Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Vale “Nancy”

Betty Nolan 6 December 1923 – 24 January 2019

My mother-in-law Betty recently died. Betty was a quiet and unassuming woman who described herself as a “home body”. Her focus was always her family, pets and home. Betty’s taste was simple, elegant, quiet. She never liked a fuss, a crowd, or to be the centre of attention.

Growing up in the depression years in a working class inner-city suburb of Sydney, Betty won educational scholarships but had to leave school early to earn her living. Learning advanced secretarial skills and with a gift for organisation, Betty worked in a series of small business around the city. She would replace chaos with order and efficiency, then move on to the next challenge.

The Grace Hotel
Photo: Edward Howard

During World War II Betty was assigned to work in the Sydney headquarters of the U.S. armed forces. It was there in the Grace Building in late 1945 that Betty met her future husband, visiting as a Lieutenant in the Australian Army. It was five years before they could marry, Ken earning a medical degree during that time, Betty continuing to work. Ken died in 1971 aged 49, a result in part of illness related to his war service and of a punishing schedule as a GP. Their two boys were just 12 and 14.

Betty was a welcoming, kind and thoughtful mother-in-law to me. She always offered help. She never interfered. Betty was a loving and much loved nana to my two boys.

Entirely by chance, on her last day both Betty’s sons visited her in the nursing home where she had lived for almost nine years. Betty was happy, lucid, interested and involved in the conversation. Just an hour or two after the boys left Betty was found, apparently having drifted off in a nap. Betty endured some hard times over recent years, always with grace, humility and concern for others. Her death in this way seemed like a gift, everything that she would have wished for.

Last week in what is now the Grace Hotel we had a quiet memorial gathering – Betty’s two sons, her two grandsons, me and my mother. We shared stories about the life of this loving, resilient, generous woman. We ate strawberries with cream and icing sugar (a favourite my boys remembered). There were white daises, there was laughter, and there were a few tears shed when we played “Danny Boy”.

It may seem strange to introduce this personal note in a blog focused on art and making. In fact, under the pseudonym “Nancy”, Betty has appeared more times in this blog than any other individual. It’s not a good story. The last decade of Betty’s life was not of her choosing, and I have been angry about her situation for so long now.

Betty (“Nancy”)

This is one view of Betty, ink pen and wash, based on an old photo, in a 2012 sketchbook. The photo was taken at a happy time in her life, and in it she looks beautiful. You can see a copy of the photo at the top of this post, at Betty’s memorial gathering.

A month later I did a pencil sketch while visiting her (the face on the left). A very ordinary drawing of a woman resigned to her fate.

My final project for the OCA Textiles 1: A Creative Approach course was “Aged Care”. My view of Betty’s situation:
Trapped and in pain, bound by merciless platitudes and good intentions.

There was a lot of material leading to that. Below I’ve copied in the set of links to the process.

Part five: A piece of your own

Quick links to theme work prior to Part five:

Project 10: A design project

Sketchbook during time period of Part Five: Sketchbook 6

——
It’s six years since that project was done. I continued to visit each Sunday afternoon, bringing little stories of the doings and foibles of myself, family and friends. Betty would laugh at the little sillinesses I recounted, and remember snippets long after I forgot. We’d talk about TV shows, the weather, sometimes current affairs. I learnt never to ask how she was, never to wish her happy birthday, never to stay when her supper came because she didn’t want me to see her struggling to eat (no solids – her dentures were too painful to use). The worst hour of my week gradually got shorter as her strength failed, or would be abandoned if there was another bout of gastro. Betty didn’t want to show her pain. I looked forward to her release for her sake, and I was so happy at the gift of her final day. I just didn’t anticipate the void of her loss in my own life.

The ongoing adventure

At the beginning of May I posted my first Weekly Roundup (3-Apr-2016). Looking back over the five months since I see decent progress. It’s been a time of consciously self-directed activity, developing streams of work, noticing and following what catches my attention. Lectures, exhibitions, reading, sketching, workshops, some developing strands of investigation on folds and grids… Not rushing towards a specific goal, but being accountable to myself, not drifting, with a post most weeks to review and consolidate.

