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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.

    P2P2 Round 2

    Post edited to add a warning! This is a rambling post with poor grammar and (I suspect) a poorer grasp of what is weaveable / worth weaving. The Del key has been hovered over, but I thought this may be of passing interest in the context of the P2P2 challenge. Besides, I like to post on a Sunday evening as a weekly review and I haven’t got anything else!

    Off and on over the past couple of weeks my thoughts turned to Cally’s photo taken “the day the Bern bear mascot goes into hibernation. There was a very Swiss atmosphere of deliberate and dutiful jollity.” (see the rest of her comment here and more photos here). I already found the photo fascinating, and strangely enough I too have had an encounter with a crowd in Bern, back in ’82 when Geoff and I were freshly married and exploring the world together. The town centre was full of football fanatics, packing the trams and roaming the streets, chanting (Geoff, who has a phenomenal memory, supplies “Basel ist besser” and “Allez Sion”). A few followed us down the street, heckling – which only got worse when I made the mistake of speaking in english. Then last weekend a friend happened to talk about making parades and making costumes when she was living in Switzerland – and again there was a bit of an edge to her stories.

    Using the above, my first impressions of the photo and general stereotypes of the Swiss, I have: pops of colour; exuberance; texture; dissonance; good quality; methodical.

    First idea: inlay of blocks of colour. base of solid quality – linen in neutrals/undyed? rosepath inlay (since I like it). Which reminds me of Susan at Avalanche Looms – say here. Very close. Too close.

    Next idea: go shopping. A yarn store near work had a sale and I just happened to pop in – you know how it goes. Either of these could provide nice pops of colour and texture. I’m thinking wriggly lines of supplementary warp, with something grey/plain/regular as base. Maybe bits of glitz warp (thin metallic) describing boundaries for the wriggle – freedom within limits.

    A vague something in my head, I started leafing through books. Honeycomb? thick outline weft. But I don’t want solid bands, and I need to use the yarn in the warp to take advantage of colour changes. I could turn the draft?

    After going round in circles for a while (inlay honeycomb in blocks, with blocks of glitz overlay, sometimes overlapping, with basketweave in places to assist tension … ouch!) I’ll spare you the gory details – no need for everyone to get a headache or unsettled stomach 🙂

    Final (coherent?) thought is spider weave (my reference is Sharon Alderman Mastering Weave Structures, pages 118 – 122). I got out all my old class samples while wondering about the base cloth. Current fav 20/2 silk might be a bit light to carry the supplementary warps. Bendigo 2 ply wool is much heftier and would give a nice contrast of wool base to the sheen of the Noro (Silk Garden Lite – 45% silk, 45% mohair, 10% wool). Ixchel cashmerino – the strong shrinkage might emphasise the supplementary squiggle. Has the solid quality effect.

    At this point I quite liked the idea, so the next step would be to put on a sample warp.

    Which hasn’t happened.

    Because I have a couple of things in progress that are  progressing and I want to finish but aren’t finished and won’t be finished if I get too sidetracked. They’re also not bloggable because they are so nearly finished and would be much more interesting to read about and see photos of if they were finished.

    Which they’re not.

     


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    Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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