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Frankly Feminist February

I am fumbling for words to describe the two very different exhibitions that I have had the chance to see over the last couple of weeks. The first was ‘Feminist Avant Garde of the 1970’s’ which has just finished at The Photographer’s Gallery in London. The second was Josef Frank, which has just opened at the Fashion and Textiles Museum in Bermondsey.

I was really glad I was in adult company for the former, as obviously the artists were very much exploring the physical representation of the female body. As interesting as it was, I could really feel the influence of the times in terms of technique and expression. There was a freshness to the imagery, knowing that this was the first time many ideas were explored photographically, and I thought I would share some of the work that stood out to me here.

In the first room, I really liked a series by Karin Mack ‘ Destruction of an Illusion’ where a stereotypical housewife is pierced by needles, the image breaking down. A simple idea, but it looked vicious and engaging at the same time.

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Karin Mack

Another image I noted was by Sanja Ivekovic – I was drawn to the strange intimacy of the series of pictures and the narrative of the idea. The artist has her mouth taped, and her heartbeat was transmitted into the gallery area. As she interacts with each viewer, it is photographed and accompanied by the corresponding audiotape.

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I really liked the small scale ‘Female Energy Exchange’ by Ulrike Rosenbach – these were composite images based on Venus, Medusa and Supergirl where the artist had projected herself over well known images. One of them was slightly solarized, and I thought they worked well as both a concept and a triptych.

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Penny Slinger’s Bride Cake Series brought to mind the idea of having your cake and eating it – and also one of my favourite books, Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Edible Woman’ -the ideas are both playful and macabre in terms of the role of women. Have times really changed though?

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What really stood out to me though I suppose because I’ve always wanted to see them in person and am a fan of their work anyway, were the prints of Francesca Woodman and the little film by Cindy Sherman. From my notes, I think it was the caption’s words and not mine that describe Woodman’s work as ‘lyrical, poetic and iconographic tableaux vivaits’ but it’s a pretty perfect description.

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I’m not sure if I can put the Cindy Sherman film here, but it’s called ‘Doll Clothes’ and was made in 1975. It still looks fresh, and has none of the heavy-handedness of some of the other work.

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The second exhibition made a fairly big impression on my sketchbook – I had a couple of hours just to immerse myself in the glorious colour and detail that is the work of Josef Frank. Born in Vienna and displaced by World War II to Sweden, this trained architect had a brilliant eye for pattern an colour. The show begins with an amazing room set that quite clearly shows Frank’s influence on the Swedish brand Ikea. Astonishingly, I picked up an interiors magazine which said a dark green called ‘Kale’ was the colour for 2017. The dark green of the wall in this room display brings all the colours and patterns to life.

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I loved Frank’s use of hot colours in ‘Mistral’which really sing out on top of a natural linen. ‘Fruhling’ which means ‘Spring’ was interesting as you could see how the wood block was used to make a seamless repeat. The colours of turquoise and purpley brown had me reaching for the colour pencils. My favourite from this first area was ‘Poison’ which used strong colour backgrounds – barley on a blue field, vines against bright red. The yellow twirling vines had a lovely fluidity and these gentle shapes seemed to recur as a motif.

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Frank’s first screen print was amazingly complex – called ‘ Three Islands in the Black Sea’ I loved the strong citrusy orange with blue against black. It looked incredibly modern despite the date of 1935.

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One of the final images I drew was ‘Manhattan’. I liked the graphic use of maps and the primary colours – the familiarity of the map made me think about other ways I could be inspired by this, and I left humming..

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New York, New York, a helluva town.
The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down.
The people ride in a hole in the groun’.
New York, New York, it’s a helluva town!

Festival of Crafts

Had fun at Farnham Maltings last weekend talking about my work at the Festival of Crafts. It really made me look at the design process that goes into screen print. Originally I was put forward as a local artist to help create a poster, and shown some examples of what had been designed before. Festival of Crafts has been a fixture now for 20 years at The Maltings, so this was a special commission.

I have quite a few images of coffee pots, and thought that I could use these to illustrate that ceramics were a feature of the show, I added dome images from a 1960’s French magazine about knitting and sewing..

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This began to look a bit busy, and the text wasn’t so legible, which is obviously pretty important. I then thought well, it could just be typographic – I could use textures within the letterforms.

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When I met again with Gemma Curtis, who organises and promotes the Festival of Crafts, we went through again what the main ethos of the show is : a carefully curated selection of work by designer/makers, then we decided together that perhaps it needed to move away from specific representations. I still really wanted to use one of my prints that I thought would be recognisable as my work, and I came upon a print that I’d made in response to a trip to California. The colours are really hot in this picture, on the bottom right is the train to the Getty Museum with a succulent plant collaged into the window, on the left is part of the building (Getty Museum, and over the top is a line drawing of Alexander Calder’s ‘Bougainvillea’ kinetic sculpture.

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In lots of ways, Calder is the ultimate designer maker to me – there is a process in making the pieces move gently, casting elegant shadows. There is the idea of testing things, making a maquette, drawing a ‘blueprint’ with scale and materials – all of these things being relevant to a showcase of bespoke craft. So I thought, I wonder what this would look like blue?

