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?

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Dublin gallery day - part 1 of 3

During lockdown this year, I have been enjoying Graphic Studio Dublin's series of artist zoom presentations, Artists Beyond the Studio. A few weeks ago the final presentation was made by Cian McLoughlin, sixteenth in the series, in advance of lockdown being gradually eased and cultural venues reopening. Though he has done printmaking, McLoughlin is primarily a painter and his presentation and work shown was amazing; a recording of his presentation can be seen here, and many of the other artist talks are on GSD's youtube channel. In talking about his newest work McLoughlin made me aware of his upcoming exhibition at The Molesworth Gallery in Dublin, and this is where I started my "gallery day" in Dublin last week. 

The Molesworth Gallery is a private gallery in a refurbished Georgian building, not far from The National Gallery and the RHA Gallery, which were on my list for exhibition-viewing that day. Unlike the two larger galleries, The Molesworth did not require advance booking of free entry tickets (I enquired to be sure), so after parking the car a short walk took me to the gallery.

It was so lovely to actually be in a gallery after all this time of lockdown and it was wonderful to be able to see these paintings in person.

While these paintings may appear totally abstract, they are actually abstracted figures in crowds and this becomes apparent with longer looking.

I thought it was very interesting that McLoughlin had started this crowd-themed body of work before the very notion of crowds became an impossibility due to the pandemic. McLoughlin was especially interested in the positive herd euphoria of special events; during his GSD talk he spoke of feeling at one with a crowd during a music concert. His work begs to be looked at both up close (the details are marvellous) and from further away. In many ways it was no surprise to see that this was a sold out show. For me, the catalogue is a welcome addition to my bookshelf.

The National Gallery is about a five minute walk from The Molesworth, and that was my next stop. I had booked entry in advance through their website and the ticket was for the day. I arrived around noon specifically wanting to see the works on paper exhibition, which was touring from the British Museum. Living with Art: Picasso to Celmins is an exhibition of the bequest from journalist-collector Alexander Walker. He bought works that he enjoyed and, most interestingly, recognised instinctively when artists were on the cusp of a new direction in their work.


I was delighted to see many works, drawings and prints, by various masters of their art, It is always a delight to see something by David Hockney - the descriptions ("the hairy man he was staying with at the time"), title, and everything about the work showing off both his skill and sense of humour.

My timed ticket for the RHA only gave me an hour so I headed there - another short walk away - to see two big shows that I will talk about next week and the week after.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

carnage for foragers!

 A couple of weeks ago I heard this loud squawking from a large number of birds. I was indoors, but the sound was cacophonous and I wondered what was going on. On my morning walk I saw that workmen from the Council were on the edge of the estate with some power tools. I thought they were just planning to do the usual trim, which in itself was always an expected disappointment - they had a habit of annually cutting back the blackberry bushes just as the berries were near to ripening. I had grown accustomed to not foraging for blackberries in my own neighbourhood. Usually, however, that culling was done later in the season,. All this bird protest was probably in a justified panic as I imagine nests were being destroyed. 

I could never really see the point of trimming the blackberries either: the bushes were on a small green in the neighbourhood which was used for no purpose other than as an entranceway to the park and as an area for a Hallowe'en bonfire. That wilful destruction of bird habitat was taking place was disturbing to say the least.

Then earlier this week the destruction continued as some bureaucrat with too much time on their hands (covid make-work project?) ordered the cutting down of the elderflower trees in this same area.

As well as being appalled by this recklessness, I was personally disappointed to see this as a done deed. Every year my husband picks elderflowers in early June and makes a beautiful summer cordial and wonderful wine. He has also made elderberry wine from berries picked in the autumn. Again, this culling took place on the edge of a small green separating the estate from the public park. This is a closer look at the stumps of elderflower trees that were left.

And all the branches and cuttings were simply flung in a big pile on the green. 

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

unexpected archive

A few weeks ago I was sorting and culling from several large boxes of correspondence and found a number of things that didn't actually belong with correspondence, rather they could be more appropriately part of my personal art archive. I already blogged about an envelope filled with torn pages from a number of notebooks here. But I found a number of other things in the boxes. This sketch was one I did on my second art school class trip to New York City in 1981. I had been with my friends at The Lizard Lounge that night and for some reason left on my own. I remember running across Times Square to The Picadilly Hotel, where we were staying. At the front desk I asked for the key to the lads' room by mistake and didn't realise it until I got into the room and noticed that the bathtub was full of cans of beer. Rather than return the key to the lobby, I decided to wait for everyone to come back. I found some hotel stationary, a pen, and did this drawing. 

In 1983, in an attempt to extricate myself from an abusive relationship, I began dating someone else. However, I was followed everywhere I went and decided to make a series of artworks from the experience. I planned to call the series "Evidence" but did not get much further in the project than making this small stencilled card.

