Archive for August, 2016

Weekly roundup 28 August 2016

Lecture: Michael Hill Cardinal Scipione Borghese (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

A lot of material surrounding this lecture is available online – articles by Michael Hill, “The Patronage of a Disenfranchised Nephew: Scipione Borghese and San Crisogono, 1618-28”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 2001, 432-449 and “Cardinal Dying: Bernini’s Bust of Scipione Borghese”, Australian Journal of Art, vol. 14, 1998, 9-26. Some great visual material too – 360 panoramas of San Crisogono and Santa Maria della Vittoria Enough reading and looking for many weeks!

A couple of particular points for me. First ideas of “restoration”. Nowadays we focus on the material of the item, keeping and supporting as much original material as possible, maybe reversing earlier renovations. In Borghese’s time restoration was of the symbolic significance, and a major upgrade or change could enhance that.

Second, Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne. It reveals everything at once but there is still a sequence, a narrative. Poetic.

Almost basketry
I’ve finished the project introduced 14-Aug-2016.

Coiled mulberry paper basket with felted paper rim

Coiled mulberry paper basket with felted paper rim

Coiled baskets, crochet and felted paper rims

Coiled baskets, crochet and felted paper rims

The view to the left shows some of the technical issues. Although wanting a lightly stitched vessel with the paper dominant, I created way too many stitches at the beginning of coiling. I thought I needed more, as I was making a wider vessel, but grossly missed the mark. So no nice spiraling lines. Still, I was able to match sizes and join the paper rim reasonably neatly, and the proportion of rim to coiling looks fine.

Given the initial, smaller vessel missed out on the lacy paper, I gave it a crocheted picot edge using the same cottolin as stitched the coiling.

The end results in the colours chosen are rather too pretty and flowery for my taste. And technically weak. Still, a serviceable proof of concept and some ideas I would like to take further. The current thought is to add in another new technique, some strong, graphic monoprinting on the paper before coiling and felting, and be a bit more adventurous in the shaping.


Mary Delany Poinciana Pulcherrima (Decandria Monogynia) © Trustees of the British Museum

Mary Delany
Poinciana Pulcherrima (Decandria Monogynia)
© Trustees of the British Museum

Molly Peacock The Paper Garden: Mrs Delany [Begins her life’s work] at 72.

I’ve been reading this book over the past few weeks. It’s partly biography, partly autobiography, partly musings on creativity, relationships, life…

Mary Delany (1700 – 1788) lived a life sometimes difficult, sometimes joyful, almost always it seems busy and determined. She drew, designed, stitched, made grottoes of shells, and at the age of 72 started making collages of coloured papers, often adding detail in watercolours. It reminds me of Ruth Hadlow’s strands of investigation (25-Feb-2016), coming together in a moment’s observation of a fallen petal to become something new.

Enjoyable, thought-provoking reading.

In my previous post (27-Aug-2016) I described my renewed excitement in mark-making following a class with Vivien Haley.

A tricky question in found pockets of time is “what to draw?”. I’m not currently working with samples I want to record and explore, looking around my workroom everything seems too familiar, I’m not an outdoorsy person… so I’ve chosen people, faces and bodies, as go-to subject matter. In this I’ve been influenced by some incomplete reading referring to Kevin Connor as a compulsive drawer, the basis of his art (actually in an education kit about David Fairbairn, another influence). I’m not a compulsive drawer, but maybe I can pretend a little and get marginally closer.

So the plan has become Cafe Croquis ( as often as I can, plus a small sketchbook in my bag and trying to fill those odd moments with faces – either live or from photos. So far I’ve used pencil and charcoal as well as the monoprinting, and a couple of PITT artist pens when out. I’ll never be a good draftsman, but I can improve and in any case that’s not the point. A line, a mark, may be all I need.

At some point I may start being more selective, but tonight it feels faster just to do a mosaic dump, warts and all.

