Saturday thoughts: black, white, grey, erasure, rebuilding, remembering

I’m in the middle of doing a large charcoal and chalk drawing on black pastel paper. I’ve always had a penchant for working on black surfaces. During my MA I projected videos onto black perspex, lay thick printing inks onto black watercolour when I made monoprints.


I attended an Arvon writing residency about arts writing and we were invited to choose an image to write about in first person. I chose this:

ellsworth-kelly-ek-319-daros

and wrote this:

ELLSWORTH KELLY 1963
WHITE OVER BLACK
I am the shadow underneath
Hosted on black, barely visible
Where white drapes over me, I gain attention
You will notice white more too
When I lurk below it
Even the black cannot deny me
When white reveals me
Without my subtlety
Their boldness would go unnoticed
They would be flat dull and lifeless
I am the space between
I give the illusion of space
I am their breathe

My first ever website was called “Grey Matters” and had a drawing of a human brain as it’s main image. I’ve always enjoyed exploring liminal places, and spaces, and thoughts.


I married a man named Black


I wear black



I have always had black and white pets!


I just looked for some of my old work in my portfolio and found these old friends. After all these years I can see a connection in my artwork. Landscape. Virtuality. Space. Trees.

Worked in many mediums, woodcuts, lino cuts, etchings, ink washes, charcoal, photography, projected shed snake skins (yes, that’s my self portrait!)

So here they are, a blast from my past, and a work in progress now…..(click each for full size)

 


work in progress today:

pond series - work in progress 190119
charcoal and chalk pastel on black pastel paper 1 metre wide

blogpost about community art centres and Prema

I wrote this on my Flow Contemporary Arts website and today it is pertinent to share here. I’m exhibiting at Prema, so a bit of backstory may be useful to readers. You can read the whole article here.

Or here’s a  an extract:

Below is a long list of my relationship with Prema (dates are approximate, my memory fails me a little):

1987 I took my kids to family arts workshops on Saturday mornings at Prema. Also went to see performances, music etc

1988 first went to a life drawing class there – the tutor told me I was good and should go to art college. With a 3yr old and a 1yr old, I just laughed

1989 I started my art foundation at UWE, same day my youngest started school.

1990 I started by degree at UWE. I also taught workshops and Saturday clubs for kids. One of the little ones I taught is now my graphic designer, Nic Bennet.

1992 2nd year students at UWE had a show there called 2/3rds Through

prema

(image was my work!)

1993/4 (can’t remember) had a show at Prema – the rest is history…..

Future years – I did some marketing for them; I attended lots of stunning performances by new physical theatre groups. I used the dark room.

Around 2005 I attended  ‘Can’t Sing to Save your Life’ course – I’d always wanted to sing but was terribly shy. I LOVED it and have been in many choirs since. I think it helped me lose my shyness too (no comments, thank you). Yesterday I saw Lizzie, the singing tutor for the first time since then – and told her that one of the songs she taught me gave me the strength to leave my failing marriage of 30 years…..wow, it was so good to tell her that.

And there we were, in the same room, discussing leadership, ABCD and how important the arts are to our lives and how we need to celebrate that. In the morning I had attended a funding workshop aimed at informing charities how to seek funding – how to fill their deficits. And in the afternoon I was in a place, Prema, that had constantly fed my not-enough until I was brimming with delight at what I HAVE. And much of that came from Prema – an organisation that is not self-serving –  it supports the community in which it resides. And when I say community I mean both arts community AND local community. Prema has grown and changed over time, but what it has consistently done is meet the needs of its users. It puts people at the forefront of its thinking through good management and exemplary leadership. It feels like a home, not just for me, but for everyone that goes there.

There was a lot of talk about community in the room, kindness, wholeheartedness, all somewhat gushy compared to the hard-nosed economic business model we are being levered into. We are artists. We are emotional and we care. Those are our assets and we must learn to use it and refuse to be constantly trying to prove our economic viability.

We have social assets, and are brimming with them. Prema proves that.

 

 

 

free-writing from May 2018 about the Severn Bore

 

Arrival

Standing, I take one panning video of the river, left to right

Then sit at eye level with brambles, restricting my view

Like being in a cheap seat

At the theatre

Listening

Sounds of the Severn, small dancing waves

Running, apparently  towards the sea

But not for long

Pigeons coo, sparrows twitter their replies

Witnessing

A blister of waves bursts over the sandbank

Exposed to bright light

Sun glare blinding.

