Sunday, 30 November 2008

Relative relations

Let me stay with language plays and curiosity for another post. If people end up in my blog through searches it is often Schiele, de Stael or Twombly that they are looking for. More infrequently it's a line from a Rilke poem, the search for interesting stuff on pastel, painting reflective surfaces or the like. Toulouse Lautrec's Suzanne Valadon is VERY popular and so is Feininger's Vogelwolke.

And while once in a while someone looks for the Baklava recipe, noone has done so, to my knowledge for my granny's Christmas biscuits - Kolutschen.

Until yesterday. I was thrilled. Well: it's cold and dark outside, it's almost the end of the year and so Kolutschen are in order. Someone else obviously thought so too. I have another look at my site stats and see a hit from Eschede, the village my mum grew up in, not far from where my parents live now. I look further and see that that person was looking for Kolutschen. How exciting. Eschede and Kolutschen. I need to tell someone!!! [and this is my 3rd... no 4th... round in telling this story, ;)]

I tell my brother this morning. He: How weird. I: And it's not our parents... it's a really unusual ISP. He: Oh, granddad's neighbours, D.'s have their own ISP. I look and it is indeed them. Out of more curiosity, I type in Kolutschen, first, my blogpost is the only entry; then And again: only my entry matches. 'Or do you mean Kolatschen?', 'No, I don't.'

Fascinating... this technology.

After the phone call, I realise that it's not any neighbour of my granddad, but my father's cousin's house. Where he used to spend his summer holidays, and where at their wedding he met my mother.

Often I giggle at the thought that someone is looking, e.g., for 'Moon + Trees + Romance' and ends up at the post about my neighbour, or for 'mugging Pollokshields' and ends up at Fully Automated Nikon.

But, now I see my gran's neighbours looking for, well, Oma Eschede's Kolutschen. And they did find precisely that recipe of their neighbour who hasn't baked these probably for more than 15 years or so.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Wait and sea

Seascape in Earth, Detail
Pastel on board, 70x50cm

I like the sea
They like the sea
Just wait and see
What will we do all with the sea

.... and assorted other water
.... on Monday 1 December

You can play with this in German too. How about:

Wir wollen meer mehr

Seascape in Earth, Detail
Pastel on board, 70x50cm

Friday, 28 November 2008

... and what i missed....

.... tonite

Tuesday, 25 November 2008


MMoley Exchange - Maps and Destinations
Lindsay's Maps and Destination Moley
36x14cm, Pen, ink and neo ii

The most recent moley I had from the exchange had gone travelling with me to London, Berlin and back to Glasgow. I like the idea of figuring out what to do next in each moley a lot: it's storytelling as process, and it's interesting to see how different each of us deals with the storytelling.

So: mine was action drawing... hahaha... on 9x14cm with a pen... no paint dribbles in sight.

Have a look - out of the window on the 9:39 am Glasgow - London Euston for 20 mins or so; a tube ride from Mile End to Victoria, until someone sat next to me and obscured the view; after breakfast in my friends' living room in Berlin when they had gone for work; and yet another airport queue in Schoenefeldt while the passport control was slow as usual. I coloured in when back home.

Moley Exchange - Maps and Destinations
Lindsay's Maps and Destination Moley
9x14cm, Pen, ink and neo ii

Moley Exchange - Maps and Destinations
Lindsay's Maps and Destination Moley
9x14cm, Pen, ink and neo ii

Moley Exchange - Maps and Destinations
Lindsay's Maps and Destination Moley
9x14cm, Pen, ink and neo ii

Moley Exchange - Maps and Destinations
Lindsay's Maps and Destination Moley
9x14cm, Pen, ink and neo ii

Monday, 24 November 2008

And I've been too late... again

... hach... I thought I was doing rather well with my planning for next year. I had sent an email early last week to book a place on a painting course with David Tress. Not only that gloriously abstract landscape mixed media oil fest to look forward to. But up in the far North West. In Assynt in early autumn. Yummy. I haven't been there for far too long. So that combination would have been wonderful.

