Exploring

Garden design by Burle Marx

As spring progresses we have become more aware of the state of our new back garden and how much better it could be. A chance sighting of Brazilian designer Burle Marx's work on tv has been inspiring. Initially an artist he brought an artistic vision to his work as well as a committment to the place he was working, using native flora and style rather than harking back to a European tradition. What I particularly relished was his use of structure - in a way that was not formal ( a big eye-opener that has set my mind whirring!), rhythm, repetition and block planting to draw attention to the characteristics of one plant. I also enjoyed his focus on the character of a plant as a whole rather then being tightly focussed on flowers as so often happens in English gardens to rather ditzy effect.

Here are some pictures of his own garden that I found on the internet...

A certain kind of light

I am blessed here with a manageble number of good galleries and am making a renewed effort to get to each at least once a quarter to see whatever they are showing as a way of expanding my horizons. This weekend it was the turn of the Towner in Eastbourne. I knew that I had read the programme and thought it might be interesting but by the time a free afternoon became available I had no reccollection of what was on so it was a total suprise! The one that resonated most for me was 'A certain kind of light'.

The piece that has stayed with me most strongly is the Colour construction, 1960, by Peter Lanyon (the blue glass form in the first gallery installation view). I loved the layering and the shapes and the way he had used the qualities of the glass to do something new.

Raphael Hefti's work also had an intrguing process, using the chemicals within the plant to 'burn' an image directly onto the photographic paper, with intriguing results.

It was interesting to see the two larger installation pieces by Katie Peterson and Mark Garry, one so fun and un-gallery-like it made me laugh and then almost fall over with the way it disrupted my sense of balance (according to the lable it had something pretty clever to say about the cosmos but I didn't get my head around that side of it), whilst the latter was quiet, subtle and almost invisible from some angles but very pleasing for the way the tiny threads bounced and twisted around the space to make something more than the sum of its parts.

David Batchelor's piece had a Mexican approach to colour that also speaks of fun, and was certainly cheering in it's effect, but his use of waste plastic bottles in many colours and forms gave it significance.

Light is super-important to me, so such so that I hardly even think about it, so it was useful to see so many different approaches to it and think again about what it is, how it behaves, the impact it has on materials and on the viewer.

The show is on until May 7th 2017 if you want to catch it yourself.

Exploring: On being an artist, Michael Craig Martin

This year I am launching a new strand of blog posts, entitled 'Exploring'. They will be a very mixed bag, noting new discoveries in any and all fields of interest. I love finding interesting new things/places/ideas/people etc and look forward to sharing them with you.

I kick off with Michael Craig Martin's memoir/life lessons which was reccomended to me last autumn.

I found it a really interesting read, both as an overview of an artist I was not that familiar with and particularly for his insights into the practice of making art and maintaining a career as a working artist.

Two points stuck out strongly for me.

Chapter 4 "On being vulnerable to the world" called attention to a phenomena that I was vaguely aware of: that I seemed to notice & be impacted upon by the world around more than other people seem to be. This has been both positive and negative for me so his notion of vulnerability resonated.

"There is nothing that happens in an artist's life - whether good or bad, no matter how dramatically important or apparently trivial - that cannot be turned to effective use in their art. Any crummy part time job, any minor incident, any childhood memory. Other people can read a book for pleasure or enlightenment. An artist may read a book and it can alter the whole course of their life's work. Artists are unusually vulnerable to the worl this way. And they, in turn, use their work to seduce others into valuing what they value."

Chapter 59 lays out what he sees as the three stages of 20th century art, a series of phases radicalising the possible style, medium and then content of an art work. His career spanned the latter two and he argues persuasively of the need to be engaged with the 'burning question' of the day.

At that time, the nature of that 'burning question' was perhaps obvious. Thinking about how to engage now however it is not clear to me what the question of today - for art or for ceramics - actually is! Perhaps that is the engagement that is now needed?! How to engage and make work in a contemporary way when any style, material or content is already possible...