Categories
art

unresolved

Working with my letter to myself about keeping things unresolved.

These pictures were taken today whilst I was laying my work out on a very large table, making some tests towards an ‘installation’ of the work in a loose and open format (for a virtual exhibition).

I still don’t know exactly what a virtual exhibition might really be capable of being, and I must admit to initially feeling underwhelmed at the requirement to prepare work for one. But perhaps that was only fear: the age old trick of not trying difficult things, in order to avoid trying and failing.

So I am come round to it. And in any case, I am blessed to have tech support from some truly capable and generous people. And of course this makes me grateful, makes me want to do all I can to remain open to experimentation, and even to joy – in the face of difficulties, fear, the unknown.

How will I know whether I am succeeding or failing? I guess I may not know until afterwards, or maybe I will never know. And the truth is that questions of connection and engagement are always going to be present, and will apply in all circumstances – its only that they are heightened and brought closer to the surface by my need to figure out what it means to prepare work for a virtual exhibition.

So what am I trying to do here, what to achieve ?

I suppose what I want first of all is to make sure that the work is generous. And I have a growing feeling that there is a value in showing the unresolved, the uncertain, the unfinished. That it is the less ‘proficient’ of the things that I am making from my kitchen table, and my little room in my little house, which may be the most generous of the things I can offer to show to someone right now.

Secondly, my work is a lot to do with attention, connection. Therefore, if the work becomes something to consume with a swipe, a slick shiny grabber of a fraction of another person’s precious second, this will be a contradiction and a tension that may consitute failure in my own terms.

And also, (which seems a bit selfish), I think I will learn a lot along the way, which has got to be a good thing.

Categories
artists books painting

Folding books

Testing concertina and pamphlet book forms today. I wanted to see how the different forms work for these paintings that I’m making. The scrolls are still the most direct, but these have nice rhythm. I pasted card covers on a few concertina books. It changes them so much to cover them, even open like this, turns them into something altogether different.

Categories
artists books painting

Evening Desk

Testing lots of combinations today – ending the day half way through…

Categories
artists books painting

more mountain scrolls

I’ve been working on drawings and paintings today.

These are a group of eight small scrolls I made in watercolour and mixed media, based on my walks at Mynydd Llangyndeyrn:

Categories
artists books photography

mountain scrolls

Today some small experiments – making scroll forms from one of my prints.

By unrolling the taller one, you can read the writing: a paragraph from one of my letters to myself:

Yesterday you wrote about the strangeness, the unfamiliarity of the ordinary. This is a fundamental perception, that we don’t know reality until we go out of ourselves to meet it; we mustn’t assume or pretend knowledge. Reality is brutal, it has hard edges, and we want it tame or knowable, but this is a failure of courage. The roughness of rock, this is part of what the mountain is. These elemental conversations. The spin and orbit of the planet, the depth of time. The seen and the unseen, the ‘tidal conversation’ in us. There is no standing still.

Categories
art photography

Cyanotypes again!

Categories
art

Testing cyanotypes

Working on the cyanotypes today, trying things out and making tests, enjoying a bit of sun on the face.

Categories
reflection

a credo

Thinking it is a good idea, I start reading the brief for the work that I am doing for my college course. I find with surprise that by the end of this course I will have worked autonomously to develop a portfolio “of character with a personal credo.”

A credo. Suddenly we are in deeper waters than I had expected. “Any formal or authorised statement of beliefs, principles or opinions.” From the latin – credere, meaning to believe.

A word that carries a lot of tension – the online etymology dictionary says that it can be derived from two root words, meaning “literally ‘to put one’s heart'”. My immediate feeling or reaction, that I have never been able to agree with this, which seems to be an invention and legacy of the Christian church: this telling us where we ought to put our hearts; that we ought to fix it, write it down, make it formal, give it authority. The human heart – does it always go where you want it to go, or stay where you put it? There are many wonderful aspects of Christianity, but the Credo is not something that I am interested in or have ever been interested in.

