Monday, 30 April 2007

A girl, crocheting

Just a quick one today. Found this beautiful painting by the Danish painter Anne Ancher in a book I gave to a friend, Gail Carolyn Sirna's 'In Praise of the Needlewoman'. It was painted in 1881 and is called 'Sunshine in the blue room'. I like the mood of the painting, the sense of silence, stillness, with the yellow-haired girl sitting alone in the room with her back to us, head bent over her crocheting in absolute concentration. Her feet aren't touching the ground, the small ball of white wool lies halfway across the room. The light in the room is gorgeous, illuminating the back of her small head, painting yellow streaks across the carpet and on th wall the shadow of a plant in the bright reflection of one of the windows. I don't think the girl's hands are wet with sweat, trying to make even, regular stitches - her posture is not tense and it looks as if the thread weaves slowly but easily through her fingers. Looking for information about the painting and the painter I came across flowerville, a very interesting and thoughtful blog about poetry and art, where you'll find a note about Anne Ancher on 7 Dec 06.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Art is alchemy

I received in the post some photographs which I’d sent off for processing. I’d been playing around with one of my crocheted dresses, you’ve seen it here before in a different incarnation, filling it with some more of my unravelled cotton wool (from another red dress) and looking at this I felt compelled to think about language, words issuing forth from my mouth like a stream of red beads: spilling, leaking, flowing, slipping, running, pouring, emanating…
Had a look in my beloved Thesaurus and found these: leaking, discharging, disgorging, seeping, oozing, exuding, dripping, trickling, escaping, divulging, disclosing, revealing, exposing, making public, passing on, giving away, letting slip, flowing, running, pouring, streaming, coursing, rolling, sweeping, drifting, gliding, moving, proceeding, circulating, oozing, seeping, surging, rushing, gushing, welling, spouting, spurting, cascading, abounding, teeming, originating, issuing, proceeding, arising, deriving, emerging, springing, emanating… Love the sense of movement, of urgency, of process, of change and exchange, of flux and unreified being. The cycles and processes of living and dying perpetually intertwined, constantly contaminated and enhanced by each other.
That my little dress should give rise to such grand existential chains of thought may be down to my easily excited and at times feverish imagination. Now I am thinking of alchemical processes, bringing together or dividing substances, turning one into another - o.k., I’m stopping here. But remember: a girl contains the seeds for a woman, a hag, a witch, a crone, a beauty, a warrior, a mother, a murderer, a dancer, a scientist, a musician, an artist. An artist!

Friday, 27 April 2007

The colour of the heart

I was looking through a box which is filled to the brim with scraps of paper on which I’ve scribbled ideas for work, images collected and pages torn from journals, photos of mine, drawings, notes, a cacophony of stuff really, which sent my head buzzing just when I thought what I need is focus. I had been looking for something I’d written a while ago about the colour red, but of course could not find it. What I found and now can't get out of my mind was this photo of my friend Beatriz Araiza in action. She was a brilliant ceramics artist and draughtswoman who was killed some years ago riding home on her bicycle. We met at the arts & design foundation course at John Cass in East-London, in 1994 I think. We talked for ages about art and love and death and joy and pain and the often banal nitty gritty of our daily lives. Art was at the centre of it all for both of us, the means through which we dared look at life.

This is a drawing of hers, of an ox-heart I think. I miss her terribly.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Steps and stitches

Very tired day today, legs weak. Need an extra pair, extra strong please. Crocheting away though, lying on my back, bright red wool wound tightly around my fingers and moving slowly, steadily through my hands. The evenness of these stitches continues to amaze me, every stitch a stitch on its own and one in a mass of almost identical looking ones. A small orderly red army of stitches, neatly aligned to shape a skirt one of these days, this time I hope in the right shape, so I won’t have to unravel tens of thousands of stitches again. The design of the red dress has changed, but more about that another time.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Fear of failing/falling

Today I’m having a crisis of confidence: having had some disparaging professional feedback for my art I wonder if I’m going anywhere with it. On the one hand I can’t imagine my life without making art, ever, on the other hand I wonder if I’m kidding myself and nothing will come of it. Is it enough just to keep on producing work and making piece after piece, always somewhere on the sidelines, without professional recognition? A lot of the time I feel I’m engaged in a monologue - not sure if the language I speak is so incomprehensible to others that they don’t want to engage or if what I’ve got to say is just so banal/boring/been-there-done-that-already that it’s not worth hearing. I guess there are two ways of dealing with the fear of being mediocre (having one's art criticised is felt like a criticism of one's self, isn't it?) - I could stop in my tracks and let the crocheting hook, currently my chosen creative instrument, fall for good or I could let it spur me on to work harder, wield the hook like a weapon and make my marks deeper/sharper/stronger.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Wished I was there

