Monday 24 August 2020

life during lockdown part 4

For the month of August, I have been synopsising what I have been up to during lockdown. I have posted three other "life during lockdown" blogs here, here and here. I will return to more singularly themed blogs in September.

My exhibition, Liminal, opened at Tiny Cat Gallery earlier this week. I have to admit that the virtual launch was more fun than any of my previous "live" exhibitions. The cardboard box gallery is manned by tiny plastic cats and artist designer Lisa Cole, who is the curator of the gallery, creates elaborate and humorous narratives to go along with each of the pictures she posts.

At the beginning of the month, I attended the first of four Zoom workshops on felting. The workshops, held each Friday morning this month, are sponsored by the University of Atypical in Northern Ireland, and facilitated by artist felter, Niki Collier. I have been working in my kitchen, with my laptop perched on the cold stove. This is my set-up for the first workshop.

This month Angel City Review published two of my poems in Issue 9. This literary journal is freely downloadable from their website. Below is one of the poems, which is relevant as I type this on the eve of the fourth anniversary of my Mum's death.

I felt it in my body
Months before I knew
My mother's fatal diagnosis.
Something was wrong.

The pain grew in my foot.
From heel to ball
It would not move forward
Into the oncoming grief.
Knowing what lay ahead,
Both feet rebelled
And refused to take me there.

After the funeral
The pain in my chest grew -
A series of respiratory malfunctions,
Brochitis, tracheitis, sinusitis,
The common cold.
A plague on my house.
Constant coughing,
Chest tight, heart palpitating -
A permanent heart ache.

This grief is cellular.
Pain moves in and out,
Osmotic, changing density
Till every pore weeps.
The sadness of my body
Cannot recover that
Which is forever lost,
Yet stumbles on.

My feet still hurt.
Often I am numb.
My limp is barely perceptible
To unaware strangers
These days as I
Wheeze forward slowly
One tiny step at a time.

I was pleased to find out, at the beginning of the month, that my proposal for the Aos Dara/Umha Aois combined symposium had been accepted. For this year's symposium, due to lockdown, the organisers required that participating artists spend some time in Tomnafinnoge Wood, an old oak forest, then create work in their own studios. Culture Night in September, will see the launch of an exhibition to include some of this year's work, as well as last year's work, at the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, which is near Tomnafinnoge Wood.

The day I spent at Tomnafinnoge was perfect! It was a dry, summer day and the woods were greenly gorgeous. I found this tree, which had obviously survived a lightning strike, to be of immense inspiration.

I loved the way the tangle of branches created a net-like canopy - some shade from a very hot sun that day!

One of the main points of my proposal was to create drawings where the paper is covered by graphite and one removes the graphite with an eraser. I have always thought this was a very sculptural way of drawing.

I also prepared some pages with black acrylic as I thought I would draw with white paint on them - kind of opposite to what I planned to do with the graphite as this would be an additive method rather than subtractive.

I also did not want to ignore colour and imagined doing some collages. Normally I create collages with scraps of paper for the purpose of occasion cards, as I blogged about here, here, here and here, but I realised these scraps of paper were not exactly artist quality. To rectify this, I decided to paint, with acrylics, a number of pages with colours that I expected to use in Tomnafinnoge collages. I will dedicate a future blog to some of the results of my work!

Wednesday 19 August 2020

life during lockdown Part 3

In July my final ceramic work was fired. For now, I am not continuing with the workshops, which have actually started up again at this point (with only two participants per class). I was pleased with this terracotta draped slab serving dish, which I had glazed with a metallic gold.

By the end of July I had finished printing the covers for my first chapbook, Home Sweet Home Goodbye. For further information on this project, you can look at previous blog posts here, here and here.

In July I responded to a call-out for artists who were interested in "perception, scale, reflective practice" and had a sense of humour. An artist/designer (Lisa Cole) in Bristol was opening a gallery for work, which would fit through her letterbox; the gallery was a well-lit, painted cardboard box manned by tiny plastic cats. My exhibition proposal was accepted and my work will be showcased on instagram for one week this month. I realised later that I sent too much work, so not all of the pieces will be included in the exhibition, but further details can be seen here and in the Tiny Cat Gallery shop, here

When I got wind of a Zoom felting workshop sponsored by Craft Northern Ireland and University of Atypical, I signed up to be included right away (as spaces were limited). There were going to be four workshops, facilitated by felter/artist Niki Collier, and they would take place every Friday morning in August. Availability to attend all four workshops was stipulated on the application form - well under lockdown I had no previous engagements! I was very excited when the big package of supplies arrived at the end of July.

Although I got my very last (for the foreseeable future) ceramics from the kiln by the end of July, I did not have time till recently, to finish off the glazing effect (crackle white glaze) by painting India ink on it.

While I was painting the final plate, I decided to re-paint the one I had done in June just to see if the crackles would be a bit darker (they were).

This is a close-up detail of the final plate done with this glazing technique. For further information on the process, I have previously blogged about it here.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

life during lockdown Part 2

Time during this lockdown is totally bizarre! Even things that happened recently seem long, long ago. I am just re-capping here a couple of highlights of May and June, and I feel like I am looking back at years ago. At the beginning of May I was happily working on some oilstick drawings in my studio, as part of the Memory Is My Homeland series and finished this piece, Kingswood Iris. I have previously blogged many times about different pieces for this series, and I have posted those links in last week's blog, which can be found here. I have specifically talked about Kingswood Iris here.