But: no luck, again, the course is booked up. I've made it to the top of the waiting list (and may be in luck in 2010), but that is just too little consolation.

Similarly too slow was I with this week's music fest. Two fabulous choices - for Wednesday and Friday; Friday was preferred, but when it was finally clear that I couldn't go because of work I searched for tickets for Wednesday. None left!

So, here's a bit of what I'll miss on Wednesday; well displeased...

As you see, I., Henry Lee made it here, rather than into your inbox.

Have a look at David Tress's website for what I'll be missing next September.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

What do YOU do with a (horizon) line?

One of the ways I've begun to use some of my artsy stuff with my social sciencey stuff is to do with research methods... being more creative (!) with them: e.g. some participatory research with young people on labour market experiences; some narrative biographical interview training and some more experimental focus groups methods.

See Horizon #1
See Horizon #1
Soft pastel on board, 15x10cm

Let's turn this round, and do some 'research' with this blog. I've been circling around the (horizon) line. It's potential to separate, hold together, hold in tension, be (not) there, to enframe or open up. The previous experimentations in pastel have provided some interesting insights.

And, then I wonder: while some of you have commented on the horizon line, I could do a bit of participatory blogging on this. So: here's a few questions:

1. What importance do lines have in your work?
2. A horizon: to be ignored, explored? Thought about? Forgotten?
3. Technique - paint it in, out, around. Not really bother with it?
4. Separation/tension/togetherness: what role does a (horizon) line play in this?
In addition, maybe any comments on media you prefer, thoughts on abstraction and the like...

As you can see, I don't really do survey research: a narrative interview is what I'm most comfortable with; so, please, take the above as pointers rather than a fixed order.

Either reply as comment, but also - my email is in the sidebar; if you fancy, please attach a piece of your work to illustrate. I would like to discuss other people's thoughts/approaches to the above in here.


Saturday, 22 November 2008

... the abstraction to be filled (?)

Ok... more to follow from the previous one: That is difficult - not to read Rothko's Black on Grey paintings as horizon line. But I'm trying - and the painting is all the better for it. Brian had commented on abstraction as the barest hint at something, to be filled in. Let me fill that thought a bit further - or take it elsewhere.


I played a little game last Saturday. Took Tom to the corridor where my small studies were lined up and asked him what he thought. What he thought about the colours? He walks up and down, forward and backward. Then goes: 'I really like that field of bluebells. How wonderful.'

I grinned. It's water, all water, nothing but water. No bluebells. But suddenly there was a depression, a field of bluebells and a bit of woodlands in the distance on the left hand.

Seascape study #2
Seascape Study #2 or some bluebells?
Pastel on board, 18x12cm

Irene joins us. Listens to my complications on what I am trying to do, listens to Tom's representations of what he sees. And talks about colour fields.

Now, I've never seen any of her paintings. She doesn't show them. In the four years I've been to her classes I haven't seen her do a single piece of art. And somehow I really value that. It's hers, it's private. It's not for showing. I don't think that Tom or Chris who've been there a lot longer than me have ever seen any of her paintings. I know she paints abstract, large canvasses, with palette knives, several paintings at once, and some bits more. But that's it. That's all I need to know.

But back to the abstraction.

One of my pieces last year was based on the textures and marks on the wall... originally titled Textured Wall marks #1 and #2, both of them sold; one to a friend. And her family suddenly discovered a little girl in a white dress in my wall marks. First I was chuffed, how nice: I can paint people unintentionally. But then it losts its appeal. That little girl was all I could see. EVERY SINGLE TIME. How irritating. That favourite red/white spot of colour in the painting had become something concrete other than a red/white spot of pigment.

Textured walls no 1
Textured Wall #1
Soft pastel on board, 50x70cm

Luckily, she disappeared after a while again. Phew...

The field of bluebells and the little girl in a white dress make me both doubtful that I should be intent on filling those blanks, gaps, voids and hesitations in. And it's those moments that I'm very glad to have Irene there to pull the looking/seeing back to fields of colours.

