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

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

me on radio Gloucestershire yesterday, talking about binks, banks and little twizzles!

Yesterday (19/11/18) I had a conversation with David Smith on BBC Radio Glos

Nicky Price Show
first section 0:20:50  to 0:26:10
second section 0:34:27 to 0:40:15
fave words that slipped out “bink bank” and “little twizzle”!
PS they have renamed BBC iRadio ‘sounds’ – that\s the tab you need – confusing or what?
to make it easier, I’ve put it up on Soundcloud too.
and this is the poem I struggle to describe!

A book, a body of large drawings & a new toy

It’s been an interesting couple of years. Since I first put charcoal to paper in January 2017 I have been on two journeys – one, the route of returning to practice, the other, driving and walking around in circles, in circles. Realising what has happened makes me feel a little bit dizzy!

From posting the first drawing on Facebook and asking friends what they thought, and getting an amazing response, I have gradually gone full circle myself, to that of being able to say ‘I am an artist’ again. I’ve gone from 180 degrees to 360 degrees, then back to the book which is 180 degrees. Like a breath – breath in, expand, and breath out again.

The 360 degree camera has given me a whole new way of seeing the world, and it’s challenging. I set off to learn about VR but disliked the need for headsets or panning on screen. I did, however, enjoy the making of images that have been distorted by the marble lens.

The book is the peak point of the Severn series of works, the texts flowed along next to them as they evolved. I only had 100 printed, they are all signed and numbered and make great present form those who love rivers, and/or the bore. There’s information about how to order books here.

Watch the circular walking films here   (they may be on the screens in Newnham Community Library during opening hours too).

You will also find some digital prints and an original charcoal drawing on display in the library. Check their Facebook page for opening hours.

Next up is the the Newnham Arts & crafts Fair over 3 days – 7th, 8th & 9th December, various hours, please check their Facebook page too.

And then it’s off to the Wye! I’m showing some works in Brockweir and Hewelsfield Shop/Cafe from the same weekend!! Different work, several new ones about Brockweir and the Wye, and a lovely shop which is a good model for our hopes for The George development (ReNewnham).

Another week begins – I love Monday mornings because I get to plan what comes next!

 

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Of church bells, towers & vertigo – 360-degree images from high above the River Severn

Earlier this year Andy Vivian very kindly took me up into the bell tower of St. Peter’s Church in Newnham. We were armed with my 360-degree camera which I controlled remotely. Those who know me well are aware that if I stand on a chair I get dizzy and wobbly, so going up into the tower was a feat and looking out of the window almost impossible for me. With support from Andy, I managed to position the camera precariously on a tripod to capture some stunning views.

I was fine on the level of the Carolan bells and took several photos of the view through the windows. But the real bell tower, where the enormous church bells are, is yet another storey up. My knees turned to jelly. No way could I do that. Climbing up the tight spiral staircase to the entry point was one thing, but climbing up through a hole in the floor, and balancing on beams, was unimaginable for me.

Andy kindly did that bit and positioned the camera in various locations with instructions from below, as I directed from my iPhone screen – “left a bit, turn it a bit, yes, perfect, now hide!”.

Viewing on the tiny phone screen, the image was not very clear, but when I uploaded them onto my computer –  wow – I was stunned! The views through the windows have a medieval timelessness to them. The river framed by wonderful architectural arches and the lichen and stonework revealed. The images of the big bells were something entirely unexpected.

The surprise was the playschool colour of the steel beams in the upper bell chamber. I was expecting bronze-y, dirty colours but BOOM! Bright red, yellow and green powder coated steel rang out loud and clear!

I’ve been working with the images the last few days, preparing some to put up in the Newnham Community Library. Seeing them together as a set makes me realise what a privilege it was, both to go up there and to have a 360 camera I can experiment with.

Library hours are limited, but if you are in the Armoury Hall for other reasons, do nip in and have a look at them on the wall. They are presented in 18cm square frames, black or white. I’ve a feeling they may be popular, and the exhibition will be up right through to Christmas, so I can take orders. Deadline for orders will be 1st December 2018 and dependant on availability of the frames.

There will be other works in the library, original, large, panoramic drawings and a few smaller prints.

And a show coming up in Brockweir Community Shop.

And my book Severnside: An Artist’s View Of The River Severn will be launched very soon.

Here’s a little preview of the church photographs, not great due to reflections but I never complain about sunshine!

fullsizeoutput_ae2IMG_0077

sunspots in my eyes, sunrise over the Severn

I’m on the banks of the Severn, just before sunrise. I know it’s coming very soon, as above the Cotswold skyline there is a small row of eight or nine clouds just above the horizon. They look like fragments of torn paper, maybe from a to-do list, all of similar width and height, separated by tiny bits of sky. They are up-lit by the sun below and as it rises it frames them with a subtle, red, glowing edge. Each piece becomes more vividly defined before the power of the sun overcomes my retina’s and the tiny clouds fade away in the glare.

I’m standing precisely opposite this imminent sunrise and the wildlife around the river is responding to it’s arrival too. Crows and gulls spiral above my head, calling, whilst on the watery stage characters enter from both left and right. On my left, a sole duck floats silently towards the centre of the stage, anticipating the arrival of it’s spotlight. It is a little early really, but that’s fine, it will learn.

On my right three ducks slip out from behind the cliff, chattering together.

Above my head, the world of business is approaching another Monday morning. Transatlantic planes fly toward the sun, European ones too, but lower in the sky. None of them are much more than tiny white arrows high above, leaving chalky tails in the pale blue sky. I wonder, when we have gone through Brexit, will this lessen? Will the sky become hauntingly quiet, as it did in 2010 when the volcanic Icelandic dust forced the closure of the UK airspace?

I think about M.C. Escher’s patterns of black and white birds. Today the sky is like that, the white ‘birds’ are planes, the black one’s are crows and gulls. The scale changes, as it does in his drawings, those flying lowest are closer, more vivid, those in the distance more abstract and vague. I recall Norman Ackroyd and Robert McFarlane discussing the white birds in Ackroyd’s paintings, on Radio 4 last week. How the little egret is now the whitest bird we see on our rivers. There are none here today, sadly. They will have flown off with the herons earlier, before the tide rolled in.

As I absorb all these activities, a circle of ripples appears in the water. A number of other concentric rings roll up out of the water, then disappear. They are moving closer to centre stage, they know that, very soon, the sun will rise in full glory. The lone duck is now joined by two other pairs, all moving determinedly towards the golden rippled area that is appearing on the surface of the water. The fish underwater do the same.

The shimmering lines of light come closer to me, creeping over the lapping tidal waves as the sea flows upriver, as it always does, on the Severn.

We reach the crescendo, the great ball of fire rises up and the ducks are silhouetted by its brightness, bobbing about on the highlights of the folds in the water. I stare in wonder at this red mass and take a deep breath – the day has begun. I turn away to walk home and see vibrant acid green sunspots peppering the ground. I watch them as I move back up to the path. As I walk up the street I notice they are now red blurs.

Eyes are amazing, complimentary colours vying for attention, just as the skyborn objects were, the fish in the water, the ducks on the waves.

All mere sunspots in my eyes.

 

 

 

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almond eyes short fiction 100 words

I sit on the shelf, a little bit smug because, unlike the human that made me, I carry all five of my children inside my rotund body – I get to carry them all my life.

My painter was a very good artist, he did us proud.

I enjoyed his gentle brushstrokes on my body when he worked on me. I love the duck egg blue scarf he gave me. He painted flowers on our tummies. We all have beautiful almond shaped eyes, once I overheard him say to his wife that our eyes were the same shape as hers.