Hard to look

Retinas narrow to focus, see the distant

Church spire in Westbury, like a sharp needle

Piercing the skyline

Bright green grass on the other bank

Low clouds forming, chilly wind rising

Twinkling sparkling

Water on sand spits

Distance

The boats at Bullo, masts leaning

Distant dark shapes, sitting solid on sand

A seal? A surfer? A lump of wood?

A body?

A pool of water catches my eye on the bend

A wave? No, the riverbed is still dry near Awre

No incoming tide

Yet

Light

Lights on lights off

Clouds filter the sun – a sole surfer glides past

Sitting, he rides the river flow, to later return

On the cusp of the bore?

Colour

To the left the sandspit looks burnt umber now

With a chrome white line of foam

Defining it against the steely cold water

Then the sun blooms, the ochre colours break through mirrored

By wet sand pools

Patterns

To the right, the riverbed is like a sandy beach

Shadows of clouds drawing bar codes across it

My eyes scan it, while my ears register

The water getting louder

The black lump is still down there near bullo

The wind whips the water up

The bushes quiver towards the sea

Three more surfers enter

Surfers

From the opposite bank, two surfers carry boards

On their heads, the walk together

The other grips his tightly

Under his arm

Filming

Standing, I notice there are a couple of people on opposite bank

And the sandbank below the river bank at Newnham has wonderful ripples in it,

Each tiny crevice highlighted by the sun as it rises

The pigeons coo

There’s another black lump in the distance to the left of me

I keep glancing to my right

Checking out the bend where the bore

Will appear

Waiting

Nothing yet, on the left

A single duck naively (or knowingly)

Glides on the rivertide

The cliff ducks are wiser

They hangout behind the undercliff below Ruddle

Listen and watch when the wave approaches

As they fly out from behind the bushes

Quacking and flapping

If they don’t rise fast they run the risk

Of being battered against the cliff

Recent rockfall has left spliced slabs of red clay and tea green marl

Evidence of climate change

The ducks have learnt to survive

We have not done so well

Time

Is trapped here in stone

Breaking up in front of me

Rocks like squashed sandwiches

Compressed in a lunch bag

Separating them, I notice

Each layer is different

More waiting

Most the surfers are now out of sight, probably behind the cliff

With the ducks

The sun on my face is soothing

The clock chimes nine

The bore timetable lists the bore arrival as nine-o-seven

Time to pour my coffee

Time, it’s all about time

Waiting, passing

Dandelion clocks witness my flask

As it performs as a sundial

My body does too

The sun locates me in the world

On the ground, in the air, by this river

Two more surfers arrive

Lateness

Are they late, or the others early?

Or misinformed?

Another surfer arrives, whose board looks bigger than the others

It has a fin on it

He walks with a swagger

Still no wave

A tardy bore

Two more surfers come along

The first throws down his board

And runs back to the bank

He’s fetched another!

He leaves the first one, its blue, on the sand

He drags a golden board along and joins the other

Surfers gathered on the opposite bank

A white line is forming near the bend

On the west side

Four more surfers arrive, three with boards, one empty handed

The fourth lifts the blue one up under his arm

It looks heavy and hard to carry

Imminence

The white breaker edge has dissipated

The body of water is holding the shore behind the cliff

Out of sight

Four more surfers enter the shallow river, sitting on boards

Soon the wave will whip out from behind the cliff

There are no ducks

Yet

Arrival

As the wave gets closer I abandon my keyboard and stand to video

As I film, a skein of ducks flies out from behind the cliff

So predictable

Several surfers stand up, and stay up, for a while, all whooping and howling

The wild side of life let loose

My smile widens

The joyous relationship between humans and water never fails to delight

Afterswell

To surf safely you need to know and understand the river

It’s a social and cultural experience

As I film, my neighbour arrives (you may spot her ducking from the camera!)

As we talk, both keeping one eye on the tide, neither of us apologises when, intermittently, one points and comments on the waters progress

Our meeting here is incidental, our sole purpose is to see the bore

As the spectacle passes us by, the surfers tumble off one by one, then clamber out onto the banks on both sides

She points to the spire and tells me she was brought up by the river

Her mum worked at the thermometer factory in Newnham

A friend of theirs drowned in the river

Her mother used to sit by the river with colleagues as a young girl, having their lunchbreak

The river keeps flowing by

Getting deeper and deeper

All is well

As it always has been

IMG_1474.JPG

The Severn Bore on Christmas Day, Rudolph, Santa and Brexit too!