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I added some sugar lumps falling down, and the deep red looked good against the blue – Gemma asked me to include an element of the Maltings – the building itself perhaps?

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Still a few too many things, but the Maltings definitely looked better in red than blue, I think the final edit lost the sugar lumps, but this was the final design…

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Travels with my Sketchbook

This year so far has been inspirational, and now is the time to take stock of it all…My first year as an Art Technician at Alton College has been a learning curve- this week it’s been lovely to start getting the Textiles Studio in order, and make sure we have all the supplies we need.
Things that were a revelation last year were: making felt; how difficult it is to sew in a zip; how fun making photograms is; how to use foil in a heatpress; laser cutting; learning to not take anything too personally! I felt a bit sad that my only chance to teach was in photography, and deciding it wasn’t for me has meant I won’t get another chance to teach within my specialisms. However in many ways, I am happier to make my own work and take new skills where I find them.
The other thing was really enjoying the holidays that being in an academic environment affords- because of my husband’s job in development, he attends meetings in some exciting places -and this year, as a family we got to come along twice.
The first trip was to Washington – so many free museums and galleries – it was astonishing. It was mostly about the kids, but I got to go to two art galleries, one with an exhibition of American Printmaking and the Renwick, which had an amazing range of installation work called ‘Wonder’.
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In August, a symposium at Aspen Meadows allowed us a trip to Colorado. This began with a couple of trips into Aspen itself. The kids and I cycled alongside the Roaring Fork River, where the girls dipped their toes in the icy snowmelt water. We also explored the Aspen Centre for Environmental Studies (ACES) which is a 25 acre nature reserve – it was wet and misty, and more of a place to visit with a school on a mission than a place to just drop in, but we all thought it was very beautiful, especially the bullrushes along the lake.
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We also visited Aspen Art Museum, which was the best of the trip (Boulder Art Museum didn’t really do it for me – I did a nice sketch of the street from the window, but we actually had to pay to get in). Amazing textile work by Alan Shields, and visceral assemblage work from African American artist John Outterbridge. Loved it.
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A little afternoon trip up the mountain in a gondola, and a nose around the stately Hotel Jerome, and that was Aspen.
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Our first stop was Vail, which was so posh and fake Swiss that it made Aspen look look like a dude ranch. I tried to take some pictures from the window on our way to Estes (we spotted the hotel which was the inspiration for The Shining) and we were in the Rockies proper.

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We went on to have breakfast in Frisco – bonafide gold rush country and Glenwood Springs where Doc Holliday famously died with his boots on. Great museum at Frisco where they’ve literally kept all the old log cabin houses and moved them so that you can see what they were like. I wanted to draw the super old fashioned till and each building was accompanied with audio and interviews from descendants of the owners. Utterly fascinating how the women of Frisco got the town out of depression and back on the electricity grid after the prospectors had left.

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Estes Rocky Mountain Park is where the girls got their Junior Ranger Badges – we got up early, walked around bear lake, then up to the Trail Ridge Road -frankly terrifying to drive for Chris, but breathtaking -there was still some snow up there and it was very cold. Hence the lady in her Ski hat having a chocolate break with her man – that is pretty romantic.

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We got up early and headed to Boulder on our way home – it was super hot, so we went to a Science Museum where there was air-conditioning. These were our last views of Estes.

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These are my two sketches from Boulder – view from the Art Gallery, and some kids climbing on a plastic dinosaur…

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We spent the rest of the summer in France, where my In-Laws visited for a week, so we made the most of eating out and going to the beach when it cooled down a bit.

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Wells in Woking

After entering the competition run by Ochre Print Studio at the end of last year, Surrey Arts Partnership have kindly framed a selection of the entries. The exhibition will show work celebrating 150 years since the birth of H G Wells. It marks especially the fact that his most famous book, The War of The Worlds was written in Woking and artwork was commissioned on this theme.

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I concentrated on the bacteria that eventually defeated the Martian invasion described in the book. I also liked the imagery of red weeds choking the city of London, these deep hues forming part of my colour palette. The first Martian emerges from the sand pit on Horsell Common, and the book goes on to use the landscape of the Woking area as the basis for the sci-fi chronicle. I used a strong yellow to denote this, and teal blue for the bacteria.

The Lightbox will be exhibiting my image and other selected entries alongside the 2 winners from March 26th to May 1st 2016… looking forward to the Private View!

 

Wrapping Paper

I’ve just realised after balancing bamboo sticks and knotting myself up in pompoms, that I forgot to take a picture of my Christmas wares at the school fair! Here is some wrapping paper – florescent holly wreaths and a design based on whales to go with Liane’s amazing ceramic work. It will be for sale at the Farnham Maltings Christmas Market on December 8th and 9th

I also have more festive images on wrap, hopefully scarves to come and hair ties made from fabric I’ve printed. I’m thinking of entering the HG Wells poster image competition run by Ochre Print this year…the Christmas Party is on Thursday – looking forward to the talks from the resident artists there.

