Monday, 25 August 2014

Influences 6 - Ali Yanya

Ali Yanya ~ Conversation, Drypoint, 2014


At Red Hot Press, we've just have the privilege of being taught for two days by Ali Yanya, master of drypoint, mezzotint and etching. His drypoint is so rich and tonal which he creates not only with a whole range of marks on the plate, but also with very delicate wiping, almost like painting on the plate with the scrim.

Ali Yanya ~ Portrait of my father, drypoint, 2013

Ali Yanya focuses mainly on figures in his work (right up my street!). There's a mystery to these figures, things left unexplained. What are the two men talking about in Conversation? Why is the newspaper blank in Man reading a newspaper and what are the two shadowy figures behind him? His composition is amazing too; in Portrait of my father, all but the head and a band is left white, and the diagonal band of black which locates the head and gives it weight. Fabulous.

More to follow on the workshop itself.

Ali Yanya ~ Man reading a newspaper, drypoint monotype, 2014

Thursday, 21 August 2014


The Aged P's portrait is nearly finished I think... I'm in 'Tinker Time' now which is always a difficult stage. It's still not quite there but there's also the danger of overworking the plate so one has to tread carefully. Mostly I'm burnishing now and trying out colour combinations. THere may still be some etching needed however. Difficult to know when to stop.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

More on Fiona Rae and Dan Perfect

Came across this video whilst researching Fiona Rae. This was commissioned by Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery thhis year to accompany the exhibition now at Southampton City Art Gallery. Slowly I creep towards an understanding of the work...

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Painter, Painter: Dan Perfect, Fiona Rae

Fiona Rae ~ Memory, origin, space

Southampton city Art Gallery has a whole heap of exhibitions going on at the moment. As well as the London Group, there is an exhibition of paintings by Dan Perfect and Fiona Rae. Both these painters (who are married incidentally) make large, colourful abstracts. The line, colour, shape and texture of Perfect's remind me of street art. Perfect says that his paintings are an 'imagined interior of psychological landscapes' and 're-imagined experiences', and that 'they seem quite urban and technological, and there's a strong sense of science fiction in them'. 

Dan Perfect ~ Deerdog
Rae's paintings also have a popular culture feel about them... they remind me of album covers and the sort of stuff you see in Hi-Fructose Magazine. I quite like the way the paint is applied in places but the weird teddy bears all over the place - what's that about?

I can't say I like the paintings of these two artists; I just don't get them at all. I probably need to read up on their work and try and understand it a bit better. Fiona Rae is an RA and Professor of painting at the Royal Academy Schools after all.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Letterbox Prints: Postcards from the Press

Postcards by members of Cowprint hanging in Red Hot Press during July. The artists are

Sue Anderson
Linda Bennett
Jenny Goodhand
Sheila Lockyer
Jutta Manser
Naomi Parsons
Jo Price
Jenny Rickman
Maureen Riley
Irene Smith
Tim Watson

Thursday, 24 July 2014

All about technique

Despite the rubbishness of work, I have managed to find some time for printmaking; here's what I've been working on over the last six weeks. It's all about technique with this image so I've been throwing just about every etching technique I can think of at it including spit bite and drawing into a soft ground through tissue paper. Thirteen states so far and still some way to go - I'd like to have it finished by September. Already brewing ideas for the next couple of images...

Sunday, 20 July 2014

From David Bomberg to Paula Rego: The London Group in Southampton

Marcel Hanselaar ~ Ritual, 2013, oil on canvas

Having said I wouldn’t be blogging much over the next few weeks, I am now going to blog…

About five weeks ago, the week the last Ofsted inspection finished, we moved offices at work and are now based in the Civic Centre. This meant going from a brand new building to one which was built in the 1931 and as it’s listed, has many of the original features (possibly including some of the plumbing…). It also houses the city art gallery and it so happens that our office is right next to the gallery and conservation studios. There is art just on the other side of the wall, literally. How tantalising. We often see works of art being taken from the conservation studio into the gallery too (oh cruel tormentors!). I am most definitely on the wrong side of the wall.