In my last post I mentioned that the new/revamped OCA level 2 course has been released and I am under-whelmed. It could be absolutely perfect for someone else, but not for me. I’ve spent some time reflecting on my interests, where I want to develop.

  • Textiles in contemporary art. There’s the push of the fibre arts movement. There’s a broadening of media in art. Cecilia Heffer’s discussion at the GROUP exchange symposium keeps coming to mind (22-May-2015), also Conor Wilson’s paper Sloppy Discipline (14-Aug-2016).
  • Sculpture and objects, installation, temporal and spatial exploration.
  • A long-standing interest in additive construction – felting, spinning, weaving, now basketry
  • Studio-based practice
  • Working towards becoming a self-aware practicing artist.
  • Experimental, innovative, engaged with materials and techniques – both traditional and emerging, with a textile sensibility
  • Mindful of the context of contemporary ideas and work.
  • I like structured learning, but the OCA course is not a good fit at the moment and I haven’t found an alternative.

    So time to structure my own learning. Similar to the past few months, but more so.

    Areas of investigation:

  • Art & textiles – complete reading Art & Textiles: Fabric as material and concept in modern art from Klimt to the present, then more on textile art history
  • Sculpture, particularly involving fibre. I have a small pile of books referenced in Fiber: Sculpture 1960 – present
  • Collage and assemblage. An exhibition opens soon at AGNSW, Art of parts: collage and assemblage from the collection (link). I’ve never come to grips with collage, but this really fits with the additive construction angle.
  • Ramping up the rigour of my process:

  • Follow the research guidelines of the OCA Contemporary Context course (the particular projects aren’t for me, but the approach looks strong).
  • Similarly the OCA drawing/sketchbook guidelines.
  • And their assessment criteria. Obviously no tutor or assessors, but I can use the criteria in my own reflection.
  • Supplement with strategically chosen classes:

  • Short basketry classes (previously booked)
  • Beginner drawing classes. To check/set basic skills, building towards life drawing classes next year (which I think would be really helpful in seeing form for sculpture)
  • Creative research masterclass with Ruth Hadlow (in November, previously booked). This will definitely up the rigour of my work and provide external critique.
  • Basketry summer school at Sturt (link). Foundation skills and exploration of sculptural forms.
  • Welding sculptures summer school at National Art School (link). Very excited about this.
  • Plus the regular lectures at AGNSW, exhibitions etc. This blog will remain my learning log, probably including the weekly roundup with separate specific posts as warranted.

    An ambitious program that should provide an integration of theoretical and contextual research with practical investigation. And with all of this I want to stay focused, structured, coherent, playful, lateral, pushing boundaries.

    Given the summer classes are in January, this should keep me usefully occupied for at least five months. Then I can reassess, and could always return to OCA if it seemed a good idea.

    A ridiculously ambitious program – but it excites me.

    Reading: Kim Thittichai “Experimental Textiles”

    This book is subtitled “A journey through design, interpretation and inspiration” and is named after a college course Kim Thittichai wrote and taught for a number of years. The book aims “to encourage you to stop thinking about it and get on with it” (p. 8).

    It quickly touches on a range of basic, necessary skills and gives some starter exercises in creating, developing and recording original ideas and in understanding and using colour. I think its greatest strength is the presentation of a broad range of inspirational works by other artists, each with a brief discussion of design source and process. The book finishes with a few suggestions on how to keep inspired, working and creating long-term.

    I can’t say that any of the material appeared really new or original to me. The ambitious scope of the work meant little depth in any one area. Still, reminders or a slightly different perspective can be useful. An exercise on “The Journey” resonated with my Aztec research, and could well have influenced my design development if I had continued that project (I’ve put the Aztec idea to one side to keep it fresh, hoping for a suitable opportunity later in my OCA work). Overall a pleasant read, and probably a book I’ll dip in to over time.

