Alchemy and Healing

Catherine Lewis has taken over the gallery 1a Inverness Place,  an empty shop, as part of her wellspace residency.

Cat works with materials that she gathers from her local environment  –  natural, local plant materials, and uses sustainable print processes and recycled cloths.

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Catherine had collected water and wood from a nearby healing well site, and was using it as part of the residency, encouraging visitors to draw and write using her wonderful inks made from walnuts, beetroot, hibiscous, turmeric.

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The spring, which still exists at The Oval and which was the principal reason for the arrival of St. Isan in the area in 535AD, is known as Ffynnon Llandennis. Ffynnon Llandennis is one of a number of healing springs in Cardiff which were considered to be holy and endowed with powers of healing…

‘It rises out of the soil with great force, and immediately forms a pool of considerable size, which is overhung with trees, and teems with aquatic growths of various kinds. The scene is one of wild and romantic beauty…’ (John Hobson Mathews, 19C city archivist).

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The well-tree dressing has echoes of the clootie well tradition, which are places of pilgrimage in Celtic areas. Strips of white cloth or rags are tied to the branches of the tree as part of a healing ritual.

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Catherine has created a well-ness space for slow making and recovery; a space that houses her urban ink making lab, using the well water and materials found whilst walking between the well sites and the gallery. She invites visitors to bring ink ingredients to her and also donations of old bottles to store ingredients and finished inks.

 

 

 

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New Work

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.

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“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

New Studio Space

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.

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My new studio.

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.

 

Creative Journeys

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.

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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.

 

 

New Work

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.

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Birth of a Galaxy, 1969. Max Ernst

 

 

Max Ernst, Silence Through the Ages, 1968

Silence through the Ages 1968

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max Ernst

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Moon in a Bottle

 

 

Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976) Demain (Painted in 1962)

       Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976) Violette Sonne

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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Landscape with Sun

 

Painting the Tiles

This year, the fabulous Made in Roath festival have received funding from the Welsh Arts Council, and invited artists to apply to run workshops or exhibitions throughout the festival. I decided to expand on the theme of my last year’s workshop, using one of Picasso’s quotes: ‘To draw, you must close your eyes and sing,’ as a way to encourage visitors to overcome inhibitions about painting and drawing.

I will be using the backs of old carpet tiles that were in my studio when I moved in, as, when primed with emulsion, they make ideal painting surfaces. So that is what myself and a fellow artist have been doing in preparation for the big weekend of 21/22 October. We will be inviting visitors to take a tile and paint it with eyes closed while singing. We are hoping to create a colourful Art Path around the space, continuing outside into the community.

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Creative Sessions at the YMCA

Recently, I have been asked to run a couple of taster sessions for YMCA Cardiff Design For Life. The learners were keen to work with clay, as this is something they hadn’t tried before.

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Clay is so tactile, soothing and grounding. Several learners commented that they had come reluctantly to the session, thinking it would be ‘boring’, but they had actually found it ‘relaxing and enjoyable’. The time passed very quickly, and seemed to open up a space for discussion about significant things. I asked the participants to create something that represents them, and one man sculpted miniature versions of the tools that he had used as a woodcarver. He included a mallet, two types of gauge with handle, and his unfinished sculpture.

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Another learner had the use of only one hand due to a stroke, but was able to create two pieces that were meaningful to him. An ashtray, signifying his struggle to give up smoking, transformed into a clam shell into which he inserted a perfect pearl.

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we pass the clay from hand to hand, raw and smooth,

shaping something unseen, something buried.

something is bypassed, something is regained:

an ashtray becomes a clam shell with a pearl,

a woodcarver recreates his tools.

the sea washes up a shoe, stones for skimming,

a rabbit’s remains