On the morning of Christmas Eve, she wandered down to the bank of the Severn to watch the bore as it formed on the bend between Awre and Arlingham. A fire was burning in the centre of the river, nearby a row of surfers stood to attention, clasping their boards, like herons waiting for their supper.

She had seen this sight many times before, but today was special, as she had the bank to herself. Most people only turn out to see four-star waves, the timetable for Christmas Eve was a humble two-star. As she so often did, she filmed the event on her mobile phone and posted it onto YouTube.

When the wave arrived there were eight or nine surfers riding it, by the time it had passed all but one had fallen off, whooping and yelping as they did so. One man left standing, silhouetted against a soft dawn sky as this busy day began.

Maybe it was one-star after all.

Christmas Eve is family time, with visitors, friends and lovers. By bedtime she went off to sleep quite quickly, but later was woken by a strange dream. One of those dreams that plays on one’s fears, when current affairs and children’s stories become peppered with time and space, creating strange collisions and collusions. In her dream, there were drones flying in the sky, trying to attack Santa and the reindeer. The reindeer fled and a woman tried to call them back, singing kulning songs. But they didn’t respond to her yearning call and Santa fell from the sky with a bump. He tried to get a back-up team of helpers, but because of Brexit, none could get their visa’s in time. Many had passport problems too, because travelling around had been pretty easy prior to the UK splitting from the EU. It was chaos and no-one seemed to be able to help.

She woke with a start, feeling very disturbed. She looked at her clock, it was 3.a.m. Children all over the country would wake up soon and find nothing. She turned to Twitter to see if there were any reports about drones. There’d been a few sightings, of both drones and Santa, but it’s hard to believe social media. Yet only days ago Gatwick Airport had been grounded and lots of travel disrupted because they thought drones were there. Which means even if the drone part about Santa’s story was only a dream, it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t cause chaos. Fake news can gain as much attention as real news these days.

Comforted by the fact that it was unlikely to be true, she rolled over and went back to sleep.

Christmas morning! She raced down the stairs, put the kettle on, grabbed boots, scarf, coat and gloves, made tea and rushed out the door. Another two-star bore predicted but she needed to be reassured that the world had not gone badly wrong. She was early, and she stood in the wonderful silence of the dawn, a still, dull day. The ducks flew over her head, reminding her of the drone. She recalled that when she edited her video yesterday, she saw there was a drone in the footage, one she had not spotted in her viewfinder while filming. She shuddered as she recalled her dream of drones and Brexit.

With no-one to watch her, she decided to try kulning. She had often thought of doing this to call the bore in, but that seemed a bit silly. But here, now, she could try and call the reindeer in. She found a firm area of mud, one the surfers used to climb in and out of the riverbed, and waded and squelched to centre-river. There she stood, facing south. She took a deep breath and called…..ah ho kee, keee-oh-hoo-hoo, ah ho hee hoo, hee-oooooo-he-hoo….

Nothing happened. The riverbed remained dry in the centre, the waters flowed gently in both directions. Her heart sank, as did her feet, no reindeer, no bore.  She was covered in mud.

As she climbed out onto the bank she felt very sad. Maybe she got the time wrong? She checked her watch and yes, she had! It wasn’t due for another half hour! Typical! She decided to nip home and refresh her cup of tea and change her boots, as they were very sticky with river silt.

By the time she returned there were flames again on the sand spit and about five or six surfers. One was dressed as Santa, which always made her smile. As she set up her camera, she spotted lots of debris trapped around the timber frame of the old ferry crossing. Old pallets bobbed about, bumping into each other. Could they be the very same pallets from the sleigh that carried the presents? It was a brown grey day with very little colour, so the splash of red bobbing in the water caught her eye as she zoomed in. A big red plastic bucket, the kind that would hold reindeer food! She was back in her dream and anxiously looked up into the sky. No drones today. Phew.

She heard the bore approaching and wondered, with a wry smile, whether it had heard her singing. She turned her video on and tracked the wave as it passed, dropping off surfers as it did so – no good rides today. As she filmed, she captured the pallets and the buckets, hoping to seem them washed away. Large branches rushed past on the ride, not unlike antlers. She shuddered again. She decided that when she got home to edit, she would examine the footage for drones.

