Thursday, 26 July 2012

Part 3 A Sampler

Yesterday I read some more of the sketchbook book, spent some time with my textiles workbook (which is what I think I will be calling mine from now on), and picked my fabric and yarns for the sampler exercise.

I have been reading the chapters about three dimensional work and artists whose focus is the pleasure of the fabrics themselves, and also the following chapter about conceptual work. I can really relate to the people whose work is an expression of something they are working on internally, and that sometimes it isn't clear what that is, or even that it would be a good idea to try to work that out.

My stuff so far has been three dimensional, organic-looking, very tactile, and pretty opaque when it comes to meaning. Conventionally attractive vs. disgust or twistedness has been a recurrent one. The hidden complexity in apparent simple lines another. And I so haven't been interested in making them all neat and tidy in a conventional embroidery way. I laughed out loud when I read the suggestion in the instructions that I might be used to sewing tidily.

Which is why it's a bit strange to find myself being so neat and confining myself to small areas and straight lines! I don't know if it is the way the exercises are directed, or if there is something tidy inside that has been waiting for the opportunity to come out. I have been surprised to find that these initial sewing exercises have resulted in my making neat regular patterns and focussing to an unaccustomed degree on a pleasant final overall look of the piece.

I suspect that this is the difference between starting with an idea and narrowing down how to make it look like it does inside my head, as opposed to doing a simple stitch and seeing where it takes me. I rather like this way. And I am glad to be led by the needle into new and pretty pathways. I just hope that it is not a sign that I am after all too hidebound by convention and prettiness, and is taking me in approximately the direction intended by the course-writers!

In my textiles workbook I reviewed the notes and very quick sketches I had made at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition at the weekend. Most of the exhibits were not textiles at all of course, which I found a little disappointing. I always like the Summer Exhibition because there is such a huge range of styles and tastes and there's always a selection of things that move me or intrigue me in some way. And always some few which are really masterfully made.

They are all packed together like those classical paintings of artists' studios and it can be difficult to cut out the 'noise' of all the other exhibits to properly look at one. In addition I had my family with me, which is not ideal because it cuts down on the time I can spend on what I'm interested in, as well as having to deal with their comments, questions and opinions about everything. And their wish to leave before we'd seen the artists' books and sculpture. I think in future I will try to go to at least some exhibitions on my own to allow myself to truly follow and wallow in my own interests.

One of the pieces that stood out for me this time was a painting of a landscape and sky with a strangely pointed man and a bird. It was the way that the low hills in the distance were bleached out by the brightness of the sun. I have often seen this in real life, but I think never so effectively in a work of art.

And I enjoyed some really awesomely skillful oil paintings by Frank Cuming RA.

And in a completely different, more amused way by a piece made entirely out of painted clothes pegs. I enjoyed it at first because of the regularity and texture. And when I got closer because it made me laugh. And closer still because of the dedication and belief in the idea that it must have taken to make it.

But the Cathy de Monchaux pieces were for me the most interesting things in the show. I know not everyone likes her sculptures exactly, but ever since I saw some of her work at the Turner Prize exhibition I have had a visceral reaction to what she makes. She uses texture in a way which defies categorisation, with textiles or fur often part of it, sometimes contrasted with metal. There's something beautiful and intriguing about them, with underneath something very fundamental which art works cannot usually get close to. I'm guessing that her inspiration is very internal. Her website (which the link comes from) doesn't have an image of anything I saw at the Summer Exhibition.

I particularly liked a piece called Sweetly the air flew overhead - a battle with unicorns. Why? Because it was in deep relief and made me feel I was right in there with the tiny unicorns. Because it was so meticulous and detailed. Because the unicorns horns, and in fact the layout of it reminded me of Uccello's Battle of San Romano, which I have liked looking at at the National Gallery since I was a child. And because it is in part made out of elastoplast, which indicates to me, yet again, that she really works at using the materials, however outlandish, that work for her vision.

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