Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.

 Joyce Carol Oates

In my meandering through life and art and books I have arrived again at books. My Thursday Thoughts began in July 2010, and here we are still going, despite a wee break for 6 months.

One of the things I love is that I can still find words about books that charm me, intrigue me and make me celebrate or investigate books further.

One of the marks of a truly good fiction writer is their ability to let you get inside the head of a character. They could be a different gender; older; younger; smarter; wickeder; or any thing else that differentiates us, and yet we can slip into their world and experience it from within, in a way.

Non-fiction biography and autobiography offers the same I think and sometimes a really good movie does as well. But it is often the extra descriptions and time spent with a book that allow you to soak deeper into the skin, the voice, the soul of another.

I love that notion of travelling somewhere without leaving home; of experiencing someone else's world for a bit whilst I remain completely and utterly me.

So this is a bit  funny...Barry and I both enjoy Ian Rankin's DI Rebus books. When we visited Edinburgh we had to vista the pub where Rebus drinks (the Oxford) and sit in the back room, as he does...

The only time I think I have done a book-scene-in-real-life moment!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pas de Deux opens...

On Friday afternoon, Susan and I took our guest speaker Caren Florance to view the exhibition before she opened it. Always a good plan we find!

It was so nice to arrive at the gallery and to have it virtually to ourselves. To be able to wander through and gaze and gasp at the beauty that had been wrought with the rooms and the work.  What a beautiful space to show the work; and what creative and breathtaking arrangements of the work.  It was a good feeling.

Barry took most if not all of these photos below; I was too absorbed wandering around and breathing in the wonder of it all...

The entrance to the exhibition. We had hoped that our two burning books could be features of the show; and they did so beautifully. The lighting and the shadows are exquisite.

The gallery spaces had been transformed, and each body of work had breathing space, and yet spoke to the other pieces around it.

Barry took a panorama type shot which bends time and space a bit, but almost allows you to see the two rooms.

Opening night saw a large crowd - some locals but also loads of folk from Maleny to support us and Ken who is showing in another one of the gallery spaces.

Caren, myself and Susan at the opening.

I won't show all the works here today - mostly mine and I will get to the collaborative works soon!

The Under Construction corner was a quiet, gentle, space. On the wall, and on the plinth.

Time To Change and Time For Change sit quietly  and strongly.  Hinting at their message, but benefiting from the story about them being told in person. I spoke to many people about them and they were all moved.

Fragile Gains, also sitting serenely yet intimating strong messages about women's gains.

Peace Emerging looks so good all together.  Two have sold already (1 & 5).

Too Many Poppies was a piece I worried over and struggled with including - yet it is presented so beautifully, it is almost a memorial in itself.

And to finish where we began - the shadows...

Outside in the foyer is a little nook that has become a pop-up shop for Susan and I. Small works, prints, and books for sale.

All of the works in the exhibition re for sale (except our collaborative pieces) and I am happy to field enquiries or you can contact the gallery direct:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Before and a bit of after

It is Sunday afternoon. The exhibition opened on Friday night. We listened to Caren talk on Saturday morning. We shared times with family and friends and were just generally busy all weekend. Happy sigh.

I was hoping to do a before and after type post - but I'm not yet able to process the whole shebang - the gorgeousness and wonder of it all; but I will do so on Tuesday I hope; when I can gather my thoughts without falling asleep at the keyboard.

The lead up to an exhibition is all about schedules and timetables and just ticking things off. Every day there was something to be done and of course in many ways there still is; but it is a fine thing to have reached this far.

Wednesday last week saw me driving the hour north to Noosa with the car filled to the gills; lucky Barry didn't want to tag along - he would have been strapped to the non-existent roof-racks!

Just me and all my bits...

Seats down, boot full.

Passenger's seat packed high as well.

The gallery was well-prepared for us with tables covered in bubble wrap and foam blocks to rest the wall work on...

There was quite a lot I'd have to say when you gather it all in one spot and lay it out!

I admire the gallery staff who envisage what to with it all and how to make it all come together beautifully.  I was so glad that it wasn't my job to get everything organised, shelved, hung and labelled!

Gallery 1 is a beautiful, large light space. Here it is waiting to be filled...

With all sort of boxes, containers, shelving and what not at the ready...

Which is where we left things on Wednesday...

