Travelling back in time to Ancient Greece this week, the children of the Storytelling and Art course heard about the many chimeric creatures that inhabit the myths: Minotaur, Satyr, Harpy, Sphinx, and Chimera. Inspired, they created their own hybrid monsters, cutting up old magazines to produce these fantastic collages.
For a few years, when the Kings Road Artists have had open studio days, I have visited, and always come away thinking how wonderful it would be to have a permanent space in a building dedicated to working artists. I was warned that spaces were much in demand and hardly ever became available, so I was more than ecstatic last week when I found out that a space had been allocated to me.
The studios were established in 1986, and the courtyard in which they are located has developed into an exciting space to hang out, with coffee, fresh bread, martial arts, and not forgetting Pipes Artisan Beer. There is also a farmer’s market every Saturday and regular craft and vintage markets, so I will have to be disciplined!
I think this is an important stage in my journey as an artist, as I can at last begin to properly develop my work. It feels like being able to breathe now that I have enough space to store my materials and to experiment without the inhibition of having to clean up after each session.
For now, I’m continuing with my textured pieces on reappropriated materials that have already ‘lived’ in a different form, building layers and scraping back to create a constant tension between destruction and creation.
Our workshop ‘Close Your Eyes and Sing: Expressive Painting,’ for the community arts festival, Made in Roath was a great success. More than fifty abstract works of art were created by individuals using the backs of old carpet tiles, and Picasso’s advice that ‘to draw you must close your eyes and sing’.
Our first participants were good on the eyes closed part, but struggled to think of song lyrics, and didn’t seem keen on just humming or la la-ing, despite much encouragement! We weren’t too strict about following the rules, and by Sunday most people were painting with eyes wide open, which produced slightly different, more controlled work, but overall there was no worrying about not being able to paint or draw, as everyone was willing to have a go at manipulating the paint.
I loved how the works were all so wildly different: even though the only materials were basic poster paints in primary colours, there was a surprising range of tones and textures and some wonderful mark making and use of negative space.
Participants working on their tiles.
A few people came back the next day for a second go, or to tell us how much they enjoyed it. As it was such beautiful weather, it was possible to dry the paintings in the sun so that participants were able to collect their work later in the weekend.
In their passports, participants of the Storytelling and Art from Around the World course inserted a picture of themselves as a character of their choosing complete with name, magical attributes, and planet of origin.
Using coloured acetates, windows were made to look in upon various characters created in response to folk stories. This week: Il Gatto Mammone, or The Tale of the Cats in which a girl tugs up a cauliflower revealing a large tunnel into the earth that leads her to a house of cats and adventures therein.
In the creative wellbeing sessions this week, I asked participants to create collages and sculptures to represent aspects of themselves. Searching through old magazines for words that resonated seemed to be conducive to both reflection and supportive conversations about elements of participants’ lives. I don’t initiate these conversations, as I am not an art therapist; they arise naturally, just as elements of participant’s journeys towards wellness often manifest in the artworks. I work with individuals who may be coping with conditions such as OCD, paraplegia, anorexia, anxiety and depression, but the emphasis in these sessions is always on the creative process. The classes are a safe, confidential space to share, join in with creative activities, or just take time out from other concerns.
When the sculptures were placed together, there was great potential for narratives about the characters and objects that had emerged from the clay. Participants wrote wonderful short pieces, linking sculptures together in often stream-of-consciousness poetry and prose which was afterwards shared.
The Other Side
The bat told them of a flower
beginning to unfurl
so the tree walked along the ridge
with a basket to collect the petals and the tears.
When it came to the river’s edge, the tree
stood there for ten years.
One day a terrapin cracked the water’s mirror,
bearing a golden seed in its beak.
This is you, it said.
I will take you to the other side.
I have been revisiting Max Ernst’s work, specifically his frottage, grattage and coulage techniques that prioritised automatism. Using his grattage (scraping) technique, Ernst covered his canvases completely with pattern and then interpreted the images that emerged, thus allowing texture to suggest composition in a spontaneous fashion. In The Forest the artist probably placed the canvas over a rough surface (perhaps wood), scraped oil paint over the canvas, and then rubbed, scraped, and overpainted the area of the trees.
The subject of a dense forest appears often in Ernst’s work of the late twenties and early thirties. These canvases, of which The Quiet Forest, 1927, is another example, generally contain a wall of trees, a solar disk, and an apparition of a bird hovering amid the foliage.
Working on the back of a tile, building up texture, using scraffitio technique to scrape layers of paint about. I never know what the composition is going to be. It goes through many transformations and sometimes will not reach a resting point and I must begin again after hours of work.