Workshop: Vivien Haley The Mono Printed Brushmark: Experimental printing techniques

This one-day masterclass was run at the lovely Hazelhurst Gallery & Arts Centre. Vivien Haley, the tutor, studied sculpture and print-making at Art School. Her varied career has included exhibiting as a sculptor, hand block-printing fabrics, and most recently exploring digital printing of her original work.

In this class Vivien showed us the expressive power of some deceptively simple techniques – mono-printing, block-printing, sgraffito. In one way it was a reminder of what I already knew, given the printing assignment of Mixed Media for Textiles, but with the particular materials and tools and techniques I chose, all the textures and marks I made, none produced a printed brushmark. Incredible in hind-sight!

Print 1

Print 1

After a general introduction of herself and some show-and-tell of some beautiful fabrics (some hand-printed, some digitally printed collages of her hand-printing), Vivien introduced printing in the most simple and direct way – using black acrylic paint, painting onto some xray film or a wooden block, scratching in marks, and printing onto paper. I set off with a wooden block, experimenting with different amounts of paint, scratching, painting on some hessian and printing that by pressing with the wood… a little variety of tones but nothing exciting.

Print 2

Print 2

At one point I started playing with some colour, printing off a scrap of cardboard. There’s a sense of depth in areas, a little movement contained in the structure of the pattern. What started getting my attention was the mark of the brush itself, more than the shape of print or the scratching into the paint.

Print 3

Print 3

Print 3 detail

Print 3 detail

I returned to this print a number of times over the day, adding layers. It started with a glass printing plate, brushed on paint, and some yarn as a resist. At this point I was deliberately choosing brushes which gave a broken mark. The second layer was red paint on hessian, with a border mask of newspaper to give the overall shape. Finally I wanted more lines at a different scale, so covered some yarn with paint, arranged them on the glass, used a circular mask, and took the print.

As a whole it doesn’t work, but I like the detail of the layering, the different scales of mark and the energy in them. We were using primary school grade acrylic paint, not top artist quality stuff, and for this technique it was wonderful. Rich and creamy, just the right consistency for printing without modification, and quite slow to dry – plenty of time for manipulation on the plate or block.

Print 4

Print 4

More experimentation with layers and marks. The printing inks I used in my earlier assignment were transparent, so I got interesting layering and mixing of colour. The acrylic paint is basically opaque, with the layering coming from the broken marks. A very different effect. I wonder what could be done with combining the media, playing the different kinds of layering against each other…

VivienHaleyClass05The last print I’m showing (we all produced a lot of work) brings together the major ideas that had caught my interest. The energy and the lines in the initial layer reminded me of the movement of water in the harbour, so I played on that in my over-printing using pieces of heavy cardboard as a stamp.

Print 5 detail

Print 5 detail

The detail photo shows that the acrylic isn’t fully opaque – the layer below can still be seen. There’s a lot happening with very basic materials and tools.

There were 10 or so in the class, everyone working pretty independently and with a variety of approaches.

One worked on fabric (I didn’t get a good shot of that). Quite a range of different marks and use of colour. There’s more to see in Claire’s post.

A sobering aspect of the class was the reason Vivien has turned to digital work – she developed an allergy to the printing ink. A good reminder to be thoughtful in how we use materials and protect ourselves. Vivien had worked for years with the inks, including quite a lot of spraying backgrounds. The positive is that she has been able to make the move to digital – with all sorts of advantages, such as adjusting colours, changing scale, mixing images of different works to create new designs, and flexibility in print runs (shapes and designs). The results can be seen on her website,, and all the work evidences the original handprinting. Vivien works closely with a printing house and gave quite a detailed explanation of the process from a designer’s point of view, but out of scope here.

During the class Vivien came round a few times and made suggestions, asked questions, pointed out possibilities. One was drawing back into a print, bringing out and developing areas. I wasn’t able to turn my mind to that on the day – I was firmly in printing mode – but it’s something to come back to. Writing up this post reminded me of the collage effects she’s working with. I’m not feeling drawn to a digital approach at the moment (I spend enough time at the computer), but I’d like to print up a range of papers and colours and try working with collage.