So, no, Rothko most definitely NOT paints horizon lines. I am pretty certain of that.... I think.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Paintings I like - without a horizon

Mark Rothko, Untitled 1969
Acrylic on canvas, 234x200cm
Collection of Christopher Rothko

Mark Rothko's work has a similar effect on me as Joan Eardley's. It just swallows me up... gulp... I'm gone. The paintings are left.

It's quietly sombre contemplative. The scale and the colour are just all that is there. I had been looking forward to the Tate Exhibition and kept wandering through the rooms, back and forth. The scale of paintings, the different series - 15 or so of the Seagram Murals in one room; the Black form paintings, Brown on Grey and Black on Grey. Fabulous.

There were two comments that stuck.

One was a conversation I overheard in the room with the black on black series: such variety in black (red, brown, green and blue ones; opaque, transclucent, matt, shiney). An elderly couple sat next to me. Her emotional response to the black was straightforward: "He must have been such a sad person." And she was clearly distraught by all the black she saw.

That's it. Enough said. You see, you read, you associate painting=painter.

Have a look at the series in question for yourself. The Tate has the exhibition online... here is the link to the Black Form Paintings

Similar to the Twombly exhibition, I had taken an audio guide - actually much more: a nice touch screen, music, stories, additional images. Very nicely done! And not in this room but in a later room, the curator commented on Rothko's association with the Abstract Expressionists. He, the curator was doubtful, commenting along the lines that while Rothko intended and experimented intensely with the evocation of emotional responses by the viewers of his paintings, the paintings themselves don't tell us all that much about Rothko the person, they are thus not particularly expressive/expressionist.

Interesting thought. I'll keep that.

The other one was the commentary on the last series: Black on Grey. In various sizes, formats, different borders surrounding them.

Instruction #1 for that room: This is not a horizon line. Don't read it as such.

Mark Rothko, Untitled 1969
Acrylic on canvas, 206x236cm
Collection of Kate Rothko Prizel

And here is the Black on Grey room

That is difficult - not to read it as horizon line. But I'm trying - and the painting is all the better for it. Brian had commented on abstraction as the barest hint at something, to be filled in. Let me fill that thought a bit further - or take it elsewhere.

  • The whole exhibiton is online with a lot of additional material. See the link here
  • Casey over at the Colorist has a lot good things to say about Rothko too

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

In darkness

I want a daylight lamp - or at least light bulb! It's too dark for my pastels, and any photoshopping to compensate just ends up with wonky hues.

I did some slightly larger experiments with that horizon wilderness. Figured that I'd need to wait for daylight for any photos, figured that I still had some photos on my camera from earlier, figured that they are about work, well: the way to work. Thought of Steph's Penshaw Monument, how it sits solidly against the sky; thought how that burnt out building next to work now sits solidly against the sky - bought up by developers to be turned into luxury flats, it was awaiting development. It burnt down instead. Spectactularly, a week ago tonight. Now I walk past it every day to work. I think I need to take my sketchbook along soon, at least. Maybe even a block of lino?

God.... a long line of wonky thoughts and it's only halfway through the week...

But: here's some images. A bit of music too - that's work-related too, but more in a roundabout, tangential way.

Pastel wilderness tomorrow, the day after or the day after the day after.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Hilltop or the ocean

I find that the process of photographing pieces is always a useful one. In it's deceptive objectification the photo allows me to step a foot away from the piece - as if time has passed between painting and a new looking at it.

So, with the ACEOs something struck me. And it was again the line that kept me looking at it - the horizon line. And I wondered what the difference was between a hilltop against the sky or the line where the sea meets the horizon. And I remembered how Twombly's Poems to the Sea all have a ruler-drawn horizon line - the only straight line, the same throughout all 24 poems.

Where the sky meets the sea - the line - where it all happens - the Wild.

Then I played some more with the wild line in the distance: masked off the lower part of the board and painted in the sky. Played with the way the pigments come up, close to the line, touch it, or not quite.