Signal Arts Centre re-opened in June so that staff could prepare for a public re-opening in July. Because of this, a number of firings were put on as there was a plethora of ceramics from the workshops that were waiting patiently since March for something to be done with them. One of the first things of mine that came out of a glaze firing, was the large glaze-painted tulip vase. Three years ago, I had meticulously painted a tulip design on a vase but the results were disastrous as what I thought was a white glaze was, in fact, a glossy white paint! The results sat idle for a number of years until I decided to revisit the vase in the New Year. I blogged about the process of reclaiming this vase here, including giving links to the initial work and failure.

In the latter half of June, I took a 2-part silk fibre paper-making workshop via zoom. I was completely unaware of this process for paper-making but loved it and could immediately see the possibilities for my future artmaking! I blogged in more detail about this workshop here.

In addition to my tulip vase (above), I also had a number of draped slab dishes come out of the kiln in June. I had glazed several of them with a crackle white glaze, the crackle in this glaze only becoming apparent after India ink is applied and rubbed off. I blogged about this process here.

Also in June, I took part in the "Grasp the Arts" campaign. The point of the campaign, for me, was to highlight the role of artists in society's general mental well-being. Many art practitioners, in the widest sense, have lost work and opportunities during the lockdown. An under-acknowledged field of work, the arts are the mainstay of civilisation and survival and it is during lockdown that people have turned to the arts for entertainment - through binge-watching tv shows, streamed music, fb & instagram music &  poetry gigs, theatre, opera, literature, etc - to mentally survive this crisis. I discuss this campaign further here.

Wednesday 5 August 2020

life during lockdown... Part 1

My teenager keeps saying to me "nothing has really changed for you" as I have generally continued with my my work in"business as usual" mode during this entire period of lockdown. Although I have missed the more social aspects of my life especially friends and my time at the weekly ceramics workshop at Signal Arts Centre, I have found myself to be continuously busy with my art & writing, keeping in touch with people by telephone, Zoom, letter, email, Whatsapp and Skype. Perhaps I could even be accused of being more diligent at maintaining social contacts!

But shortly after lockdown started in March, I finally decided it was a good time to self-publish my first chapbook of poems. The first step to doing this was the founding of Precariat Press. After a brainstorming session, my husband, artist James Hayes designed a logo for me. And so it began! I have blogged about this previously here.

In April, I was inspired by Austin Kleon's Instagram account; he was making daily zines and I wanted to know how to make them. Kleon and a number of other bookbinders who have posted on YouTube have given really simple instructions for zines that can be made, with folding and tearing (or cutting) from a standard page. I did my own experiments with larger pages and heavier materials and blogged about it here. For a zine with more pages, simply glue two or more together!

Every year I participate in the annual incognito fundraiser for the Jack & Jill Children's Foundation. Due to Covid19 this year, the fundraiser was solely online. Normally images are made available for perusal on the incognito website, and then they are shown over a 3 day period at a Dublin gallery in April. This year there was also going to be an exhibition at a Cork gallery in May. Instead, a way to both see and buy the work online was made available. The artworks are all postcard sized and cost the same amount (€50) with the name of the artist only being revealed to the buyer after payment is made. I think the Dublin offering sold out within 15 minutes. I had two pieces in the Dublin exhibition (a detail of one being on the farthest left row, second from top).

One of my pieces (I donated three) was in the Cork show, which I believe also sold out quite quickly. My collage is second from left, second row down. I have blogged about previous incognito fundraisers here, here, here, and here.

In May I did the compositional sketch, which I will have as a reference when working on another large painting, Knockeen, as part of my current series Memory Is My Homeland. I have blogged about the origins and previous work in this series here, here, here, here, here,  and here.

I was, of course, simultaneously working on the lino design for the cover of my poetry chapbook, which would be titled Home Sweet Home Goodbye. The design is based on a childhood farewell card I made for my grandparents when they were returning to Ireland after their first visit to Canada (where I was born and grew up). I did several blogs about the design origins and progress of the linoprint here, here and here.

While in lockdown, as well as making work, I continued to browse for "virtual" opportunities. I found it quite interesting that submitting images to exhibitions taking place on the likes of Instagram made it possible to submit internationally. I submitted an image of Room Mate, a recent work from the Memory Is My Homeland series to an Instagram exhibition open call for work created during lockdown which responded to certain words. I have blogged about this oilstick drawing here and here. It will be featured in the Do It Yourway Instagram exhibition on August 14. The words that I feel the work responds to are "hard", "soft", and "reflect". Certainly my reasons for those words are apparent when I blogged about the piece here.

I have also continued to submit written work in answer to specific calls or open reading periods. Dwell Time is a mental health organisation in the UK and they put out a call for written and/or visual work in response to the lockdown. As I had specifically written several poems on this theme, I fired them off and they were published both on the Dwell Time website and its FaceBook page. I subsequently posted them on my own social media pages. Here is one of the three.

In addition to writing, making artwork, virtually socialising and reading I have been totally enjoying virtual music gigs (John Otway, Josh Ritter, Lisa Hannigan), concert film streaming premieres (Iggy Pop, New Order, Nick Cave), poetry readings (Hollie McNish), theatre (The National Theatre UK, The Druid Theatre IRL, The Abbey IRL, and Stratford Festival Canada) and opera (The Met NYC). Early on in lockdown a friend sent me a link to someone who had posted links to education, sports, business resources, health and entertainment. This was extremely helpful and alerted me to many things which are being made available, at no charge, to help keep people sane during this trying time. That is how I was alerted to free streams of first-class theatre and opera. For me the most amazing event I was lucky to see was The Met's production of Philip Glass's opera Akhnaten. It was phenomenal and indescribable and for me, something that I never would have had the chance to experience if there hadn't been this lockdown!