I made this postcard in 1986 or 1987 specifically so that it would be returned to me. It was sent to one of my former university professors, along with a letter, asking for a reference. The images are based on The Tidal Series of paintings and drawings that I was doing at the time and I made response as easy as possible by providing a series of boxes to be ticked on the postage paid card. My sense of humour showed by my inclusion of the box "I don't remember who you are" - just in case! The card, however, was happily returned to me with a positive response and phone number.

I was talking to one of my cousins about my recent organising and culling, and she reminded me of a piece of work I had given her when she visited Toronto in 1981. It was delightful when she sent me some photos of the piece, the colours as fresh as the day they were painted.

At the time I had been greatly inspired by an exhibition I had seen in New York of Eileen Gray's work. I had painted my own chest of drawers so this was the second piece of "furniture" that I decided to paint. Many years later I painted a full set furniture for my child's room. I blogged about that furniture and the piece that started it all here.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

painting update!

The work on my big painting, Knockeen, is going on at a steady but slow pace. I posted about the beginnings of this painting here, and some thoughts about how it was developing in March, here. As I mentioned before, it is slow and steady work. By the end of March I had all colours blocked in and started re-working particular areas.

The night sky got some further work to make the stars and the comet (Hyakutake as a matter of fact!) more apparent. I am planning further painting in this area, but I wanted to get some of the main elements in before I moved on to another area.

I worked on getting some colour into the whole sky. Although I like the specific blue of the daylight sky, I see it eventually taking on a lighter shade.

While I abhor browns, I want the outbuildings to have a darker, more defined presence. A mix of purples and reds has a rich bronzey effect that I am happy with. I paint thinly in glazes so the under drawing and previous washes of colour are always visible. I love showing the painting's history and development.

The green fields and island in the background started to develop with deeper colours.

I also want some of foliage in the foreground to be more intense. You can see here how I painted a brighter green on the montbretia leaves.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

old notebook pages

While I was recently sorting through several large correspondence boxes (organising/ culling/ amalgamating) I came across an envelope full of pages from small (only about 5 inches x 3 inches) notebooks I kept in 1981, after I finished art school. I had obviously already culled them at some previous date, only keeping pages that I thought were interesting. I know that these pages came from several different notebooks as there were two back pages in the envelope. One of the back pages, along with doodles, has an advert for a storefront for rent. I never lived in or rented a shop but I must have been thinking of it as an option in my early Toronto days. One of the doodles represents an image of an egg and its shadows that I had previously created as a large silkscreen print in my 2nd year of art school, so obviously the image stayed with me.

I would have had the notebooks in my handbag or pocket with me at all times, and used them constantly, especially if my normal sketchbook was too big to carry around. These are some idea sketches for paintings; my work with flowers was very abstracted at the time.

I actually remember being fascinated by the red ash berries in front of the white brick walls at one section of Ontario Hydro where I was working at the time. I know I did some larger works on paper, based on this image, but they probably were binned at the time of my first great purge in 1988.

I was often doodling this insecure selfie image, which first made an appearance in a sketch I made in NYC on my second visit there, on an art school trip in the spring of 1981.

I also did sketches where ever I was. This is whatever was on the table while waiting to be served in a greasy spoon restaurant.

I imagine I was waiting for someone to get out of the loo, so I just doodled a selfie in a restaurant.

Again the abstract flower motif and a little bit of writing that didn't get obliterated in the initial cull of this notebook.

Thinking of the brick wall and ash motif. The rest of that writing starts on the previous page and refers to a series of nightmares the night before, most especially that there was something wrong with my hands and I was afraid I'd never paint again.

Again, here are some idea sketches for future abstract flower paintings. I remember doing one similar to the top sketch but in a vertical format. Two red "tulips" on a primarily turquoise background, with a pale blue underpainting. 

This is  a series of doodles on top of "requirements" for something -- of what I have no idea! The phrase "2 or 3 essays" is identifiable. I did start York University the following year, but essays were not part of the admittance requirement for the BFA course...

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

writing & publishing

Along with numerous writers world wide, I spent the month of April partipating in Na/GloPoWriMo (National/Global Poetry Writing Month) as I have done for the past five years. The premise is to write a poem daily based on a specific (optinal) prompt. In addition, there are links to both live and pre-recorded poetry readings, which are amazing to follow; not all live events work with the differences in time zones, but some do. These are great introductions to the work of other poets that may have been previously unknown to you, or even reminders to listen to known poets. Following the prompts has led to writing unexpected poems and learning about other poem forms. Some of the poems written during NaPoWriMo I have continued to work on, revising and tweaking, and eventually publishing. Although I began taking part in 2017, during several non-April months, I have looked back at the archive and worked on prompts for several previous years (working backwards I have one more year, 2013, to finish, which I plan to complete by the end of this year).

Last week an email interview that I undertook with Elizabeth Challinor of Orbit Magazine was published. I thought it was very appropriate to the month that was in it, as the focus of the interview was the founding of Precariat Press last year, which I blogged about here. The full interview can be read here.