Vivien also talked about the nature of printing a brushmark. It becomes a memory, a record of something gone. That could add a nice depth of thought in the right context.

The biggest immediate impact for me has been renewing excitement in making marks. The printing process captures, flattens and makes the painted marks more graphic and I want to keep doing that – especially the broken marks that are so expressive. But the impact I mean here is more general. My sketching has been languishing, but now I’m keen.

I’ll write some more in my regular roundup, but here will show the results of a session printing acrylic ink.

These are based on a video on Croquis Cafe (, and clearly show the available scope for improvement.

Ignoring that – I see a lot of potential in some of the lines and marks. I also now know that not all cheap acrylic paints are created equal. The one I was using dried much too quickly. Even a two-minute pose had dried too much before I could print it.

The important thing is – I’m working on it.

Weekly roundup 21 August 2016

It’s late in the day and our internet connection is being flaky, so a minimal update.

Lecture: Peter Kohane Rooms for art: Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum and Paul Mellon Centre for British Art (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

An excellent lecture. Kohane gave us a base line and context with Mies van der Rohe’s New National Gallery in Berlin. He then took us through a series of buildings by Kahn, including the First Unitarian Church of Rochester as well as galleries, showing us what Kahn was doing, the questions he was addressing. Kohane’s discussion of the way light enters a building and is modulated by the structure, ideas of how a gallery can support the human activity of studying – viewing and discussing – art, was illuminating (tiny pun).

Basketry: The new base is a work in progress.

Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin (Eds) (2016) Revolution in the Making: Abstract sculpture by women 1947-2016 Hauser & Wirth Publishers. Actually this was looking and thinking. I’d already finished reading the essays. A great book, which I’m sure I’ll be referring to again and again.

Other bits of reading, but none blog-worthy at this point.

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes at AGNSW. Lots of fun, lots of people. I spent a fair proportion of my time crowd-watching, very conscious of the works which attracted my attention and those with a crowd around them. I’ve come home with a couple of artist name’s I want to research more before writing.

The Australian Aboriginal Collection at the Australian Museum. The first time I’ve visited this with a basketry focus. Some really beautiful work.

Workshop: Vivien Haley The Mono Printed Brushmark: Experimental printing techniques
A one day masterclass today. A separate report will follow in a day or two.

2 weekly roundup 14 August 2016

Time passed. Such is life.

Lecture: Denise Mimmocchi Tony Tuckson and Stuart Scougall: Building the Australian collection (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

From the period of “discovery” and invasion Aboriginal art was considered in scientific, anthropological and ethnographic terms. For many years works were objects of curiosity, relics of a “dying” culture. During the 20th century the aesthetic value of indigenous art came to be appreciated.

In the late 1950s Tony Tuckson, then deputy director of AGNSW and himself an abstract expressionist painter, and Dr Stuart Scougall, an orthopaedic surgeon, made two expeditions to Australia’s north to commission significant bodies of works – Tutini (Pukamani grave posts) and bark paintings. This marked a shift in thinking, seeing through the lens of art history rather than ethnography. The expeditions were part of longer term relationships, and involved close communication with the artists and communities, documenting cultural context, processes of production, significance of associated rituals etc.

As well as giving background to the expeditions and the works involved Mimmocchi briefly considered the influence of Aboriginal works on Margaret Preston and the issues of appropriation of the works into a modernist framework. There wasn’t a lot of discussion on the cultural meaning of the works, but mention was made of the work as a political act, an assertion of connection to country.

Lecture: Wayne Tunnicliffe Bring the world to Australia: The John Kaldor Family Collection (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

A wonderful story of a man with vision, deeply interested in the art of his generation and time. Instead of joining the long list of expats in 60s London, fleeing the “cultural desert” of Australia, Kaldor brought the art of the world here.