When I was about seven or eight, I was invited to join the Brownies, and I wanted to join, because I had friends there and they did fun stuff; and so I read the little booklet that they gave me – and there was a bit where there was a pledge, you had to say something about allegiance to Queen, and about believing in God. And I said I can’t say those things, the Queen means nothing to me and I do not believe in God, I can’t join; and I didn’t join. In so much, I am still the person I was when I was seven or eight, and things are as simple to me now as they were then. (Probably, hopefully, they got rid of that from the Brownies, but I expect the church has kept its Credo, or perhaps Credos.)

A personal credo. In secular times we have invented the ‘personal credo’ to attempt to replace the authority of the church, and now we expect it to be able to be both clearly stated and put in front of people for judgement. But are we actually sure that we want to encourage people to carve these things in stone on a mountain? Who outside of myself authorises my personal credo I wonder, and how will it be possible for an examiner to give a percentage point to it? Or is it a one / zero sort of question? Has she got one? Tick yes, cross for no.

And so, do I want one, do I have one?

I wrote a letter to myself on the 10th of March, drawing on the work of David Whyte, and which may be the closest to a personal credo that I have right now. [With the proviso that I reserve the right to change my mind every day for the rest of my life.]

You are assembling something, and just because you can’t see it whole yet, can’t see what it is, does not mean that it is not something whole or beautiful, or maybe for a moment profound.

Yesterday you wrote about the strangeness, the unfamiliarity of the ordinary. This is a fundamental perception, that we don’t know reality until we go out of ourselves to meet it; we mustn’t assume or pretend knowledge. Reality is brutal, it has hard edges, and we want it tame or knowable, but this is a failure of courage. The roughness of rock, this is part of what the mountain is. These elemental conversations. The spin and orbit of the planet, the depth of time. The seen and the unseen, the ‘tidal conversation’ in us. There is no standing still.

Any solace can only be found here. David Whyte has written that “to be consoled is to be invited onto the terrible ground of beauty upon which our inevitable disappearance stands”. So an invitation, into mystery, strangeness. Of course he expresses it so well, but if you could, if you can, this comes to what you want to express in the drawings, the paintings.

Categories
art photography Uncategorized

cyanotype

Today I used a photocopier and slide (acetate) transparencies to make negatives for a photographic print process called cyanotype. You may have seen cyanotype used for botanical prints (a 19th century pioneer of the method was Anna Atkins, who made books of algae prints). [For botanical prints no negatives are needed – instead the plants are placed directly on the paper].

The first picture shows a negative that I made today, using one of my drawings and a piece of my writing; the second shows some blocks that I made a couple of years ago – by folding papers that had been printed using this process.

To make the prints, you mix up a UV sensitive ‘paint’, and paint it onto paper indoors in a room that is not too bright, and then expose the paper (through the negative) to UV light – which I hope to be able to do by the simple method taking it outdoors and putting it under the sky, perhaps weighted at the corners (hopefully we have enough UV in the middle part of the day, by April). Once exposed, the print is rinsed – the paint exposed to UV remains on the paper and darkens, the rest washes off. I have almost no expertise in this process – only a good instinct for it – so I’ll need to experiment and be flexible. Very fun.

The colour of the prints is a very strong blue (this is the ‘cyan’ in cyanotype) – but I was taught a method of bathing completed images in a tanin-rich liquid such as tea or wine, which alters the tones closer to browns, which I will follow.

Categories
reflection

making a poem

Here I will share a letter that I wrote to myself yesterday:

26 March 2021

Dear Sian

Perhaps you are a overwhelmed with the tasks you’ve given yourself. You do not need to do all of these things, you need only to do some of these things. You do not need to resolve them, tied up tight, only to present what you have, loose and lovely.

On Wednesday, you remembered P for a moment. That one class he taught, the lesson where he stopped us all from rushing around in the college print studio, the whole big chaotic group, frantically making our work. Shouted “stop!”, shaky almost, upset. Called us over to make a circle. Told us “you need to remember what you are doing – what you are doing is making a poem”. All art is that, isn’t it? A song; a poem. That is the test of what I am doing, what I am working on : is it a poem?

And the mental state (the spiritual state) which you need for the job is a particular one – unhurried, not thinking about outcomes, schedules, deadlines, those things. You have to do other things – the schedule things, the stuff – but they are incidental to the real daily work, the important good work.

Yours sincerely

Sian