24 February 2017

The view from the mountain, of the mountain

The view of "the lower mainland" of BC was taken by my sister on one of her local weekend hikes. The glacial fjord, first explored in 1792, is called Indian Arm; Vancouver, first settled in 1862, is in the distance towards the right, and beyond it are the mountains of southern Vancouver Island. The hill in the centre distance is Burnaby Mountain, at the top of which is Simon Fraser University, opened in 1965 - I was one of the 2,500 "charter students", walking through muddy parking lots (everyone drove to "school" in those days) to unfinished buildings ... ah, those were the days, and don't these photos bring it all back ...

10 months before opening -from the back: swimming pool, concourse with library to right,
academic quadrangle [seminar rooms] with lecture rooms and laboratories to its left 

SFU 1965-6, on a day with few cars in the parking lots
(at right), no rain, and the North Shore mountains beyond
Most if not all student drove up to SFU -
the approach road revealed a latter-day Acropolis, but
don't be fooled, there was forest everywhere

23 February 2017

Poetry Thursday - Wallace Stevens, The Poem that took the Place of a Mountain

Wallace Stevens, "The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain"

There it was, word for word,
The poem that took the place of a mountain.

He breathed its oxygen,
Even when the book lay turned in the dust of his table.

It reminded him how he had needed
A place to go to in his own direction,

How he had recomposed the pines,
Shifted the rocks and picked his way among clouds,

For the outlook that would be right,
Where he would be complete in an unexplained completion:

The exact rock where his inexactness
Would discover, at last, the view toward which they had edged,

Where he could lie and, gazing down at the sea,
Recognize his unique and solitary home.


A fascinating review of a new biography of Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) appeared in the New Yorker in May 2016:
Paul Mariani’s excellent new book, “The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens” (Simon & Schuster), is a thrilling story of a mind, which emerges from a dispiriting story of a man. It’s hard to think of a more vivid illustration of T. S. Eliot’s principle of the separation between “the man who suffers and the mind which creates.” For most of his life, Stevens was an elaborately defended introvert in a three-piece suit, working as a Hartford insurance executive. He came slowly to a mastery of language, form, and style that revealed a mind like a solar system, with abstract ideas orbiting a radiant lyricism. ... He is certainly the quintessential American poet of the twentieth century, a doubting idealist who invested slight subjects (the weather, often) with oracular gravitas, and grand ones (death, frequently) with capering humor.
And later, among the biographical details:
Stevens took to composing poems on slips of paper in the morning while walking to his office, where his secretary typed them up. The results made him a regular and imposing presence in literary journals, starting in the nineteen-thirties.

Eventually there is a sad end:
Stevens continued to go to work each day into his seventies, even after surgery for a stomach obstruction revealed a metastasizing cancer. He was too august at the firm to be let go, but he was never popular there. His boss remarked, “Unless they told me he had a heart attack, I never would have known he had a heart.”
Insurance man with honorary doctorates (via)

22 February 2017

Jeux d'esprit

It's surprising what turns up during a thorough clearout. These smallish, double-sided bags were made about 10 years ago and have so far resisted all attempts to move on...

... so why not send them into the world via a blog giveaway? If you'd like to enter, send me your details via the contact form in the sidebar. This is open for a week, till 28 February, to be drawn on 1 March.

I did enjoy making them from bits of this'n'that, starting with a long strip of fabric and collecting various "bits" to decorate it, and handles, then sewing the sides together and adding handles (as you do).

21 February 2017

Drawing Tuesday - "Embroidered Dreams"

"Embroidered tales and woven dreams" is a wonderful show of textiles from Central Asia and India - it's on till 25 March and is a nice quiet place to draw - not many visitors, which is unfortunate as the works on show are gorgeous.
My first choice was in a side room that might not be part of the exhibition, an early Islamic textile from Central Asia, 8th or 9th century, silk -
Reindeer with antlers surrounded by S motifs for protection
Inside the chequerboard, the squares are composed of several sections, almost like a log-cabin patchwork design. The colours have faded and what is now dark may have been green and blue, as well as the yellow and red and brown or perhaps black -
Yet again my good intentions to finish this off later in a colourful way came to naught -

A "Safavid chasuble in lampas" from 15h century Iran next caught my eye -
Worn sections were patched with more fabric, carefully pattern-matched

White silks as well as gold-colour, on that blue background - a complicated bit of weaving

I started with fine felt-tip pen and then switched to the freedom of pencil -
The crisp line of the pen is an invitation to lose oneself in ever more detail; it also can be used in a sort of hatching to represent the actual threads in the weaving. Perhaps it's a better idea to start with the pencil and add those hatched threads later with the felt-tip. Next time, maybe?

Jo's models in traditional middle eastern dress

Najlaa's "orange cloth"

Mags' close look at furniture and its shadows (more on her blog)

Sue's complicated fabric pattern

Judith's versatitility

Joyce's notes on embroidery

Michelle's details of patterning

Carole's "strange jewellery"
Extra-curricular activities -
Mags continues with her "train stitching"

Carol drew ancient statuary at the British Museum

Sue went to another Veterinary College evening session

Judith tried out different backgrounds on a copy of last week's work
Najlaa produced more marbling on fabric
Janet's Mexican bag is very much in the spirit of the exhibition

Tool of the week - 
Very fine Mono rubbers; the slightly chunkier one is from Muji

My good intentions and conscience met in a moment of early-morning insomnia and I got the crayons out -
After sharpening every pencil in sight and dithering about colours, in the end I used only the red, a bit of grey, and the remains of my coffee.