    Thittichai, K. (2009) Experimental Textiles: A journey through design, interpretation and inspiration London: Batsford

    UA1-WA:P5-p1-Exercise: Annotate an interior view – 1

    This final part of the course begins with the interior – first as represented in paintings, then as an architectural space.

    We are asked to annotate two interior views, and for my first I have chosen The first born by Gaston La Touche (1883) – an example of a nineteenth-century genre painting. The painting hangs in the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), in my opinion was the best match to exercise requirements currently on display, and had personal appeal in the sense of light and the hint of a textile connection.

    This large, square picture was awarded a second class medal in the Paris Salon of 1888 and was purchased from the Salon for AGNSW.

    The painting shows a bedroom in a working-class home. A child, the first of the family, has been born and can almost be glimpsed in the straw-line cradle. The new mother sleeps, exhausted after what may have been a difficult birth. The young father sits on a rough wooden box at the foot of the bed, leaning wearily. An older woman, perhaps the grandmother, watches over the family as the light of a new day enters through the curtained windows.

    LaTouche_02A series of strong verticals structure the image. A range of diagonal and nearly-horizontal lines, shown in green on the diagram, create the space of the interior. We are looking into a bedroom, perhaps standing in the doorway. The window is deeply set with a small platform, separated from the main room by a light curtain.

    The main elements of the image are contained in a smaller area, outlined in pink in the diagram. There are the three adults, the crib, and another presence – a religious image.

    Most of the light in the picture is entering through the large window, and it is beautifully dispersed by the sheer curtains. There may be some additional light assumed from the doorway, otherwise it is reflected light which brightens the back of the man’s shirt.

    LaTouche_03The light is particularly varied and beautiful around the head of the older woman – reflected from the curtains onto her face, gleaming through what I assume is flax on her distaff, highlighting the shaping of her cap. In addition a small beam of light reaches over the pillow to find the head of the sleeping mother.

    The colour palette is limited, mainly shades of yellow and brown, with touches of pink in the robe folder over the end of the bedstead and the shawl of the watching woman. There is a wide range of tones, with that bright white morning light touching each of the main figures, and contrasting dark shadows in other areas.

    LaTouche_04Large areas of the image are left bare – texture on the walls and floor – which provides general interest while keeping focus on the main action of the image. However there are also areas given careful attention, such as the still-life of jug and bottles on the rush chair seat, and the wooden box supporting the man.

    The general genre of narrative painting of interiors has its base in Dutch art of the seventeenth century, when the wealthy merchant class looked to spend their new wealth on works of art to adorn their homes. Such paintings would be small, suited to the domestic scale, detailed, and show a familiar rather than mythological or religious scene, often with a moral message. Most of those criteria apply to The first born except for the scale. This is a large work, designed as an entry to the Salon. The picture was well received in that environment, a report from that time including “Each actor of this familiar scene is exhibited in the simplest, truest and most impressive attitude, and the light, sifted through the large curtains, enters soft and clear into the humble dwelling, filling its naked walls with a pleasant, subdued radiance. Nothing is abandoned to purr sentimentality, but yet a chastened tenderness seems to be diffused throughout the chamber. M. la Touche has here produced a powerful and exquisite work” (Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1888).

    Despite this measure of success, La Touche did not continue with such themes for many more years. He destroyed many of his early work, and in 1891 “consigned fifteen years work to the flames of a bonfire in a single day” (Brindley & Maclennan, [n.d.]). Presumably the AGNSW work was saved by its sale and voyage to Australia.

