The present exhibition at the British Museum contains 130 objects that are at least 10,000 years old. Jill Cook curator of the show has brought together a fascinating range of prehistoric artifacts. She has called the show the making of the Modern Mind and believes our ancient ancestors used the same skills as us in producing art. The people who made these beautiful objects were able to make considered decisions about the marks required to create both realistic and symbolic representaions of their world.
She asks us to reposition these objects as sophisticated artefacts worthy of aesthetic contemplation in their own right. If we look closely a variety of marks are used to convey shading and texture. The animals are realistically portrayed. Anyone who has tried to draw will appreciate the skill reqiured to convey a realistic object with minimal line. There is no room for mistakes in these images which are drawn directly onto bone/ivory These artists were able to respond to the shapes suggested by the materials they were using. One example is a leaping horse which utilises the curve of the bone to convey the suggestion of movement. The animals are beautifully observed and instantly recognisable.
Jill Cook gave an interesting lecture on the female figures in the exhibition all of which are individual and unique. The figures have exaggerated proportions and often depict women that are pregnant or who have given birth. It is unusual for them to have facial features which may have been a way of representing a universal idea of woman, rather than a personal portrait. The figures gaze is usually looking down rather than at the viewer. She was cautious of giving direct interpretations, as we will never really know what they meant to the people who created them. They create more questions than answers. However they are exquiste objects which had a significant impact on twentieth century artists such as Picasso and Henry Moore, and offer us a glimpse of our own deep history. As Andrew Graham Dixon states "Making art starts as early as we start to live together, rather than as a product of civilization". He says these people were the same as us in their levels of curiosity, and that "this is not prehistory, it is our history".
Chris Ruston, drawing
Gouche, graphite. watercolour paper.
Today is the 43rd International Earth Day, an annual day of action for the enviroment. This year's theme centres on Climate Change, and highlights the impact global warming is having on us all. Established on 22 April 1970, it is now celebrated by more than a billion people in 192 nations around the world. People are marking the day by cleaning up parks, planting trees, attending community events, and more.
"International Mother Earth Day is a chance to reaffirm our collective responsibility to promote harmony with nature at a time when our planet is under threat from climate change, unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and other man-made problems. When we threaten the planet, we undermine our only home – and our future survival. On this International Day, let us renew our pledges to honour and respect Mother Earth."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Message for the International Mother Earth Day 2013
( http://www.un.org/en/events/motherearthday/ )
In keeping with this theme, visit http://www.chasingice.com/ for more infomation about James Balogs work about the retreating glaciers.
"Blue Holes" Chris Ruston.
Watercolour paper, Ink, Transparent paper. 2013.
David Nash uses trees which have come to the end of their life, or that have already been downed after a storm or disease. The exhibition places his work in the gardens, and creates an interesting interplay between some very old trees, and the art work. I found the juxtaposition of natural and "manmade" intriguing. I found myself looking at the trees in new light, and "seeing " them as potential sculptures, while the sculptures themeslves made me think of the trees. His work encourages us to pay attention to the natural forms around us.
I thought the coaxing of form while retaining the essance of the tree was beautifully done. The work combines both complexity and simplicity. There is an illusion of a" light touch" when in fact the size and scale of the works has obviously been physically demanding to produce.
Brancusi states that "simplicity is complexity resolved". I feel David Nash achieves this. His work is both of the modern era, but firmly embedded in the landscape tradition. A great show.
Not long now until Turn the Page artists book fair, Norwich Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th May 2013 . The event will showcase 50 book artists from the UK and abroad. Limited editions, sculptural books, altered books, multiples, book installations and more. There will be plenty on offer for the visitor to enjoy with a programme of events including Poetry readings, demonstrations, story telling. It all takes place at the Forum, The Millenium Library in Norwich and is FREE.
Work is well underway, and I have nearly finished some painted books which will be on display. I have been continuing to work on the theme of Ice.
Having enjoyed visiting various book fairs over the years I have always enjoyed marvelling at other peoples work. While I would love to give some of it a home, alas it is not always within my budget! However I have often been delighted to come away ith a small piece of "treasure". So alongside more worked pieces I will be making a series of "affordable" books.
When I visited Slack Space last week, I met Karen Dennison, whose work had been included.. Karen is a poet, and currently studying on the MA Design and the Book at Colchester. Karen has a wonderful collection of poems published in Counting Rain, (Indigo Dreams Publishing,2012).
The review by Bill Greenwell describes the book so accurately "this is a skillful, perfectly disarming series of pieces, in which disquiet and tension lie just beneath the surface, held there carefully while the writer investigates moments of loss,love, discovery..."
I particuraly loved this one:
Ideas of Silence
Silence pulls him into icy water
Thoughts like knives being sharpened
make him breathless. Choking
on nothingness, death,
he drags himself to solid ground
where the sound warms him like sunshine.
For her silence is not just an absence.
It exsists in the space bettween all solid things
- it is moonlight and sunlight
bathing her skin. She floats in silence
in the timeless place where memories live;
shadows dancing in glass.
Silence slips throuh my fingers
like silverfish, swims into darkness.
I close my eyes to follow
but the house creaks, thoughts buzz,
exsistence hums. Pressing the earth
to my ear, I hear the dead breathing.
More about Karens work can be found at kdennison.wordpress.com
Karen is presently co ordinating a project where poets and artists are invited to respond to a short story 'The Book of Sand' by Jorge Luis Borges. This is a starting point from which a poet will make a response. This poem is then passed to an artist to make an image. This image is then passed to another poet, and so on. It will be interesting to see how the poems/images evolve, and how far it moves from the original starting point.
I have been invited to respond to the first poem by Emer Gillespie. Above is the image I have selected. While the poem is very descriptive, I did not want to be too literal, and so responded to just a few lines sugestive of a dark atmosphere.After some deliberation, I opted not to include the figure,instead favouring the symbol of the door.
The lines I felt particuarly drawn to include "Evening winding down...despite the fear...a gust of elsewhere...outside the howling darkenss" I wanted to capture something of the night, of the darkening wind, and a stranger who brings uncertainty.
I had a great day making paper with Mandy Brennan who demonstrated how to make beautiful fine papers. A very different result from my previous expereince of paper making, which had involved using recyled papers. An example of this is shown below. These pieces were produced collaboratively with Jane Woollatt a few years ago. The paper here was used to produce sculptural works which incorporated other materials. We had been working on a series of pieces entitled the Seven Daughters of Eve. They were large pieces and measured aproximately three foot, so it was interesting to learn something about the traditional technique of paper making.
Mandy's approach was more refined! She has a wide range of knowledge about history of making papers, including the very fine Japanese papers. While the process was simular to what I had previously done with Jane, the major differance was the fibres used to produce the pulp. In this workshop we used both sisal, and cotton fibres. It was useful to learn about adding colour and the need to use a retention aid if the colour is to be absorbed evenlly into the pulp.
I now have a number of beautfully delicate sheets to work with.I now need to think carefully about what to do with them next!
Mandys work can be seen at Mandybrennan.co.uk/
I am also part of Bookscapes Collective.
Bookscapes is a group of six artists that have developed a group practice specialising in site specific interventions and exhibitions.