Thursday, 19 September 2019

The Magic of Mersea

As an artist who often makes prints that are inspired by nature Mersea Island is a gift, whether walking along the sea-wall watching birds and water running over the mud. . .
or seeing boats and the paraphernalia that comes through having boats on the shore, there is much to be motivated by.
I needed to make some prints larger than my usual format, which I initially found a bit of a challenge.

Translating sketchbook and photo ideas into prints usually, for me, involves drawing but in this instance I had to 'go big' and simplify, and the drawn line didn't really lend itself to where I was trying to go. . . it took me a morning messing around before I had the 'bright-idea' of using collage (doh)

I don't know why I don't use collage more often, one can't be 'precious' and it's satisfyingly direct.
I couldn't quite get the boat cradle images out of my minds eye, something so prosaic and usually quite insignificant, prompting me to spend some (overdue) time playing around with viscosity printmaking and making offset images.

It's amazing where a walk along the foreshore can take you!
Hanging the sky up to dry.
In both these pebbly beach prints I have used viscosity printing and of course I've promised myself lots of time in the studio to 'mess about' with this method . . . 

mustn't leave it too long!

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Oxford Artweeks, May 2019

April and there's barely a bud on the wisteria which holds up the pergola over the path to the studio, perfect printmaking days in the studio in the run-up to my first Oxford Artweeks.
I love a bit of lino. . .  or ply. . .  or mdf and happily use any or all to make prints from.

For Oxford Artweeks I concentrated on making books. . .  these images from Setting Off are a mix of lino and wood which gives the different textures. 

Setting Off results from sketches made of stands of trees on long winter walks along the Wiltshire stretch of the Ridgeway, possibly Britain's oldest road. Metaphors of the woods are written deep in our language, going back into our collective folk traditions, often as places of mystery, menace and threat.

. . . Don't go down to the woods alone.
Hinterland, inspired by walks along the sea-wall in Mersea, observing the constant shifts in mood and light over the strood, and watching birds in flight.

I was so pleased to have a reason to use some hand-marbled paper that I have ferreted away in a drawer. The person who gave it to me told me it was made in the 1930's, I can believe that, as it's quite brittle but it does glue and wrap very happily.
Mapping the Edges, inspired by the sound of Red Kites calling over our garden, quite a heart-rending, mournful sound, which summed up ideas of being alone and the singularity of the human experience.
Meresig grew out of the excitement of spotting curlews while walking along the Essex coast. Curlews are in crisis and we don't have as many in the UK as we once did, I felt very lucky to see them. 

It's magical hearing the curlews call late of an evening in Mersea, particularly on a still evening with the sun dipping low on the horizon.
I've taken part in lots of open studio events over the years but never from my studio and rarely on my own. . . it's quite daunting, and of course there is so much to tidy away.

I opened over two weekends plus a day in the week, welcoming many curious and thought-provoking visitors. I don't think I've held an open studio quite like it, topics of conversation ranged far and wide, from process and concept, to literature and learning, to poetry and politics. 

Certainly kept me on my toes. . . and I very much enjoyed the experience.

The studio made ready for visitors.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Artists, Poets, Writers, Academics, Teachers, Translators, and Photographers

I first became involved with 'An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street' in the summer of 2011 when I responded to the call put out by poet, bookseller and founder of The Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Coalition, Beau Beausoleil, by making Falling Gently. This was for artists to complete three books over the course of a year that reflected both the strength and fragility of books, but also to show the endurance of the ideas within them. Beau asked for work that reflected the targeted attack on this street of booksellers as well as the ultimate futility of those who try to erase thought.

The latest call, as a part of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project, is a photography project, Shadow & Light, bearing witness to targeted academics in Iraq who have been ruthlessly murdered.

This time, the intention is to take from historical invisibility, to commemorate the hundreds of academics (lecturers, professors, teachers) that were assassinated in Iraq during the US-led invasion and occupation, during the years 2003-2012. During this period, over 300 teachers, both Sunni and Shia, were targeted by various groups with no one group taking responsibility. The assassinations occurred on university campuses, at the homes of teachers, and sometimes while they were driving.

Did you have a teacher who inspired you? Was there a lecturer who fired your imagination? Are you indeed, a teacher? Would you contribute to this project?

This was an attempt to shut down academic freedom and free speech, things we take for granted but that we know all too well must be preserved and supported. If you are an artist, a poets, a writer, an academic, a teacher, a translator, or a photographer you are welcome to take part.

My image for Shadow and Light. Taken in the field at the front of my house very early on a still September morning, when I watched the sun come up, while the mist in the valley and vapour trials in the sky slowly shift and fade, transient and temporary as dreams.

