In this week’s Creative Wellbeing session, I asked participants to look though piles of old magazines, choosing and cutting out images that appealed to them, while trying not to think too much about why. The collection of images and/or words, could then be arranged and stuck down in a way that is pleasing to each individual.
One participant kindly brought in a pile of wallpaper samplers she got free from a home store. Being of light plywood, these were ideal for creating the collages on, and provided a bold background that may or may not have influenced the choice of images.
Samples of participants’ collages
The cutting and gluing and arranging of images was conducive to relaxation and general discussion, whereas going straight into a writing exercise can be inhibiting. Time seemed to pass remarkably fast, or rather, was forgotten about; a good sign of absorption and enjoyment.
Towards the end of the session, participants reflected on how they felt about the images chosen when they were assembled, and how themes had emerged, sometimes quite surprising, and sometimes providing fresh ways of looking at the self. It was suggested that the collages could be added to, and reformatted over time, and agreed that they would make a great stimulus for free writing if there had been time.
Two exhibitions in Swansea this weekend: Sarah Poland who has a residency in GS Gallery, and Frances Richards at the Glynn Vivian.
Sarah Poland’s mark making using inks made from oak galls has a zen-like quality. I love how she combines this with photographic images she calls ‘moon-drawings’, made by using a long exposure on full-moon nights in the woods.
Oak Gall Ink – nick-named Ink of poets and Kings – is a very expensive, beautiful, indelible black ink. But for me, the process from start to finish, from gathering the oak galls in an ancient woodland in west Wales, to making the ink, to using it in my work is an important process in the work. At the very least because I can control and play with the viscosity and texture of the material. The work is about exploring drawing through making and using oak gall ink as much as it is about the place and the experience of where they were found. I am working it on paper, canvas and gesso panel.
Moon drawings and oak gall ink.
Sarah Poland with work made during the residency
Frances Richards: An Artist Apart at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery – 15 June – 1 September 2019, concentrates on this visionary artist’s embroidery collages, drawings and monotypes, executed during the war and previously unseen until now, as well as the figurative and flower paintings of her later years.
Richards studied at the Royal College of Art from 1924 to 1927, specialising in tempera and fresco painting. She admired the early Italian renaissance painters Giotto, Piero della Francesca and Fra Angelico; the British artists Samuel Palmer, William Blake and David Jones; and the poetry of the Psalms, the Song of Solomon, George Herbert and Arthur Rimbaud. On display at the GV gallery is the collection of her Les Illuminations – illustrations to prose poems by Arthur Rimbaud lithographs.
An Artist Apart highlights the perspective of a hugely gifted female artist and how she responded to the dark mood of wartime Britain.
Frances Richards, On Being Alone, 1963, Watercolour on board
Once again using set parameters of reclaimed tile 50x50cm, and circular form, I am continuing to experiment with elements of relief using plaster and glue to create texture (inspired by Ernst’s experiments). The composition, apart from these self-defined limits, is automatic.
“The joy in every successful metamorphosis conforms . . . with the intellect’s age-old energetic need to liberate itself from the deceptive and boring paradise of fixed memories and to investigate a new, incomparably expansive areas of experience, in which the boundaries between the so-called inner world and the outer world become increasingly blurred and will probably one day disappear entirely.”
“What is Surrealism?” (1934), Max Ernst
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.
Silence through the Ages 1968
Moon in a Bottle
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.
Landscape with Sun