And then there was Friday.

© 2015 Barry Smith.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” 

E.B. White

Oh me. Oh my.  Sometimes it's just that simple isn't it?

I can't fully describe wonder - it seems to have in it so many necessary, poignant little bits that really matter.

Wonder is about openness, and allowing yourself to be awe-struck or carried away to places you never knew of. It is so much about acceptance that we don't know it all, nor have we seen it all.

It seems to be a willingness to let go of a weariness with the world, and instead be free to see the magic and excitement in it all.

I love it when I pull wonder from our set of daily words - it is one of my favourite words and reminds me to never get world-weary; to always be open and to exclaim with joy and heartfeltness the pleasure we find in the small, the unknown and the everyday.

I think wonder also recognises how small we are sometimes in the scheme of things when we observe  a sea urchin opening to feed; a sunset of colour beyond belief; a night sky filled with stars and the coming in and going out of the tide...

I try to keep my eyes open for wonder on a daily basis; to stop, and pause and acknowledge it.

Isn't this the recipe for a good day? With bowl and weaving and pebble by Mary Jane Dodd 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Spending time with Silence

We are almost there...

Susan and I met briefly this morning to do a few last minute catch up things before we deliver our work to Noosa in the morning. Our priority was to finish off all those final tiny details on our 10th book; the book we have called Silence.

Firstly, we embossed our marks onto the inside lower flap of the box we had made to house the unbound book.  Then Susan signed the back of each page - there are 50 pages.  We are using 25 to create an edition of 5 artists' books. The first two are held in the Pas de Deux collection; but three are for sale.

We are then selling the individual prints with original calligraphy in editions of 5 as well. That is, there are only 5 of each page, but they can be bough individually.

We finalised a few things and after she left, I went on to number every print, name every print including the quote attribution and sign them as well.  Then it was wrapping the individual prints for the books in the beautiful tengucho paper (without creasing it) and then placing them in the box, and wrapping them with the band.

I then popped each print for sale into cellophane bags and sealed them as well.

So I have spent most of the day with Silence, which is a beautiful book.

The books and pages will be available for sale through Noosa Regional Gallery once the exhibition opens - the individual print-calligraphy pages will sell for $150 and the artists' books with their 5 pages, individual wrapping, hand-made box and band and process of gentle revealing will sell for $1000.

To give you a sense of the kind of day I had, here are several photos of the works, taken by Anastasia Karyofillidis.  She gave the books such gentle lightness and quietness...

One book in its box with bands on the left; one other book partially opened...

Getting closer to the books...

All the prints are out here...

The page we nominally open with - a quote by me.

 The second page - a quote by Susan...

The third page - a quote by Hanif Kureishi

A beautiful fourth page quote by Christina Rossetti...

The page we nominally finish with - quote by Mark Rothko

It was lovely to note that today, with a bit of distance between us and the hard work involved in the making of this book; that we both felt so much happier with how it turned out and feel quite good friends with it now!

If you would like to talk about purchasing a print or a book - please don't hesitate to email either Susan or I.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Letterpress learnings

It's so funny. My main learning after my second bout of letterpress printing was - print in the morning and not in the afternoon.

No, it's not the weather, or the light, or the temperature, or my mood. It's the fact that I got so carried away that I went on and on and on into the dark and had to run across to the house apologising to Barry that I knew it was dark; I knew it was dinner time, but I just had a few more runs to do and then clean up and then I could re-join the real world?!?

So I think it can be officially noted as a bit of an addiction.

And so I figure, printing in the morning helps me avoid missing out on dinner. The things we learn.

I decided to try out my Adana table top press and see how it worked. We got on very well. It behaved, I understood what to do and it wasn't too tricky at all. You know how sometimes you feel like you are winning?

I inked her up and went to town! These two photos are courtesy of Barry. Using the rollers to spread the ink across the platen plate.

The studio space in an awful state of untidiness, hoping to resolve that soon.

 I decided to try a different style of type and whilst working with the same "word" "poems" I had written about clouds, try to print some much smaller pages that might be attached to the wall, rather than drifting from the ceiling.

The first three lines locked up in the chase.

As I stepped down from the full 'poems" and long drifty pages, I chose three lines of two words that came out of each 'poem'. I didn't plan this, I just thought it might be nice to reduce them to their essence a bit and see if they still hold.