Hilltops, oceanlines or fields of colour. Here are three more (seeing that I already sold two... thank you, P.!) for the Etsy shop:

See Study ACEO #6
See Study ACEO #6
Soft pastel on board, 8.9x6.4cm

See Study ACEO #7
See Study ACEO #7
Soft pastel on board, 8.9x6.4cm

See Study ACEO #8
See Study ACEO #8
Soft pastel on board, 8.9x6.4cm

A throw of the dice for Dora Maar

While in Berlin I indeed - again - did not make it to the Bruecke Museum. But: I made it here:

The Klee Universe at the Neue Nationalgallerie

After the exhibition - which indeed was a universe (250+ paintings on which more later) - I had a coffee in the cafe. Sat there and marvelled at the vibrancy of the German educated middle classes on a November Tuesday early afternoon, and at the successes of the tourism industry in metropolitan Berlin... 12 Euros for the ticket, the 5 Euros for the audio guide I refused. But: I didn't have to pay for the cloakroom (!); yet on that count had a bit of a run in with one of the doormen who refused my bag entrance. Even my arguments that I saw plenty of bigger bags in the exhibition didn't count (probably because those bags were several hundred Euros dearer than mine).

So, while I sat there and watched, I noticed the posters on the wall. Looked up and saw Dora with her green fingernails watching the ongoings too. How cool. What a surprise. She was advertising the exhibition at Museum Berggruen that M. and I had visited in July. I hadn't even noticed that she was on the poster before.

Na, anyways, I eat a bit more of my quiche and keep watching. And then I notice another exhibition advert: Un coup de dès - writing turned image - an exhibition in Vienna.

A throw of the dice for Dora Maar. I wonder what she'd made of the ever-presence of chance. On that wall, amongst a few exhibition posters.

Un coup de des pour Dora Maar
Un coup de dès pour Dora Maar
Pen and neo ii on Moleskine

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Smaller still

Ok... some more studying. Using smoother paper for the smaller scale, I tried to see how much I can simplify/strengthen the composition on the small ACEO scale - 8.9x6.4cm. A bit of a challenge for the large Townsend Terrage stick that is my cobalt blue. But very good fun. I also played with the titling - rather than sea studies, they are now see studies (as in look/see, but also the German for sea).

Have a look at the see studies:

See Studies #1

See Studies #1
ACEO, pastel on board

See Studies #2
See Studies #2
ACEO, pastel on board

See Studies #3
See Studies #3
ACEO, pastel on board

And seeing that I'm determined (or at least intent) to cross-fund my end of year present-buying habit with some sales in turn, these are now available in my Etsy shop [] :)

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Seascape in Earth

Some of the pastel studies [from here] have already found their way into large print, eh: scale.

Seascape in earth WIP
Seascape in earth WIP
Pastel on board, 70x50cm

This one intrigued me for the burnt orange/cobalt blue. The colour field inbetween was struggling to hold the strong hues together. But nonetheless, I liked the lime green/earth pigment in the sea a lot.

The small 15x10cm format is always a tricky one I find. I like its challenge to work something out so small, but for many compositions that simply doesn't work for me: so, while several of the small studies have some beauty in them somewhere, they do so precisely because of their flaws.

Now: a seascape in earth colour/green and orange. In some way it gets me around the earlier posed concerns about landscapisms: the obvious enframing, reading as something specific. The walking, running, stumbling between abstraction and representation, and back and forward again.

Seascape in earth WIP (Detail)
Seascape in earth WIP (Detail)
Pastel on board, 70x50cm

The pastels as medium took me one step beyond my struggles over perspectives, marks, lines, textures and palettes. There's something awfully complex about the sea, water, reflection and movement.

I reckon that part of that complexity is also unfamiliarity? I'm not too sure about that - while I also think that being unfamiliar with 'stuff' is usually quite helpful, it seems to be standing in my way. It does so in a manner that the fields from earlier this year didn't do. Well: there is probably nowhere in world I have spent more time, been more often over more than 20 years than those fields. So: they are known, familiar, saturated with stuff: experiences - some better forgotten than others.

