Sunday, 27 March 2011

George Shaw

I made a special trip to Newcastle in March to see these paintings. I knew they were about lost spaces of suburbia, the unacknowledged environments which form the background to so many lives. I was not disappointed. I very much enjoyed this large exhibition of richly coloured paintings, full of intensity and atmosphere.

Shaw paints the estate in Coventry where he grew up. He left to study art, then gave it up for some years before returning to study at Royal College in London, and since then he has been photographing the Tile Hill estate and making photo-realist paintings using Humbrol paint intended for model making.

George Shaw Ash Wednesday

The paintings are
a reworking of his teenage years, a time when feelings are intense and where the most ordinary places accumulate strong meanings.

Shaw explores the suburban street, the bus stop, the garage doors, the school playground, the path in the woodland, the banal landscape. Estates such as Tile Hill were planned with a benign agenda and assumptions about how people wish to live. Shaw subverts these assumptions by hinting at the ways in which the inhabitants actually use such places in unanticipated ways and at how these places become haunted by intense emotion.

In comparison, the city is highly charged and we are carried along by its energy, which disperses memory and is less stagnant than the suburbs. A rural area is accepting of the land and the rhythms of creation and destruction. There is a kind of deathliness and sterility about the suburbs which makes these paintings and the emotions they evoke so poignant.

George Shaw has recently (5th May, 2011) been nominated as a contestant in this year's Turner Prize.

Day out in Newcastle upon Tyne

Thrilled to step through the monumental station doors into the vibrant city which is Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Passed old old building, which once, long ago, gave a clear view of the Tyne up and down stream. This was a ship owner's house, and is known as Bessie Surtees house, after his daughter, who famously eloped
through a small window in the front room.

I also came across the kittiwakes busily and very noisily nesting under the Tyne
bridge. This is a famous tradition and the birds travel here every year.

Spectacular engineering of the Tyne Bridge, and the slightly more contemporary Millennium bridge at Gateshead! This echoes curve of the Tyne Bridge but is built to open and allow shipping through.

After a visit to Baltic Art Gallery, the main reason for my visit (please see different blog for the painter George Shaw), I went up into the city and happened upon the clothes exhibition, "Primitive Streak" by designer Helen Storey and her scientist sister. Fabulous and fascinating, but sadly no time to visit as I had to get train back to Scotland. Not before spotting the ever-present and fabulous inflatable prawn in city centre.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Creativity and Les Freres Guisse

This week making work for British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate (see events page of my website if you are interested). I am dyeing and printing strips of cloth for scarves. I have done this for nearly 30 years and it is still a huge pleasure. Energy and ideas flow so easily, the delight in using liquid dye in brilliant transparent colours (unlike sticky expensive paint!), the smell of the alginate thickening paste and the freshly washed fabric - all a delight.

I know, however, that I can only enjoy this because I have other projects goi
ng on, projects which are more challenging and even threatening for me, but let's face it, more interesting. When it comes to making "art" of whatever variety, the whole process is different from dyeing the fabrics. The purpose of the work is different, so is its ultimate use. I totally cannot work in the same free way.

The only way in which I can recapture the play and delight and freedom is through long long processes of intellectual work or some other form of extreme
rigour. This seems to shut my guilty and intrusive left brain (which says making art is somehow "wrong") down (or up), and allows the free energy to flow. Hurrah!

Professor Norman Crowe in his book "Visual Notes for for Architects and Designers" describes how the process of looking and of drawing has the same effect. It silences the logical mind somehow and allows the artist or architect to go beyond the observations and create his or her own interpretation.

I thought of all
this the other night while watching a live performance of a wonderful group of musicians from Senegal, Les Freres Guisse. The drummer in particular was a true artist, creating intricate sounds and rhythms in a way that felt very free and natural. But each of them was brilliant. The sounds of this group are soft, rhythmic and poetic but really dynamic and complex too. Very special.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Danmark - hvor det sker!

Denmark - where it's at!

I have been catching up on iPlayer for past two weeks with the brilliant Danish crime thriller "The Killing". Star Sophie Grabol (above) as detective Sarah Lund, with some very impressive support.

I love the setting in Copenhagen, the grand city centre, the grungy settings of warehouses and docks, the insights into how Danish people live their lives, what they wear, how they interact with each other, what their homes are like. I also enjoy the amazing power the CID seem to have, they apparently think nothing of stopping a plane on the runway or suspending fresh water supplies for 24 hours while they search the canal system.

But today I have been grieving for Lund's colleague, Meyer, who was murdered in Episode 18. It had to be coming, he was such a devoted family man, and so human.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Equine touch

Equine Touch is a technique of vibrating muscle and soft tissue in the horse which relaxes and gives relief to tension and rebalances the body. It was developed by Jock Ruddock in Scotland, and was originally derived from Bowen technique, though it is different from this.

I was lucky enough recently to meet Jock's wife, Ivana, in a special demonstration of horse anatomy. Ivana is a vet and she dissected a horse over a period of 3 days. As an emotionally involved horse lover, I was apprehensive of this experience, but I had been looking at anatomy from an artist's point of view and I very much wanted to take this opportunity.

The dissection was a fascinating experience. I have owned horses and to know more about what is going inside them was extremely interesting. In fact, it had implications for all mammals, including, of course, humans. The body is an intricate miracle of bones, muscles, tendons and nerves, as well as organs and digestive system. In the horse the latter system is literally gigantic.

I have even greater respect for the horse and its body after this, as well as far more understanding about, for example, the "stay" mechanism (whereby horse can lock its stifle joint and save muscle power. Ivana showed us exactly how this works. There were so many other things she told us and showed us, and it will take me time to recollect.

I took many photographs. The group was mainly composed of ET practitioners and students, and Ivana took care to label the main muscles as she proceeded. I do not want to upload any of my photos in case readers of this blog find it distressing.
In any case my iPhone does not always agree with google :( so that I cannot get pictures right way however much I try!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Bartabas, the horses and Butoh

Ko Murobushi


A few weeks ago I read an artic
le about the equestrian artist Bartabas. I was fascinated by his beliefs in the nature of the horse and how our relationship with him is a partnership. Bartabas is based in Versailles, close to Paris. There he trains his horses according to his principles.

Recently he collaborated with Ko Murobushi, a Japanese practitioner of the art/discipline known as Butoh.
This movement began in Japan after the second World War as a reaction against traditional forms of dance and theatre in Japan. It was essentially subversive, associated with grotesque images and decay. Its founder, Hijikata, was influenced by European writers such as Genet and Artaud and by the Japanese writer Mishima. It seems also to be about putting the body under such extreme pressure that it can access a different kind of energy, and even relate to the beings of animals. As Hijikata said, "The tendency I speak of involved extricating the pure life which is dormant in our bodies".

Bartabas wanted to find out if he could teach his horses to "empty out himself and his energy before he starts to move". He taught the horses over 2 years to breathe differently and to become very calm and focussed. He said that when successful he was able to give the horse freedom to be more himself without so much reliance by the trainer on traditional techniques.

I saw Bartabas
and Murobushi perform at Sadlers Wells theatre in London recently in "The Centaur and the Animal". The stage floor was covered in a bed of sand and the horses moved silently on stage. Horse and rider related to the solo butoh performance by Murobushi. This was an extraordinary display of control and expression. Bartabas finished the work by riding one of his horses in a beautifully fluent display of dressage. But mostly he was riding with no bridle.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Red Nose Day 18th March 2011

This is how Newcastle upon Tyne celebrated!