Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Memory Is My Homeland - prints, part 1 of 2

In the spring of 2019 I embarked on a new body of work after having a dream of houses and prints. Tentatively I referred to this work as "The Home Project" and talked about it in early days here. Certainly as time went on the work began to take shape for me in terms of examining concepts of home in relation to place, time and memory. As I began to work on more pieces (paintings, drawings) I re-titled the body of work as Memory Is My Homeland, and a search within this blog will lead you to various pieces within this body of work. After taking a zoom silk fibre papermaking workshop, I decided that I wanted to make prints on this beautiful handmade support. So first things first, I made the silk sheets for the prints and blogged about it here. My idea, originally, was to create a series of monoprints, but for various reasons I was not happy with the results, which I discuss here. Though at the time I thought this monoprint was too bright to be included with the Memory Is My Homeland work, I now disagree with myself and think it belongs. 

Red Wellies; monoprint on handmade silk fibre sheet; image size: 9 cm x 13 cm; silk fibre sheet size: approx 24 cm x 24 cm; 2020

After not being happy with a number of monoprints, I made the decision that I would, instead, make linocuts to be printed in small editions and uniquely print each lino on a piece of silk fibre sheet. I had a studio residency at Signal Arts Centre last fall, during which I planned to do all the printing, but then there was another lockdown so I did the printing at home, which I discussed here. Below is one of the Distance editioned prints (image size: 6cm x 7.5cm)

and a unique print on silk fibre sheet. When making this sheet I included strands of green raffia fibre. Since this fibre reminded me of the confusion that telephone wires and relationships could be, I thought it provided an appropriate support for the telephone image (silk fibre sheet size: approx 20cm x 25cm). 

Prom Rail, Bray; image size: 6cm x 7.5cm

silk fibre sheet size: approx 22cm x 28.5cm

When thinking about images I wanted to print for this series, I realised I had already cut some linoblocks a few years ago for the Good Morning books that I wanted to reuse, and since the blocks were the same size as this series, there was no need for me to "reinvent the wheel"! I discuss those books here, here and here.

Hospitality; image size: 6cm x 7.5cm

silk fibre sheet size: approx 23cm x 27cm

Spilt Tea; image size: 6cm x 7.5cm

silk fibre sheet size: approx 21cm x 26cm

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Knockeen - big painting in progress

Although I had planned to have the big painting, Knockeen, finished by the end of June, I realised there were a lot of details that I wanted to add. I began the painting in February of this year and have been working on it steadily since then. To see the painting progress from its beginnings till now, check out earlier blogs here, here and here. I still want to keep my painting loose and I extended my personal deadline to concentrate entirely on some details. For instance, I wanted to define some of the leafy areas arouond the wild rose petals.

And though I have no intention of painting every leaf on the fuschia bushes, I want a few leaves to stand out, so I sketched some in.

Here are more leaves getting a bit more definition.

I also wanted the blackberry leaves to be more definitive and used several different green mixes to make them so.

This is just another detail showing how the wild rose leaves differ from the blackberry leaves.

While not finished I am happy with the way things are looking with this painting and am continuing to concentrate on finalising some details. This painting will be one of those featured in Memory Is My Homeland, my exhibition of paintings and prints at Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin next spring (mid-Feb to the end of March 2022). In 2019 I discussed the concept of the work for this exhibition here and the beginnings of this project here.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Anonymous Archive part 2 of 2

I blogged last week about anonymously and unexpectedly receiving some of my old work and you can read about that here, because I am now continuing from where I left off.

This print I was very happy to have back, as I do not have any other copies myself, but had never forgotten my work on it. Based on a sketch I did of one of my young nieces asleep, I wanted to recreate that variance in pencil linework and spent many hours of class time in the print room with my zinc plate in an acid bath to create this variance. I remember, in 1981 (my final year at CTS in Toronto) being so pleased that the test print showed the lines as I imagined.

My printmaking teacher convinced me to fill in my minamilist approach with aquatint, which I had never tried before. Although I took a similar attitude with the aquatint - giving it many "baths" in order to have a variance in shadow, I remember being hugely disappointed in the resulting test print. I thought the aquatint overwhelmed the linework.

I am not so disappointed now, though, as I think there is a good contrast between the lines and the shadows. I know I only made a very small edition, but since I have no idea of the provenance of the others, I am quite delighted to have one of the final prints in the edition.

