After three weeks at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester, the time came last Sunday to take down our work. I thoroughly enjoyed the run, meeting lots of new people, chatting to other artists, and of course handing over five pieces of my work to their new homes. Nicola Hancock did a great job of curating the exhibition, displaying her own work along with four other artists who each came from different walks of life, offering up different methodologies and outcomes, but whose work all reflected on how creativity offered release to those suffering mental anguish in some form – here the title “Creative Redemption.” Several visitors told me how good it was to see some contemporary work displayed in this gallery in a new and exciting way.
I sold two collages and three pieces of sculpture …
“Porcelain in orbit”
… and, just as importantly, received lots of positive feedback and encouragement from visitors. Several said that they were off to the beach to see what they could find and I would love to hear from them – as long as they took a bag to pick up the rubbish at the same time, that is all fine with me! Others related to the theme of the exhibition and chatted about the restorative power of stitch or other forms of creativity.
So, I am now thinking about my next project. I will certainly exhibit at this venue again and am thinking in terms of combining my found objects with recycled everyday items to create a new body of work.
Most days I walk along the beach – I call it “Beachcombing” but it is just noticing what is around me and picking up any items that “speak” to me (as well as litter and marine debris). I don’t necessarily know how I will use the pieces that I collect but there will be something about the colour, shape and most often, texture, that draws my attention. The object might be metal, wood, plastic, cloth, rubber or any manner of material but there is usually a common thread. This is that the item will have started out as useful – mass produced, neat and tidy. By the time I find out, when the sea has done it’s work, the once pristine, utilitarian thing has become a unique piece – worn and tattered and no longer of any use to anyone – except me and others who appreciate this kind of thing. Here are some items from this morning’s walk from Climping to Littlehampton.
Back home, my finds are all “filed” according to material but only after I have photographed them and added them to the appropriate folder on the computer. Thus I have two ways of looking for items that I think will work together although I am pretty good at remembering what I have.
I am just back from a four day course with Caroline Bartlett – who was a wonderfully giving and patient tutor who spent time with each of the six students all working in different ways and with very different outcomes. Thank you Caroline! We had been asked to bring in a collection of about six small objects with which to work during the course. Here are mine:
All of these metal items have been collected from the shore around Chichester Harbour and are, from left to right, a baked bean can, an aluminium canister, a shell case from world war 1, a Fanta can, an old paint can, and an aerosol butane gas lighter fuel canister.
To warm up, we were asked to produce a series of continuous line drawings using a variety of media. I chose to overlap my drawings of just one object, the paint can, to start with.
Paint can 1
Paint can 3
Paint can – Continuous line drawing
Continuous line drawing 3
Continuous line drawing 1
The use of thin paper meant that by turning it over and working on both sides, you could see through from one side to the marks on the other.
Next, I made a template based on the paint can and made a series of cut out’s using some paintings I had already made and brought with me. Here’s one:
Finally, I thought that the row of objects together made for interesting shapes so went back to the continuous line drawing, using the reverse of a piece of paper already drawn onto:
I’ll return to this later when looking at screen printing.
The word “abstract” is generally thought of having several meanings. The most well known might be:
“relating to or denoting art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colours, and textures.” but, used as a verb rather than an adjective, another is:
“to extract or remove (something).
Both uses of the word cropped up for me yesterday at a day’s workshop with the excellent Ronnie Ireland. A couple of weeks ago Ronnie visited Chichester Art Society and gave a talk “Catching The Image” – Where do ideas come from – how can we develop them?” It was a very interesting evening – Ronnie was obviously hugely knowledgeable about the history of art and passionate about his subject. The workshop encouraged us to consider working in a new way by selecting two or three images (maybe photographs or text, our own or from magazines) that meant something to us or spoke to us in some way.
The first task was to draw a series of thumbnail sketches to compare and contrast different ideas for composition. As I always seem to find my work ends up as landscape or seascape I decided to make a concerted effort to be “abstract”. I had chosen three images to work with: seaweed swirling in a circular motion in the sea; a black and white image of an abacus and a black and white photocopy of some textile work that I had done on a workshop with Cas Holmes. Here are the six thumbnails:
I chose the last image to recreate larger and in colour:
I didn’t like it …. and nor did Ronnie! He then asked if this was how I normally worked. It isn’t – I like to work spontaneously, working with the paint or paper and letting the work evolve as I go. He told me to carry on as I normally did! I had brought a collection of papers with me – leftovers from past workshops and “play days” as I had decided to work with collage during this day (typical me – of course everyone else worked in paint)!
Here are my outcomes:
I was pleased to have managed to keep away from horizons! Ronnie felt that the first had most promise but that the others were too busy. He asked me to take away and take away until I thought I had gone too far and then to put one thing back. This made me simplify the work. I then went back and cropped the images to simplify them still further – the word “abstract” occurred again:
so my next step is to consider what I have learned and take the work further. I may work in collage or I may work on paper to create the whole image in paint. Either way what I have here expresses my love of texture and mark making and I shall enjoy creating new surfaces. Next time, instead of using whatever paper I have to hand, I will create surfaces which directly relate to my running theme of found objects and re-create the distressed surfaces of the metal, wood, fibreglass and so on that I collect. Ronnie was keep to impress the importance of making work that matters to you and that you are passionate about. I can also see how this would translate to fabric with the exciting option of adding stitch to create thin lines which would relate back to my initial thumbnail sketches (Cas Holmes will be pleased!). To be continued …
N.B. In case you hadn’t gathered I would highly recommend spending time with Ronnie – he is based in Farnham, Surrey and runs workshops and classes, gives talks and offers one-to-one to tuition. I have a feeling I will be seeing him again!
After much hard work and preparation we are nearly ready for the Chichester Art Trail which starts tomorrow and runs over the this weekend and next and this Bank Holiday Monday. My husband Alan (Alan Frost Photography) and I are exhibiting from our studio at Venue 79 in Fishbourne.
Entry will be via the garden (another work in progress!) and the first thing you will see is this: