Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul.”

Ursula Le Guin

I always think that when you start to look into the interaction between you, your mind, your thoughts and a book you enter fascinating territory.

I am no literary scholar, but I do honestly believe that no two people read the same book; and that often the book we end up reading isn't the one the author wrote or at least thought they wrote. Their intentions may have been crystal clear to them, but once those words collided with my mindset, experiences, preferences and prejudices, they may have taken on a whole other meaning and begun to tell a new or revised story.

I was recently reading an unpublished novel by a family member and realised that my reading of parts of it was quite feminist and female, and that some of the thoughts and actions just didn't gel because of my perspective. I'm sure he had no intention of writing something that evoked my response, but when the two came together, his words and my experiences, that was the story I read.

The last part of this quote also holds true I think - that as we read bits get added to us, get embedded into our brains, connect with previous experiences, make links and form new experiences or associations. We come away changed slightly, somewhere in our make-up, even if only a belief or emotion is re-enforced.

This is a detail of a book we came across in the New York Centre for the Book Arts. It is by Didier Mutel/Atelier LeBlanc and is called The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 1994, Ed. of 61, Loose signatures; letterpress and copper engravings, 11 x 14.9 inches.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The beginnng of something?

I often wonder at the way work progresses, how one thought links to another, connects to something else and well then, maybe you have something...

I'm not sure if these are the beginning of something or not.

A while back I helped an artist friend out by writing a couple of articles for her.  She generously offered me time in her studio in return, but I umm'd and ahh'd for quite a while as I just couldn't  put my finger on what I wanted to do.  She is a ceramicist and as I sat in her studio playing with my little fiddle bits, I watched in awe as she created these amazing figures out of lumps of clay.

Me, I just fiddled.

In my head I saw white scrolls.  I figured I could just sit and chat and roll scrolls without too much trouble, and I would write message of peace on them. I think I have seen some lovely scrolls by lots of people lately - Ken and Lesley spring to mind, and I really do like the form.

So I made some scrolls, and then made some more.  And I don't know what they will be in the future, whether they will just sit quietly as studio companions, or...

We arrived back from Japan today - a whirlwind trip with so many wonderful moments, connections and sharing. I will reflect on it all and try to pull together a post or two soon...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rainbow peace

My ability to be distracted is virtually unparalleled I think, except perhaps by Barry's.  We are both guilty of heading off to do one thing and returning having done something entirely unrelated, often having totally forgotten the thing we intended to do.

The other morning - one of those stunning clear bright blue sky Autumn mornings, we were just sitting down in the office to discuss work-work and daily to-do lists.  I had my back to the window and was watching these amazing rainbows dance over my hands as I wrote. My finger was red and orange, then yellow, green, then blue, indigo and purple...

I was having trouble staying focused on the job at hand, and then I looked up and was gone for all money. All along the bottom of the wall in front of me were rainbows!  In Autumn and Winter the sun heads to the north and streams through our louvred windows, catching the bevelled edges of the louvres and making rainbows all over the place.

We stopped to watch them and I said, oh my, wouldn't my cut-out pages look great silhouetted against those rainbows? Shame we don't have time.  My partner in crime willingly said, you've got a few minutes before they disappear. So I upped and ran over to the shed/studio (literally) and ran back with my pages to date, and we played in the rainbows.

Each shot is taken on the angle because otherwise I would be in the shot as well, it was tricky enough trying to keep Barry's hand out of it!

I don't really understand the second reflection that appears in most of the shots. Barry is holding the trial page out from the wall, I am photographing the shadow of the page on the wall, and then something else appears. But oh my, they just make me smile.

I love how in this one the second reflection had picked up the 'i' - I believe peace.

Barry was totally into it by now and grabbed a 'peace' word given to us by my bestie Sue and tried that as well before the rainbows slipped from view.

And then it was back to work. Ho hum.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” 

Zora Neale Hurston

This thought made me stop and think, which I guess is what I'm after each Thursday, the chance to stop and ponder upon something. Sometimes I read a quote and imperceptibly somewhere inside I nod and agree, go hmmm yep that's right.  You probably wouldn't see it in my face or in the movement of my head, it happens inside, quickly and instinctively. I did that with this one.

It suggested to me that sometimes years leave you questioning and wondering where to go or what to do, or what the heck was that all about - they ask questions of you. Other years seems to be full of success, achievements, the right directions and you feel as if any niggling or lingering questions you had have been answered and you are on the right path.

I don't think it's just years tho - they can be long and full of all sorts of things, ups, downs, round-abouts, and it is kind of hard to pigeonhole a whole year as either/or.  But I think I get what she means.

Rather than categorise them in a decisive manner, I would say I often have a 'sense' of a year - it was a good year or a rough year.  Often the rough years leave you with questions and wondering, and the good years feel like validations, like you've gotten the answers.

