It occurred to me after my last post that I hadn’t written about the things I have been making recently. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been doing anything. I have been working on a new set of ideas and the work is still at an early stage – embryonic and unformed. I’m still don’t quite know where I’m going with it …. I have an idea of what it could be, but I’m not there yet. It’s an exciting time and I enjoy the experimentation. These two cloths are hole-y investigations (not finished pieces). I’m thinking about rhythm and metre, counting, space and silence, flow and disruption. As always the materials I use are important to relating the work to place. Therefore these cloths have been soaked in the sea and this afternoon I photographed them after they had been drying overnight in the beach hut. I want the stitching on the eyelets (especially on the black cloth) to become really crusty and dark. I’ve dipped both of them again so hopefully the rust will stain the stitching even more. The cloth has become stiffer with the seawater and I really like the handle of it. I’ve got a couple of other things drying in the hut …. I’ll show you when they’re cooked!
‘Soft sticky matter resulting from the mixing of earth and water’.
There’s a lot of mud on the North Norfolk coast and at low tide it is exposed – wet, oozy and shining. From a distance it appears to be silvery blue/grey as it reflects the light back from the sky but from close to it is actually much darker. A trip out on the boat along the creeks necessitates a cautious few steps sliding over its slippery wetness to reach the mooring and if you want to get off and walk over the marshes an athletic leap onto the marshy banks often results in muddy hands, knees and clothes. In the summer my feet are permanently stained by its rich blackness.
The mud is continually shaped by the movement of hungry tides as twice a day the water eats into the landscape simultaneously destroying and renewing.
The constant shifting of material causes objects to be endlessly buried and revealed.
With a week or so of small tides the mud above the tideline is exposed to the wind and sun. In dry weather its surface dehydrates producing cracks so deep that even repeated tides don’t penetrate it and turn it back to its usual smooth, slick state.
These intertidal mudflats are nutrient rich; they support birds and plants and insects ….
…. and I love the deep, deep shadows in the sunshine.
Tomorrow I am going to set up an exhibition for textile group Studio 21. I really enjoy the process of putting up exhibitions – curating – deciding what goes with what and how it should be hung. I know all the work in this exhibition really well having put it up once before as the works showing are a condensed version of Chinese Whispers, an exhibition from 2013. The exhibition will be at the Well House Gallery, Horndon on the Hill, Essex and here are the details.
I am showing a few pieces of work…
Sea Waves and Currents
Counting Cloth: 24 Hours (night and day)
There is a private view tomorrow evening between 7.30 and 8.30. Do come along if you live nearby as several Studio 21 members (including me) will be there. If you can’t make it I’ll put some pictures on my Facebook page later in the week.
I’ve done a lot of stitching recently – over one hundred eyelets so far and I’m not even half way there! I stitch myself into a meditative state and as I stitch I think (probably over think). I turn over haphazard ideas trying to fit things together. Every now and again I jump up to look something up in a book. I thought it was worth putting down these latest ponderings about the Soundmark pieces that I am making at the moment – they are central to what I am trying to achieve. ‘A more profound engagement must depend upon more than the visual, upon those things that remain invisible’. Tacita Dean ‘Hearing structure and articulates the experience and understanding of space’. Juhani Pallasmaa Understanding an environment or place is to understand how you sense it. Its light, its texture, its atmosphere and its sound – eyes, ears, hands, feet. It’s about time spent and the changes that take place over time. Its ups and downs, nears and fars, louds and softs, movements, rhythms and silences. An understanding is not arrived at by just seeing, or just hearing or just feeling but by a mixture of all the senses together. Take walking for instance. Your feet feel the ground. Your ears hear your footsteps as they beat a continuous rhythm on its surface. Your legs feel the slope – up or down, and as you breathe deeply your temperature rises. All around you sounds, both near and far, come and go. Your eyes confirm all of these sensations. To map these sensations as an artwork is not to suggest the visual alone but to integrate all these feelings. Ups and downs (height) become highs and lows (pitch). Large and small (distance) become loud and soft (dynamic). Events – visual, aural and textural – that occur one after the other (succession and duration) are rhythms that happen in time. The gaps between, either spatial or durational become silences. I think of these as a type of 3-dimensional graph: height as up/down or pitch, breadth as time and rhythm, depth as distance, either large/small or loud /soft. Uniting all of these sensations is texture: the visual, aural and haptic qualities of air, land and sea – atmosphere and weather, rock, earth and water. The lines, shapes and forms of my artworks recall the contours, movements, rhythms and textures of the environment – water on the beach and marsh, air waves, sea waves and sound waves. They bring to mind things I have seen or heard or felt. They don’t describe but are ambiguous and can have several meanings: of sound, of sight, of touch. The photos are small watercolour drawings. They contain impressions, feelings and hearings done from memory and with imagination.
