Posts Tagged 'CA1-P2-Other'


While going through all my Assignment 2 material for a final Reflective Commentary and then package it all up for snail mail (yay!!!) I realised I haven’t written about these two books.

Klein, Bernat (1965) Eye for Colour, Bernat Klein, Scotland and Collins, London.

Bernat Klein, a textile designer with an absolute passion for colour, used his autobiography to explain not only himself, but his theories about the nature and importance of design and colour. He was born in 1923 in Yugoslavia and was involved in textiles from an early age, as his parents owned and operated a textile wholesale business. Textiles and clothing – quality, colour, style and presentation –  were always important. The story of his journey from Yugoslavia to Jerusalem to Leeds in Britain to Galashiels Scotland, from religious student to Art School to textile technology at university was interesting in itself, but really a backdrop or preamble.

For Klein, “for those who can speak the language of colour it can express the whole gamut of human emotions” (p51). He argues that colour has been liberated, moving from symbolic use in ancient times to being a vital part of a richer, fuller, more civilised life. Artworks by Turner, Monet, Klee and others are illustrated and discussed in support of these ideas.

Klein has some strong views about the importance of well-trained textile designers to take advantage of and further this evolution – his program of study is quite ambitious and may have been overtaken by changes over the years. I also found his analysis of eye colour to guide colour choice in clothing rather dated. On the other hand his call to teach the young to consume intelligently (p. 94) is very current, as is the approach he took in his textile mill: “For a young, smallish firm to make its impact it must rely on brains rather than brawn, brilliant design ideas rather than quantity of output and turnover” (p 114).

The brilliant design is definitely there. Klein would start the process with an end use in mind. When a clear image emerged, often based on one of his own paintings, he would consider raw materials, equipment and processes. He would then work on constructing the yarn, being innovative in both materials and dye process. Finally there is the weave structure – often fairly simple, and the same structure looking very different due to the unique and unusual yarns and ribbons used in them.

The book finishes with large, detail photos of six fabrics, each with the painting that inspired them and a few paragraphs of text. These are wonderful. The fabrics are so complex you really need the closeup to appreciate them, and it is so interesting to be able to trace the original image in the final fabric.

Klein’s fabrics were very successful and influential, being used in designs by Chanel, Dior and Yves St Laurent.

My description above is very dry and dusty and has sucked the joy and colour and vibrant life out of Klein’s book and work, so I urge you to follow some of the links below and see for yourself.


All these links were accessed 28 April 2012. A series of photographs from an exhibition at the Scott Gallery, Hawick Museum August – October 2005. These are the best images of Klein’s work that I found on the internet. The subject of this page is clothing designer Bonnie Cashin. It includes photos of a coat made using fabric designed by Bernat Klein. There’s a very good closeup photo – not my favourite fabric, but it does show the complexity of the component yarns used. This interview by Jackie McGlone was published in The Scotsman 28 November 2011. Weaving and an exhibition inspired by Bernat Klein’s work. The author, Terry Bibby, does beautiful Saori weaving. KAUL, EKTA KHOKHAR, Innovation in Creative Industry. This page includes some closeups of Klein’s textiles. There are also some interesting comments on the challenges facing the Scottish textile industry and innovation in traditional crafts. This post has photographs by Arthur Massey of a young Klein at work, and some of the garments created using Klein’s textiles. National Museums Scotland has acquired Klein’s archive – this is the press release from November 2011.

Reading Klein’s book while working on Assignment 2 was very well-timed for me. While general and widely applicable, the course so far has used stitch and surface design as particular textile techniques. I’ve sometimes wondered how much the sketchbook work could feed into weaving design. Now I have a really clear example of how work in other areas, in this case specifically painting, can underpin weave design.

I should point out there’s a project later in the course on Woven Structures – I haven’t read ahead in the notes, but I’m mildly nervous about pushing myself out of standard weaver mode into a more expressive and innovative exploration. I need to remember the importance of the yarn, specific yarns created for a specific image and purpose. While typing this I realised an article I read last week in Textile The journal of cloth and culture is also relevant.