Does that make it easier to represent them? Push them onto a canvas, turn them into something else in that process? Something that is outwith my biographical past?

I am in two (or five?) minds about that.
Well: seeing Rothko in London made me think about abstract expressionism - expressive of the artist, or precisely not! - a bit more... to be followed up later.

So... from all that experiental expressive experimental struggling, just going with fields of colours, and doing so in ways that don't read obviously as water was just what was required. And it was good and harmless fun. I made use of Brian's experiment of using water for diluting pastel on the board [thank you!]. Well: the board I used was one I had prepared quite some time back - it was a glorious lemon yellow with plenty of splattered acrylics on top. To mute some of the underpainting (and not to have to use too much pastel rubbed into the uneven surface), I used a wet brush. It flattened the pigment, turned it opaque. And: mysteriously and fortuitiously, took on the resemblance of water (how lucky is that??); I also found that my priming with pumice powder, and the resulting brush marks work rather well for the seascape.

So: a cop out on several levels - not building up by use of lines but again by fields of colours; no limited palette - but that's ok, that's for later. Let's stick with this for a wee while.

Seascape in earth WIP (Detail)
Seascape in earth WIP (Detail)
Pastel on board, 70x50cm

Passing impasse

Rather than pulling together the various bits and pieces from London and Berlin, let's start with a bit of seascape studies. Well: I've been studying marks, lines, palettes over the past few weeks, wanted to get somewhere in oil, didn't get anywhere in oil and decide to take a few steps sideways today.

So, rather than attacking more cartridge paper in search for the perfect marks of waves, shorelines etc., I took my pastels along. They are the ultimate comfort blanket. I KNOW them, know what they do and trust them to take me somewhere good. If the lines and marks weren't forthcoming, I figured I could go via colour - not mixed colour but straight pigment in stick form. Pick and choose and feel my way along to the stuff that doesn't know, keeps nagging and teasing and still remains elusive.

I know too that patience and hesitation is part of it all - and despite claims to the contrary I do have plenty of those. So, in many ways I didn't mind the experiments that don't seem to make anything clearer - I am sure that they get rembered somewhere, maybe not somewhere obvious but those lines and marks and textures can find some use.

Anyway: enough talking. Here are some studies. Guess what: I call them seascapes. It's kind of the intention if not the outcome. So, currently, I am in favour of the earth-coloured ones. I've begun to upscale them too. That's the next post.

Seascape study 1
Seascape study 1
pastel on board, 15x10cm

Seascape study 2
Seascape study 2
pastel on board, 15x10cm

Seascape study 3
Seascape study 3
pastel on board, 15x10cm

Seascape study 5
Seascape study 5
pastel on board, 15x10cm

Friday, 14 November 2008

While I am gathering my thoughts

... a bit of live retro

and some less retro... but another anderson, kenny this time

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

And the plan involves...

some of this tomorrow:

Mark Rothko: The Late Series Exhibition at the Tate Modern


Uploaded by halighalie on 29 Jun 07, 9.57PM GMT.

Can't wait... an afternoon with Rothko. And I need to sit on that bench again which allows you to look at Pollock, Rothko and Monet all at once. What a marvellous little seat that is [here].

Plan 2 doesn't really count: this has been on my list of 'Things to do when in Berlin' for years... somehow that list always shrinks into 'meeting people', but nonetheless, I'll try again.

Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner - Print graphics in colour
Exhibition, Bruecke Museum Berlin

One of E-L Kirchner's woodcuts made it on the cover of my printmaking journal. So, as an intro to some discussion on organising the writing around the printmaking course, here's the cover for starters. And I'll tell you in ten days whether or not I made it to the museum this time round.

Well... a woodcut by Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner,
any details: currently in transit to my tutor

Monday, 3 November 2008

One for the road

... not quite yet, but soon... (36 hrs and counting) so while my radio is playing the Killers live at Royal Albert Hall, I am in eager Vorfreude and am thinking of

This one on the train between Wolfsburg and Berlin (well: that's usually on the way back TO the airport ;)) :

Always good.