He bought/brought art of everyday materials, breaking down barriers between art and life (Robert Rauschenberg Dylaby); transformative art (Christo and Jeanne Claude Wrapped coast, one million square feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Austalia); art with systems, removing the artist’s hand (Sol Lewitt); seriality and repetition (Carl Andre Steel-copper plain); art with an element of chance (Richard Long Stone line); kitsch (Jeff Koons White terrior).

The works seem purchased on gut reaction rather than an intellectual pursuit, to live with (in a classic wooden home, not a modernist white cube), or to share, in the many Kaldor Public Art Projects

Almost basketry
I was hoping to get to my first meeting of Basketry NSW this week – didn’t happen, as sharing a cold seemed a bad way of introducing myself. Anyway, in preparation I needed a work in progress to take along.

This was based on coiled baskets introduced in Lissa de Sailles’s workshop (19-Mar-2016), combined with paper felting learnt in Angela Liddy’s workshop (10-Jul-2016).

Lissa de Sailles class

Lissa de Sailles class

The stitching on my class sample is very static – partly due to the straight sides and more the way I placed the stitches, but there’s also that extra horizontal of the thread which I found too heavy for current purposes.

An internet search found the Native American Basketry, with interlocking stitching of coiled baskets and a way of starting.

Coiled interlocking stitch

Coiled interlocking stitch

First a quick attempt in large scale materials to work through the instructions. This is thick polypropylene cord, the spiral around 8.5 cm across.

201608_felted_paper_basket_trimWhile considering that I made a ring of felted paper to form the rim of the basket. There are some opportunities for fine-tuning, but I’m happy with the lacey edge and cutouts.

The idea is to make a coiled basket, using some of the same papers plus some more co-ordinating colours, with the final round of stitching used to attached the basket to the felted rim.

Coiled paper basket begun

Coiled paper basket begun

Next working with the mulberry paper, stitching with waxed cottolin.

The general look is what I wanted, but I quickly became aware of problems. I have a lot to learn about shape and proportion.

The coiling is meant to be the star, the felted paper collar important but a trim. I wanted the lines of the basket to work with the lines of the collar. So I started curving from a small base to have enough space.

Coiled paper basket pieces

Coiled paper basket pieces

These are never going to fit together in a stable object.


Perhaps I’m making a series of baskets!

To be continued.

Yes! That’s a surprise.

This started thinking about folds, discovering depths and dimensions, breaking through…

The top layer of some corrugated cardboard was stripped away unevenly and roughly painted with white gesso.



20160813_01The board was propped vertically and running paint used in lines of folds. Difficult to take a photo of the result as the board has curved. Obviously the photo shows it rotated from the position when painting, but I get a sense of movement and rhythm which could have potential.

There’s also some interesting detail, particularly where I sprayed water to encourage movement and where the folded interior of the cardboard is exposed.

An idea to keep exploring.

Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin (Eds) (2016) Revolution in the Making: Abstract sculpture by women 1947-2016 Hauser & Wirth Publishers.

Continuing with this – slowly, given the one-thing-leads-to-another phenomenon.

Going back to the essay by Elizabeth Smith, “‘What can be done,what I must learn, what there is to do…’: Process, Materials, and Narrative in the 1950s” and ignoring that daunted feeling, I’ve been wondering about narrative. Sampling materials and musing about ideas are fascinating. Narrative makes me nervous, so perhaps I should be exploring that.

Have I noted before how the work I’m most attracted to is very often by women? “The objects and environments they created spoke not just to the mythic or heroic but rather to the essential properties of the body/the self in relationship to others or to ideas of known and unknown worlds” (p. 31) Smith shows the wide range of work made by women, while also suggesting connections or qualities that go beyond specific works. An engagement with materials, a “commingling of form and content”, an emphasis on process, on the hand of the artist.

Anne M Wagner “What women do, or The poetics of sculpture”
“Sculpture is no longer ‘itself:’ it is no single thing, no necessarily even an object, nothing more (or less) than the inflection of material, place, and space.” (pp 80-81) The possibilities of sculpture have been transformed, broken open. I want, need, to find a space within that where all these swirling thoughts coalesce, my textile sensibilities, interests in space and light and layering and boundaries.