Harper, Catherine and McDougall, Kirsty, “The very recent fall and rise of Harris Tweed”, in Textile, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp. 78-99.

The article tells a wider story, but of interest to me here is the importance of the wool, dyed in a huge range of colours then mixed before spinning to create complex, subtle colouring expressive of the land, sky and sea of the Outer Hebrides. The colour blending is one of the most skilled tasks in the process of making the tweeds.  A rationalisation by a mill owner has put into jeopardy supply of the yarns, and so of most traditional tweeds. Another of many challenges in rejuvenating the harris tweed industry is introducing colours from other environments, in particular Glasgow urban.

I’ve got rather carried away here and this post is long, but I do want to mention briefly another (fairly) recent read – Pattern, colour & form: new approaches to creativity by Carolyn Genders. This beautifully illustrated book starts by reviewing a range of themes and approaches in design – abstraction; colour; line, structure and form; memory and place; play; size, scale and space; texture, surface and pattern.

The second part of the book has sections on eighteen artists. In different levels of detail we learn about each artist’s background, inspiration, design process, and particular concepts and concerns. Illustrations include source material, sketch books and works in progress as well as finished pieces. There are a wide range of disciplines used – textiles, glass, metal, ceramics, photography etc – textiles in particular being very well represented. We have Jeanette Appleton, textile artist; Jane Arkwright, whose experience as a textile artists influences her current painting; Jackie Binns uses basket weaving techniques in her artwork and has a “sketch box” of small samples. Without exhaustively naming them all, many of the artists use techniques traditionally associated with textiles in their work, even if the materials used and application of the technique is decidedly non-traditional. The design process is interesting in any medium, but I think the textile slant made this book particularly approachable for me.

This is a lovely book. I read it some months ago, before I started the design section of  Assignment 2, but flipping through it now I think it would be interesting to revisit. The reading pile only ever seems to grow!


Klein, Bernat (1965) Eye for Colour, Bernat Klein, Scotland and Collins, London.

Harper, Catherine and McDougall, Kirsty, “The very recent fall and rise of Harris Tweed”, in Textile, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp. 78-99.

Genders, Carolyn (2009) Pattern, colour & form: new approaches to creativity, London: A&C Black Publishers

Canberra grab bag

Last weekend I visited Canberra with my mother and we did such a variety of things I’m still sorting impressions and rebuilding energy.

The Canberra Two Day Walk was our primary purpose. It’s an annual event (this was the 21st) and mum has participated 12 times. We do the shortest walks – 5 km each of the two days – and it was beautiful walking in warm autumn sunshine, often around the shores of the lake. The building in the photo is the National Museum of Australia.

We saw lots of birds – these swans were part of a large group on the lake and were totally comfortable with all the people on the path just a couple of metres away.

An intended highlight of the trip was a visit to the Renaissance exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. The exhibition showed 15th and 16th century Italian paintings from the Accademia Carrara, Bergamo and included works by Raphael, Botticelli and Titian among many others. I was strangely unmoved. It wasn’t the anticipated crowds – our timed tickets were Friday 2pm, but when we arrived around 1:30 they let us straight in because it wasn’t too busy. There were certainly lots of people, but if it was busy near one painting we could just look at something else until it cleared. It was partly a mix of subject matter and symbolism, mixed in with ambivalent feelings about some aspects of my catholic education. Many of the paintings were intended to instruct (“indoctrinate”, in a very literal sense of the word). Partly it was the colours and techniques used – often a limited palette and flat areas of colour. There were exceptions, but generally I felt emotionally detached. I hope I continue to think about this, because it seems important to my understanding of myself, my response to art, and perhaps themes and choices in my own work.

One thing I think is very clever (or fortuitous) in the Gallery design is that to get to the special exhibitions area you have to walk to the back of the building. Along the way there were enticing glimpses of the Gallery’s own collection. We were tempted off our path and saw some interesting works, including some textile pieces which I’ll write about in another post.