    Gaston La Touche The Arbor ca 1906   oil on canvas

    Gaston La Touche
    The Arbor
    ca 1906 oil on canvas
    180 x 201 cm
    The Walters Art Museum
    http://art.thewalters.org/detail/24883/the-arbor/

    The Walters Art Museum suggests “As a mature artist, [La Touche] broke with his realist beginnings to paint in a harmonious decorative style that reflects the influence of the Rococo painters of the 18th century” (The Walters Art Museum, [n.d.]). From the web image it’s certainly difficult to reconcile the two paintings from the same hand. Another work, Pardon in Brittany (1896) in the Art Institute Chicago (http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/111656?search_no=7&index=9), while apparently using a broader palette and quite different technique, shows a handling of light much more in keeping with his earlier work. La Touche was part of the Paris art cafe scene and received advice from Manet and in particular Felix Bracquemond. It is interesting to see a basically classic, academic (although not academically trained) artist producing “vigorous, harsh and somber” works (Turner, 1996?) modify his work to such an extent.

    T

    References

    Brindley & Maclennan, [n.d.] BIOGRAPHY: Gaston La Touche ~ 1854 – 1913 [online] Available from http://www.gastonlatouche.com/biography/ (Accessed 19-Jul-2014)

    Editor unknown, (1988) Gazette des Beaux Arts, Paris, June 1988, quoted in National Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue, 1906

    The Walters Art Museum, [n.d.] Gaston La Touche: The Arbor [online] Available from http://art.thewalters.org/detail/24883/the-arbor/ (Accessed 19-Jul-2014)

    Turner, J. (1996?) The Dictionary of Art Vol. 18, p. 835. Photocopy sighted in Research Library, Art Gallery of New South Wales.

    UA1-WA:P5-p1-Exercise: Annotate an interior view – 1
    Understanding Art 1 – Western Art
    Part 5: Inside, outside
    Project one: The interior
    Exercise: Annotate an interior view – 1

    Book Review – Sonia Delaunay

    Color Moves: Art & Fashion by Sonia Delaunay is the catalogue of an exhibition last year at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. The exhibition focused on her fashion and textile designs, so naturally the catalogue does too. Delaunay (1885 – 1979) was an abstract painter and designer who, it seems, approached both her painting and her design work in the same way, creating form using colour.

    I knew very little about Delaunay before reading the book – just a few of her works that were included in Paths to Abstraction 1867 – 1917 exhibition at the NSW Art Gallery in 2010 and occasional bits read here and there. The essays included left me wanting more. This is not a negative reflection on the catalogue as such, just the result of the exhibition’s strong focus and my own lack of background. One essay concentrated on issues in the dating and recording of the textile designs. Another looked particularly at Delaunay’s work and relationship with Metz & Co, a Dutch department store which produced many of her designs. This was interesting because it gave some context about the other designers of the period, plus a few glimpses of Sonia Delaunay the person. There was also a more general introductory essay by Petra Timmer, “Sonia Delaunay Fashion and fabric designer”.

    Delaunay kept a series of workbooks through her textile design career and the catalogue has many very good reproductions of pages from them and from the records kept by Metz. It is fascinating to see for a design the original gouache, ink and pencil drawing, the master print, and swatches of the final fabric in 6 colour-ways. The photos are large and crisp, so you can see the weave of the silk and the pencilled notes on the design cards. Delaunay cut some printing blocks herself, but many were created by a couple of commercial suppliers and it’s interesting to see the slight changes introduced in the process – especially relevant to me given the current stage of my OCA course. Some of the colour combinations she used just sing  (yes, I’ve noted some that really appeal to me in my sketchbook). There are only one or two of Delaunay’s artworks included and I’d like to track down some more as I want to compare her choice of palette for painting (unlimited) versus textile printing designs (3 or 4 colours and the base cloth). The fashion sketches and photos of models wearing Delaunay’s creations are also very interesting, but of course the contemporary photography was black and white.

    I keep flipping through the book, admiring the colours and designs and working methods of a woman who had such a strong and clear vision and who was personally involved in a very interesting and creative period. I think the book is a great resource with such beautiful and clear images. On the other hand, I’d be really interested in any suggestions of books that take a broader view of Sonia Delaunay and her work.