A friend of mine was in New York a couple of weeks ago and on my request brought back the catalogue for the exhibition radical lace and subversive knitting at the Museum of Arts and Design. Looking through the catalogue just now I was again swooning with delight – there I such an amazing variety of work, small scale and monumental, sumptuous and minimal, handmade and computer-produced, full of colour and texture and bare and restrained. All kinds of materials – wools, artificial fibres, lead, newsprint, metals, glass, porcelain and more. Every time I open the book I find a new favourite and most of all I just wish I could be there myself and see the work for real, how it fills the spaces, how it feels to look at the pieces and relate to them bodily, not touch them of course, although I know I would want to, but step back and look from afar and go close and check out the details. I imagine smells too. Beam me there Scotty…
I am not sure if I’m allowed to reproduce some of their images so I’ll give you one of mine, which I’ll call ‘every day I tried to be good’.

Monday, 16 April 2007

The shoes that go with the dress

I made these shoes some years ago. They are made from tissue paper, the lightest and most translucent of papers. Light and lightness interest me here. I wanted to explore the paper’s characteristics, using them, heightening them, changing them. The feel of the paper, the way it almost disintegrates when handled with the glue (which is applied individually to each tiny scrap), makes for a slow and painstaking process. The shoes are built up from one or two layers of paper, just enough to hold their shape. To make objects from this very perishable, fragile and non-precious material is almost paradoxical, as the objects made become precarious and precious in turn.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Artist's cravings

Last week a friend brought her partner over (look at his engaging blog) and we sat in a sunny corner of the garden and had lunch together, which they had kindly brought, incl. delectable biscuits filled with chocolate cream. These alone would be reason enough to invite them back, but best of all for me was that I could unpack and show some of my artwork. A mini-exhibition straight out of the box which was very well received, if I may say so myself. It’s so important to be able to show one’s work, bring it out towards a public, no matter how small. I do crave an audience for my art even more than chocolate biscuits, am starving for reactions, and for the completion of each work that comes with it being seen.
Today, while reading a review in dail magazine of an exhibition organised by Art Shape I came across a mention of the above piece. My heart was beating with delight that some of my work had been noticed and singled out. A tiny bit of hunger satisfied, for now.

Friday, 13 April 2007

A rose is a rose is a rose

I discovered three rosebuds in my garden this afternoon, still firmly closed but on one a bit of red blossom is shining through at the tip. I’ve got a garden! The realisation pleases me every day anew, after all I’ve only lived here for a couple of months. And wouldn’t you know it, when I looked through the pictures of artwork on my computer for something to post with today’s blog I happened across one of a rose. Brings back memories too, I made it during a performance/exhibition several years ago and had forgotten all about it.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Something new

I finished this dress the other week. It’s great to see it up, hanging on its double coat-hanger. The dress moves me. A thick layer of fabric crocheted from thick babyblue synthetic yarn. Two small puffed sleeves on a dress with two necklines, heavy folds shaping the skirt. I am thinking of Barthes’ concept of the punctum, that small detail in an image that makes something shift in the viewer’s heart. Not sure if it’s the puffed sleeves that do it for me, or the fact that this dress is made up of big double stitches crocheted with yarn that makes your hands sweat while it moves through your fingers.
The dress is substantial and has real presence and in that is different from the similar dress I posted here on 23 March, which only exists as an image which I constructed from the photo of another dress I made a while ago. But what does presence imply here?

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Destruction, but not wanton

This morning I finally started to unravel a good part of the dress I’ve been crocheting. I’ve known for weeks that the shape of the dress just wasn’t right but postponed its undoing until now as it pained me to have to do it all again. It’s the skirt that has had to go. I don’t work from patterns, just make things up as I crochet along, and this time got it wrong. So in the morning I set to it and found it a strangely pleasing exercise which came with its own rhythms and little noises. Pulling the thread to unravel the stitches (about 13720 double crochet stitches in all) each stitch seemed to give up its shape only reluctantly and with a tiny pop. Then the dropping of the winding curls of wool (the softest of thuds) before taking hold of the thread again, stretching it taut, and pulling apart more of my work. The resulting tangled heaps of wiggly curly woolworms please me so much that now I don’t want to use this wool for crocheting again but use it as it is.
The image is an enlarged close-up of part of the pattern that was…

Monday, 2 April 2007

Here’s one I made earlier (4)

Looking at the image I published on the 23rd of March and today’s, of a paper-figure I made a couple of years ago, I’m thinking about how I keep revisiting themes that interest me, or more precisely keep returning to a particular kind of mental picture, not always consciously. It’s a certain kind of imagery that keeps grabbing hold of me, that I react and respond to and that I use to express something as yet inchoate and maybe once it becomes clearer to me I’ll move on. Is it my restricted mind that has its curly tentacles out and only ever seizes on similarly shaped ideas or is it that I, as an artist, keep trying to encircle a theme, a notion, again and again, in different ways, in different media, in different formations - in an attempt to really get to the ever elusive bottom of it?