Monday, 26 September 2011

Wax maquette

This week I tried out modelling wax over an armature made from wire, wood and bubble wrap padding.

Lovely medium to work with, yay! This little horse is about 200 mm high. He is watching his human friend (not modelled!) hence the rather hesitant and focussed stance.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

To the new film of John Le Carre's famous spy thriller. Beautifully made film with great atmosphere and psychology. I particularly enjoyed the totally accurate recreation of the drab feel of London in the 1970s. Though it did not feel drab to those of us who lived through it, of course.

The photography is marvellous. I confess that I will have to read the book or watch film again to totally appreciate the plot.

Saturday morning in Stirling

A rather different scene this morning in my town - the annual Orange March. But much lighter in spirit than it used to be. I did not see any grim-faced men wearing orange sashes and bowler hats. All respect to them, but this was a chance for the young musicians to march to and fro through the streets cheering everyone up.

Sauchiehill Street, Glasgow

Cheerful moment in Sauchiehall Street last week with the sun and the feathers and the music.

Not shown: visit to Glasgow School of Art Library to search for books about Frink and Marini, both celebrated animal sculptors

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Small is much more beautiful

Returning to the scene of the sculptured horse today, I realise that very small pieces of netting coated in the resin mix work very much better than big chunks. Now I shall have to rasp or sand down all the sticking-out bits resulting from early attempts.

I am beginning to enjoy this way of working. Now I see the horse in a different way. He is becoming a bit more bulky and I am going to increase his "top line", in horsey parlance. At the moment I have just placed a strip of bubble wrap on his neck to see if it looks better. I definitely think it does, so I will work from that. He is an Andalusian breed of horse, and they have muscular necks.
When they are well trained and ridden, that is.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The strange logic of materials

I am using a new material to coat my horse sculpture and make it permanent. As it is made of wire and plaster it is fragile and needs this strong coating to preserve it.

But using this stuff is a completely new experience, with its own "logic" and texture. After the first application on part of the horse I came back 2 days later to find lumps and hard edges set rock solid. Well, that is what I want, ultimately, but in more controlled form!

o, the fibre content creates a special hair-like surface very like a horse's coat. And if I remove sections of fibre for any reason I find it pulls out like a horse's tail or mane.

It is a whole new relationship. I will have to be patient and listen. As Bernard Tschumi, the architect, remarks (and this is true for sculpture as well, I am finding):

"Architecture as the materialisation of forms not ideas. For me, the nature of materials is far more important than formal concerns. The materials introduce a new logic... construction is a form of constraint that is extraordinarily fertile for invention."

Monday, 12 September 2011

The 20% debate

This is not the place to air political views, nor do I have the expertise, but I cannot resist quoting Will Hutton in yesterday Observer in response to the current debate on tax for high earners (proposed reduction of): ..." the rich are part of society too... what really drives dynamic capitalism .. is .. the revolutionary urge to innovate and the deep plumbing of its institutions which aid or abet that effort... The framework which supports this costs money, and it is proper that the rich should contribute proportionally." Hutton, Forget the top rate of tax. We need a proper strategy for growth", Observer, 11.9.11

This makes sense to me.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Hunting the Snark

.. whatever that means. But I take it as the endless hunt for definition or feeling of completion or arrival. Such feelings can only be fleeting but satisfying anyway.

I am currently reviewing my time at art school, the memories of confusion and anxiety are terrifying, but that is as it should be when one is trying something new and/or different.

Meanwhile I am loving the three-dimensional things I am doing (see pictures - currently coating this piece with a resin that will make it more permanent!).
I am certainly a material person. Thanks to all those who have supported me in this.

Very sorry I have not got to visit anyone in Perth Open Studios this week. I remember how valuable it was when people came to see me in my studio during Forth Valley Open Studios during June.
There has just been such a lot of essential paperwork and forward organisation to do after Edinburgh Fringe and ahead of October break and Christmas season.

Damien Hirst's Pegasus

Damien Hirst has turned his attention to horses and created a huge sculpture of Pegasus. One side of the horse is flayed to show its anatomy, the other is white and perfect.

Hirst has done other dissection sculptures, notably of a male toy figure and a pregnant woman. I used to think his work pretentious and wrote an entire dissertation to this effect in my final year at Glasgow School of Art.

Now, 10 years late(r), I am beginning to get it. I also am fascinated by what lies under our skin and that of animals.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Where have the birds gone?

Suddenly hardly a bird in my garden. I so take for granted the constant flutter and movement and this morning I woke up and sensed.... nothing. Confirmed by session in garden this evening. Possibly a cat on the prowl, could even be my recent attempts at keeping garden a bit tidier. Also no bees, usually lavender and borage swarming with insects at this time of year. I hope birds return soon.

Postscript 10th September: They're back!! But there was a weird emptiness the other day.

PPS 15th September. I saw a cat in the garden. That's why they all went quiet.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The wonder that is uniqlo

This Japanese clothing company makes wonderful stylish and simple clothing. They can be found on, but at present their website is a bit overloaded because they are launching a new collection designed by Jil Sander. So it might be better to try after a few days.

I have bought heat tech vests from them and worn them practically everyday, winter and summer. For cold weather just layer them and you will be warm and feel comfortable.