    McQuaid, M and Brown, S. (2011) Colour Moves: Art & Fashion by Sonia Delaunay. New York: Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution

    Edited to add: I’ve just found a lot more material on the exhibition here, including a long video of an evening discussion by the curator and others.  I haven’t had a chance to listen/see everything yet, but a word of warning – some of the links failed for me because the link started with “beta” instead of “www”. If you get “server not found” just fix the address in your browser.

     

    Ann Roth

    Just found Ann Roth‘s work. Very beautiful, mind is racing and wanted to share!

    Bead leno detail

    With seven wefts tried on my leno sample there was a clear and totally unexpected winner. Which will remain unseen until the Big P2P2 Reveal.

    In the meantime I have a few detail shots of the bead leno setup.

    In leno warp threads swap positions instead of running along neatly beside each other. Check my photo in this post from February to see a diagram. Back then I used “doups” to get the swapping. This time it’s “beads” – or pieces of a drinking straw in this instance. The first photo shows the setup between the heddles (at the top) and the reed. I used a straight threading for the warp – that is, starting from the right, a thread on shaft 1, the next on shaft 2, then shaft 3, then shaft 4, and repeat in sets of 4 threads, so looking at the loom from the front you have 4-3-2-1 – 4-3-2-1 – 4-3-2-1… Note that each set of 4 go together through a single dent of the reed – very important because otherwise the swapping wouldn’t work.

    Here’s a closeup of a 4-3-2-1 group (click on the photo to see bigger). The threads on 4 (beige in this example) and 1 (light blue) are threaded through a piece of plastic straw underneath the threads on shafts 2 and 3 (both dark blue). Underneath – another very important detail. This is still with the shafts behind and the reed in front. (I just put a pickup stick under warps 2 and 3 to make it easier to see.)

    While weaving leno the threads on shafts 2 and 3 just sit there – the world revolves around them.

    The third photo shows what happens when shaft 1 is lifted. The light blue thread on shaft one goes up (yellow arrow). This pulls on the straw. The beige thread on shaft 4 is pulled over because it is threaded through the same piece of straw. The red arrow points to where 4-beige has been pulled across under the dark threads on shafts 2 and 3 and up. The photo is still between shafts and reed, but in front of the reed the order of threads is now

    3 (down) – 2 (down) – 4 (up) – 1 (up)

    I put through the weft in front of the reed and that order is captured. Thread 4 has swapped position.

    Next (photo 4) I put down shaft 1 and lift shaft 4. The beige thread on shaft 4 goes up (yellow arrow). The light blue thread is pulled across, under the dark threads (red arrow), and up. In front of the reed we have

    4 (up) – 1 (up) – 3 (down) – 2 (down)

    A pick of weft captures that swap.

    Repeat those two picks. The warp threads on shafts 1 and 4 appear first on the right of the group, then on the left, then the right, wobbling their way down the length of the cloth. You can see it a bit on the loom in the last post, but you don’t get the full wobbly goodness until off the loom and wet finished.

    I think it’s amazing – magic! Easy to set up, not too tricky to weave. The shed is not as good as standard weaving – after all the warp being pulled across is pulling down on the straw, and also pulling up on the stationary threads as it goes underneath them. Plus in this particular example I am using textured yarn with blobs of cotton and I have to be gentle given the abrasion of all the warps rubbing as they are pulled around. So I am gently separating and spreading the shed with my pickup stick every single pick. This sounds slow, but the main work has already been done automatically by the bead setup and there are so few picks per inch that it’s wizzing along very happily.

    Information sources:

    • notes from my weaving teacher, Liz Calnan.
    • “A new twist on Bead Leno” by Kathryn Wertenberger. Handwoven November/December 1989.

    Calendar of Posts

    June 2019
    M T W T F S S
    « Apr    
     12
    3456789
    10111213141516
    17181920212223
    24252627282930

    Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Archives

    Categories