Tried and tested as part of R. and my road movie soundtrack is some more. But: this definitely works better along the Scottish West Coast than in rural Shropshire.

Groups, heh...

I've been turning these thoughts around for a while... but some of it has become much clearer also since some of our attempts at figuring out a venue for the next exhibition are back in.

In short, we were looking for somewhere more established, a gallery/exhibition space where people go to look at (and buy art). Which kind of throws up all sorts of question of what we as group are trying to do. So, who are we??? Who do we want to be? Who do we not want to be???

I've been doing a lot of different group stuff for years: socially, politically and work-wise. E.g., a lot of my academic writing is co-authored. Often with different people too, and much of that I see as a 'why not try it out?' kind of endeavour: stuff could work really well, or alternatively it could be something where afterwards I would go out of my way never to repeat that experience. And, for the good things that come out of it once in a while, it seems all pretty worthwhile; in the process I forget about the growing list of 'things not to be repeated again'.

Thinking about it, my gut feeling of what stuff is likely to work and what isn't is really pretty good; so, some of the rubbish I end up with is often the stuff I for one reason or another can't get out of, and it rarely comes as a surprise...

So, when we went looking for gallery space, Tom and I had some discussions in the car of what we'd say who we were etc; making a pitch somewhere between art group, community stuff, evening class (no, not really), with some of our postcards and flyers. They were fun discussions. Of all our work, Tom and mine are probably furthest apart style/process-wise. His 1950s Bauhaus design training and my fairly anarchic muddle it all up, think about it, undo again approach make for some cool juxtapositions. Also, with almost two generations between us, there's a lot of difference in how we communicate and approach things. But to me that is part of the appeal of 'our' group.

Well, the result of our reckie was: you submit a proposal (yes, we thought that) and if they accept it, it's a three year waiting list. Bummer. Three years! We thought of maybe 18 months and could have probably coped with that. But three years?? I think individually, we could cope with that too. Fair enough: you do this now, do other things inbetween and then three years are up at some point - in fact, that's not so different to a lot of academic publishing - three years from submission to print is fairly usual for my (often rejected) articles, so: nothing new.

But as a group project for a group which exists rather loosely, that doesn't look feasible.

Exhibition Opening

In fact, since the exhibition in June, the group dynamics have entirely changed. I knew and experienced how my own feelings towards Saturday mornings were thrown up all in the air; at points I was sure I would never go again because of the difficulties of getting stuff organised together. When I wrote a post with the title 'The things we do are the things that matter', it was part relief, part disbelief at all the panic thrown into a single morning to undo all the stuff one was working for (and I was pleased with my subtle titling). But strange things happened and neither Chris nor S-J are currently there. Probably not surprisingly, but the absence has had some profound effects on how Saturday mornings now unfold. Other people are becoming more and more visible.

So, last Saturday, E., Irene and I were sitting in the corridor, discussing E.'s most recent piece: it's the view out of the window and it's the first one E. does not do from photos. She works with a palette knife, patiently she builds up layer upon layer in oils, often earth coloured, with subtle changes in hue, temperament and mood. Every single one I've seen her doing over the past few years fascinated me: it's a very quiet, steady and calm way of working. So, her window view of Glasgow rooftops is very cool.

And there she sits and looks at my recent seascape mess (yet another attempt at marks on scrappy cartridge paper which makes the paper dissolve - yes - I DO know that the paper is too thin for what I'm trying to do, but I'll try nonetheless....) and marvels how dynamic it is, how she wished she would be able to do that. SNAP. Ditto: I loved to be able to work so calm and quietly. But I can't. But putting all these pieces together, they speak together. They are our Saturday mornings, the time spent over coffee, tea and biscuits, a waft of turps, too little space, too poor lighting, a bit of carrying stuff around, catching a quick glimpse at something out of the corner of one's eye and much more. That's how they belong together.

And on that basis, we'll be doing a bit more investigation at where to go... fairly soon, not in three years ;)