One thing I really do like about this quote tho is that is says pretty simply - not every year is great; not every year will be filled with brilliance and growth and beauty and wonder and onwards and upwards trajectories.  It's a good reminder.  I sometimes worry that we seem to expect constant and forever happiness/goodness/good times/improvements etc, and forget that human life is all about cycles, of ups and of downs, of ins and of outs. Perhaps, this is just a nice way of saying that.

©2010 Fiona Dempster - pavement punctuation, Portland OR

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cotton knots

One of the best things about driving to and from Goondiwindi to deliver and/or pick up art works is that the show is on just around cotton harvest time.

We drive past huge broad acre farms with rows and rows of cotton.  I'm not sure about you but I have this sense of child-like delight every time I see cottonballs growing on bushes!  It dumfounds, astounds, astonishes and excites me - the notion of these fuzzy cottonballs growing on plants.

So of course, we have to stop and collect bits and pieces that have blown off the trucks. I now have a box of cotton balls waiting for me in the studio, or maybe they are just keeping me company. I often think how weird we must look to anybody else driving past...

Still, on the last trip we pulled over to look at some of the massive harvested bails, and one of the things that caught my eyes was the knots in the cotton...

Who knows what we'll see in Japan!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Background glimpses

Calligraphers are often looking for backgrounds on which to place their words. Sometimes simple black words on a white page are just what you need. Other times you want the piece to convey something more and working onto a background offers that.

I often find myself looking at paper that has been decorated or treated in some way, thinking what a great background that would make.  Sometimes those great backgrounds sit around in my studio for years waiting for the right words to find them! It feels as if they need a matchmaking service at times.

And quite often if I can't do anything else, if my brain is numb I will spend some time working on backgrounds.  It feels artistic/creative and yet commits me to nothing and has no time frame.

So here are a few of the backgrounds that have appeared in the past few weeks...some with some intent behind them; some with no thought other than to do something, anything.

These lines are one of those days when I just wanted to do something mindless. Noela had made me a cola pen as we call them, and I wanted to test it out, so I just dipped it in ink and drew straight (ish) lines. I am maybe a third of the way across the page, but it was just what I needed on that day. Cola pens are quite free and hard to control to perfection, so I enjoyed the variability it gave me.

I had three long thin offcuts sitting on my bench and finally decided to do something with them.  They felt soft and grey, so I just worked with gouache and layered lots of paint and colour onto the paper then drew some marks and pulled some marks.  They are now quietly waiting and whispering what they need next...

As with all of the backgrounds there is no right or wrong way of looking at them, which I like...

And then with left over paint and ink I danced along another long thin page with no thought or intention at all, but ending up with some nice pages waiting for words...

The other nice thing with backgrounds is you never know if you'll use them whole, or chop them up!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.” 

Pablo Picasso

I have been pondering this thought for a while.  I am not a formal or academic student of art, nor am I a painter, so I sometimes think I don't really understand all that goes along with discussions of styles and approaches and techniques and movements when it comes to painting.  So I enjoyed thinking quietly about this one for myself.

It seems to say to me that there is aways something of substance to start with, and then the notion is abstracted.  I like this in terms of the calligraphy I do.  The process I went through with Massimo Pollelo back in January, where we played with a formal hand and exploded the letters into an abstracted response really gelled for me.

I really like the way some abstract calligraphic art is almost illegible, yet you know it is based in, rooted in lettering. So it seems for me, it matters where you began, not where you ended up.

So now I find myself in synch with Mr Picasso who also thinks you started with something and remove all traces of reality.  Except I guess I don't need to remove ALL traces of reality with abstract calligraphic art...

Picasso's Green Still Life from MoMA in New York. All part of the challenge to find Roy G. Biv (aka the rainbow) the third Thursday of each month with Jennifer and Julie.  We're up to green, so feel free to join in!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Paper-making finished for now

I have finished my paper-making for the time being.  I managed to do several sessions, rescued the drying paper from storms on a few occasions and generally totally enjoyed myself, playing down below, slowly shaking, squeezing, drying. I found a beautiful rhythm and a gentle, quiet practice.

I was thrilled at how well the clove oil kept the pulp as it soaked for nearly three weeks - only right at the end did I think it was going a bit off.

Barry helped out by making me two new moulds/deckles - just had to have a couple more squares - and I continued my happy infatuation with the look and feel of the hand made paper.

So here is what I ended up with, all the photos were taken in the shadow/shade out the back:

A box filled with mini-squares, squares and triangles.

Some lovely larger squares - 12cm and 15cm.

With lovely soft edges

I experimented a bit with using some brown paper peace cranes and seeing if I could embed them in the paper as I made it. Mixed success, but there might be potential for some peace flags later in the year?

The different stacks sitting on one of our log cubes in the gravel.

So I am back to collecting off cuts and scraps of my lovely printmaking, calligraphy and bookmaking papers and saving them up for another session. I am wondering if Autumn might become the season of paper-making as the weather has been so gorgeous - still warm days and not much rain.

It was good to re-use the good paper, not waste it, and create something new from it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Peace, stillness and preparation

Barry and I are fortunate to be preparing for a joint exhibition along the themes of peace and stillness - altho we don't have an actual working title yet.  It will be held in August at Rosebed St. Gallery in Eudlo - which is a truly delightful, vibrant and welcoming place.