After I finished at the Special Art Programme at CTS, I carried on with my own work as a developing artist. That summer I was very interested in specific flowers as representative of my self. I also made many monoprints, using the backs of zinc etching plates. At this point I do not recall whether these represented red tulips or rosebuds...

In the fall of 1981 I started working as a temp in an office in downtown Toronto. Because the employer had a policy that encouraged "staggered hours", I ended up starting work by 7.30 am so that I could go home in the afternoon before rush hour. As winter wore on I found myself at my desk watching the sun rise through the office blinds. I found this broken cityscape view quite inspiring and later did quite a number of sketches of it. I only finally did a large painting in 2015, Fractured City, which was inspred by this time and the sketches I did back then.

I was surprised to see this slightly later work in the Anonymous Archive. Still from the 80s, I did this mixed media piece as part of a series that ended up being exhibited in Winters Gallery at York University (while I was in my final year there in 1986) and then at Charyk Gallery in Downsview. At the time I was very interested in metonymy, visually as well as verbally, where part of the whole represented the whole. In the case of this series, the hand represented the body.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Anonymous Archive part 1 of 2

 A few weeks ago I was the recipient of a hit and run dump: the doorbell rang and no one was there but a large, filthy cardboard folder full of really old pieces of artwork had been left at the door. About a third of it was mine, and I knew an estranged sibling was doing a deep clean of their attic.

So, from the "anonymous archive" this is a very early - from grade 11 in high school, 1977 - oil pastel. I actually remember doing it; I was working from a rectangular landscape picture and decided to draw it in a circle, making everything curvy.

I think I must have liked using oil pastels (now I prefer materials more extreme - either chalk pastels or oilsticks - which are on opposite sides of the spectrum). I think this oil pastel still life is from grade 12, late 1977 or early 1978.

When I was in grade 12 I received a scholarship to the Art Gallery of Ontario's Gallery School, which meant I had unlimited access to the gallery, and art classes on Saturday mornings. I was totally thrilled with the arrangement. The artist/teachers divided the classes into rotating groups to do life drawing, plaster mould-making (around clay sculpture) and printmaking. The printmaking module consisted of an introduction to lithography using paper plates rather than stone. I don't know what inspired this preparation sketch, perhaps my ideal landscape?

I was really surprised to see this print again, I had completely forgotten about it - I remembered learning about the principles of lithography and I remembered using a paper plate rather than stone, but I did not remember the image at all. Printmaking was my last module at the Gallery School, so it would have been created during the spring of 1978.

I started art school in September 1978 at Central Technical School's 3-Year Special Adult Art Programme, which was a free post-secondary art programme run out of a high school (though in a separate art building) by the Toronto Board of Education. The programme had a long history as it was founded to train returning veterans of WW1 into commercial art. The programme had a very good reputation for training would-be artists in both commercial and fine art as well as craft, with extensive facilities for sculpture, illustration, ceramics, photography, printmaking, life drawing, etc. In my first year I loved having both life drawing and life painting classes (3 hours each weekly). I still remember this model, Fred, was always very stately when clothed, and totally professional when not. This drawing and watercolour would have been done in early 1978 as we didn't actually "paint" in life painting during the first part of the school year.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Ceramics Ireland 2021 exhibition

 In a further exploration of reopening places, I visited the gorgeous Rathfarnham Castle a few weeks ago in order to see the annual selected members of Ceramics Ireland group exhibition. As with other larger indoor public spaces (Rathfarnham Castle is managed by the OPW) I booked my viewing time and had a leisurely stroll through the exhibition.

I forgot to take down the names of specific exhibitors! The prices and names were on small labels next to each piece. There was such a huge variety of work, and it was wonderful to see such creativity in the ceramics. I was quite taken with this person's work - they had several pieces that employed wire and other attachments (before or after firing?) to create vessels that exuded ephemerality.

There was a lot of work in the exhibition but each piece had space around it to allow contemplation.

The grand, deteriorated rooms of Rathfarnham Castle provided a sumptuous backdrop for the work laid out on uniformly sparse tables.

This small, delicate, sculptural piece of paper-thin porcelain seemed to whisper elegance into the room.

Another view of the work in the largest room - the dining room of the Elizabethan fortified home.

I thought the matte glazing on these three cylindrical vessels very lovely and understated, and here is another of the ceramic and wire pieces that I was really drawn to.

I enjoyed the way this ceramic artist use the forms of these vessels as a surface on which to paint the human form.

The glazing techniques used on these urns placed them in my mind along with ancient amphorae.