We went to a special exhibition, Nurses: from Zululand to Afghanistan at the Australian War Memorial. No emotional detachment here – this was a very challenging experience. I have a lot of thinking to do about this as well, but not for blogging at the moment.

A last minute addition to our itinerary was the Travelling the Silk Road exhibition at the National Museum Australia. The exhibition is from the American Museum of Natural History, New York and it actually opened while we were in Canberra – luckily we saw some notices in the newspaper. The exhibition is organised around four cities and mum has visited three of them – Xi’an, Turfan and Samarkand – and she was quite excited about it. Mum has always been a great traveller (I love the story that from her very first pay-cheque, as a teacher, she bought a suitcase), and for her 70th birthday she wanted to visit China. None of the commercial tours at the time visited all her “must see” places, so she work with an agency to design her own and got together a dozen friends and family to make a group. I think she went through Samarkand on a trip to spend some time at an archeological dig on part of the Silk Road.

It’s a very informative exhibition, with lots of interactive elements – walking through a Turfan “marketplace” there were large pots with fragrances to identify accompanied by the sounds of a snorting camel. Naturally I focused on the textiles and related material. The exhibition designers did a good job of showing how motifs and ideas moved and changed along the length of the trade routes, sometimes transferred from one medium to another (parallels on textiles, ceramics…). More detail hopefully in a future post.

We also met up with friends and family, and I’ll finish with a plug for Adore Tea: the destination for tea lovers (a plug in that my niece works there). They have a number of stores including a tea house in Federation Square (the Gold Creek touristy area) and the Golden Mao Feng is seriously wonderful.

Ways of Abstracting – Peter Griffen Workshop

Last weekend I took a workshop with Peter Griffen. I’ve met Peter in the past at an ATASDA function – he’s married to Denise Lithgow who does fabulous textile work in felt, silk painting, art-u-wear, machine-stitched mixed-media pieces…

On Friday we met Peter at the Art Gallery (the workshop was organised by the Art Gallery Society), for a general chat about what we’d be doing and a wander through the Picasso exhibition (in its last weeks, so get moving if you haven’t seen it yet).

Saturday and Sunday were in Peter’s studio, which is also his home with Denise. It’s an amazing, exciting, inspiring, overwhelming place. Formerly a factory, Peter and Denise gutted the building and it’s basically one huge room with a mezzanine and some closed areas at each end (bathrooms, storage, their bedroom). This photo was taken from the back mezzanine. The kitchen area is down to the right, left you can just see a corner of the lounge area, but not the dining table which is closer on the left. Middle right is a display area for Denise’s work and the front mezzanine is her studio – but the main space is Peter’s studio and workshop area.

This is the view I had most of the weekend – a table full of objects to draw, fighting for attention with all the artwork and interesting collected objects on the walls and around the room. That’s Peter in the middle of the photo – he gave a number of demonstrations but spent most of his time moving around the group. I’m of course pretty much a total beginner (which is very freeing in itself), and I really appreciate the serious attention and consideration Peter gave to my work. He was encouraging and he gave suggestions and commented on weaknesses – but it didn’t feel like teaching, it was serious art-making business (not deadly-type serious, I mean not even the slightest hint of patronising or condescending or dumbing down – although I’m sure he scaled things to my level of understanding).

Peter’s work was everywhere, finished and in progress, and in a conversation he’d suddenly jump around and pull out a canvas to illustrate a point or show some possibilities. This canvas is one of three that may or may not be hung together (unfortunately my photo of the three together is blurred). I love, love, love this one. A lot of his colour is pretty full on, but he doesn’t limit himself and there are other works – well, I don’t want to say less colour, because they have incredible rich colour from all the glazes and layers, but not such strong colours.

Actually you can just the top of the set of three canvases in this photo, below a row of work done by some of the other students. There were 10 of us, some very experienced and some beautiful work. We worked in acrylic paints on cartridge paper (some people had brought canvases), drawing from the table of objects in black paint, thinking about lines and shapes, adding colour. There was quite a bit of collage work, and some people moved into charcoal and pastels. Peter had litre bottles of acrylic paints and drawers full of various types of brushes for us to use.

