My new body of work

I have been working on a new body of work during 2017. It is informed by my previous studies of interiors: in particular, Oaklands Park House, Turner’s House and Pallant House.
I have deconstructed drawings of the hallways and reassembled them in abstract paintings. Repetition comes through the work, picking up another theme, which has been evident in my abstract paintings.

So Different


So Different was the first in this series.

I am Stretched


The Last Day


Bonnard’s Jug


Pallant Green 1


Pallant Green 2

End of an Era – studio in Lavant

Leaving Crow’s Hall Farm
It’s the end of an era for me having packed up my studio in Lavant, which was very generously proportioned and a luxury I couldn’t perpetuate. Here it is looking very sad with no paintings on the wall and everything packed away.

Lavant Studio - all packed up

Lavant Studio – all packed up


Lavant Studio - all packed up

Lavant Studio – all packed up


A new studio!
Fear not! I have a new (smaller/cheaper) studio in Almodington. It is closer to home and I won’t have to cross the dreaded A27 to get to it (phew!). The new studio is still being prepared but the move has physically taken place now. It has been a timely opportunity to review my work (and find some of it!). I have cleared some of the old work, sold one or two pieces and am ready to think about future work.
Painting Practice
My painting practice has had several months of interruption now but I have continued with drawing interiors, mainly at Pallant House. Stairs, doorways and now chandeliers are at the heart of my interest. The subject is still centred on transition and Janus – the Roman god who looks both ways. Staircases offer a great opportunity for looking at the space you are leaving and the space you are about to enter.
Details from staircase at Pallant House

Details from staircase at Pallant House

From my sketchbook

From my sketchbook


Teabag Diary
My teabag project continues (more information on this in earlier posts) and has been another source of practical work whilst the, surprisingly lengthy, packing up of my studio took place.
Having been utterly blown away by William Kentridge’s stunning Thick Time exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, I am severely prompted to think about how I can make my own teabag project stimulate all the senses.
A return to Painting
I am so looking forward to returning to painting after this enforced ‘paint fast’. I can’t wait to get organised so that I can wallow in some paint again.

Teabag Diary – An update

It’s been a couple of months since I gave an update on the Teabag Diary project. I now have 4 months worth of dried teabags and 6 jars of dried tea. These were collected from our tea-drinking at home, at the studio and also when camping.
Today I was able to get my original Teabag Diary (1999) out of storage and take some photographs of it. The piece(s) is very fragile. It is also a lot smaller than in my memory. I thought it was quite a project at the time of doing it.

Tea stains on muslin, applied to paper with double sided adhesive tape

Tea stains on muslin, applied to paper with double sided adhesive tape


Teabag Diary 1999

Teabag Diary 1999


I can now see that it was a ‘good start’ but needed progressing further. Seventeen years later is rather a wait, but I am happy to have embarked on a new Teabag Diary: ‘A Year of Drinking Tea’. I shall soon be trying to find a suitable location to display the work(s).
Rooibos tea

Rooibos tea

To return to my original tea bag diary, I was disappointed at how the double sided tape had discoloured so badly. On a positive note at least the staining does not clash with the tea stains – rather they may enhance them. Lesson learned on using the wrong materials however! I also used masking tape to join the sheets of backing paper. Why on earth did I not find some suitably sized paper in the first place? I have executed a couple of small repairs just to hold the sheets in place but I need some advice on how I can preserve the work for the future.

It is interesting to note that both projects are about ‘time’. The diaries create a record of how much tea we drank in a day (for the 1999 diary) and by the month in the current diary.

My original plan for the current diary was to keep each month’s collection of tea bags separate. In practise I have done this for the loose tea collected from the bags and our teapots. Once I had decided to stitch the empty tea bags together, I made the judgement that I would need quite a few months’ worth of teabags in order to make a ‘statement’

As I am in the process of packing up my Lavant Studio, I am keeping my stitched teabags as modules of 2, 4 and 6. This means that they can still be stored flat very easily and won’t be damaged. I laid out the modules which have been stitched already onto a board to get an idea of how much more I might need to do and to see the impact that the teabags make. Not all bags are exactly the same size so the piecing of the teabags will be quite tricky for the final piece.
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Future Art Practice
The teabag diary does not replace my painting and drawing practice, but sits alongside it. It is not my first venture into recording the waste products of daily domestic life. I have also unearthed a series of photos the I took on a daily basis (probably 2004) of the waste peelings and probably teabags from my daily food preparation. Yet again, the work is about the passage of time and the evidence of the household consumption. We were a bigger household then, with two daughters living at home too.

Another Teabag Diary

I have taken the opportunity to re-visit a project I did back in 1998: a teabag diary. I still have the piece, which records on a small square of muslin, each day’s tea stains from used teabags. The study demonstrated that on days when we were out for most of the time we had fairly clean muslin. By contrast, we had deeply stained muslins on days when we had visitors or life was a bit OTT.
I find the quality of paper used in teabags, very tactile and appealing. The staining from the, mostly redbush, tea that I now drink, is beautiful.

