What I am trying to say is . . .

I find myself wondering whether I put enough information into my pieces to enable the people who look at them and say they like them to know what my thinking was during the making of them.  Part of me feels that I should leave it to their imagination; that people will read what they want into a piece and it is not for me to make it explicit.  On the other hand I make what I do because certain things matter to me and I rather want people to know what those things are.IMG_8684

Maps and found clay give a piece an identity and an idea of landscape; fragile layers and the image of a very thin piece give a sense of fragility.  Is that enough?

Richard Long uses the phrase ‘If I don’t walk, my art does not exist’.  When I was doing the final work for my foundation degree at Weston I altered this to ‘if you don’t walk my art does not exist’.  My work for that project was positioned within the landscape and I thought the meanings within it were clear.  I know better now!  But this is still, for me, a difficult debate.

start with the first step

David Whyte, Riverflow: This speaks to me!

Are maps sufficient?  Are they too much?  Should I be including words as well or instead?  I rather like the idea of words, although for some reason I then want to make them difficult to read so what on earth is the point of that?

 

There is some beautiful poetry which resonates so well with what I wish to say in my work that a part of me would love to include it and some fabulous quotes which would also sit well with my thoughts.

time quotes

Sketchbook notes.

I carry a note book with me wherever I go and in it I record not just sketches and thoughts but quotes which I like.  Some of these are itching to find their way into my work.

Not long ago I was introduced to the work of James Goodman.  In his collection Claytown he has a remarkable piece which, just by using the names of Ordnance Survey symbols creates a fantastic image of the landscape through which he is travelling.  It is a great idea and one I feel tempted to play with.  On the other hand, Adam Buick adds nothing to his moonjars except the idea of landscape, letting them speak for themselves.  Is this the way to go?  There is absolutely no doubt that his work speaks volumes without words, images or maps.

“Adam Buick has imposed on himself the strict discipline of the simplest and purest of geometric forms. Don’t expect his spheres of fired clay to be standoffish or predictable though. Yes Adam makes white porcelain moon jars as chaste in their beauty as the old Korean dal-hang-a-ri vessels that first inspired him. But within the confines of his spherical ‘canvas’ he also conjures up worlds of spontaneous drama, pots so diverse in their scale and texture, so exquisite in their making, so alive with the Pembrokeshire landscape which they literally embody, that his passionate connection to his environment becomes unmistakable.”

Andrew Renton, Head of Applied Arts, National Museum, Cardiff

At the moment I am very conscious of our tutor, Annie Turner at City Lit who tried so hard to impress on us the idea of less being more.  So for the time being, since I cannot decide what to say, I think I shall say nothing at all.  People can make up their own minds and the vessels can speak for themselves.  Can you hear them?

A Few of my Favourite Things

There is a lot going on in the studio at the moment but either I have already shared it with you or I am not yet ready to give it the oxygen of writing more about it so I thought I would just give you a taster over the next few weeks of the kind of things that really float my boat.

I am starting with Adam Buick who’s work I adore.  So here is his website: Earth To Earth

I have tried hard (and failed miserably) to copy one of his videos so that you can enjoy it – he says it all so much better than I do! so you are going to actually click on the link yourselves.

I hope that you do – I think his way of working is fascinating.  Just in case you cant be bothered, here is one of his recent pieces:

More on the Summer of Love

barbara-hepworth-two-forms-1937-copy[1]

Barbara Hepworth, Two forms. 1937

Three Forms 1935 Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975 Presented by Mr and Mrs J.R. Marcus Brumwell 1964 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00696

Three Forms 1935 Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975 Presented by Mr and Mrs J.R. Marcus Brumwell 1964 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00696, aching to be gently stroked!

I have wanted to renew my acquaintance with Barbara Hepworth for some time and what better opportunity than the exhibition Sculpture for a Modern World in London this summer.

Hepworth always used to make it into my list of strong influences but over the past two years, during the diploma she has been superseded by a number of ceramic artists and it is not done to list too many influences on ones profile etc and so poor old Barbara became relegated to the back pages for a bit.  However, having been to the Tate Britain the other day and met a number of old friends and a few new and fabulous pieces, she is going back where she belongs, along side Richard Long and Adam Buick.  The exhibition follows Barbara Hepworth’s rise to fame and included a number of pieces by other artists who were an influence on her work, including sculptures by Gill and paintings by Ben Nicholson.  So maybe, if I make a clear note here that she is one of my major influences, then when Tate Britain does a retrospective on the Life and Works of Bridget Macklin they will remember to include a couple of her pieces alongside mine!

So why do I love her work so much?  Because she was right – about so much, but importantly about relationships between making and the ideas.  Actually, I think I should let her speak for herself on this because she put it so much better than I can.

‘There must be a perfect unity between the idea, the substance and the dimension: this unity gives scale.  The idea – the imaginative concept – actually is the giving of life and vitality to material; but when we come to define these qualities we find that they have very little to do with the physical aspect of the sculpture.  When we say that a great sculpture has vision, power, vitality, scale, poise, form or beauty, we are not speaking of physical attributes.  Vitality is not a physical, organic attribute of sculpture – it is a spiritual inner life.  Power is not man power or physical capacity – it is an inner force and energy.  Form realisation is not just any three-dimensional mass – it is the chosen, perfect form, of perfect size and shape, for the sculptural embodiment of the idea.  Vision is not sight – it is the perception of the mind.  It is the discernment of the reality of life, a piecing of the superficial surfaces of material existence, that gives a work of art its own life and purpose and significant power.’  (Barbara Hepworth in Sculpture, Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art 1937.  Taken from the Tate Britain hand out for the exhibition Sculpture of a Modern World).

