Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Aos Dara/Umha Aois Symposium 2020 Part II

I started writing about the Aos Dara/Umha Aois combined symposium, in which I was a participant, last week. Details of the symposium and my preparations for work can be found in that blog here. As I had the paper prepared with graphite already, I began drawing with my trusty Staedtler eraser, as per my proposal. I was glad to have some green graphite, because after being in Tomnafinnoge wood, I did not want to limit myself to dark, grey works. However, I was  very pleased with this drawing and the subtlety of the green graphite on the tree worked. I did several other drawings on graphite, which I was not happy with, so of course, I am not showing them! (They'll be binned soon enough.)

My original intention, when preparing several sheets of paper with black acrylic, was to paint images in white only. However, as I mentioned last week, the colour of the forest so impressed me that I didn't think such a minimalist approach would work. I really liked that image of the lightning tree and got out my oilsticks to do more justice to the colourful tree.

When I make collages I tend to tear the paper into shape rather than cut. This facilitates a certain amount of unexpected results in the intended shapes as well a beautiful deckled edge, showing off the original colour of the paper (in this case, a creamy white).

Another image that I repeatedly used as inspiration, was that of the small mushrooms which could be seen in networks growing from mossy, fallen tree limbs, and I even spotted a circular Faerie Ring of small mushrooms. While I definitely did not think my graphite, and black & white acrylic drawing experiments with mushrooms actually worked, the jury is still out on the collage.

The acrylic collage that I thought worked best was Saplings. I had experimented with this image several times in other media, with always problematic results, yet I kept on working on it as I really liked the image of trees and ferns that could be seen at one of the forest entrances.

I was guaranteed that one piece would be displayed in the group exhibition, but I chose two to frame as I couldn't decide whether I preferred the sombre Lightning Tree or

the colourful Saplings. I brought both of them to the gallery and said they could choose either. Happily both pieces will be in the group exhibition that launches on Culture Night 2020.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Aos Dara/Umha Aois Symposium 2020 Part I

I wrote about having my proposal accepted for this year's Aos Dara/Umha Aos combined symposium here and included some of my preparations. I saw last year's work, which I blogged about here reviewed for CIRCA Magazine here. Tomnafinnoge Wood is really beautiful! It is an old oak forest with two rivers and several paths from which to explore it.

My intention was to explore different media and while I had prepared graphite and acrylic pages in advance to work on, while I was at Tomnafinnoge Wood, I did some bark rubbings.

 I thought I might use them in planned collages, and though I didn't, they got me into the mood!

I also collected some oak leaves while I was at the forest and printed from them directly when I got home.

Using my watercolour pencils, I did some sketches from the numerous research photos I had taken during my day in the woods. There were some very strange looking mushrooms growing on trees!

There were lots of smaller mushrooms at ground level too, on fallen, mossy tree limbs, and I even found a quite large Faerie Ring, which neither me or my companions dared to trespass in! I did especially like these mycelial networks and wanted to work more with the image. I'll report more on this in next week's blog.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020


A few months ago I responded to an "open call" opportunity that was listed in Curator Space, a newsletter that provides information and opportunities for artists. Although most of these opportunities are more relevant to UK artists, some are international, and others (like this one) was online so anyone could apply. The open call was specific: artists must have a sense of humour, an interest in playing with scale, and their work must fit through the curator's letterbox. The curator of Tiny Cat Gallery is designer/artist Lisa Cole and the gallery is a cardboard box organised, invigilated and frequented by tiny plastic cats. Cole was responsible for all onsite photography and Instagram posting. She can be followed (as herself) on instagram @lisa_cole_designer and (as gallery curator)

I often make miniature work when coming up with new ideas - sketches, paintings, collages - so I looked through my own recent oeuvre to come up with a theme and suitable small work that would appear huge in the gallery. I applied for an exhibition and was accepted. My teen, who is obsessed with cats despite allergies, has a number of tiny plastic cats, so we chose one to send as an ambassador along with the work.

I sent enough work to fit on the box/gallery walls, but I forgot to take into account that one wall would not be used as a space since it was necessary for Ms Cole to access the gallery in order to take photographs for instagram posts. So Shore I and

Shore II were not actually included in the exhibition. All works, however feature on Lisa Cole's website, here.

Before I posted my package to Bristol (where the physical gallery is) I photographed the work and Ms Cole produced an invitation for the online exhibition.

The exhibition was for one week and the launch party on the Sunday afternoon was an indication of the fun that would be had with the work and the cats all week. Narratives accompanied each instagram post (at least four daily). In this one the cats are discussing the nature of "liminality" as a follow-up to their earlier dream discussion...

As my see-through cat ambassador embodied liminality, it put on a performance channelling Tilda Swinton's "The Maybe". For more information about Swinton's performance, have a peek here and here. My ambassador, Lucky, chose to perform between my two silk fibre pieces, Star Cloud and Narcissus. For more information on how I made these pieces during a Zoom papermaking workshop, have a look here.
 One of Monday's instagram posts featured Shore III and Shore IV, working well as a diptych, as well as Star Cloud and Narcissus.

Several artists from previous exhibitions at Tiny Cat Gallery had devised workshops related to their work, and I was no exception. The point of my workshop was to explore colour, shape and luminosity. I took a photo of the items needed for the workshop and posted "how-to" details on Thursday morning. Tiny Cat Gallery made a poster advert for the workshop and re-posted details for both the tiny cat visitors and for anyone following along on Instagram.

The tiny cats had some playful pre-workshop moments...

 and created their own "liminal" painting.
On the Friday, one of the posts featured Branches II & III as a diptych taking up an entire wall of the gallery. I have had both solo and group exhibitions in various countries over the past 35 years, but I can easily say this was the most fun and most engaging exhibition of my career!