I won’t show all of mine here – the full set is on my sketchbook page, starting here.

This bird is based on a carved tree stump (on the right) – basically a head, but with birds at the top. I drew the curved top line, eye and crest first and really liked it and was pleased with the level of abstraction, but it didn’t feel enough so kept going. I’m already returning and reworking this – at the workshop over a head that wasn’t working (still not right), and in later sketchbook work (here).

I didn’t actually produce anything I’d call finished. I don’t expect to in workshops anyway – it’s a learning place, and there’s not generally time for considered work. In any case, I didn’t go to learn to make abstract acrylic paintings. I did want to increase confidence and technique in using acrylics, since I’ve only tried a couple of times, rather tentatively, in my OCA course work. More importantly I wanted to loosen up, get expansive, extend my ability to see and abstract and to use colour – all with the final objective of input to and development of textile works. I even got to bring in some textile expertise in my collage work, weaving together two paintings which weren’t working, then integrating with glazes. It’s not there, but it’s a line I want to explore more.

As I’ve said, more photos on the sketchbook page (click on the head to get there).

This was a great, exciting, exhausting weekend, and I definitely recommend it. It’s a complete experience, including the gallery visit, all the materials you need down to details like aprons and tape to put works on the wall for contemplation, plus really yummy cakes for morning tea and gourmet lunches all made by Denise (she even picks and preserves the olives herself). (The final photo is of some of Denise’s textile work.)

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.


Recent reading

Itten, J. (1975) Design and form: the basic course at the Bauhaus, revised Edition, London: Thames and Hudson

This is one of the recommended course texts, and I was lucky enough to find a copy in the local library. In it Itten writes about the foundation course he developed and taught over many years, from Vienna in 1916 to the Bauhaus at Weimar, to Berlin, Krefeld then Zurich in the 1940s. It’s not a syllabus or course in itself, more a presentation of what and how he taught.

Each chapter has some discussion about the topic, how Itten approached it and his observations about students responses, then page after page of students’ work, sometimes with more comments by Itten.  Some of the work is beautiful and complete in itself, some – well, they’re student samples, repeating with variation, trying ideas, focused on aspects of the particular topic.  I found this much more helpful than either finished works that include elements on topic, or careful cut-down samples by the instructor that don’t show a lot of variety.

There are multiple works from some students, and it’s really interesting to see how their personal style was apparent in different exercises. The index is very helpful in tracking this … there was just a pause in writing as I looked at a few illustrations of Gunta Stölzl’s work, saw one was of weaving, checked the internet, suddenly made a connection and checked the Mad Square exhibition catalogue* – and yes, it was her design I stared at just a few months ago. All very logical, quite reasonable that Itten would include the work of a student who went on to become a Bauhaus master (the only woman, and a weaver) – but it feels very exciting and personal (although the catalogue mentions Paul Klee’s influence, not Itten’s).

Notes for future reference: Chiaroscuro (tone value; light-dark harmony); colour (contrasts: hue; light-dark; cold-warm; complementary; simultaneous; saturation; quantity); materials and textures (fibrous, rough, smooth, hard, shiny, grooved…); forms (contrasts: triangle; rectangle; circle; cylinder; point; line. horizontal-vertical; long-short; broad-narrow; large-small); proportion, contrast, harmony, balance, positive-negative, 3D-projected onto plane, visual paths, picture space/line/value analysis, scattered points of accent – distribution; rhythm (repetition, stresses; regular; irregular; continual; free flowing); expressive forms (heart, hand, eye); subjective forms (the nature and talent of individuals).


Gordon, B. (2011) Textiles: The Whole Story, London: Thames & Hudson

I first wrote about this book here,  last October, when I was very excited about it. It’s taken me three months to read it – admittedly with many other books coming and going in the meantime. I think it’s a great book – an ambitious scope, a clear point of view and purpose, lots of clear and relevant images, an engaging style of writing. The author has managed to select examples that illustrate each of her points and is willing to allow them enough space, enough surrounding detail, to give them substance and make the book more than just a long list of facts. Even so I found it difficult to read. There is just so much information that it got overwhelming. Gordon continued to make connections, to refer back to previous sections, but I wasn’t able to retain the mass of detail. I have a lot to learn, and don’t have enough framework of knowledge for the brief touches on such a broad landscape to hang together (mixing metaphors with abandon).