I am not sure if this was done by the same ceramic artist who created the two urns above (shame on me for not noting artist names!) but the seemingly random squiggles in the glazing is gorgeous! The exhibition has finished for this year, but it is one to watch out for as it is an annual event at Rathfarnham Castle.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Dublin gallery day - part 3 of 3

More than two weeks have passed since I made my big excursion in to Dublin for a "gallery day", but it was impossible to blog about it all in one blog day, so I divided up chronologically to suit how my day went. I blogged about the first two stops (The Molesworth Gallery and The National Gallery) last week, and you can find that blog here and I continued on to see Damien Flood's new exhibition, Tilt, at the RHA, which I blogged about here. The RHA is so huge that there was another big exhibition going on across the hall: Sean Scully's "Eleuthera", recent paintings titled after the Caribbean island where his family holidayed a few years ago.

It was a huge coincidence that I had seen an earlier, small abstract piece of Scully's at The National Gallery exhibition, Living with Art: from Picasso to Celmins. The accompanying didactic specifically said that Scully had worked figuratively before becoming reknowned for his totally non-objective large paintings. Both my husband and I looked at each other doubtfully - neither of us had ever seen any figurative work by Sean Scully. Then we walked across the hall to be met by these huge, vibrant figurative Scully works! I absolutely love them!

The huge paintings were done on aluminum and this picture gives an idea of their size! 

All the work in the exhibition focusses on Scully's 8 year old son playing in the sand with bucket and spade. The secondary figure that appears in many works is most likely the child's mother. This simple idyll has a multitude of variations where drawing as well as painting has a role to play in the final composition.

There was a large framed display of research photographs in the first part of the exhibition and in the second part small works were displayed, probably part of Scully's colour decision process.

The smallest works, at the end of the exhibition, were all black and white sketch drawings. Possibly these drawings were created from the photos, but they had the exuberance and immediacy of in situ sketches. Though Scully is a reknowned master of contemporary non-objective painting, this vibrant exhibition spoke directly to my sensibilities and I hope to see more work like this from him in the future.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Dublin gallery day - part 2 of 3

It seems ages away now, but it was less than two weeks ago that I had my big excursion in to Dublin for a "gallery day". I blogged about the first two stops (The Molesworth Gallery and The National Gallery) last week, and you can find that blog here. But the catalyst that got me venturing into Dublin in the first place was desire to see Damien Flood's new exhibition, Tilt, at the RHA. I met Flood (always Damo to me) many years ago when he was a teenager and a friend to several of my nieces. For many years now, he has been quite an accomplished artist and I am always curious to see the development of his work. I was aware of his (relatively) new excursion into ceramic figurative work and wondered how it would fare in juxtaposition with his paintings.

The RHA is a fairly large and open space so the figures can fully inhabit their area grouping but at the same time complement the 2D work. Having chatted with Damo about this exhibition (before it was installed) I knew that he had designed the plinths specifically for each sculpture group. The beautiful, careful, and appropriate plinths extended the ceramic figures giving them height and weight as sculptures. The figures themselves expressed angst and humour simultaneously and the use of gold leaf undeniably spoke of their emotional importance.

It was most surprising and delightful to see this tiny figure sitting steadfastly on the corner of a painting.

The figure seems resigned or glum in his position. As the only figure in the exibition that is directly situated on a canvas, without the company of other figures and the only 3D figure without added gold leaf, he is very much alone.

The paintings provide a steady evolution from earlier work. I, for one, am delighted at the lack of the colour brown in the paintings (since I abhor brown) and am glad to see Flood using a more colourful palette than in earlier work. There is a definitely surreal, dream-like quality to the work as images are within a floating world of their own. One is never sure whether it is a specific object or just the paint itself that is being depicted.

In one corner of the adjacent large gallery, another group of figures beckoned to me, again on beautiful, bespoke plinths.

These grinning figures had gold leaf applied to specific areas (brain, teeth) and the crackle glazing was both elegant and spoke of age. Two of the figures were on plinth cushions that related directly to the paintings. The use of gold leaf and cement echoed the figures and plinths in the previous gallery space.

In another corner there were ceramic vessels on their own special plinths, several appearing so precarious that I was beckoned closer just to see how the impossible was possible, but also fearing to go closer...

With these vessels I was brought directly to the imagery of the paintings. I could see them as a culmination of the painting and 3D figure work. Flood was able to express a unity in the materials - clay vessels, paint, glazes, rusted plinths - that made the entire exhibition have a satisfying wholeness to it. Where will he go from here?