Carrock

There was a flat space on the top of the hill of stone and a well worn path with many steps leading down it to the river, across which a ford of huge flat stones led to the grass-land beyond the stream. There was a little cave (a wholesome one with a pebbly floor) at the foot of the steps and near the end of the stony ford. (Chapter 7: Queer Lodgings. The Hobbit. JRR Tolkein).

Gandalf says of The Carrock “He called it the Carrock, because carrock is his word for it. He calls things like that carrocks, and this one is the Carrock because it is the only one near his home and he knows it well.”

“Who calls it? Who knows it?”

“The Somebody I spoke of-a very great person. You must all be very polite when I introduce you … He can be appalling when he is angry, though he is kind enough if humoured. Still I warn you he gets angry easily.”

“Some say that he is a bear descended from the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came. Others say that he is a man descended from the first men who lived before Smaug or the other dragons came into this part of the world, and before the goblins came into the hills out of the North.”

This painting is another experiment in oils. The second from bottom however, has been developed electronically using Procreate on the iPad. In many ways I like the softness of that electronic image and would like to develop my oil painting style along these lines. There is no river in this painting as I could not work it into the composition, so I set the carrock as a lone sculpted hill in a meadow. If I continue to paint, I must obliterate the meadow and build in other less well defined shapes as in the electronic version, rocks and water pooling as it tumbles toward us.

This is a present for my son. The bear image is based on the tattoo on his shoulder. The Carrock derives from a stoneware sculpture called Forest and Strata by Andrew Matheson.

Found sculpture

 

This sculpture was found by Outside Authority.  Here I have more or less copied their photograph in charcoal, chalk and white acrylic paint.  This took a Bank Holiday afternoon, and is a start, a way of getting to grips with the source material. I have an idea how to take this forward that builds on the segmentation of the image made by the wire fence. I used the companion photograph in a previous piece, starting as a random scribble which I disrupted and reworked as Pilgrimage through the detritus of growth.

But see how OA has worked the same source of inspiration, starting with cut-outs in a manner like Matisse, development, modelling in three dimensions, re-working back onto paper, and expression in fabric.  This is a fascinating sequence of work.  Also, it is well worth while reviewing the surrounding posts from OA around the same time, the portraiture developing a view from an unconventional angle.  I pick two examples from a plethora of work, “Vying” and “Diary” but I find this whole sequence moving, and astonishing in the breadth of exploration through varying media.

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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.

 

Giant seed pod eats famous gardener’s face

I called in on the last day of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Prize exhibition.  Here is a quick pen sketch on brown packing paper, finished at home with conte crayon, of a ceramic by Jasmina Ajzenkol.  I was attracted by its oblate spheroid (flattened like the Earth) shape rising to two points like jaws.  Behind is a bronze bust of Lancelot “Capability” Brown, eighteenth century landscape gardener, by Robert Page.

The trees are in the nearby St Paul’s churchyard, a place I have illustrated several times previously, with links here, here and here.

 

Vessel

This is a sketch of “Raku Angel”, a ceramic sculpture, held together with bolts and nuts, one of Stephen Adams’ steampunk stoneware “Machines of Loving Grace” on display at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.

The idea behind the sketch was to focus on building the texture with marks from the pen, without resorting to the waterbrush to flood and smooth the ink.  Afterwards, I drew lightly into it with conte crayon.

Also on display was work by Birmingham Arts Circle inspired by the written word, of which my favourite was Sue Howells’ “Crow” for which she drew on Dylan Thomas’ description at the start of Under Milk Wood “sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishing boat-bobbing sea”.

four sketches of objects in Matisse’s studio

Henri Matisse collected objects and placed them as actors centre-stage and in the wings in the dramas of his still life images.

  

  

He used cut out shapes to position his players and the cut outs themselves became art.

  

He spent a year searching for a Venetian carved wood chair and was delighted with his find.

These six last images include a couple of illicit photographs, and scans of post cards and illustrations in the book accompanying the exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition, “Matisse in the studio“.  I love the simple lininess in the third and last of these illustrations and the simple blockiness of the cut-outs and just the idea of exploring the relationships between the contents of a studio full of things.

Alternative versions

Alfred Stevens 1817-75 “Truth and Falsehood”: Truth tears out the double tongue of Falsehood and pushes aside the mask concealing his grotesque features.  His serpent tails are exposed beneath the drapery.  The group and its companion, “Valour and Cowardice”, are full size models for the bronze groups on the huge monument to the Duke of Wellington in St Paul’s Cathedral.  London.  Plaster.  [explanatory notes on plaque, Victoria and Albert museum].

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The current relevance of the statue is immediately obvious.  However, my mind was thrown back to 1999 when a cabinet minister declared eloquently “If it falls to me to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play, so be it. I am ready for the fight. The fight against falsehood and those who peddle it”.  The resulting action led to his being jailed for perjury.  I am sure the image shown here is of Truth defeating what were then Falsehoods which we now hold true: religious dogma defeating rationalism, self interest overcoming balanced enquiry, empire over civil society, autocracy scourging democracy.  When the powerful shout loudly about the lies of others and frustrate open scrutiny, it is to cover their deceits.

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Here are alternative versions of my sketches undertaken at the Victoria and Albert a week ago, reworked with conte crayon, paint, knife and (in the third image) digitally enhanced black tones.  Rodin’s tortured twisted Muse spoke  of a deeper truth than Stevens’ allegorical statue, of the anguish and beauty of human existence.  The theatre masks are props to tell a fictional narrative but when the narrative finishes, the masks are removed.

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