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?

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.