There are so many choices raised here. The importance of context – or not. A resonance with tradition; the physicality of production; performative; poetics – “the terms in which any sculpture tries to extend and transform the world of things” (p. 85); work with both sculptural and typographical forms…

This essay makes so clear the power of words interpreting work. Of Michelle Stuart’s work: “handpolished… subtly stony glow… effect of countless feet on hard stone paving. In a cathedral this happens over centuries; Stuart somehow managed to speed up the passage of time.” (p. 87) How loaded is that word, cathedral! And later, of the same artist, “[Stuart’s] books, scrolls and codices seem selected as vehicles to figure something as elusive as the opacity of narrative and the intransigence of time.” There’s also “”…the physical presence of women’s sculpture so often served to conjure absence: its materiality is haunted by ghosts.” (p. 88)

Wonderful reading.

Jenni Sorkin “Five propositions on abstract sculpture”

My notes on this essay are even longer, so the snippets here even more disjointed.

“But art is not just about telling a story. Through object making, an artist invites a viewer not necessarily into her inner, conceptual world, but into its consequences, and its material gestures.” (p. 141) Material gestures – it sounds exciting. A statement that I am here, seeing, touching, changing (I noted a link to Wagner’s earlier essay, p 84, and Abakanowicz’s view of rope. “What was missing, she declared, was her own contribution, ‘moving it, touching, changing its position and arrangement…’.” To claim such a thing, to own one’s work and its value!

A lot of the material reminded me of MMT work, for example “Bundling, in particular, is a formal strategy used by artists from a previous generation to invoke conditions of displacement, nomadism, concealment, and memory. It is reminiscent of ancient mummy bundles, the cloths encasing ritual objects found buried at ancient grave sites…” (p. 145). I did those exercises with a fixed focus on material possibilities. At this point, rather than daunted I felt energised, excited by opening possibilities. Why not more layers?

Of Cristina Iglesias: “the viewer experiences the liminal threshold of both inside and out-side simultaneously.” “[Her] sculptures are ignited by their relationship to light and shadow, which grants them interiority, thereby creating a larger metaphor for reflection, self-possession, and the richness of perceptual experience.” “Mediating discovery of the interior space” (p.153).

So many artists to follow up. Liz Larner is one – “an empty interior space that vibrates, visible only through the chinks in its armor.” “The sly presence of the linear” “drawing on the continuous interest in reconfiguring the grid, which spans several generations of postwar sculptors.” (p. 152), but so far my focus has been Jessica Stockholder: “Stockholder’s work is less a conversation about accumulation in the sense of owning or having, instead she is interested in the abstract nature of space and how the body experiences the interstitial: moments of entering and exiting, under and over, behind and between.” (p.150)

There is a lot more reading on Jessica Stockholder’s website, Reading as well as looking, as there is rich documentation not just of her work but of her writing about her work and about the work of others.

More reading
Conor Wilson Sloppy Discipline
This essay gives a quick run through theory of art and craft, for me making the discussion currently relevant and evolving/emerging, rather than tired old arguments trundled out. Instead of squabbling over definitions, it becomes a question of what am I interested in paying attention to, in doing, and how to write about and describe that.

Wilson writes about the negation of much modern art – being radical, oppositional, transformative – and an alternative lens of “the artist’s practice as a way of life” – and a deskilling (that is, a distinction from craft). Not exclusively – “art can be anything, but, obviously, craft will only be accepted as art if it is framed according to the rules of contemporary art practice.”

Conor comments on teaching and assessment in the UK and the emphasis placed on concept, context, and quality of finished work, depending upon the discipline. He is interested in a new approach – “three distinct but intertwining disciplines – Art, Craft and Design”, extending even further to mix with other areas of study and practice.

Some interesting ideas, which feel very relevant to me as I ponder how to approach Level 2 studies, and if indeed that’s the direction I want to take.


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August 2016

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