Tuesday 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

In the last few hours of 2013, I am patting myself on the back for keeping up my resolutions of last December: I started this blog, set up a facebook page, got involved in the charity fundraiser Big Egg Hunt Dublin, read a slew of books, re-booted my dream journal, and kept up a daily notes journal (suggested by, you guessed it, Austin Kleon in Steal Like an Artist!). While I plan to keep up everything from last year, and of course keep painting, I am planning to start work on my writing again. It has been a long while since I have actually set pen to paper to work on prose or poetry but it has always been in the background niggling at me. I have another list of books which are waiting for my eyes, and with the recent acquisition of a large piece of black leather, I have at least 5 gift books to make. Recently a woman at the office where I work part time, has kindly and patiently begun teaching a group of us how to crochet on our lunch breaks. So I will be starting a new crochet project in the new year too! 2014 will be another exciting and busy year and I would like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and safe New Year!

Wednesday 18 December 2013

The Gift

As I am busy wrapping presents and making preparations for the big day, one week away, of course I am also thinking of other things. I have had a good year, in fact a good 20 something years -- we recently had our twentieth anniversary of being settled here in Ireland! Although I lived here previously, I did the usual (for my family) back and forthing between here and Toronto as I tried to make a decision on the best place for me. I arrived once again on these shores in December 1993, but this time not alone but with my future husband, James. 

Since I have been putting up images of some drawings as I digitise them, I thought it appropriate that I also celebrate this painting, The Gift, based on one of the dream drawings. I remember this took me several years to complete, but was finally signed in 1987. I know this piece still exists as it very happily hangs in my bedroom.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

People of the Great Journey

At the end of November I went to Galway for the launch of my sister O.R. Melling's latest novel People of the Great Journey. I picked up a copy for myself there, and now have chance to start reading it, since I have just finished HHhH (by Laurent Binet, an amazing book!).

Here is Melling reading a short but enticing excerpt from the book. Looking on is Celtic Studies maestro Professor Dáibhí O'Cróinín who officially launched the book at Charlie Byrne's Bookshop.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Dream Drawings Part 2 c 1985/86

The following images are more transfers from slide to digital. They were a further development on my left hand dream drawings, done while I was at York University in Toronto under the tutelage of sculptor Hugh Leroy. I can only generally date them from the setting in the dreams so I figured around 1985 and/or 1986 (my last year of uni). I had a big batch of standard 26" x  40"  cartridge paper that I used for my drawings; the following drawings are done in chalk pastel. The dream below clearly takes place in my batchelor apartment on Kingston Rd. in Scarborough, with a depiction of one of my large diptych paintings in the background, surrounded by my beloved stereo & Boston Acoustic speakers (100 watt per side!), records and a dead baby. This was a very sad dream, despite the fair going on outside the window, and I later associated it with the death of my soul. This is the first instance that I recall of me using the figure in the red top and green skirt to represent myself. I later used elements of this dream in my poem "Portrait", published in The Sunday Times New Irish Writing in 1989.

"The Blood Bears Fruit"  - some very obvious but intense imagery in this dream!

"The Second Coming: Evil"  - I remember this nightmare began as a calm moment and then all hell broke loose.

"The Second Coming: Good"  - and this one began with a lot of chaos and running through corridors until I came upon The Virgin of the Rocks -- safety and calm.

"The Water Meets the Bluff"  - although I remember this was a confusing dream, it had very specific imagery and colour (like the more saturated colour between the shadow of two branches on the sand and the change of colour in the water where the figure is about to dive).

Wednesday 27 November 2013

New Triptych - Maritime Alps

 I have been working on a new triptych, again taking up a large part of the north wall in my attic studio. I worked out the composition in white chalk on kraft paper and then started gluing newsprint on the rock and mountain areas to create some texture before I started painting. This is a detail of two of the climbing figures.

And here is a detail of the child figure at the far right of the triptych.

This is a detail of the reaching mother figure.

I started off painting with some blue, the water around the rocks and behind the figures leading to the mountains in the distance. The mountains in the distance are the Maritime Alps, the painting inspired by our visits to Antibes. While I was painting I was thinking of the work of Betty Goodwin, specifically her figures in water which I admired greatly in the 1980s and of Jean Charles Blais, whose work I first came across this summer at the Picasso Museum in Antibes.

I keep referring to the painting as Maritime Alps, so I am sure this name will stick. I like it - not just for the mountains in the background, but for the figures climbing the mountain of rocks. With the xmas season soon to be in full swing, I am not expecting to get a lot of work done on this in the coming weeks, but the painting will look at me every time I go up to the attic, so it will stay in my thoughts.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Xmas preparations begin!

I have been very busy this past week or so! I started the new triptych (next post?) but I have also been busy preparing for xmas and other events coming soon.

I did a large batch of apricot-pineapple jam with almonds. I have been making this jam for xmas presents since 1983, I think. Actually, I only started adding in the almonds for excitement about 15 years ago. I have to source more paraffin though, as I used the last I had on these non-mason jars. I will make up the cranberry-clementine with brazil nut jam when I can get hold of cranberries.

I also made some puddings, a few people get them as gifts too.

Another event is coming up, so I have set out to make another gift book. This is a picture of all the prepared pieces; I started sewing the signatures to the leather cover last night, so expect to be finished that before the weekend is out.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Dream Drawings - Part 1 c 1984/85

I was working on transferring my old slides to newer media and am still interested in these dream drawings. At the time I remember I was very frustrated with my drawing skills which seemed to be deteriorating in the environment of York University, Toronto, where I was doing my Degree in Fine Art (at least that is where the blame fell!). My mentor & drawing professor, sculptor Hugh LeRoy, suggested that I draw with my left hand and channel my subconscious. I enjoyed taking his advice as I was developing my interest in dreams and the psyche. I did these charcoal drawings on standard white 26" x 40" drawing paper.

