Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Offering" Drawings

During 2009 while working in Larnaka I made a series of  large drawings of individual "priestess" figures taking part in some imagined temple activity. They were shown at the college's gallery as was customary. Artists-in-residence are usually invited to stage an exhibition of their work, not only at CyCA but wherever that residency may be. Perhaps these drawings will all get another airing at some future venue.

 Here are two of the fore-runners of the current sculpture project. The semi-transparent clothing follows the trend extant in ancient Greece around 450  to 300 BC as evident in the sculpture of that period.
However, I felt it might be better if the arms were covered like in the (photo-shop enhanced) image...

This is edited from another painting, "Meeting".
From this I did a charcoal and chalk drawing on textured grey  paper...

.... by now the idea was beginning to take shape. She holds aloft a bowl containing some light or energy radiating substance as an offering to some deity. This piece is about A3 size and stands on its own as an individual work. On my return to England I started to work out how this could be made as a sculpture. I decided the upper arms should be horizontal and the figure kneeling. I may at some future time make a standing "Offering" but not just yet. Another practical consideration is keeping some strength in the limbs. These could break off all too readily so this is where the long sleeves come in.

The working sketch. This brings the whole thing full circle. Little did I realise that once the maquette was made, working this up into a full sculpture would present itself as a technical challenge.

Challenge (3)

Spent a quiet Sunday afternoon at the studio making shims and wedges to fill the cracks. The wood seems to have settled down now. I'll shown the finished work in a week or so.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A visitor to the studio

There were some friends of another studio member being shown round Luneside Studios and and one of them homed in on my space. It turned out she loved sculpture. She had a look at several pieces then commented, "They're all religious pieces, aren't they?"
"Fair comment,"  I said by way of reply and added, "but not of any particular religion. I am  a religious person but prefer not to make a statement relative to any specific faith."
For a long time I have tried to avoid any religiosity in my work but it shows anyway so now I just make the work and if those who look at it see a religious message then so be it. But it is not deliberate.

Challenge (2)

From behind, the crack that appeared in the sculpture doesn't look too bad. The image on the left is the maquette sans crack (naturally) and that on the right is the wood carving after I had cut through the line of that shrinkage crack. Needless to say this work is far from finished, much of the rough carving is still in progress. However if we take a look at the figure from the front .... can be seen the damage is much more obvious. This is after having made the cut and divided the sculpture into two halves then tidied up the jagged edges. The plan is to carry on carving the two separate halves until it has reached its semi-finished state and by then, hopefully, all shrinkage will have ceased. After that the two halves will be re-united and permanently fixed and  traces of the cut removed. Having got this far I have no intention of giving up on it even if I am a bit disappointed at not having made a single-piece carving.
In the next few posts I'll show some of the drawings and other work that has led to this point.

Friday, October 28, 2011

This is becoming something of a challenge.(1)

This is a maquette about 6" high for a sculpture of some sort of priestess making an offering. The idea grew from research done in Cyprus into early Hellenic civilizations when a matriarchal society was the norm. The priesthood played a central role and of course the temples were run by women. Fast forward to more modern times and we see that making offerings has always been an essential part of religious practice. Using the Minoan era as a starting point a series of drawings were made during the 2008/9 residencies  both in Lempa and Larnaka. More of these anon.

From the drawings the idea of a sculpture, if not a series of sculptures, emerged and the above maquette was made.This was further developed to become a larger piece with a view to casting, probably plaster.

However I became dissatisfied with it.  I decided a wood carving might be a better idea.The question now was, should it be carved from a single piece or should I make a construction laminating several pieces of wood and making the carving from that? The whole thing was shelved for a year or so.
Then I took delivery of an ash tree which had been felled some six months ago.
A section of the trunk was selected and cut. There were a few minor shrinkage cracks but nothing to worry about too much. Or so I thought.

Once the bark had been removed and I commenced carving the cracks widened dramatically as this example shows. This is another piece of the same tree which I'm leaving until it settles down. The carving I started, developed a wide crack right down the front which is exactly where I didn't want it. As time went by the crack continued to widen until the whole piece was quite distorted. The hands that are to hold the bowl have ended up not parallel but at 45 degrees with one hand as intended but the other rotated outwards.
This is what I mean by this particular project becoming something of a challenge.
However, after leaving it for a few days to see how far it will go, it seems to have "settled down" somewhat and today was spent rectifying the situation. I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Allow me to introduce.....

She has been my model for some ten years now. She has never complained, stands perfectly still, never answers back,  keeps her opinions to herself,  never whinges wanting to be fed, in fact has never been fed and nor paid, for that matter. But she does have a bit of a glassy stare and is not flesh and blood, more fibreglass  and  metal really. She stands in a corner of my studio behind the door so that she doesn't give visitors too much of a fright as they walk in. With much of my work centrering around a Hellenic theme she is dressed for the most part in a chiton which I made myself, as I have all her clothes as shown here. Recently she has turned up at exhibitions when my work is being shown. But I must admit there is a bizarre side to this when transporting her. Her legs and arms go in the boot of a car while her torso travels in the passenger seat. Wearing a safety belt of course!