Threshold
No.245 Kathum Mashhout: Lecturer in edaphology at the College of Agriculture, Basra University. Killed in Basra in December 2006 [exact date unknown]. [Source: CEOSI Iraqi university sources, 12 December 2006]

Edaphology: relating to the soil. Any property of the soil, physical or chemical, that influences the plants growing in that soil. How can someone lecturing on the effect of soils on the growth of plants be seen as an enemy, it beggars belief. These killings are a shameful and random, violent attempt to shut down academic freedom, free speech and the sharing of knowledge.

Standing in silence and looking out at the sun rising on a green washed autumn morning, as mist settles and shifts, I’m looking for an echo, an idea of a man I will never meet . . . did he ever stand, I wonder, alone to watch the sun rise over dew soaked fields, watching mist in the valley and vapour trails in the sky; shifting, fluid . . . transient and temporary as dreams. 

Unlike the soil underneath my feet. The rich loam on which I stand, home to a myriad life forms, land that has been husbanded for generations (was he a husband? . . a father? . . did he love, and was he loved in return?) Would he have recognised anything of his Fertile Crescent, the birthplace of agriculture, in these scratchy, stubble grazed fields of a soft, still, northern hemisphere morning?

I study the view again and watch the light change to a brighter hue as the day gathers strength. It’s beautiful to watch. It is calm and so very still. Not quite alone, I am here carrying with me the ghost of a man I’ve never seen, into a wide open, and deserted field to find some trace resonant with another, so we can watch the light change together. 

Hearing them first, I become aware of a horde of crows tearing out from the trees, racing to harry a red kite. Falling into air. Plunging at her head with bitter black cries, their dark shapes wheeling over the land. I watch discomfited at their shadows running. Disconnected. Spinning, coursed on like a hare.

Dropping my phone. Stooping to touch the soil; and I see for one flickering instant as if through the cataracts of a ghosts clouded eye. 

If you're interested in finding out more, below is part of the text from an email Beau sent, August 2018, with links.

SHADOW AND LIGHT

Dear friends,

I am writing to you specifically as fellow artists, writers, poets, activists, image-makers, printers, teachers/academics, translators, and amateur and professional photographers. The Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project has added a fourth visual call and response (in addition to the broadside/letter press response, the artists’ book response (including our small bookmark project), and the printmaking response).

This time, the intention is to take from historical invisibility, to memorialize and to honour  the hundreds of academics (lecturers, professors, teachers) that were assassinated in Iraq during the US-led invasion and occupation, during the years 2003-2012. During this period, over 300 teachers were targeted by various groups with no one group taking responsibility. The assassinations occurred on university campuses, at the homes of teachers, and sometimes while they were driving. We cannot calculate the loss to the families of these victims, as well as the loss to the entire intellectual community of Iraq.

The targeted assassinations of hundreds of Iraqi academics was an attempt to erase and intimidate those who teach, write, do research, and work to carry knowledge and collective and personal memories forward. Free speech and the free exchange of ideas is as important in a classroom as it is on al-Mutanabbi Street.

I’ve come to the conclusion that since we are honoring targeted academics, we don’t necessarily need only professional photographers; rather, we need someone who understands the wider implications of these kinds of targeted assassinations. Perhaps the most daunting thing for a non-professional photographer would be following the material guidelines to prepare the photo for the project. If you understand this project and if you would consider joining, then choose the name of an academic and the details of their assassination as a reference point. The photograph we ask for should be a landscape image, either urban or in nature; it can be constructed or found. It could be an empty room or an open field, an urban parking lot or a grove of trees. You could simply take a picture of the first resonant empty space that you encounter. Some measure of understanding needs to be traversed and the only life it should hold is the remnant of the person that the photographer has chosen to represent. A key element here, is that the image is empty of people. The photograph itself buys us time with the viewer. The photograph should hold the body in place. Your image should hold this person in a kind of emptiness that is palpable, an emptiness that has enough small details in it for the viewer to slowly consider, and then, their vision should drift down to the name you have chosen and then back up again to the image. The photograph has to be strong but it also has to give way to the person that somehow inspired the image. The photo should be a way to take the viewer to the name and the life that held it. You will know the balance when you see it.

In Solidarity,

Beau Beausoleil - Founder - Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here - overlandbooks@earthlink.net

Note: Choose a name from the following link below with the accompanying number. Let me know who you have chosen. Create your image after you have picked a name from the list of assassinated academics, rather than using a photograph you may have already taken.