However I think that this may in the long term turn out to be the book’s strength. There are lots of notes and information about further reading and resources. I suspect this book will be great to dip into with a particular focus, get what I need or pointers to other sources. I’ve heard that a review pointed to some inaccuracies in the text, but unfortunately don’t have specifics. However for me that isn’t a major concern (some trembling in case this is academic heresy). No history is ever complete, there is always selection, differences of emphasis, perspective, context… No matter how well researched and edited, there will be errors and omissions. There is a wide enough range of examples within each major theme even if a few of the supports are suspect.

As it happens, I have a very small and indirect connection with this book too. In the final paragraphs Gordon writes about The Thread Project, a project creating a physical reminder of our global family united by a common thread. One of the participants in weaving the banners was Kaz, who mentions it here and here, and my brush with fame is that the loom Kaz used now lives with me. Typical but human – to take that huge mass of information in the book and make it about me 🙂

I’m looking forward to reading and using this book for a long time to come.

* Strecker, J. (editor) (2011) The Mad Square: modernity in German art 1910-37, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Contemporary Weave with Liz Williamson

Some images from last week’s class with Liz Williamson, in Mittagong at Sturt Summer School, starting at the end with our final day exhibition.

My 4 Trail Markers on the left. Des's work in black on the right.

Natural dyeing, and tube in fishing line by Des - a brand new weaver.

Chris, also a new weaver, used her own prints and handmade paper

More dyeing and weave from Chris. She picked up the pine needles on a class shopping excursion.

Exciting weft selection from Chris

Mary produced a prototype piece ...

... developing extensive work done previously.

Gail played with colour, texture, openings...

A closer view of some of Gail's work

Susan created a "book" using double weave

Dianne made mobile phone pouches and jewellery. Now you see it...

... now you really see it. The flash doesn't do justice to the subtlety of mother of pearl buttons captured in reflective tape double weave

The weave room

Unfortunately I didn’t get decent photos of the other class members’ work. There were nine of us in the class with Liz, a particularly pleasant and companionable group. Liz provided a really rich and varied learning experience. We examined examples of cloth that interested us – everyone brought some, including heaps from Liz, and talked about how they could be explored or reinterpreted for contemporary designs.

mud cloth

stripes, dyeing, colour

cloth weft and beautiful colour

Liz demonstrating

Liz had a fast way of getting a sampling warp onto the loom, demonstrated various options for warping, gave us extensive notes… but most impressively was able to help two brand new weavers do some really interesting work. Liz gave them just enough theory at each stage for what they were doing, to avoid problems and produce a viable structure while exploring and expressing themselves. Both Des and Chris brought lots of experience in other areas of textiles and creative work, and I think both are now enthusiastic about learning more and incorporating weave into their repertoire.
Liz also organised visits to the weave room by Elisabeth Nagle, a master weaver from Europe who ran the Sturt weave studio for around 50 years, and Melanie Olde who currently teaches there. Plus a number of us sat at dinner with weaver Sally Blake and her fellow exhibitor Vedanta Nicholson following their floor talk at the Rain Gauge exhibition in the Sturt Gallery.
With all that inspiration available, Liz guided each weaver in their own chosen exploration. Many of us used double weave as a structure, but with widely different materials as weft. I decided to challenge myself by avoiding strong colour, instead focusing on texture, light, and shadow. I tried to be really free and spontaneous, exploring the properties of some new-to-me materials – a couple of different paper yarns, cut strips of hessian, garden jute twine, paper rope… I struggled for much of the time, but was very happy and excited by the results. I like the things in themselves, but also that as weaving progressed I continued to learn, to experiment, to examine what happened in one piece and build on it in the next. In the end (!) it was a very satisfying process that I want to continue in my OCA work.
There was one part of the class I didn’t participate in, and I want to write about it here not to get into any big discussion but because in the past I’ve had definite opinions which I’ve later reversed and I’m wondering if this will be another. So to my future self, wondering if one day I won’t believe I thought this… I don’t get natural dyeing and its current huge popularity. Yes, there can be some incredibly beautiful results, but use of synthetic dyes can also give really stunning results – and both can produce blah. It’s the assumption that “natural” dyes are somehow intrinsically gentler on the environment, safer for the user, and generally “better” that bothers me. There may be studies out there which looking at the whole chain of production and use (mordants?, commercial cultivation/production of madder/cochineal/…?, packaging and transport?, …). I don’t know, and in any case as a hobby dyer I suspect the difference would be negligible in comparison to my impact on the environment as an urban dweller who is happy to drive my car around the state going to weaving classes.
Rant over. This was a great week, I really hope to keep in touch with the others in the class because they were an amazing group, and I’m looking forward to seeing influences from the class in my future work.


