Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Cover to Cover - a sketchbook project

A group of open studio artists met up on the 3rd November for the launch of Cover to Cover 2015 and to collect our sketchbooks. Co-ordinated and organised by Isabel Carmona-Andreu Cover to Cover is a sketchbook project for West Berkshire and North Hampshire Open Studios 2015.

It's a sketchbook exchange project that is designed to help us to push our creativity - the aim is to develop how we explore themes that interest us as individuals, and as artists, and how we can seek contribution to our ideas from other artists.

We were allocated a group (maximum of 8) and met our fellow members. Each of us received a sketchbook containing our details and our chosen theme. Then we work on that theme (over the the next three weeks) before exchanging it with a pre-assigned group member for them to carry on working to our subject. Choice of media up to individual artists, but must work to the theme of the sketchbook.

I had decided upon a Hedgerow Hodge-podge. A sketchbook for a seasonal exploration of the plants found in the hedgerow and field margins on the Wiltshire/Berkshire borders, as I'd like to carry on with the ideas developing in my seasonal sketchbooks.

Early summer sketchbooks . . .

Mid summer
Sketching in the summer months is one of my favourite things, as it allows me to wander off . . . and spend quiet time looking and listening.
Late summer
I'm really interested to see how others interpret this subject matter.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Absence and Presence
: A Printmaking Response to the bombing of Al Mutanabbi Street

A car bomb was exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, on 5th March 2007. To date there have been three artist made responses to this action: 130 broadsides by letterpress artists, 260 artist books, and 125 writers and poets have contributed to the anthology al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here. The project as a whole includes participants from 25 countries. 

The latest response, Absence and Presence is a printmaking project. Printmaking makes an impression, the mirror image from the plate and just as the bombing of Al Mutanabbi Street is reflected in the work produced by letterpress and book artists, writers and poets, now printmakers will be witness to this event. 

“Absence and Presence: A Printmaking Response to the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street” is co-ordinated in the UK by Catherine Cartwright 

It's a privilege to be invited to be a part of a global coalition of artists, poets and writers, and I've taken time reflecting on what my response would be.

In the end, for me, it all comes down to one thing, to live a life with freedom from fear. Simple things such as a visit to the market, or the library without the fear of violence . . . reliable clean running water . . . mutual respect and trust . . .

Al Mutanabbi Street is a street of booksellers and as such I started with words. Powerful things, words. Evidenced, throughout the ages, by the burning of books and the persecution of poets and writers. 

To reflect and respond to the bombing of the bookseller’s quarter in Baghdad I wanted to create a print that required careful examination. All that is absent is hard to read, because all that is absent is hard to find in Baghdad . . . all that is present is easy to see, because we can see it all too clearly . . . all that is present is linked and therefore those words too are linked . . . all that is absent is fractured, therefore, yes you've got it . . .

To be part of a global coalition that states that wherever people talk freely and creativity breaths, that's where Al Mutanabbi Street starts, has made me conscious that wherever people feel they have deeply ingrained and often historical grievances (Ireland, Scotland, Wales also?) we must all take time to listen to each other because our freedoms are hard won and too easily lost. Writing this I realise that I've missed out one very important word in my print, empathy. 

Empathy with people we feel fundamentally opposed to? Hard. But I suspect that until all parties try this nothing much will change.
The text I've included on my print comes from Aung San Suu Kyi who succinctly sums up the importance of living in freedom from fear.

“Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. 

It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that, might is right, to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.” 
Aung San Suu Kyi

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Ireland and the Galway Arts Festival 2014

Arriving in Ireland on a sunny afternoon is the perfect introduction to the Emerald Isle, and where better to celebrate the start of a holiday than a traditional pub.
Mr B and I came over with friends for the Galway Arts Festival, staying down in Salthill which is the seaside area of Galway City - we were so lucky with our apartment view . . .
. . . and next day just along the prom, a hardy bunch at the diving boards.
Approaching the city from Claddagh and looking at the houses on the Long Walk
Plaques are placed (seemingly) randomly around the town, much to my delight . . .
brilliantly decorated building next to Spanish Arch,
and skilfully laid cobbles creating fan shaped patterns.
Sitting down for a welcome coffee and . . . well . . . usually I photograph flowers, landscape, exhibitions, almost anything without a human being in sight, but as you can see this fellow is way, way too gorgeous to miss.
An excellent sentiment  . . .
Like any arts festival there is a lot going on in the street . . .
And this street includes the RedBall Project, artist Kurt Perschke's sculptural installation. I was immediately drawn to it when spied down an alleyway. It soon drew itself a little crowd, all of us of politely allowing each other a photo opportunity without anyone else in view!
If I find myself in Galway City again (and that would be a good thing) looking for a bite to eat, I'll definitely pop back to Cava Bodega, for the best tapas in town.
Taking a day out of town in our search for The Burren we took a little detour to Yeats Tower. Sadly it was closed, 
with no information other than the plaque on the wall and a pretty rose climbing the cottage wall.
Skirting The Burren along the R460 we spotted Kilmacduagh tower. 