This morning I jumped on a train and went to see the Barbara Hepworth exhibition at Tate Britain. Barbara Hepworth is an artist that I admire. She was a woman who didn’t let her gender interfere with what she was trying to do, who went her own way and who produced incredibly elegant, spare sculpture. Her preoccupations were with the human figure and landscape and the relationship between the two. I am especially interested in the way her work reflects a physical response to the environment, ‘feeling, touching, seeing through mind and hand and eye’. (extract from Barbara Hepworth, A Pictorial Autobiography, Bath, 1971).
I’ve seen Hepworth sculptures many times before but today I wanted to look at the relationship between her forms and the space around (and inside) them – the holes. I made some notes about the things that particularly caught my eye. They are rather disjointed, but I thought I‘d record them here as I wrote them down in my notebook.
Squint/ peer – looking through holes and tunnels to the other side. Cups and depressions are almost holes.
Positioning and display – the base is part of the sculpture
Discs in Echelon
Placed close together on a base. The space between the two parts is very close – the gap is almost a hole. Although not fully enclosed the space appears to be so as the two elements seem to be one.
Forms in Echelon 1938
Look through the hole/tunnel. Offset behind, to show left edge only – smooth, shiny, rich.
Many holes – large and small on top and all sides. Interior space painted white and surprisingly pale blue. Shadows.
Strings disrupt the interior space. Shadows disrupt the interior space.
The amount of wood taken away makes the heaviness fragile and skeletal – an irregular honeycomb.
Curved Form (Trevalgan)
A hole within an almost hole. Cupped – slung –rigid tops.
Jeanette Winterson sums up in this article.
‘Hepworth wanted to see right through solid form, but what happened was a surprise. By surrounding space with form, the invisible becomes visible. Here was a view previously enjoyed only by God: nothingness.
Sometimes I think that Hepworth’s pierced forms are inversions. That the object, however beautiful, is a means of seeing the empty space within and around it.’
I really enjoyed this exhibition and I will have to go back. It is very hard not to touch these remarkable sculptures – to put out your hand and stroke the smooth shiny surfaces of wood and stone or to put your fingers into and through the visible nothingness of the holes.
Music and sound are for me inextricably linked with playing a musical instrument. In my case it is the flute. Playing an instrument is a very physical experience that incorporates the senses of sight, sound and touch.
A flute is not grasped tightly but is balanced lightly between the joint of the left index finger, the tip of the right thumb and under the bottom lip. The other fingers need to be able to dance freely over the keys and your posture needs to be upright with the arms away from the body so that it is possible to expand the chest and breathe deeply. You inhale and breathe out slowly filling the flute with air. The air vibrates and the sound waves can be felt pulsing up and down the flute. My favourite notes are the ones where all the keys are pressed down: low note D and E flat and E flat two octaves above, as it is here that the fingers can really feel the sound.
A flute is basically a tube that is open at both ends with holes. The player blows across the mouth hole and the stream of air strikes the far edge bouncing it in and out of the tube causing turbulence and setting up vibrations in the column of air inside the tube. The tube acts as a resonator that amplifies the vibration and by opening or closing the holes the vibrating portion of the tube will lengthen or shorten to change the pitch of the sound heard.
The holes (and the keys covering them) therefore are the focus of all the sound wave activity. As the vibrations pulsate up and down the tube an open hole stops them in their tracks and releases them – essentially the tube becomes shorter. The hole is an opening that frees the sound waves enabling them to be heard.
As I sew hundreds of holes into this cloth I can’t help wondering what kind of noise they would make if they were able to pulsate and resound with sound.
I’ve been thinking about different types of holes – how they are made? what they do? what do they say? My first port of call is always a thesaurus. Here are the words that caught my eye.
Opening: Gap, Lacuna, Aperture, Split, Crack, Leak, Hollow, Cavity, Pocket
Perforation: Piercing, Puncture, Borehole, Pinhole, Eyelet
Orifice: Pore, Nostril, Embouchure,
Window: Porthole, Peephole, Squint
Doorway: Threshold, Scuttle
Open Space: Clearing, View
Tunnel: Oesophagus, Vent hole
Perforator: Borer, Gimlet, Wimble, Drill, Stiletto
Open: Unfold, Bare, Unrip, Force Open, Rip, Tear, Separate, Unclench
Pierce: Lance, Poke, Pepper, Punch, Drain, Penetrate
The photos are of a Work in Progress (just started). These holes are defined and precise but are they eyelets to squint through or a filter to let sound through?