It does mean however, that I can sneak off for ten minutes every now and then, to visit a particular work. The current exhibition (From David Bomberg to Paula Rego: The London Group in Southampton), which I have yet to see properly, has a painting by one of my favourite artists, Marcelle Hanselaar. Ritual (above) is a wonderful piece by which I am much taken. I've been to visit it several times and the more I look at it, the more I like it. The central figure, light and colours are so atmospheric. I can't pretend to know what it means... I can only have a rough guess. I would very much like to know the painter's ideas behind this particular painting.

I will blog about this show again probably - it also has a Paula Rego aquatint. It's on until 1 November so plenty of time to go and see it. The art gallery opening times are a bit rubbish though (I can feel another rant coming on...); Monday to Friday 10am to 3pm and Saturday 10am until 5pm, closed Sundays. For a gallery which has such a fabulous collection to shut at 3pm in the week and close on Sundays is such a waste - but there we are, another thing we can thank Cameron and his budget cuts for. Yours, disgusted of Southampton.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Groundhog Day

Life is somewhat surreal at the moment... and not in a good way. I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that at work, we (Children's Services), had just undergone a very stressful, exhausting and expensive to the council four-week Ofsted inspection of services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers and review of the Local Safeguarding Children Board. This was under Ofsted's latest and most rigorous inspection framework which, whilst we all accept that it's necessary to check up on local authorities to make sure they're doing what they're supposed to be doing, places an enormous burden on the already stretched-to-the-limit staff who work to keep children safe across Britain. The staff are stretched because they do an impossible job under difficult conditions in councils which are seeing their funding rapidly eroded by Cameron and his cronies. Imagine then, three weeks after the end of this bureacratic stress fest (which is supposed to happen once every two to three years), just when you think you're beginning to catch up on all the work you haven't been able to do because the whole four weeks was spent on inspection stuff, that you are told that Ofsted is about to descend again to do the whole miserable, monumentally stressful, tiring thing again. Not cheery. We as data analysts are right in the firing line for the entire duration as the whole process is driven by data. It's what words like 'gruelling' were invented for.

Anyway, I don't usually beard about work on my blog - why would I? It's nothing to do with art. However, these wretched inspections are so intrusive that I just don't get any art work done; there's no time or mental energy to spare and I DON'T LIKE IT. So, if I don't post much over the next few weeks, you'll know why.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Fine artists as illustrators

The Bullfighter's Godmother - Paula Rego
Recently, a friend sent me a link to a rather interesting article by Andrew Graham Dixon about Paula Rego. It particularly interested me as he talks about fine artists as illustrators and how that is an insult to most. Not to Paula Rego of course whose work is strongly narrative. Have a read of the article here. Poacher's Pie

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Walthamstow Tapestry

Feeling more than a little wiped out at the moment. Just emerged from a four-week Ofsted inspection of Children's Services which is probably one of the least fun things I can think of, and as a consequence, we are now four weeks behind on the end of year returns, four of which have to be in by the end of June (we've started one...). Throw in an office move last Friday... who knows what chaos awaits when I go to the new place on Monday.

So, I have data fatigue and was feeling somewhat in need of a change. What better way to shake this off than with a visit to Winchester Discovery Centre to see Grayson Perry's Walthamstow Tapestry; a mind-blowing 15 metres of intricately detailed images and text woven by Flemish weavers.

It's Perry's comment on consumerism bound up in a 'seven ages of man' narrative. The tapestry is peppered with household brand names which sit supposedly randomly in amongst the images. Every inch of the picture plane is used and is heavy with symbolism and his influences are evident: medieval and folk art and Sumatran fabric for instance. It has been likened to the Bayeux Tapestry.