Rooibos tea

Rooibos tea


Collecting teabags

The New Teabag Diary Project:
I dry the teabags and then cut out the tea, saving the empty bags. For what purpose? The amount of ‘waste’ tea is fascinating and accumulates daily, in jars in my kitchen. The sheer quantity of tea that just two of us are consuming is surprisingly high. The empty teabags beg to be stitched together in a quilt form and so I join together pairs of bags from each day’s harvest of teabags. Perhaps a quilt will follow.

Drying teabags

Drying teabags


sewing empty teabags together

sewing empty teabags together


I think that, by publishing this, I now have a prod to persuade me to continue this project alongside my continued painting practice.

A return to Chichester Festival Theatre Residency drawings

Observational drawings from CFT

Observational drawings from CFT


After a period of reflection (and recovery) after completing my MA last September I am making a return to CFT drawings, which resulted from my residency at Chichester Festival Theatre. The stimulation of imagery and architecture were quite overpowering at the time. I had to focus quite closely on the exhibition at the Minerva and on my degree show and so I had to ignore much resource material. I am now taking the opportunity to return to it as I prepare for a new period of painting. The Foyer continues to attract me visually and I have completed a ‘medley’ of small drawings which are 20 x 20cm.
A medley of small drawings from CFT residency

Open Studios at Crow’s Hall Farm 2016

Open Studios have got off to a slow start, but I’ve had some interesting conversations so far. Come and see my latest paintings.IMG_2263

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The second weekend of the art trail was even slower – not just for me but for other artists that I spoke to. I am starting to question if this is a good investment of 5 days when the turnout is reducing and is so subject to the weather. The second Sunday was very hot and Chichester was gridlocked with people queueing to get onto the Witterings road.

Drawing by Candlelight

6 Jan 16 Drawing by Candlelight

6 Jan 16 Drawing by Candlelight


Dark evenings offer artists the opportunity of being able to work in a very different light, candlelight. With very little light, many objects in my still life become very simple shapes. The careful positioning of four candles created unusual darks and lights. With very little light, I found that I had to really ‘look’. Not only could I not see the still life with any clarity, but my drawing was hard to see, too. This resulted in a much looser drawing. Everyone enjoyed the experience and so I shall do this again. Drawing by Candlelight workshops could be offered in November and December 2016.
Drawing by Candlelight
After three sessions of drawing we each made a five minute drawing from memory, based on the whole evening’s observations.

Getting ‘edgy’

Different Drums - work in progress

Different Drums – work in progress


With a week to go until the MA deadline I’m definitely getting edgy. The final two paintings for the show are shown above ‘in progress’. A scary moment! Is this really the end of the course? Relief and sadness combine together. But all this emotion is too premature. The paintings need to be prepared for exhibiting first. I’ve debated with myself long and hard whether or not to paint the edges of the paintings. I had intended to leave the marks of making on the sides. However, I couldn’t deny that they were a distraction. The work is not going to be framed and so I reluctantly started the process of painting the edges. I didn’t want white for the abstract paintings as this would detract from the colour of the images. Where I had graduated coloured grounds to work with, this means choosing whether to go with the lighter tone or the darker. I’ve always gone for the darker, to somehow ‘ground’ the piece against the wall. A bigger problem is to get the edges painted and dry in time to be able to pick the paintings up and move them around. I can only complete two large paintings at a time as I need to lay the paintings on their backs on tables to reach (and see!) the edges clearly. One slip of the brush and I could ruin a painting!
Watching paint dry!

Watching paint dry!


To go back a stage, to the paintings themselves – I have made a transition in my work, moving more fully into abstraction and, I realise, into something more performative. I had experimented with the idea of symmetry, which has come across so clearly to me from working in the newly refurbished CFT, where an asymmetrical Foyer has become symmetrical. Even the staircases are known as Stage Right and Stage Left. In this painting I added marks to the canvas on the basis of what I add to the right I will add to the left (I have since turned the painting through 90 degrees).:
Symmetry

Symmetry


It was a liberating experience. I didn’t want an exact mirror image so my repetitions were diagonally opposite and altered in colour or size etc to keep the painting interesting. I feel that it needs editing further – it is either too busy or not busy enough. What it has done for me is to introduce a new way of working and from this experiment, the content of my degree show has been made. I kept the same palette (magenta, cerulean and lemon) as I had been using for the earlier paintings from The Rehearsal. I now have two bodies of work, one, which I will exhibit at CFT, with direct and recognisable links to the production The Rehearsal and another, which represents development into the body of work for my degree show.