Side excursion

This is an angst-y thing trying to work through some thoughts – no promises about coherence, conclusions, or consistency with previous writing.

Last post I was pleased with my results. That’s viewing the work in context, as an exercise or sample in the ongoing process of developing my skills and knowledge and understanding. There is an element of emotional response (“I find this pleasant or interesting to look at”), but I expect (hope!) that at some future time I’ll flip back through the work and see it as just the beginning of future progress. I try to approach my work critically in the sense of can I identify strengths and weaknesses, how can I improve or develop, but trying not to compare too much with any “objective” standard or work produced by others (not easy).

I was pleased and felt I was making progress – so was taken aback yesterday to discover what seems to be a big hole in my understanding to date.

I’m trying to approach my sketchbook each day with purpose. Not just showing up for 10 or 15 minutes and covering some blank paper, but answering a question. Not a big question about life or the world, but things like how is that painting structured so my eye moves around it, or can I combine those colours I found on the inside of the lychee skin with one of the line designs from my project work. There is the idea of producing interesting marks for future use and development, plus I’m trying to improve my observational skills, so I may draw my hand – resulting in the next day’s question of what went wrong with those fingers, how do the knuckles work.

So yesterday I was thinking about drawing texture. Texture as the thing being drawn. Why? I’m not comfortable with it. I don’t understand it. Texture is an automatic or integral part of textile work – in fact one of the things that draws me to textiles. Reproducing texture seems forced, unnecessary. Is it a question of visual versus actual texture? When does a set of lines or marks become visual texture? Is drawing texture a way of creating content, a subject of a piece? Is it a way of understanding or seeing an object?

By this stage of thinking I was off the bus (favourite thinking place) and walking in an area with brick paving (through Sydney Eye Hospital, for those who know Sydney). No camera with me, so I’ve done a little simulation. The bricks were scored in a diamond pattern, and laid in what I think is stretcher bond (just found a fascinating page on wikipedia which I need to explore later). There was variation in colour of the bricks. There had also been considerable subsidence, so the surface undulated, creating distortions and variation in light and shade. Altogether I found it a visually interesting and complex texture – but as a field within a design, not as a standalone thing.

I finally negotiated the crowds queuing for good positions for the night’s fireworks, and met my friends for a wander through the Picasso exhibition followed by lunch. Last visit I was looking at line and colour. This time I was preoccupied by texture. One painting in particular caught my eye. “The Weeping Woman” (Paris, October 18, 1937) has what looks like scraping back through wet paint. (I finally found an image of the right weeping woman here – it’s the bottom image on the page). Texture and mark-making and colour integrated. What is texture, what is mark, what is line?

When is texture a thing in itself, rather than a field, something filling a space? Making marks makes sense, and a series of marks can create texture. In early projects I created texture in a random way, for example by laying plastic wrap or waxed paper on wet paint. Yesterday and today I created texture a bit more deliberately. With a photo of treebark beside me (the top image in my botanical photos collection here) I painted a base of various browns and greys in acrylic paint. This morning I mixed up a lighter brown with some matt medium in it, used a plastic trowel to spread it over the base, then scratched and scraped and smoothed to expose the base. It doesn’t look like bark and it doesn’t express anything, but maybe there are bits that can be developed in some way.