I believe that, as makers, we would all do well to have these words tattooed on our arms so that as we are working we can refer to them constantly and never lose sight of what we are doing.  As I explored the exhibition I experienced a wonderful inner tranquillity which stemmed from being in the presence of so many beautiful and balanced forms.  Just one little thing though, these sculptures ache to be felt.  When you visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Garden in St Ives, Cornwall, you can walk amongst the sculptures and get up close and personal.  Here, in the rarefied atmosphere of London it would give the curators an apoplectic fit if you went within a mile of the pieces.  I would like the Tate to take note that, when the time comes for my retrospective, there are to be no glass cases and the pieces are to be available for all the senses, touch included.

What Am I Missing?

Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelor's Even

Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelor’s Even

We had a lecture on Friday about Marcel Duchamp.  One of the images which we were shown was The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelor’s Even.  It is an extraordinary piece!  In the top section is the Bride, her veil, which trails behind her, has 3 white, almost rectangular sections which were apparently formed by hanging sheets of paper in the breeze and copying the shadows that they formed.  Just below the veil, on the right are 9 holes which were created using a toy cannon.  I remember having great fun with such a cannon in my childhood.  They fired matchsticks and could fell a tin soldier at twenty paces!  Here they represent the sexual emissions of the nine Bachelors in the lower half of the work.

The Bachelors, nine Malic Moulds, represent nine rather emasculated men in the uniforms of, among others, a priest, a policemen, a cavalry officer and an undertaker.  Apparently the trajectory of their ejaculations was decided by copying the random patterns formed by dropping lengths of string onto a surface.

In the warmth of a darkened lecture room my mind wandered to the big question – Why?  I think I might have drifted off because, having done some research into the meanings of this piece this morning, I have discovered all kinds of interpretation of this work, including the following: http://cosmosfromchaosblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/defying-gender-binary-comparative.html.  I suspect that, had I paid closer attention, I would have a clearer understanding of the answer.  Yet it seems to me that, even if I can be convinced that this is more than barely disguised pornography and that the significance of the Freudian theories which form the backbone of much Surrealist ideology are valid (big subject, might have to come back to this!), I have one over-riding concern which I have to voice:  Whilst the world is fascinated by work of this kind, however worthy, what have we missed?  Are there artists who were working in another, less shocking, genre at the same time but who for some reason lacked the oxygen of publicity. If you follow this train of thought, are there still artists of incredible calibre, working today, who go un-noticed because the press cannot say sufficiently disturbing things about them and so we never get to hear about them.  Whilst I have absolutely no intention of demeaning the work of artists  such as Tracey Emin, I do see a difficulty.  If we are so fixated in trying to understand  art that shocks do we risk failing to discover other, equally valid, technically skilful but less shocking work.  And, whilst I struggle to get my head around the thinly veiled pornography of Duchamp, however important its message, what have I missed?  images41P3MXYL

Oh What a Night!

I was interviewed beside the Helmet.  Apparently I was 'better than expected'

Helmet being filmed by the press.

My first ‘real’ show!  ArtRooms 2015 is a new concept in art exhibitions for London.  It is taking place in a large London hotel.  The idea is that people can visualise how the artworks might look within a home setting and have a better idea of how they might be displayed.  The exhibition has been timed to coincide with the London Art Fair so that all the international buyers are in town and if the press conference and VIP evening are anything to go by, is going to be a huge success.

I have no idea how I got invited to take part.  I suspect that it is a spin off from taking part in the Open Studio events at Wimbledon Artists Studios but however it happened it is, for me, a very exciting weekend as it represents the first time that I have dared to put my work on show in a public space and let the critics at it.

Feedback has been informative; some of it has stung, (Oh! is that art?) some has been extremely complimentary (Wonderful ideas expressed with such sensitivity) and some I shall be holding in my head for a long time –  (But you must be so young!  The ideas that you are working with here must come from such a youthful and innovative mind!!)Oh, is this art?

I have yet to sell anything this weekend but that is not what it is about.  The feeling of putting my pieces on show properly for the first time has been a mix of excitement, trepidation and pride.  You might think it is silly to wish them each goodnight before I go home each evening but, to me, it is not so very remote from the feelings that I experienced when leaving my children to fend for themselves at playgroup for the very first time.  I have to cross my fingers and wish them sweet dreams and a peaceful night.  And when I greet them again next morning it is with relief that they are still fine.

Inspiration

Buick 3

Adam Buick, Small Jars.

I have been looking at a number of artists during the research stage of my current Journey project and thought I would share with you two of the artists whose work I love and from whom I am drawing a great deal of inspiration at the moment.  The first is Adam Buick  whose work is itself inspired by the landscape but also by Korean Moon Jars which are his signature piece.  I first encountered him at Ceramic Art London in 2013 where he was showing a film called Earth to Earth which I found very exciting.  Since then I have searched out his work wherever I go and it never ceases to thrill me. http://vimeo.com/26597673.  I love the way that he reflects and also makes use of the landscape within his pots and I find the multiple similar shapes intriguing.

The second artist whose work has been filling me with ideas recently is Robert Smithson.  I discovered his work whilst researching this project.

Robert Smithson

Apparently his Spiral Jetty piece is very well known – but it wasn’t by me! The work which I prefer however are his smaller, gallery scale pieces.

I love the altered repetitions in these works and the relationships between the pieces and the spaces which they inhabit. His awareness of scale is interesting too. ‘Look Closely at a crack in the wall and it might as well be the Grand Canyon.’ This quote feels so appropriate for the way I think – a ripple in the sand can become the Amazon if you want it to, on the other hand the world is just a marble in the palm of your hand.