I’ve been working as an Art Technician at Alton College since September – it’s been a revelation to be in the photography darkroom! I’ve been feeling a bit time poor, but it’s a great creative department and I haven’t broken anything so far…

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Trevor Price Talk at Ochre

I just had to put a note here and some images from a talk I attended recently at Ochre Print Studios in Guildford. The artist was Trevor Price, and he generously spent a good couple of hours talking about his work and demonstrating simplified mono prints for us. It was made more special because I took my Dad along.

Trevor has studios in both St. Ives and London, and is very influenced by the work of Ben Nicholson. He makes a lot of drypoint prints, combining them with photo etching.

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Both Dad and I loved the Picasso inspired print, marvelling at the range of marks and the photographic effect of the ‘window’ image of London. The other image here is one of his plates, and shows marks made by a soldering iron and a Dremel power tool in combination with delicate drypoint tools.

Below is another plate, layered with card and dribbled red paint.

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He demonstrated mono print, using lighter fluid to get almost marbled effects; layering up strong blue with process magenta and yellow. The stencils are thick acetate images of dancers which he made marks over. The tree is an older print, the intense colours really show his amazing skill in layering images, it was very inspiring to watch him thinking about the marks he made on the spot…

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I’m pretty busy settling in to my new job as Art Technician at Alton College. I think it’s no coincidence that this week I’ve been prepping the area by the printing press! There is an Open Evening there on Thursday for prospective students and their parents, it’s a lovely college…

SAOS Workshop

Today I hosted two really fun workshops from my home studio, screen printing. We had a variety of themes ranging from buttercups, pears and squirrels to lotus flowers, dandelions and an origami crane… Caroline's ElizabethLotus KerrySquirrelGhost Squirrels TonyPear YeeButtercup YeeGhostprint

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Many thanks to Elizabeth, Yee, Kerry, Tony, Nicci and Caroline for your company and for letting me share your work.

On tour

I’ve just packed up all my work for the Brighton Open House which kicks off this weekend…you’ll find me at the Bird House on the weekend of the 16th -17th May. My sister-in-law makes a very good lemon drizzle cake. There will be lots of new work to see from all of us, as well as a new paper cut artist called Sara Cahill.

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Box Ed

I’ve also just finished this set of 25 prints for the 20/20 Box Ed Project organised by Ochre Print Studio. They are based on the final print of a series I have been working on –  since having the ‘Brooklands’ print chosen to be editioned. Also a reflection of WW1 and it’s impact on Surrey, I looked at the beautiful Rodboro Building in Guildford. It’s actually named after the Rodboro shoe company, but was built by the Dennis Brothers, who manufactured 7,000 army trucks during the War. I found it really interesting that there was a showroom on the ground floor (now Wetherspoons) while the mechanics were carried out on the first floor (now the Academy of Contemporary Music).

Work up at Baker Tilly

The Private View of the work I put forward for an exhibition at a large office in Guildford (Baker Tilly) was held on Monday. It was great to see all the images from Ochre Print Studios and listen to an excellent talk by Neville Godwin. I’m putting together some work for Brighton Open House which covers every weekend but the last in May….lots to do! Thanks to Melanie Lucas for the picture.
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Let the wild rumpus begin

It is getting towards the busiest time of year for me, and I’m pretty happy about it this year! After spending some time developing the prints based on World War One (just fiddling with the last one) they will appear at the Lewis Elton Gallery in Guildford Uni from May 18th. It’s a taster show for Surrey Artists’ Open Studios which kicks off in June.

Shoulder to shoulder I have some other prints at Baker Tilly in Guildford, this is by appointment only, there are some stunning prints by other artists from Ochre Print Studio who are also showing their work there.

spring into summer My sister-in-law Holly Swain has invited me to join her at Brighton Open House, alongside her and 3 other artists including Leigh and Chrissie from last year. I’m going to produce some smaller giclee prints and cards as well as some canvas dip-dyed bags…I’ll be posting these up over the next couple of weeks. Finally, I have a course starting next weekend at Farnham Pottery – there will be tea and cake, and maybe my friend Anne-Kristin will pop in as she’s visiting from Norway. Here are the details… Introduction to Screenprinting with Helen Locke

Weekend – 2 Session Workshop: Saturday 18th & 25th April 10.00 – 13.00 £50

Weekday – 2 Session Workshop: Tuesday 12th & 19th May 09.30 – 12.30 £50

Try your hand at the art of screen printing this Spring with tutor Helen Locke. These two workshops are split over two days, during which time you will learn how to cut stencils, paint through the screen and create a ghost print. Over the two sessions you will develop ideas to create a printed piece to take home. There will be an extra charge for materials depending on what you decide to print on.

Book your place on our website or by phone:07468 696620 info@318ceramics.co.uk The Farnham Pottery Trust Ltd, t/a 318 Ceramics, The Farnham Pottery, Quennells Hill, Wrecclesham, Farnham, Surrey. image image image image image image