continuing my experiments with photos today, this time with gold leaf
for the first, i painted on the glue / size in the shape of an arch
for the second, i poured it on with water and let it dry on the radiator
I have been thinking that I’ll draw the sky. Somehow. Or maybe not draw, but at least work with. Start from a feeling of immersion. My main problem : that drawing immersion in sky is a crazy and difficult job, and I don’t know how.
I made an earth drawing instead today – from a video of the mountain. I’d taken the video last night on the way home, just after what would have been sunset, but since it was a cloudy and gloomy evening there was no colour, little light. The drawing needs more work – for me to approach closer to the feeling of last night, and to the evidence of the video. I need to make it fuzzier, less distinct; have less contrast, less interest, less resemblance.
The video is strange and obscure, technically dreadful. I think that what interests me so much about it is just that, its poor quality. I’ve found the outside boundary of the technology, and then crossed over it. The light levels have gone down beyond my camera’s processing capacity – it’s having a breakdown, it can’t find this in its programming, its changing its mind every half a second – what is air and what is objects, what is the appropriate focal distance, what is the space of the mountain? Things recede and return, in and out of focus, all is flattened and fuzzy. Our eyes break down at that light level too, we can’t trust what we see. But we’re better adapted than our phones – we still perceive and still keep some clarity; still retain something of three-dimensionality, the volume of the space, enough to navigate through it.
To return to my idea of drawing immersion in sky, my drawing is a drawing of a place that, because of its shape, is basically all round sky. So I think I can call it an atomosphere drawing, if not a sky drawing.
I’ve been researching, and I wanted to introduce you to Vatnasafn, the ‘Library of Water’, a sculptural installation created in Iceland by Roni Horn.
Vatnasafn is an archive of waters and weathers, housed in a hill-top building that used to be the town library of Stykkishólmur. Instead of its books, the building now holds a collection of waters in twenty-four tall glass columns, collected as ice from twenty-four of Iceland’s glaciers. The columns are surrounded by windows to the town, sea and sky, with weather words written into the floor, as well as an archive of weather reports from local people.
It is a generous space, where the ‘art’ stands back quietly, and the viewers can find a place for being. For reflection, contemplation and community. A place for feeling out the connections between climate and culture. What we have, and therefore what we stand to lose.
Probably the best thing is to link you to the website, which has pictures.
A little more playing today inspired by a chat with artist Angela James and her experimental and open approach.
I have made a very tiny test piece this evening – introducing some unusual (unstable) elements: watercolour, plus oil-based materials – safflower oil and turps, a little oil paint, sanding sealer, varnish. I have written down what I used, in the hope that I will remember what I have used…
Starting today to play with making sky houses
Mynydd Llangyndeyrn, 4 to 4.30pm
last of the sun, bone cold, a few flakes of snow falling
making a few small experiments in framing
Today, a very quick look at a painting and a painter to cheer us up. Click the link to see the painting, which is called ‘make your own damn art’.
The artist is Bob and Roberta Smith (one person). He has painted this using sign-painting techniques, and I love it that he is sending us out of the gallery (in this case the Royal Academy in London), and packing us off home to make our own art using wood recycled from out of a skip. Or anything else we feel like using.
By telling us to ‘make your own damn art’, Bob and Roberta Smith is very succinctly saying that our personal creativity is the route to our empowerment – and it seems that ultimately he has in mind that it is also the route to radical political change. In his film of the same name, he points out the social inequality in our culture ‘sector’. Saying that in his view our culture is being made by ‘a sort of gentry in disguise’, which means that ordinary people’s stories are always getting written out of history, or maybe not getting written in, and that ‘I think art should be made by everybody.’
A thread of thought today, about an artist who connects imagination with hope:
The photographer Janelle Lynch has recently made a series of photographs called Another way of Looking at Love, photographs that I saw at the Prix Pictet ‘hope’ exhibition. The photographs are displayed as large format colour prints portraying plant communities. The pictures are taken from a low viewpoint, which has the effect of immersing the viewer in the radiant beauty of the environments she is photographing. The Hudson River Museum website explains a little about the background of the piece:
“the title of the series is a quote from contemporary British philosopher Alain de Botton, who believes that love is about making connections and about long-term, pro-active commitment. His ideas resonated with Lynch, who related them to her own work re-imagining our relationship to nature, the planet, and each other.”
It is so important that Lynch sees her role as that of ‘re-imagining’, and explicitly articulates this in talking about photographs exhibited under the heading of ‘hope’. Lynch clearly sets out in a way that can inspire us all where it is that she holds her hope:
“We are hardwired for connection and our elemental sameness unites us and transcends our apparent differences. Our wellness and the well-being of the world depend on healthy connections to each other and to the earth. Another Way of Looking at Love is borne of awe for the power of nature, and seeks to reimagine our connection to one another, to the planet, and to the generative possibilities of the moment. “
I really encourage you, if you have time, to look at the some of the photos on her webpage:
Today, just some gleanings on emergence, some shapes I am trying to grasp and understand, some spirals of thought to follow.
adrienne maree brown, ’emergent strategy’:
“Ferns are a form of fractal. A fractal is an object or quantity that displays self-similarity, which means it looks roughly the same at any scale. Small-scale solutions impact the whole system. Use similar principles to build at all scales.”
“Small is good, small is all. The large is a reflection of the small.”
Mark C Tayor, much harder to understand, on perception, in ‘Refiguring the spiritual’:
“…the brain is not a centralised processor but a distributed network. Perception and cognition are not simply the product of the cogito; to the contrary, the cogito is an emergent phenomenon that is the product of the information processes consitutive of perception and cognition…”
“as we have already discovered, mind and matter – or in this context subject and object – are not separated by an unbridgeable gulf but are coemergent and codependent and function according to similar rules.”
Today, I’m thinking and writing again about hope and contemporary art.
The thought which I want to follow up just a little today is that an art which is hopeful must address trauma also. It must look at the past and it must look at violence, and it must seek to be with the pain of it, to do something with that pain.
In 2019, the Prix Pictet photography prize took as its theme ‘hope’. One of the nominated photographers, the Côte d’Ivoire artist, Joanna Choumali, exhibited a series of photographs taken within several weeks of terrorist attacks at the beach resort of Grand-Bassom, Côte d’Ivoire in 2016. Choumali had taken the photographs on her i-phone, had printed them in small format on canvas, and then had embroidered on top of the canvases with bright threads. The embroidered series of photographs ‘ca va aller’ are shown on her website:
I saw the exhibition of these photographs in the V&A Museum in London in 2019. Choumali’s photographs are small in scale but very powerful. You must come close to see them, and the scale gives an intimacy, a direct connection to the artist working on the photographs, purposefully going towards the pain and trauma of what has been left behind after the violent attacks.
Choumali comments about her process that:
” Each stitch was a way to recover, to lie down the emotions, the loneliness, and mixed feelings I felt. As an automatic scripture, the act of adding colorful stitches on the pictures has had a soothing effect on me, like a meditation. Embroidery was an act of hope, as well.”