20 February 2017

The search for the perfect coffee table

At Christmas, when the living room got clear of toolboxes and cutting tables, we cobbled together a coffee table from some leftover toolboxes and a convenient bit of manky mdf -
It sat there quite happily till The Carpenter came back from holiday and needed the toolboxes. And threatened to throw out the manky (but useful) bit of mdf. 

Here and there in the flat are bits of cut wood and various wooden objects under construction or no longer needed. With a bit of juggling, some colourful cubes became the base, and a plain cloth replaced our "Christmas tablecloth" (made by my mother 30 or so years ago). 
At sofa-seat height, and even though the size was determined by what happened to be on hand, it works perfectly for holding pre-dinner nibbles and unread sections of the paper, not to mention fruit bowls, flower vases, and candles. But is it permanent? The Carpenter say he can make one, but I'd rather he started the bookshelves...

Our street has two "vintage furniture" shops and I'm keeping my eyes open for a large, square coffee table. So far, the tables on offer have been too small and too high -
This one isn't square and much too high ... but isn't it amazing? Four tables in one! -

19 February 2017

Arting about

Strange goings-on at Jerwood Space (till 26 Feb) -
A "stunning 2 bed sewer conversion" by Ben Burgis & Ksenia Pedan;
"imaginative resonances" by Anna Bunting-Branch
Passing Beaux Arts and nipping in to see the careful charcoal work of Sarah Gillespie (till 4 March), then downstairs to encounter "my" boar, the one with the goring tail - he and the horse are by Anthony Scott, and in the foreground the work is by Anna Gillespie -
In the House Work show at Victoria Miro (till 18 March), my unexpected favourite was this large work by John Korner -
"First floor museum"
 Gagosian Grosvenor Hill has an extensive survey of Michael Andrews' work (till 25 March) -
We were intrigued by the "bubbles" that left the canvas bare ... how did he do that? -
Among Andrews' subjects was Uluru and the Olgas -

Ephemeral "street art" ... soon to become the core of another huge building, somewhere south of Oxford Street -

18 February 2017

Sorting old artwork

You make the drawings, the maquettes, the quilts, the pots;  you put them away ... and then one day you realise you can't hang on to them forever.

Clea (my stepdaughter) was at art college some decades ago, and when she left home she left her artwork behind. Like so much, it was stored in the loft. The loft needs clearing, and she's been going through the portfolios, sifting and sorting and letting go -
"We did so much life drawing!" Now, it's mostly the colourful abstracts that interest her, and she's keeping some of those -
The rest is for recycling - it's simply not needed any more, its job is done -
Compare this process with what we need to do with material that is less emotional. The receipts etc that we need for tax returns need to be kept for a certain span of years, is it seven? But this limitation doesn't apply to our artwork, whether preliminary or finished - and so much can pile up, even in a year or a few intense months. After some years, some of the work is ready for discarding - it simply won't be taken forward, and if you need to look back on it, looking at a photo will do as well. 

Yet it seems "such a waste" to discard these products of our creativity, of our searching for ... something we may not yet have found ...

Like Clea, I have many loose drawings from classes and courses in my portfolios; most are quite recent. I'm not ready to look at them yet, never mind get rid of them. As for work in sketchbooks - this is not a problem at all - it's tidily tucked away in books, is easy to access, and gets looked at relatively frequently; also I love to know the books are there, waiting, and that I can revisit inspirations and possibilities. 

Loose work, like tax receipts, can be discarded bit by bit ... gather what's past its keep-till date and now not neededor wanted: throw it on the fire, and enjoy the brief flame. To have a sketchbook burn, though - that's alarming. 

17 February 2017

Drawing at "Embroidered Dreams"

After Tuesday's drawing at the Brunei Gallery [check back next Tuesday for a full report], I returned this morning with coloured pencils for more. The exhibition finishes on 25 March.

Upstairs were ikat costumes and embroideries from central Asia, wonderfully colourful -

Some details -

I sat down on the floor in front of the luscious green silk with its strange shapes -
 My greens weren't as luscious as the original; one option was to add a wash, at home. Another was to be bolder ... I did try, but couldn't commit to Complete Boldness. Merging the two greens with a white made it look a bit better, and there's the possibility of adding more colour on top of that -
On a closer look, it turned out that different panels had been sewn together before embroidery, hence the different shades in the background -
Not only that, but what I thought was black turned out to be purple; what I thought was orange turned out to be pink; and all the embroidery was chain stitch, including the alternating red-yellow outlining -
 Next subject, a bit of the 19th century suzani from Samarkand, on which the silk embroidery looked like twill weave -
Rather than matching colours, I settled for a close approximation, and left some areas undone to look for better colours at home -
Anyway, it was time for lunch. Crude as it may be - and unfinished - it was such a pleasure to do. Through looking closely at the stitching, and the arrangement of the pattern, I felt connected to the person who made it.