Pilgrimage through the detritus of growth

 

This piece arose from a reference photograph selected by Outside Authority.  Their interpretation of the same elements (with reference to both Henry Moore and Matisse I think) is here and here.

I flooded my original doodle with water, ink, white acrylic paint and ground chalk pastel, heated it dry and then worked back into it with knife, ink and watercolour.

 

blinded

I have done my consultations this week by phone.  But you learn so much from seeing someone’s demeanour, how they rise from a chair and walk across the waiting room.  I have become blind, and must rely on listening more to detect those subtle clues.

The main benefit is people not travelling long distances by public transport or sitting waiting in a crowded room.  Still, someone has to get close to take the blood sample and to give the treatment.

My greatest social distancing pleasure comes from walking the dog across fields, through woods, and along the stream.  He imagines himself the lead explorer, running back now and again to check on me.

He has taught himself that when I stop to draw, he will sit and wait by me.

Knight’s move behind

First, I saw you, your smart face impassive, eyes taking in the gallery, your form  slender in your camel colored coat, forced ringlets dropping past your shoulders. Then you, her mister, five feet away, your right shoulder to her back, your indoor broad-brimmed hat darkening your pallid face, long hair tucked in your collar, intent on your scrolling text. When she turned and walked, a tiny pause, then you swung round to follow.

“I will not look, not chance a glance at these narcissistic outpourings.  A century gone, what is this revolting old man to me?  This is for you: I am here for you, it is you I am tied to, I am your dark  shadow, my movements tracking yours, we are linked, us, by photon marionette  strings.”

A flicker of memory.  In the closing hours of the Millennium Dome, I came across two Ladies. Their collared slaves feigned disobedience, not walking to heel but tugging at the end of their leashes, their faces masks of chosen silliness.

“I learned that you drew before walking, were an Old Master by five. A child, your skill shamed your father into abandoning his profession. Here is but the barest cameo, a small snapshot of your intense love affair with paper, and still it exhausts me. To be the greatest, ever, must you have been a man? Did your vast ability need still the certainties of patriarchy, to possess so utterly objects, lovers, daughters as blank slates for your self image, or to reach in and pull out their souls as blocky excrescence?”

At rest, your missus is always perpendicular to  your line of sight.   She moves off, giving no summons.  You return no acknowledgement, do not look up or right, remain intent on your phone.  You stand for the briefest moment, before the invisible coupling engages. Trailer-hitched, you set off after, a constant neat knight’s move behind your queen.

 

Picasso and paper” exhibition at the Royal Academy.

 

 

 

Adult themed, with snacks

Waiting for a train at Moor Street Station, I peer through the fencing across an partly-lit yard.  The building on the right hosts the Taboo theatre, “an independent cinema with two screens showing adult themed movies, with a secure car park and snack bar”.  Behind is the elevated level with railway tracks that run away under us to flashy new New Street Station.  Behind and above that is the freeway and the line of buildings, college, hotels and flats.

Happy new bear

My 12-year old daughter equipped herself with small canvasses and set out to paint Christmas presents for the family.  These were mostly variations on mountains, pine trees and rivers, with one picture of am imagined solar system for her next brother up.  However, her second biggest brother commissioned a larger painting which was to include trees, a river, a bear and a greyhound.

She worked on a background full of tree shapes in greens and muted violets and greys.  She painted and repainted a large area of brown in the fore and mid-ground and then got stuck.  I tried helping but was stuck myself: I don’t paint in acrylics like this myself so needed to experiment before I could show her.  Eventually I was sub-contracted to finish the painting while she went out shopping with her friend.  I used opaque paint to darken her trees. With hindsight, I wish I had photographed her version first, and then used transparent glazes to have kept her original trees more visible.

Sorry, the greyhound is too much I think for this composition!

Lynchian narratives

The person who blogs as Still Outside Authority is known for giving gnomic titles to WordPress posts: the latest landscape line drawings are headed “Under the Gibbet“.   There is something of David Lynch in this linking portentous words to image.

Yesterday, OA and I walked the canals between Manchester Piccadilly Station and the artspace HOME.   Here was my last sketch, coloured this morning in conte crayon and watercolour, having first been re-inked to obliterate the heavy black lines in the original on-site drawing.  A cleverer artist would have left that expanse of water as white paper, with a minimum of lines to suggest ripples.