The round tower was built as a refuge for the monks who lived here in the 12th century, to keep them safe from marauding Norsemen. It's the most conspicuous building on the site, and lacking any deep foundations it leans two feet out of perpendicular
The impermanence of things . . .
A long morning driving,
and this is as close as we came to The Burren's rocky landscape!
So, suitably refreshed we headed back to the festival and Star of the Sea, playing at the Moonfish Theatre

We'd bought tickets with a little trepidation, but it turned out to be a totally enthralling performance. A clever adaptation of Joseph O'Connor's novel, both in the Irish and English language and completely accessible to a non Irish speaker (like me). 
We also saw Ballyturk (apparently the hottest tickets in the festival) combining physical comedy, whilst repeatedly ruminating upon the brevity of our earthly existence. 

Two unnamed men in a room, Cillian Murphy and Mikel Murfi (excellent both) speculating about, and going through the motions of, their lives was mildly interesting. 

However, the work comes alive about 40 minutes in with the arrival of Stephen Rea as a rakish, cigarette-smoking god/death like figure (again unnamed) He speaks movingly and poetically, the work acquiring a fresh lyrical richness and from then on I was hooked. Poignant and beautiful, see it if you can when it come to the UK.

The big surprise of the festival (for me) was the Mute Quire, played as part of the fringe at the Columbian Hall. We only found it by chance, being handed a flier at our favourite coffee place, The Secret Garden.

The Mute Quire, the clue is in the name (Quire - four sheets of paper or parchment folded to form eight leaves, as in medieval manuscripts) is a fictionalised telling of the printing of Shakespeare’s first folio. Kinetic and highly entertaining. 
Uproot Hootenanny at the Roisin Dubh playing the most entertaining and distinctive brand of folk, rock, roots, and bluegrass - and - the fastest fiddle player ever!
When packing in plays, exhibitions and bands it's good to take little time away from the bright lights of the city . . . picnicking in the mist and looking out over beautiful Loch Corrib recharges our batteries.
Tucked around the headland we found this fantastic place . . . no one around to ask about it.
Back up from the loch we found some off-road paths
with masses of orchids . . .
and umbellifers for insect dating.
Patrick O'Reilly's exhibition, Prelude, at the middle pier was intriguing. 

Best known in Ireland for his large bear sculptures, this exhibition didn't appear to have a focus as such, and I wish I'd been at the gallery for the artist's talk to get his view of what the work was about. I felt it was playful and original, but would really have liked a bit more.
The energetic and bubbly Imelda May
John Kindness's exhibition, Odysseus, Absolut Festival Gallery. Sailor torso.
Page from one of the sketchbooks on view - precise expression of detail . . .
Friends and acquaintances all said, "You can't go to Galway without visiting Moran's"
a very happy bunny, having tried out the garlic butter crabs claws and Guinness!
After such a rich lunch a walk is a must. 
The hedgerows and verges are overrun with wild flowers, unfortunately more than I see at home in Wiltshire's road sides.
Cheerful bright yellow flower heads of Cat's-ear,
I'm guessing that gardeners would rather have these scabious . . . a member of the teasel family no less.
Paths lined with Greater knapweed . . .
and pretty pink yarrow, probably an escapee from someones garden 
Tufted vetch
. . . I don't know what this is, (a member of the mignonette family perhaps) but there was a lot of it about.
Another spot for a picnic, this time Mullaghmore.
A  Sunday in July and hardly anyone in sight, it is said that Mullaghmore is one of the best big wave surfing locations in the world. With waves up to 15 metres (49 ft) high off Mullaghmore Head on 8 March 2012. 

Can you imagine how popular Mullaghmore would be with sunshine . . .
A cat of independent mind chose to follow us out, and back, to Doorin Point. 
Walking out to the plane for home and yet again we have the more typical Irish sky . . . I know it's hard to believe, but the sun did shine and we did get sunburnt in Galway!