I remember this as an alarming dream, as the dog bit my hand off when I went to pet it!





The Gift. (I later did a painting based on this drawing.)

 I don't actually know if these drawings still exist or not! They may have ended up in a portfolio that escaped the second Great Purge of 1993 and simply be up in my attic, or they may have met their doom back then...

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Tree Kids - painting finished!

I finished the triptych sometime before Hallowe'en. I had been thinking it would be difficult to take down, but hadn't a bother last night. Today I will roll it up and who knows when it will see the light of day again! I really enjoyed the time spent doing this painting, and have stayed with my initial title "Tree Kids". It is mixed media on paper, approx 220 cm x 267 cm triptych, 2013.

Here is a detail of a wellie on the tree.

And a detail of the face of the adult "kid".

A detail of limbs and leaves!

Tree and sky detail.

My signature on the bottom right corner of the triptych.

And just to give a sense of scale, me with the finished painting.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Lanzarote - greenery?

Lanzarote gets virtually no rainfall and the volcano erupted only 300 years ago, so the landscape is very barren and moon-like. What a difference from green, wet, lush Ireland! We did see lots of cloud cover there and I am positive we heard thunder one night, but no rain to be seen. Palm trees and cacti thrive on the dryness and they are the main greenery to be seen on the island.

This is the poolside view from La Florida apartments, where we stayed. What looks like a figure, and what look like trees are in fact cacti! What my eye could see behind, a row of mean, white, marching frog soldiers...that's the apartment complex next door. :)

A walk along the Avenida de las Playas, by the ocean in the evening and palm trees lit by a crescent moon (well, photo is blurry, but it is the atmosphere that is important!).

When I saw these palms in the grounds of a tennis court, I thought they were a piece of artwork as they looked like they were made of concrete. The trunks are painted! The grass was real too, and probably this was the most grass in one place that I saw!

There were a few places where I saw beautiful purple flowering bougainvillea. It must be a very hardy plant, but I was surprised to realise I had no pictures of it! My little apartment had its own cactus garden on the balcony/porch.

The sunset proves there is at least one other type of tree besides palm on the island!

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Lanzarote - South Island Tour

The entrance sign to Timanfaya National Park was (of course) designed by Cesar Manrique. I like this image which gives you an idea that you are now landing on the moon...

The one way roads through the park are only the width of the tour bus, so even though people are not allowed to walk on the fragile lava fields, you get a very close view of the landscape.

There is so much variety in the way the lava has cooled. There were also some pretty hairy moments overlooking craters (I had my eyes closed and a tight grip on the arm of my seat, so no photos of craters!).

The bus tour took us past the salt flats - Las Salinas de Janubio - and the guide explained the process of collecting and drying sea salt.

In my last post I spoke of Los Hervideros (The Boiling Pots) and the viewing points designed by Cesar Manrique. Here is another view of the volcanic coastline there.

The lagoon at El Golfo is a beautiful green, separated from the ocean by a sandbar (and for preservation, a man-made wall). The green is caused by both olivine stone, which is plentiful in Lanzarote, and bacteria in the water.

We also had a stop at a local vineyard. I had been wondering about these horseshoe shaped walls all over the island (I was reminded of the abundant stone walls in the west of Ireland and thought it was a way of dealing with volcanic material). Apparently the walls are built as windbreakers but the farmer has to dig down below the volcanic ash to reach the soil to grow the grapevines! It is intensive labour but an interesting way of growing things in this year-round warm climate!

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Lanzarote - Cesar Manrique

I spent Oct 7 - 14 on Lanzarote, based in Puerto del Carmen, in the Canary Islands. Oh bliss! Everywhere on Lanzarote is the imprint of native artist-architect-environmentalist Cesar Manrique [1919-1992]. In the airport arrivals hall one is first greeted with the island's logo, designed by Manrique:

Aside from swimming with the fishes in the warm Atlantic, I did a few excursions including a South Island Tour to explore the volcano Timinfaya. The "fiery mountain" erupted 300 years ago for 6 years and completely devastated the island. Timinfaya National Park is a protected area so that the volcanic environment is seen and enjoyed in its purest possible form. Manrique also designed the logo for Timinfaya National Park which is seen on loads of tourist items. This is a metal piece on the wall of the restaurant on the volcano which he also designed.

This is the restaurant oven which uses the heat from the mountain depths (400 metres below) to cook food! It was hot in that room, but it smelled really good...

The tour bus traveled on a one-way route through Timinfaya with stunning (and often terrifying) views of craters, lava flows and volcanic debris. Outside of the national park, the tour continued to Las Salinas de Janubio (salt flats), El Golfo and Los Hervideros. The viewing points for Los Hervideros ("Boiling Pots") were designed by Manrique and are completely sympathetic with the landscape.

The boiling may refer to the ocean when the volcano erupted as the water certainly would have gotten very hot!

Or it may refer to the bubbling and crashing of the water against the shoreline and within hollow lava tubes.

Regardless of the origin of the name, it is something to see!

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Still working away!

I am happily working away on my triptych, tentatively called "Tree Kids". I thought I would post a couple of details to give a better view of the texture in the painting. The figures are almost life size. This is a closeup of the figure based on K.

This picture gives an idea of the leaves in the tree, and the Chinese paper that I glued on before I started painting.