Developing Cyanotypes

Recently in the studio, I’ve been playing with ways to apply and develop cyanotype fluid using expressive drawing and ink. The compositions are a bit busy at the moment, but interesting combinations. Looking forward to refining and experimenting some more on a bigger scale.

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Exhibition: Pioneering Abstract Artists

The exhibition Surface Work (11 April – 16 June 2018 at the Victoria Miro, Mayfair) was a rich feast, with abstract work by more than 50 artists, all women, from five continents, spanning every decade between 1918 and 2018.

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I knew of some of the artists who have “shaped and transformed, and continue to influence and expand, the language and definition of abstract painting”: Helen Frankenthaler, Yayoi Kusama, Lee Krasner, Agnes Martin, Mira Schendel, Gillian Ayres to name a few, but the majority were new to me, and it was revelatory to ‘discover’ so many artists who had been there for years, producing fantastic work in obscurity.

The exhibition gave me the opportunity to see work I had only seen small reproductions of in books such as one of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets.  Kusama began painting the Nets in the early sixties shortly after she moved to New York, living in poverty until she began to sell work through a dealer. I love the intensity and repetition of the repeating loops that seem to expand and contract like a murmuration. There is a tension between a random and systematic aesthetic. Apparently, Kusama would paint the Nets for uninterrupted sessions of 40 to 50 hours as a way to channel and contain her mania. She has repeatedly revisited and expanded this body of work throughout her career.

 

Kusama

Infinity Net (HNBKY) made in 2012

 

 Yayoi Kusama

 Kusama with early ‘Infinity Net’ paintings in her New York studio, 1961

 

Also immersed in the tradition of the sublime is Loie Hollowell’s work. Link Lingam (yellow, green, blue, purple, pink) 2018, has an intriguing undulating surface that folds into the design giving it a sculptural element.

Loie Hollowell

 

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Jessica Warboys’ large canvases are ‘painted’ by the sea shifting and scattering mineral pigments into them. The coast and landscape are a source of inspiration and influence for Warboys, who draws upon pagan history and folklore in her films and performances. She had a solo exhibition at Tate St Ives recently that included Hill of Dreams, a film that draws from Welsh fantasy writer Arthur Machen’s book of the same name.

jessica warboys

See here for the online catalogue with overview of every artist.

 

 

Creative Space

I’ve avoided having an easel in my studio so far. It depends what kind of work you are doing, but when I first got the space, I wanted to be free to experiment, to make a mess, to be unrestricted. I like to be able to crouch beside the work, to move around it, to pin stuff up and take it down. Having floor space means space to work bigger and freer, to try out a combination of mediums.

I saw this same joy in the children this week when, by chance, the tables had been removed from the room we use for art and storytelling. This meant space to work bigger and bolder, to try out new ideas. It was entirely natural for them to spread out, alone or in small groups and begin creating with very little prompting from me. I am there to suggest, to oversee, to offer encouragement. To provide safe boundaries and make sure they have the materials. I try to say YES to their ideas, or if something isn’t possible, to find an alternative. We have our central story and characters to fall back on for ideas, but this has expanded into the children’s own stories in mini books they are illustrating.

One boy likes to stand on a chair and tell us an installment of his own story each week. Before the end of the session, everyone gets a chance to share with the group what they have been working on. Most of the group have come back term after term, and there is a comradeship, a familiarity they can fall into. Each term someone may leave, and someone new comes bringing fresh ideas and inspiration.

This week, one boy squeezed out paint combinations, and made these ‘portals’ by rotating a plate on top of the paint.

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The Dance

The premise was: work that explores dark desires, fears & ‘the
forbidden’. Work that investigates or references taboo subjects such as death,
phobias and socially excluded or marginalised groups and individuals is
particularly sought.

I find that using exhibition call-outs and deadlines is a good way to get work made and often leads to unexpected results in response to the subject matter. When I started with this topic, I had a very different idea to what emerged. Sometimes, the work decides to go its own way.

As it happens, I didn’t enter this one, as I wasn’t quite happy enough with my final piece. There wasn’t enough time to develop it. But that’s ok. I’m really happy that I tried. Because nothing created is ever wasted. It always leads me somewhere. Even if that is in a whole new direction.

At first I tried to adapt work I was already making. But that didn’t quite work. Then I thought about doing a piece of writing, and that somehow led me to looking at medieval woodcuts of witches dancing with the devil, and how that whole hysteria about people (mainly women) as witches when all they were doing is healing and using their intuition, came from fear.

The monotype I made is based on one of those woodcuts, but I have updated it. I’ve been thinking recently about how choosing to follow the creative calling takes a lot of courage and willingness to take risks. Without that, art has no edge and says nothing new. So my piece perhaps represents choosing to dance with the muse; embracing the wild animus within. I’ve called it The Dance. I think some influences were Angela Carter’s tales and Paula Rego’s prints, and the red dress is also something that stood out for me in Helen Sear’s video piece ‘Company of Trees’.

The Dance

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever the Weather

The sessions that I am running at the lovely new mental health unit Hafan Y Coed have evolved into a combination of writing and art. As this is a new venture for me, it has been interesting to see how the planning of the course translates into practice.

We have taken a generic theme for each session, and this week was ‘weather’. As mindfulness is really useful in cultivating creativity, I’ve tried to incorporate it into the sessions. Learners initially used pictorial prompts as a focus, imagining themselves into  various natural scenes, engaging all the senses through a short guided visualization. From this, they did some free-writing – jotting down anything that came to mind without worrying about punctuation or spelling or whether it seemed relevant – anything at all. This free-writing often leads to some unexpected story seeds and associations that can be developed later into a poem or short prose piece.

We read poems by some well known poets relating to the weather, and discussed how we felt about each piece. Then I presented a few examples of expressive art such as Frank Auerbach’s  series of drawings he made after walking on Primrose Hill, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolour, ‘Sunrise’.

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Working Drawings for ‘Primrose Hill’ 1968. Coloured chalks and black pencil on cartridge paper.

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Sunrise, 1916 – Georgia O’Keeffe

 

As we had access to the resources in the art therapy room, there was a good variety of mediums for learners to choose from to create their own weather-inspired art works. Within the work, they could incorporate their favourite words or phrases from those they had written earlier.

Two wonderful landscapes with text, using acrylic paint and coloured pencils.