The current on-going project wall has a corner with words associated with my ideas. Not unlike the "brainstorming" so much in vogue at business conferences. I tend to write the  keyword as it comes to mind and never look at it again once its on the wall. For some reason, once I have physically written and posted it, its there, in my brain. If you click on the picture below it should show large enough for the labels to be legible. Some words are in Greek. I'm trying to keep this newly learnt language alive.

Just to give an insight into the creative process.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Healers and Healed

This last few months has shown me just how fragile health is. Gradual decline with advancing years can be an accepted norm and indeed was in my case until a spate of urine infections told me that there's more going on here. There's something wrong.
Once that "wrong" was diagnosed and treated many of the problems I associated with advancing years, such as constant tiredness, breathlessness, all resolved and I've got my life back. Sufficient to say there is an ongoing programme of treatment to reverse the condition. There is no evidence of cancer by the way.
This has all given me another area to explore artistically. There are preliminary drawings and ideas posted on my studio wall covering the theme of the fragility of health and the activity of healing. I have for a large part of my working life been involved in the latter and now I am experiencing being a patient. This gives a rounded picture of the whole idea as illustrated in the drawing above. This will be developed into a painting at some point.

This is a section of the ideas wall. You can see the "Healer" sketch at the bottom along with variants of this theme. The crucifixions at the top are not meant to portray any Christian message but are an attempt to look at how a healthy body can so readily be damaged. There's more work to be done in developing this idea. Its all a bit of a mixture really. Rather like emptying a box of jig-saw pieces onto a table then trying to put it all together into a coherent whole.

I like visiting other studios to see how work develops; in many ways it is more interesting than viewing the finished product in some art gallery where little hint is given as to how the artist's work got to that point. Similarly, rehearsals give a deeper insight into the play or concert than the actual performance.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What am I trying to say?

Artists speak through their art as do poets, writers and musicians through their chosen medium. So with my art what am I trying to say?
For a long time my answer was, "I really don't know." I just know there are certain things I need to express through paintings and sculpture. But then do I know this? I'm not sure. It is relatively easy to portray what I think people want to see; a woodland scene, a placid sea, a glorious sunrise/sunset, or a gentle portrait. Pretty pictures that might look good on the wall.
But what of the darker stuff that lurks within? Goya wasn't afraid to portray this nor was Francis Bacon. We used to discuss this in the kafeneons of Larnaka far into the night. Then it was something that Andros, a tutor at CyCA said, "Make art about what you feel inside yourself. You don't have to show it. Don't give your gold to fools." Now where have I heard that last bit from? It was a 13 th century Zen master, Dogen.
That was a lightbulb moment (twing!). Its not just expressing the dark side but being coy about material that is right under my very nose. I have spent nearly a whole lifetime trying to express things through art when really it is art that expresses me.
Take for instance the "Enigma" series. All the figures look vaguely like nurses. I denied that is what they were at the time but lets face it,  many of these pieces were painted when I actually was nursing. This type of uniform was just being phased out as I started my (nurse) training in1979. The Enigma pieces then, were stereotypical representations.

The picture above is from my recent exhibition, "Narrative Pieces", which was shown this last summer.It was conceived in 2009 whilst sitting on a beach in Larnaka and watching the sunrise. It is called "Contemplation" which is self explanatory, I think. The figure is nurse-like but while it is not a self-portrait, I reckon it is something of a character portrait.

Last week, the Storey Gallery in Lancaster hosted a lecture given by a ceramics sculptor, Christie Brown who along with her art very much spoke my language. We shared a lot of common ground though her (art) forms were quite different to mine.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ressurection, - perhaps.

Seven whole months have past since I last wrote here. A lot of water has gone down the Lune and into Morecambe bay since then. So a little bit of tidying up the profile and putting up a picture of what I look like rather than a section of my artwork as a cypher. But that may change. Thole Man has been resurrected. Let's hope I can keep it going.

This last summer has had me coping with illness, much of which has since been resolved but is still something of an on-going process. The price of growing old I guess. But, having said that, I still present as a young looking septuagenarian  Leastways that's what people tell me. Certainly at my age, especially when then majority of my contemporaries have died, I am grateful to have lived long enough to "live the dream" and spend much of my time making art.

A lot of my friends never made it to retiring age, 65. I'm inclined to think the government statement that more of us are living longer is something of a propaganda myth.But let's not get political.

Thole Man will continue as varied ramblings covering art, life as I see it, and a little spiritual; input here and there.

Cyprus is becoming a distant memory. It was 2009 when I was last there having worked for three-month periods from 2005 sometimes visiting twice a year. However I have gathered enough material to keep me in project material for quite some time. Painting is a relatively fast process, I can produce a sizeable piece of work in 30 to 40 hours. Sculpture is quite another matter. It can take months to produce a finished object. Its not a case of making drawings then the piece, - if only. No, it sometimes if not always calls for the making of maquettes (models) out of clay. Drawing in 3D if you like. Then the process of carving requires time and patience.
Imagine if you will a figure enclosed in a box but with the packing material so tight it is the same density as the figure. You need mallet, chisel, file and finer tools to realise the object within.But when that figure finally emerges, it is like being a midwife at a birth.

Thole Man has been revived. Let's hope I can keep it going. I may not necessarily post daily. Please feel free to make your comments.