I have loads of ideas in my head and lots of jotting of them into journals has occurred, wee sketches here and there, and exclamation marks adorn the pages when I think I have caught a good one.

I have been cutting a lot of paper - and my right hand forefinger's top joint certainly knows about it, and the fingertip itself is still that funny numb, but I am loving where I am headed with this one.

It is still under development, but I just smiled today when Barry and I compared notes on what we had achieved in two hours. He told stories of beating and heatings and many bowls formed. I said I had cut one page and designed another!

So, I am cutting out words and this is what they look like when I stack them.  I am quietly in love with this idea and these types of images so am gaining much pleasure from the play.

In a way I am taking you through one of those re-wind films, where you start in and pan out. The close-up of the cut letters overlaying each other.

Pan out a bit and you can begin to see words forming, but still lots of lovely layering.

Further out and you can see how the letters are fitting on a page, yet the pages are still are on top of each other.

Here I've separated the pages a bit so you can see more of them as individuals.

A bit further back again and you can see I have done 5 pages so far. And if you look closely you'll see the notes to myself and the pencil marks - these are only trial pages

Back where it all begins with lots of 'roughs' - sketching words, using pens,trying to squeeze them into page limits, tracing paper to transfer them to the trial page and so on.

So, there are still more words to write, and a set of final pages to complete and then a book to create from them somehow. I still have a long way to go with this one, but as my artist statement says, I work slowly, often meditatively...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay. In the modern state there are very few sites where this is possible. The only others that come readily to my mind require belief in an omnipotent creator as a condition for membership. It would seem the most obvious thing in the world to say that the reason why the market is not an efficient solution to libraries is because the market has no use for a library. But it seems we need, right now, to keep re-stating the obvious. There aren’t many institutions left that fit so precisely Keynes’ definition of things that no one else but the state is willing to take on. Nor can the experience of library life be recreated online. It’s not just a matter of free books. A library is a different kind of social reality (of the three dimensional kind), which by its very existence teaches a system of values beyond the fiscal.”

Zadie Smith

I love this defence of public libraries! They are indeed quite unique public spaces, filled to the brim, places where books are borrowed, and art is shown, and stories are told to toddlers, and children do craft and groups gather and meet, and Justices of the Peace sit quietly and witness your documents and children and adults share computers and others make the daily visit to read the newspaper in a comfy chair much more.  These are just my observations of a small country town library.

Whenever I pop in I gaze in admiration at the range of activities happening and the ease with which everybody seems able to do the bit they want to do. Libraries are such open environments - open to ideas and welcoming of people, they seem so democratic. You don't need to sign up to believe in anything or or pay anything or commit to anything, just to show respect to others as you share the space.

Zadie Smith is right that there are very few free places left, that don't encourage, promote or require expenditure on your behalf.  Libraries loan books for sure, but they are and do so much more.

©2012 Fiona Dempster - detail outside New York City Library

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gorgeous greys in Goondiwindi

Barry and I made another road trip to Goondiwindi on Sunday-Monday to collect some art from a show. The Aspect Art Show is  a great show and it's wonderful to see such talent, such gorgeous art  and such enthusiasm.

The show is held in a corrugated iron building at the Showground in Goondiwindi and when we were there yesterday I just fell in love with the greys...

Sometimes you don't need many words.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Another great day at Buderim

I am lucky to have a  great group of calligraphers down the hill, up the road and up another hill - about 30 minutes drive away.  Every now and then they invite me teach something and today I ran the workshop on"Modern Versals" that I was supposed to teach last October when instead of teaching, I took to my bed for a fortnight with the flu.

Today was much more fun!

The Calligraphy group at the Buderim Craft Cottage are talented and enthusiastic calligraphers, and always open to exploration. We talked about the history of Versals and what makes for 'modern' versals. We focused on drawing the letters, rather than writing them.  This takes a little while to adapt to as you tend to be lighter-handed when drawing letters and less firm and direct than when writing them with a pen. As calligraphers you kind of have to untrain your brain a bit and re-wire it briefly.

I have developed my own style of modern versals which I use a fair bit, and folk practiced these.

Ater lunch we talked about some of the elements that make versals modern and things we had observed and spoken about in several examples we had studied.  I asked the group to try to incorporate some of these design elements in their work, testing and checking the impact they had, working out how many you could incorporate in a line without it getting too busy etc.

In lots of ways I find Modern Versals very free-ing and very forgiving. They allow for a little bit of this and that without breaking the rules too much.

I am a strong believer that art should be of its time, and these letter forms allow us to acknowledge and respect the history, but also give them a contemporary expression, which reflects us as we are in the 21st century.

The group did fabulously well and hopefully have gone home with lots of ideas about how they could use these letters in their own work.  Thanks to the group and to some of the artists shown in more detail here - Greg, Noreen, Helen, Helen and Margaret - for allowing me to share their work sheets. .

Thanks again!