SHADOW AND LIGHT GUIDELINES:

1) 6 copies of one or two images.
2) Use any kind of paper you want.
3) Photo size: 8 x 10 or 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 14.
4) Any photographic process: colour inkjet printing, black and white, analog darkroom printing, mail order printing processes.
5) Please include the usual exhibit details about your photographs: title of your print, your name, country, subject’s name, print technique.
6) Sign and date on the back of the photograph
7) Please include an artist’s statement of up to 400 words. It’s important to remember that this is a project of art in the service of ideas rather than a work for an art exhibition. Within your statement let us know your “point of entry” for what you are trying to get at or reflect upon with your photograph.
8) You have six months to complete this project, from the date you notify me that you are interested in participating with this project.


Artists’ Book Project (An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street – Click into a gallery and then onto any book image to see more views of the book and read the artist’s statement.
http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/al-mutanabbi-street/

Al-Mutanabbi Street Broadsides – http://www.library.fau.edu/…/collect…/al-mutanabbi/index.php




Monday, 4 February 2019

Oxford Artweeks 2019

The 2019 Oxfordshire Artweeks festival guide is here!

Not long now before you can come and visit amazing art in hundreds of wonderful places. There are village trails to follow, city streets to explore and galleries and gardens across the county of Oxfordshire where you will find something inspiring and fresh.

Choosing from hundreds of different artists, visit their homes and studios to see work which will vary from the traditional to the contemporary, with printmaking and painting, from furniture to fashion, showing silverware, sculpture, mosaics and more, there's lots to go and see and it's free!

Oxford City                Sat 4th May - Sun 12th May
South Oxfordshire     Sat11th May - Sun 12th May
North Oxfordshire     Sat18th May - Sun 27th May


And some of us make books . . . these images are from work made in Shetland, inspired by the local birds while staying at the Bressay lighthouse.


Monday, 21 January 2019

Stony Stories

I took part in a workshop at Rabley Drawing Centre some years back where I made a series of photographs of collected stones that at the time I didn't use and so, the stones in question joined my Stony Stash.

Why do we pick up pebbles on a walk or at the beach? . . .

What prompts us to take them home as a keepsake? . . . 

For generations and across cultures stones have been used as markers; to indicate paths and trails, and  to indicate a visit when placing a small stone on a grave to show respect and recall the past.

It struck me that it may be a very ancient thing that stones are frequently used as talismans to our memories, and that when a child picks up a stone today, to take home, they are following a very long line of pebble collectors.
Fast forward ten or so years and I found myself handling those stones, they look beautiful, and remembering the photographs and the workshop I'd enjoyed taking part in, making memories that resulted in a book. 

Stony Stories, is about remembering, and retaining a connectedness to a shared past, and so, prompted by pebbles that I have picked up on my travels over the years which I've kept like lucky charms and, by the stones that my children have picked up and given to me, I created a book about the memories that simple stones can evoke.

Monday, 7 January 2019

One of a kind - Wedding Guest signature book

I love making a unique wedding guest book. It's always one-of-a-kind as no two couples are alike, and I enjoy the insight it gives me to the couple, particularly when they chose the text to run along the bottom of each page.

Transferring the design and cutting the block for the end papers.
I still need to hang drying racks in the studio . . .  consequently my bookshelves are regularly commandeered for drying purposes!
Endpapers sewn into the book
In this instance the text running along the bottom of each page is September, by Earth Wind and Fire.

I remember when it was released in 1978 (hazy memories of discos and platform shoes) suffice it to say the couple that chose these lyrics wouldn't be even a gleam in their daddy's eye for at least another ten years!

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Books, books and more books

Books, books and more books, that was Turn The Page 2018 . . . such variety!

It was a busy couple of days, full of lively chat (some glorious Norfolk accents!) and I met some delightful people from my side of the table.

 

The work you can see from my view-point is that of Thule Wright who makes enchanting, delicate paper reconstructions.

However, you cannot see my favourite work - Lost Between Shores, by Annette Kreiser beautifully printed and suggesting both fragility and sentiment.

Looking up from my table prompts me to ponder the mix of old and new.

I see the church of St Peter Mancroft through the enormous glass structure that is the Forum. Building work on the church began about 1430, not long before the first use of moveable type in Europe and the first great popularisation of books.

The Forum, built as a millennium project and finished in 2001 is home to the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium library . . . today it's filled with an enormous variety of artists books.

This is a casual connection, serendipitous, but a lovely connection nonetheless. It makes me think about the links through time and space to people and places and ideas . . .


The Magic of Mersea

As an artist who often makes prints that are inspired by nature Mersea Island is a gift, whether walking along the sea-wall watching birds ...