We had visited the exhibition My Head is Disconnected: visceral drawings and relief paintings by David Lynch (open just one more week).  In these images, we meet recurring characters and a house motif.  This is not a storyboard, rather each individual picture might stand for a whole film, the series connected by a single director.  Each work encapsulates the totality of narrative and dialogue, characterisation, build-up and climax and resolution, tone and mood in unmoving shapes and cryptic utterances.  We fill in the gaps (the missing 90 minutes of film) in our responding imaginations.  That recurrent house icon is clearly, very much, not safe as houses.  We see “light fire boy” and the caption beneath “meiah is a girl who he likes AA lot”; “Who is outside my house” which throws out a poignant thought about the dog; “Her shadow began to change“; “Bob’s antigravity factory” with the artists fingers clawing through the think earthbound paint; “A lonely figure talks to himself softly” standing in a storm, expressing the thought common to us all; and Bob’s meeting Mr Redman is not welcome at all.

Space, strings and saurian skulls

An afternoon in the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden geared my brain for observing the landscape in Cornwall, where she spent much of her life.  Apparently Hepworth pioneered the idea of the pierced object in abstract sculpture, an idea developed famously by Henry Moore.  The Tate’s notes on this piece “Sphere with inner form” describe the “smooth thin shell, punctured by circular and oval openings, covers the crusty inner form, which is also pierced. The warm brown patina of the outer surfaces contrasts with the green of the interior faces and the inner form”.  I reflected on these comments “she drew attention to the relationship between ‘an inside and an outside of every form … a nut in its shell or of a child in the womb, or in the structure of shells or of crystals, or when one senses the architecture of bones in the human figure'”.  Is this a particularly female perspective or simply a mark of a great artist, who can express the vitality beneath the surface?

I began my sketch drawing freehand with the brushpen and then with fountain pen loaded with india ink.  It was later that I worked colour back in, using watercolour, and conte crayon both as a resist and as an opaque layer on top.

The Tate’s notes on Hepworth’s 1966 piece “Spring” draw attention to its ovoid shape, in short, it is an egg.  This relates to ideas of nature’s cycles and rebirth (and therefore also death or dormancy too?  The notes don’t say this).  As with “Conversation with Magic Stones“, this idea had been developed through multiple versions, with previous iterations carved in wood, the painted  smooth shell contrasting with the coarse grain of the interior.  I loved that the pierced interior is strung through and through with threads.  I wanted this to make music – a stone lyre.

 I walked round this piece “Bronze Form (Patmos)“, holding open the shutter of the iphone camera, distorting it so I could see three sides together.  The critical feature of this sculpture is the enclosed space, within the bronze shape that folds over it like a wave.  It was inspired by her time on the Greek island of that name.

My immediate response to Bronze Form was to see, not the space within as Hepworth intended, but the outer shell as the twin-arched saurian skull, that heavy block of bone evolved to develop piercings and pillars, lightening the load and providing a framework for powerful muscles.

I wrote on the page “Sculptures built of space and pillars, like huge distorted saurian skulls.  Others solid but holes strung with strings like a stone lyre”.  I reflected that these shapes seemed natural “set against the more unnatural forms of the the cultured plants” in the garden.

The magic of stones

I found a shady corner on a hot day in the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden (part of the Tate in St Ives).  I had walked through Hepworth’s bronze installation “Conversation with magic Stones“: comprising three standing figures and three low-lying irregular polyhedrals.  The notes tell me that though this was a late piece, it was a large-scale realisation of ideas developed through multiple earlier works across several decades.  For her, the figures depict something of human relationships: totemic persons in tension with each other, the mythical landscape and magic stones.  From my standpoint, I saw the hard-edged uprights alongside the less regular lines of the bamboo setting: the distressed flat metallic surfaces against the smooth natural cylinders.

When I looked at my sketches made over several days in Cornwall, I started to recognise something that Hepworth had been conscious of in developing her work.  Here are three of the ten or eleven remaining stones that comprise the Nine Maidens of Boskednan sited in the midst of moorland.   These placed stones speak of now unfathomable relationships among the early Bronze Age inhabitants and between them and their surroundings.  How did these stones relate to matters of kinship and exclusion, exploitation of resource, search for meaning, and hierarchy of power?

On the coast west of St Ives, I chanced across another stone circle set deeply in the ferns.  This was not marked on the map: I cannot say whether this is the work of ancients or a contemporary folly.

Each sketch was started in pen and indelible ink – really an exercise in mark making.  However, I then applied conte crayon to give texture and act as a resist for simple watercolour washes.

 

Four meditations on lines by T.S. Eliot: part I

CHORUS:

…King rules or barons rule; we have suffered various oppression, but mostly we are left to our own devices, and we are content if we are left alone.

We try to keep our households in order; the merchant, sly and cautious, tries to compile a little fortune, and the labourer bends to his piece of earth, earth colour, his own colour, preferring to pass unobserved.

Now I fear disturbance of the quiet seasons: winter shall come bringing death from the sea, ruinous spring shall beat at our doors, root and shoot shall eat at our eyes and our ears, disastrous summer burn up the beds of our streams and the poor shall wait for another decaying October.

Murder in the cathedral: part I.  T.S. Eliot

 

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