‘Getting’ Perspective

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my painting practice and why I paint in the way that I do. Multiple viewpoints of a place often appear in my work, either by design or sometimes they creep in without me noticing. Many of my paintings are about doorways and stairs. So coupled with my, wholly intentional, inclusion of ‘pathways’ through my paintings, there often appears to be a choice for the viewer, as to how the eye should travel through the painting.
I re-visited some of my earlier research of David Hockney’s thoughts on perspective. He famously created Pearblossom Highway, by taking 600 or more photographs along a road in Mexico (?) from different positions (including up a ladder) and he collaged the photographs to create an entirely believable location, which doesn’t actually exist in that form.

Pearblossom Highway http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/artists-documentary-close-personal-hockney

Pearblossom Highway http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/artists-documentary-close-personal-hockney


The detail in the picture allows you to see the road sign (stop ahead) as clearly as the crushed Pepsi can on the ground, as if you have tilted your head downwards – because tilting downwards is what Hockney did with his camera.
He has long pursued an enquiry about why paintings became more ‘realistic’ or more like a photograph after approximately 1420. It was thought that the use of lenses was the answer, although no actual lenses were found from early enough to explain it. Hockney explains in an instructive (if self serving!) BBC programme how a much simpler piece of equipment, a piece of glass or mirror and a darkroom can create an inverted image, good enough to trace from. This was therefore be the foundation of a detailed and accurate painting, without the need for drawn grids, which we normally associate with perspective drawing and painting. The drawn grids were a later invention, widely attributed to Brunelleschi, who realised the size restriction of the use of a mirror (a standard 30cm for all images). By extending lines from the drawing (tracing) of the reflected image, he was able to make a larger image than the camera obscura allows. (Khanacademy has made a short film on Brunelleschi’s experiment with perspective.)
Hockney also explains how painters such as Van Eyck obtained sharp detail from the use of a single eye (camera lucida), good enough for him to represent the rear of the couple in the Arnolfini Portrait. Images from lenses are different because they have one eye and we have two and we move around, so the absolute detail of images seen through lenses are ‘too good to be true’.
This research has led me on to a closer look at Vermeer, who many think used the camera obscura because of his competency in handling perspective, and the design of his studio. Some think that his use of the device was more for compositional planning than for direct tracing. The softness of Vermeer’s images and his diffused highlights are reminiscent of the ‘out of focus’ area of the image seen through a camera obscura. A film called Tim’s Vermeer, was made of Tim Jenison’s reconstruction of Vermeer’s studio and how he may have worked.
To go back to how this relates to my own work, I think that, because we are surrounded by photographic images today, we have become blind to them. The painter can offer something different. We are dealing with the materiality of paint and the hand skills of applying it. We can juxtapose one colour against another, we can soften edges, wipe back paint, pour it and splash it. Making a painting is a very physical experience. I want my paintings to invite the viewer to look around the canvas, not to walk past, as I often do with a painted ‘photographic’ representation. That tells me nothing about the painter. This is why I build in a pathway (or two or three) to guide you through the painting. I also resist the sharpness of lines, reminiscent of photographic images, which saturate our culture. In my more abstract work, the collisions of colour grab your attention first, before the soft drifting of colour guides you through additional areas of the canvas.
My paintings are currently ‘under wraps’ until the degree show, but here is another snippet from a painting, which I have been working on:
"Go and suffer in the garden" detail
There is a mauvey-grey, which is part of one of my ‘pathways’ and links to the same colour elsewhere in the painting.
Also, Check out my photograph of the camera obscura, which I made using two shoe boxes! It actually works! Forgive my excitement, but I went to an all girls’ school in 19**, so science was rather basic for us.
Camera Obscura made out of two shoe boxes

Camera Obscura made out of two shoe boxes


Inside the shoe box you can see the upside-down image of my herb garden, projected onto the tracing paper, which I taped to the inner shoe box (the one which slides so that you can focus the image).

Come to the degree show at artOne from 9 September to 15 September to see more of my work and that of 11 other excellent artists.

Studio time

I am in the last stages of my MA now and am busy preparing for my exhibition at the university in September. I need a coherent body of work, which will look good hanging together. I have been using some standard sizes and thicknesses of canvases for a while now, all beautifully made and primed by Sophia Alexander-James. This means that I will be able to choose from the latest paintings, knowing that the canvases won’t be a distraction.
This is the space I work in – it is rather messier now as I am working much more with canvases on the floor and pouring and splashing paint

artOne studio

artOne studio


At the end of June I had painted “We’re Supposed to be Rehearsing”
Rehearsal 4

Rehearsal 4


This painting has some good qualities but I am unhappy with the area to the right and may yet attempt to resolve this. July has seen me ‘mining’ this painting for new paintings and in particular using a heightened version of the colour palette. I am not ready to show these paintings until the degree show (my equivalent of Press Night) but I could reveal some snippets
Rehearsal (detail)
Distant Stage detail
Alongside the practical studio work I am drafting my 2000 word statement on my latest work and I am beginning to prepare for my seminar, which has to be given to my tutors and others on 8 September – not far off now!