I’m not getting anywhere and I’m not even sure if there is a particular somewhere for me to get to. Re-reading this I think it’s something I struggled with before (the last stitch sample in project 2). Guess I’ll just let it sit in the back of my mind, read back through the course notes, and see if it develops or goes away.

In the meantime I’ve just done an update on my sketchbook, and the pages I’ve mentioned can be seen here. 19 days straight (including today).

Blog reading

I’ve had a lovely morning catching up on various blogs. A very quick sampling (apologies to the many others I read but not, as it happened, this morning) and no photos – you’ll have to click on the links:

Sue Lawty’s weaving/twining/knotting/wrapping in lead I find really exciting. The play of light over hammered and unhammered areas … I can’t articulate my reaction clearly (bad sign for a tertiary student). If you click the link, make sure to watch the videos in the last couple of posts.

Beryl Moody at Banner Mountain Textiles. In the colour vs structure divide I’m definitely colour. I hadn’t even noticed the magazine piece that inspired her. (I hasten to add that The Divide is one of those easy categorisations that sound plausible and have a sort of broad usefulness but don’t hold up to scrutiny.)

I like the little woven christmas trees at Marlborough Weavers. I am now a committed Bah-Humbug about Christmas (I won’t say scrooge because it’s not money, it’s the commercialism and the consumption of excessive amounts of rich food and the forced jollity and the social expectations and … settle petal). Anyway, the little trees are sweet, even if I don’t do that sort of thing.

Some very clever stamps created with tudor embroidery stitches on plastic fruit box and canvas by the enormously talented Helen at fibrenell.

Helen is a member of ATASDA, and I’m going to little cheat here, since I caught up on these other ATASDA friends yesterday. It’s always good to read Claire at Tactual Textiles – so talented, plus very interesting to see and read her interpretations to the OCA exercises. We have long phone conversations, sharing ideas and supporting each other in our distance learning. Claire pointed me to the fairly new blog of Jane – love the effects she got on her proteas.

Sampling is lucky enough to be at the 8th International Shibori Symposium in Hong Kong and already has some beautiful photos on her blog.

Finally, not a blog but a whole lot of interest – (another link from Claire). Make sure you click on “read comments” there for the interviews.

Picasso exhibition

Yesterday I went to the Picasso: masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris exhibition for the first (and second!) time. It’s on at the Art Gallery NSW to March next year and given I have a gallery membership that allows me to go as many times as I want, no cost, no worries about queues or timed tickets, I plan to take full advantage of the opportunity.

There is so much known and seen and written about Picasso. I have nothing to add. However this blog is now my learning log and however trivial, shallow, misled, banal my comments and experience may appear to others, it’s important to me to capture them.

So with notebook remaining in my bag, no particular plan, no pressure to “take it all in” in one great gulp, I wandered through, going where my gaze took me. With current OCA course preoccupations the gaze tended to focus on colour and marks.

Faun uncovering a sleeping woman (1936) is an acquatint and I found multiple images on the net including this one (the British Museum announcing an acquisition) although some of the shadowing on the faun’s torso and front arm looks a bit different. Amazing contrasts of light and shadow, and the ray of sunlight illuminating the scene. The practised voluptuous clean curves of the woman’s body, especially a line which is the calf of one leg and the buttock of the other side, contrasting with the detail and scribble and angular hard muscular faun.

The reader (1932) – click here for an image. Fascinating lines and connections – a horizontal discontinuity across the belt buckle was jarring. I found myself trying to remember and identify bits of colour theory. How conscious would he be of this as he painted, how much would be instinct or ingrained learning and practise and experience?