They have many stores in London, perhaps other parts of UK too, and also a good on line service.

Twitter makes me want to cry - or being too honest in my blog

I am learning to try out social media, but am astonished at the immediate sense of intimacy with people I have never met, am never likely to meet, or even want to meet. Thinking to previous blog about Hoffmann, I feel that so much instant friending is totally false, it bypasses the way we relate to people through all important senses of hearing, vision, touch maybe, smell and sound. Such sensual information unconsciously helps us to relate to people. Neuroscientists say that our bodies make decisions before our brains are aware of it. I guess even the fact of taking this social media issue seriously also makes me rather sad.

Another vanity is the sense of equality with famous celebrities. I am now a follower of @Frankie Dettori. Soon I shall try @Cheryl Cole and, probably, @Prince William! But @Robert Peston was my very first choice and that brings me to the most important role of Twitter, that is as a source of information!!!

Zoe Williams of the Guardian writes about the absurdity of tweeting about David Walliams while watching him swimming down the Thames. "To borrow from Audrey Hepburn" she says "it is like drinking coffee through a veil" .. when nothing is "real" unless mediated via facebook and/or twitter! Though actually I myself prefer life as mediated through the "veil" of the printed word!

Malvina Hoffman

For more on this twentieth-century sculptor, who was a friend of the dancer, Anna Pavlova, go to and click on the link to her name, then scroll down to read "Can Sculpture Be Taught", for an inspiring read about art, skill and learning.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Edinburgh Book Festival

Andrey Kurkov (above) and A.D. Miller were speaking (26th August) about their recent novels, which are centred on contemporary Russia and Ukraine, and in particular the endemic corruption.

Kurkhov is a Russian now living in Ukraine. He spoke about his experiences as a writer under the Soviet regime and the need for undercover publishing. His new book,
The Milkman in the Night, is an absurdist novel about ordinary and poor people in Kiev trying to make their way in the world by extraordinary devices.

A.D. Miller is English and spent several years in Moscow as journalist for the Economist. His novel is called
Snowdrops, a misleadingly lyrical title. "Snowdrops" is actually the term used for the frozen bodies of homeless and other unfortunate people which emerge in the cities when the snow melts. The subject of his book is a young Englishman and his encounters with the corruption of Moscow and in particular two Russian women.

The discussion was chaired by a representative of the EBF, gave both writers the opportunity to read short extracts from their books, and to talk about their personal experiences and their impressions of the Moscovian and Ukrainian society. The discussion was delightful, very witty, anecdotal but full of knowledge and experience. Both loved Russian literature, compared their thoughts about Dostoyeysky, Gogol, Babel and others. A real treat. It is impossible to convey how very enjoyable and refreshing this evening was.

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Above, one of my best photographs (ever) from this week's visit to Beamish Open Air Museum, Co. Durham. It happened to be a special day, coinciding with a Steam Festival.

Martin Creed's famous marble steps

Conceptual artist Martin Creed, formerly best known for the Amazing On and Off Lightbulb Experience at Tate Britain, which won him the Turner prize, has gone very material with this reconstruction of an iconic flight of Edinburgh steps. Each step is a different kind of marble (I hope I am correct in that, it is what looks like), and that is saying something, for there must be about 60 steps and 4 or 5 landings. Best viewed wet through whatever cause - well, there are quite a few pubs round about as well as a lot of wet weather.

Ingrid Calame

This interesting artist from USA is showing at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. I really liked her ideas and her work because she uses random found markings from the street, any street, anywhere, traces them, overlays them, and creates drawings and paintings from them. The photo here is a large scale piece, not entirely typical of her work, but I liked it.
Speaking if her working methods, Calame remarks that she thinks, "but thinking not like thoughts more like experiences"

Hiroshi Sugimoto

I went to see the work of this wonderful Japanese photographer in Edinburgh this week. The main part of the exhibition was a spectacular series of "light drawings" made by generating electrical discharges onto film. Sugimoto uses a Van den Graff generator with a discharge wand of 400000 volts to create the "artificial lightning". The question he asks is: "Are these artworks or primal lifeforms?"

He also experimented with very old negatives, 160 years old, by the first photographer, Fox Talbot, and enlarged them greatly. The results (no image available here as light too low in gallery and I was photographing surreptitiously anyway) were ghostly portraits of long gone people, much more haunting than the developed photograph would be. Of these works, he says they express "inner phenomena that painting cannot depict".

Sugimoto is known for photographing architecture. Of modernism, he approvingly says that the abandonment of superfluous decoration was a great step. He photographs modernist masterpieces such as La Savoie by Corbusier with a very soft focus, finding that "superlative architecture survies the onslaught of blurred photography". I will add a photo here at some point. I have his book of architectural photographs.

He did a series of portraits from the wax figures in Madame Tussauds. Only one example was shown here as part of his earlier work. The wax maquette of Henry VIII was meticulously based on Holbein's contemporary painting. Here is Sugimoto's translation, apologies for the blurred and snatched photo, already small.

The new religion

It's official! Spotted in my town.

But I know it is not a joke and that there is a huge housing shortage especially for first timers. But this is a bit blatant.