random everyday movements and events in Central Park, for example.

More interesting for me in this exhibition was Jakobsdottir's fascination with making and process. She shows a video of two joiners constructing a peculiar sitting-up coffin-like "horse-box". This is in the exhibition and is beautifully and solidly made. The joiners not only carefully make the box but sit and lie in it, and then carry it down a street in Berlin. I liked the respect for the working people and their change into participants in the art project.

Another video showed a young boy drawing a plan of a house. This was absolutely engrossing. His tentative movements as he decided on the details of the plan, his physical and imaginative involvement in the process and his palpable sense of achievement was mesmerising to watch. An older man, possibly his grandfather, also drew a house plan. He was more skilled and could draw good straight lines without a ruler! His house was much simpler and less fun, though.

There was lots to think about from this exhibition, particularly the link I experienced to Tschumi, the interest in private and public moments and how they interweave, and also the emphasis on skill and the mind and body.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Bernard Tschumi's Parc de la Villette, Paris

Last week I made a quick trip to Paris - one night and one day - flying with Ryanair from Prestwick, I stayed in the 19th quarter in the north east of central Paris. This was traditionally an industrial area, and a focus of revolutionary action during the nineteenth century until the construction of Haussman's wide boulevards which prevented the barricading of narrow streets.

A canal link to the Seine still remains in use today for transport by barge. The quarter has mainly been "reclaimed" as a leisure facility. The old landing wharves on either side are now broad pavements planted with
trees. The mystery of why so many public areas in France are rough sandy spaces was solved for me when I saw groups of men playing "boules".

The purpose of my visit was to see at first-hand Tschumi's Parc de la Villette. I had been here 7 years ago, and it has changed, mostly because the trees and planting have grown and softened the Parc. The famous and outrageous bright red folies are now frequently obscured by branches.

Quite a few areas were closed. I wanted to explore the garden of bamboos, a kind of valley of 30 different species bamboo planned by Daniel Buren and others. It contains a sound tunnel with mini waterfalls and electric acoustic music, but this was not accessible. Other garden and play areas such as the garden of mirrors and the garden of shadows were open.

Behind the Parc a huge and dramatic building project was in action.

What were my impressions? The Parc de la Villette feels less radical now than it probably did 25 years ago. Softened by use and planting, its innovations, such as gardens planned by artists, and the raised walkway are part of the landscape architect's vocabulary.

One feature that remains as uni
que and unintegrated as ever are the folies. These have a wild crazy subversive feel which remains rooted in some kind of familiarity - is it machinery, sculpture, constructivist architecture or even toys? I like them very much. There is such humour in the way they appear all over the Parc sometimes built into other structures, sometimes freestanding, sometimes functional, sometimes completely afunctional.

This post to be continued and amended. Please click on link for complete set of photos on Flickr

Photostencil (2) and fabric printing

The light box

My first photo stencil!

I have got the photostencil set up to work. It is not hi-tech, and fine detail might take some practice to achieve, but the system works and greatly extends what I can do. It gives more scope for development than spontaneous mark-making. Mind and hand are linked.

This has not happened overnight and has taken me many years to accept. It is still foreign to me. I am more in tune with the Japanese belief in "the beauty and significance of touch", in the freshness and simplicity of lines and textures which in fact bypass the mind and link the chi of the body and soul to the page!
But the conceptual way is simply a different route. And when making sizeable lengths of cloth, working with the screen is less wearying than having to make every mark by hand, often with uneven results. Painting on fabric in such a way means dye mixture has to be quite liquid. It does not hold the dye so evenly. For printing, a much thicker mixture is necessary, and, Halleluiyah, this means that flat areas of colour remain even and as planned.

Fabric usually has a structure which makes free painting unsatisfactory. The only exception is very smooth finely woven silk. Textiles are three-dimensional in their structure and their use.