I went in wondering if there was an element of emperor’s new clothes – everyone “knows” Picasso is a mighty force in art and doesn’t want to be the ignorant philestine who questions. There were a couple of individual pieces  such as Bather opening a beach hut (1928) which left me wondering – but I just found an article here discussing it at length. Even without that, the thundering overwhelming wave of talent plus pracise and exploration over such a long period can’t be denied. It’s a strong childhood memory – playing in the surf at harbord beach, every once in a while there would be a “dumper”, a wave that picked you up and swallowed you and threw you down so you didn’t know which way was up and there was sand in your swimmers and water up your nose and the salt taste. Well, when I write it all down it doesn’t seem so appropriate, but it was exciting and overwhelming and after catching your breath you couldn’t wait to go and jump in the waves again. That’s the exhibition.

Exhibitions – the bad and the good

Driving home from the Sensorial Loop exhibition we diverted to Newcastle to see TOUCH The Portraiture of Dani Marti. It was a calculated risk given it was the last few hours of the exhibition, but leaving it so late was in large part because the gallery wasn’t accessible for weeks due to a long-running local dispute around removal of fig trees.

Unfortunately the risk didn’t pay off. I arrived to find the gallery in semi-darkness, large parts of the exhibition already removed and other sections roped off, apparently due to the de-installation work (although no activity was apparent – this was a sunday afternoon, and I wonder when they started dismantling things). The woman at the entrance desk gave a brief, formulaic apology as people arrived (not many of us!), but was more interested in promoting the upcoming exhibition. Well, she’d had a pretty nasty few weeks or months – police and protesters at the door, unable to get to work…

There were no catalogues, fliers, postcards, or any other information from the desk and frustratingly little in the signage still accessible. I gather (more from his website than the sad remains of the exhibition) that Marti creates portraits using weaving (he refers to them as “paintings”), with video an equally important part of his work and exhibited with it – or not, in this instance. The weavings were large scale, varied in materials, colour, form, texture and structure. Unfortunately without help I couldn’t get beyond the trivial in interpreting the pieces – a teenage girl likes pink, a woman glitters in a controlled, minimalist black dress, is a man portrayed in a cube of lively yellows a “colourful identity”? The disappointment was topped off by a truely frightening drive back to Sydney – light rain causing slippery conditions, heavy fast traffic, and some “eager”? “creative”? “deathwish”? drivers.

Yesterday was a much happier experience – Elemental Reckoning: The art of Tim Storrier 1981-2011 at the S.H. Ervin Gallery on Sydney’s Observatory Hill. The volunteer staff (this is a National Trust venue) were friendly and happy to be there. The gallery is spacious and light with white painted walls. The intended exhibition was all there!! We had a lovely lunch at the attached cafe (important point to refuel me for a second round of the exhibition) and I enjoyed reading the curator’s (Gavin Wilson) essay in the catalogue last night. All of which has little to do with the paintings, except for helping me to focus on them. The one negative was that with such large canvases the lighting tended to be uneven over the work. Storrier is a master of light and shadow and the additional venue lighting could be confusing and contradictory.

It’s wonderful to see a collection of an artist’s work covering such a long period. On our first round we were fairly orderly, proceeding through the works. Energised by lunch we buzzed around finding links, themes and developments. This link goes to some images – I can’t describe them. They are variously theatrical, staged, melancholy, beautiful, menacing, self-obsessed… With current preoccupations from the OCA assignment I was very aware of Storrier’s use of colour. Normally I would find The carcass (1993) challenging – in fact impossible – but supported by the quote “Some people find it odd that one is interested in painting meat. I like it because it contains the whole spectrum of red. Red is a very emotive colour.”* I could look closely and appreciate at least elements of it. The flickers of colour in sky and fires in many of the paintings were amazing. The back corridor has some studies and pages from notebooks – very interesting insights to methods and a reminder that what OCA is teaching is real – not just learning about stuff but learning processes and habits that can support ongoing work.

* Tim Storrier interviewed by William Wright, 2004, quoted in the exhibition catalogue, Wilson, G. (2011) Elemental Reckoning: the art of Tim Sotrrier 1981 – 2011, Jam Press (p.34).


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September 2022

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