She attached all the cables and went to export the footage. Oh no! She had one still picture, that was all. She had not worn her glasses and had pressed the wrong button. She had no evidence to her story, no Santa, no bucket or pallets.

So she wrote this story instead, to record just how much life can get in the way of imagination, but can also add to it too. Did she really sing in the river?  Was there really a red bucket belonging to Rudolph in the river? Were those actually broken bits of Santa’s sleigh?

Who knows, but what we can be reassured of, is children everywhere today will enjoy their presents and hopefully, if the nightmare was not true, then Brexit won’t happen either. Ever.

Happy New Year!

(with homage to “T’was the night before Christmas” By Clement Clarke Moore)

IMG_0541 2

 

 

 

Pointlessness

I’ve never come to grips

With why the BBC

Called a TV game

Pointless

It is simply depressing

Let’s get real

If someone elects

To turn their TV on

Before the evening news

It is most likely

That they feel

That life is already

Pointless

And, maybe

That watching the news

Will flip them back into reality

But sadly

Brexit gives neither consolation

Or reality

It too

Is Pointless

Scoring is futile

Sneak preview of 360 degree images of the Wye at Brockweir – stunning place, quirky perspectives! Includes Moravian Church

Severnside – An Artist’s View Of The River Severn (and approaching the Wye now too!)

Artist Carolyn Black has written, and drawn, a new book all about the River Severn, alongside various exhibitions of drawings and prints in the Gloucestershire area.

She moved to the South West, in the early eighties and lived near the East bank of the Severn, moving to the Forest of Dean in 2006. Throughout those years she has spent many hours contemplating the wonders of the tides and the places on the riverside. Severnside: An Artist’s View Of The Severn’, is a travelogue with a difference. It contains many of the drawings, which serve as markers along a circular road trip that begins, and ends, at The Old Severn Bridge. This is her first publication and is being published under the imprint of art.earth. The result is a book packed with stories, history, drawings and tall tales. It is both factual and playful and even a little bit opinionated. Having fallen in love with the Forest she now plans to go further up and work in response to the Wye.

An exhibition of recent work about the wye in Brockweir, alongside some Severn images too, will launch at Brockweir & Hewelsfield Village Shop at 6.30pm on Friday 14th December. Books will be available in the shop there and popping up at Longhope Bakery and other places over Christmas.

Another exhibition will be put up in 2019 at Prema Art Centre – crossing the river is important, and cheaper without the tolls.

12 days of Severnside – a song for Christmas, an anti-plastic festive song

As I peeped out to make sure the Severn was flowing by as it should be today, as it does every day, I considered how much time I spend down on its banks. Counting days. Taking photos, writing, dreaming, watching the bore. And what I had seen come in on the tide as I watch it.

I was also considering how every public space is filling up with Christmas festivity and songs. The hard sell is arriving as sharply as the freezing frosts. And how I am selling my new book Severnside: An Artist’s View Of The River Severn as Christmas presents, taking me a bit out of my comfort zone.

The Severn has always provided a place for me to retreat to, to avoid the everyday hustle and bustle and looking at screens. I’m in a local choir (but having a break now while sorting out the book) and love singing songs about the River Severn. I am also acutely aware that in my book there is only ONE word that raised questions from proof readers. An angry word, a foul word, used to refer to the plastic that is constantly washed in on the tide. And, in my usual playful way, I began to write a song in my head. In all fairness, not writing a song, but changing the words of a familiar one we all know. So here it is:

The 12 Days of Severnside Song

On the 1st day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
A branch from a very small tree

On the 2nd day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 3rd day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 4th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 5th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 6th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 7th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Seven dogs a-swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 8th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Eight sailors sailing
Seven dogs a swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 9th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Nine bottles bobbing
Eight sailors sailing
Seven dogs a swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 10th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Ten herons standing
Nine bottles bobbing
Eight sailors sailing
Seven dogs a swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 11th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Eleven elvers swimming
Ten herons standing
Nine bottles bobbing
Eight sailors sailing
Seven dogs a swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree

On the 12th day at Severnside
The tide brought in for me
Twelve months of wonder
Eleven elvers swimming
Ten herons standing
Nine bottles bobbing
Eight sailors sailing
Seven dogs a swimming
Six surfers surfing
Five plastic bags!
Four diving ducks
Three crab claws
Two bouncy balls
And a branch from a very small tree