Despite some of the macabre imagery, it's a very beautiful thing. The colour and texture and the drawings themselves are lovely and one could gaze at it for hours and still find new details to delight and ponder over. Perry is a consummate doodler with humour - I mean that as a compliment - and it took me back to my childhood and the hours I spent immersed in my collection of Richard Scarry books. Again, this is not to denigrate the downright genius of the Walthamstow Tapestry, but rather, is a comment about the visual impact the work has and its ability to hold the attention. I think it's wonderful. And I'm very pleased to have been able to see it as I found a newspaper article today stating that last month, it was sold to an art school in China. It will be in Winchester until 6 July so go see it.


Sunday, 8 June 2014

Okay. I wasn't terribly happy with my last print, PB4. I was working on it for something ridiculous like five months and I'm still not satisfied with the image. Also I think my technique left something to be desired, so it's back to first principles with the next project. 

I'm working on an A3 plate for the first time, which has its own challenges, but it's back to portraits for the moment. This print is going to be all about technique so narrative won't be a distraction.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Aquatint workshop

I had a lovely day at Red Hot Press on Saturday teaching four fabulous printmakers how to aquatint. They all worked very enthusiastically and produced some really interesting images. All very different of course. I love teaching.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Nearly there...

I'm very nearly there with PB4. Dear me, I don't think I've pulled so many different proofs of a plate before. The problem was, it seems, that I was wedded to colour with this one; sepia, orange and blue. I tried it and tried it and tried it but it just looked like something from the Museum of Bad Art in Boston (sometimes I scan its pages half-dreading, half-hoping I'll see one of my own works in the collection. I wonder if any other artists do that...?) - see below.

I gave in finally and went back to fewer and more subtle colours and I think that's what it needs (apologies for the badly-inked proof by the way). Maybe it was too much of a leap for Pirate Baby. It needs a couple of small tweaks but then it's good to go. At last! Thank goodness for that.  I can start on something new now.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Influences 5 - Freya Payne

At 36 ~ Freya Payne, etching, 2005
I wasn't yet etching when I first came across Freya Payne's work in Printmaking Today in 2006. I was getting some pretty good tone and texture with card cuts but there isn't that versatility of being able to rework and rework and rework the plate like there is with etching. It wasn't until 2009 that I began to use pine resin aquatints to attempt to achieve really tonal / textural effects with etching. And now, five years later, I still can't achieve anything like what Payne does with the plate.

Amateur ~ Freya Payne, 2007
I like portraiture and it remains integral to my work, but I guess my main focus is narrative. Some of Payne's earlier etchings have narrative themes. I particularly like the image below - rather Rego / Hanselaaresque.

Looking for exits - Freya Payne, 1998
In an interview with Katherine Jones (Printmaking Today, Summer 2006), Payne is asked what it is about printmaking that interests her. She replies:

'I love both the physical process and the extended possibilities of a way to draw. The stopping and starting, the slow alchemy of acids and metals; the way drawing becomes an accruing of marks, layer by layer, on a surface physical enough to handle so much alteration, but which still gives an image which feels complete - the journey of the making unified in the final image.

The prints are often testing grounds for installation or sculpture and get fed back into prints as props. The boundaries between what leads the work - concept or process - blur.'

Sisyphus ~ Freya Payne, 2007

On the subject of process, Payne says this:

'When all else is in flux, printmaking gives you somewhere to begin, some parameters, technical anchors. It also gives you a valuable space between the act of making and seeing the result. Often I have very black periods when I lose faith in what I'm doing; this space can be a life raft.' 

How true this is. I've lost count of the times when I've become stuck with an image and found... comfort? Reassurance? New momentum? Simply by cleaning up the plate, degreasing, adding an aquatint and beginning to stop out. All begins to flow again. And the ritual of preparing a new plate when the image isn't fully formed in the mind - the process of filing down the edges, taping the back, degreasing and applying that first hard ground - then the image is ready to trickle onto the plate. I wonder if it's the same for painters preparing a canvas or sculptors doing whatever needs to be done to their chosen medium. I'd be interested to know.

To Turn Again ~ Freya Payne, 2007

Women ~ Freya Payne, 2008