After proofing, I printed on some lovely Khadi paper.

Then I had to run and get some of my handmade paper and print on that as well

And then some goyu to see what would happen.

Total chaos ensued but by the end of the day/night I had quite a few sheets printed.

I went even smaller, with a single line of two words on a page, but that will have to wait for another day

Tomorrow is the closing date deadline for the Regional Marks exhibition - I have entered a few pieces and shall see how we go.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“Please keep demonstrating the courage that it takes to swim upstream in a world that prefers putting away for retirement to putting pen to paper, that chooses practicality over poetry, that values you more for going to the gym than going to the deepest places in your soul. Please keep making your art for people like me, people who need the magic and imagination and honesty of great art to make the day-to-day world a little more bearable.” 

Shauna Niequist

I struggle sometimes with the notion that one should be able to make a living from art. That somehow our work is available on the open market for people to pay for as a commodity. That what we create from the heart should have some commercial value that others should be willing to pay for. I am not fond of the word 'should'.

I often have difficult conversations with myself around the purpose of art-making; the purpose of exhibiting and so on and on and on.

But it is quotes like this that can keep me going; keep the fires burning and help me understand what it is that we do.  We aren't here simply for commercial exchange. We are here to make things of beauty; things that provoke thoughts and ideas; things that make others feel...

I think we sometimes forget that we can appear to have the keys to the magic kingdom. That we can seem to be the folk who can offer others moments of hope and beauty and magic. We can forget that people need these things in their daily lives - that the things we can do and make offer people a salve to the ordinariness or mundaneness of life. When they don't have time or skill or energy to create - we can offer them those things.

So we should listen to those who ask us to keep on making our art...

A fragment of "silence helps no-one", a book about family violence.  Maybe I just need to keep making art like this in case it might help one person...

And it is all a picture of grey, which leads me to Jennifer and Julie's ongoing monthly search for the rainbow and other colours. Having exhausted the rainbow, here we are at grey...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pas de Deux - Under Construction

I mentioned last week a bit about my approach to my individual works in the Pas de Deux exhibition.  I was keen to not only have a Pas de Deux within our collaborative books; but also between the collaborative books and my own work; and within my own work.

That possibly makes for a pas de six or some such; but it has been the thread that holds my otherwise possibly disparate work together.

A further example of the threads connecting between and within the works is the series called Under Construction.

You may recall that Susan and I gave each other the theme "birds, feathers, nests and eggs" for one of our collaborative books. Susan created the beautiful Tidings of Magpies, and I made the quiet, soft and subtle Nurture.

I really, really enjoyed the imagery of nests and building and wanted to create further work along that theme.  So I made the Under Construction pieces - all of which refer to the precious work of building nests.

I spent some time writing the words, capturing my own thoughts about what was happening when a nest was built, the time it took, the care and the patience.  I wanted to say gently and quietly how much I admire wee birds and their intricate weaving of hopes and dreams; how they create such delicate yet robust masterpieces of shelter and protection.

Here are a couple of them:

gleaning downy threads
patient weaving of new dreams
time and twigs entwined

spiriting away
discarded tactile fragments
home is built anew

mindful selection
ephemeral yet robust
waiting and protecting

I used solar etching to capture nest and feather imagery, and used multiple plates to print - always interesting when one moves with the weight of the roller! Still, I did manage to create five wall pieces and five books.  

Again, I wanted my wall pieces to be linked to books; and my books to have a wall connection as well - another pas de deux.

Here are some of the framed wall pieces. I am so fortunate that my local framers handle my tricky works so well! Phil of Holden's Framing always knows multiple tricks and just the right frame depth etc etc to hold all my fragile bits together beautifully.

Under Construction IV 
Photographer Penny Riddoch

Under Construction V
Photographer Penny Riddoch

Under Construction III
Photographer Penny Riddoch
And a few of the books.

These books stand about 40cm high and about 45cm wide when opened.

Under Construction 2
Photographer Penny Riddoch
Under Construction 4
Photographer Penny Riddoch
But I have also designed them so that they can lie down along a shelf or desk and be read from above.

Under Construction 3
Photographer Penny Riddoch

The books are all bound in a beautiful book cloth, and each cover has an inset with a feather hand stitched on vellum. They are tied together with a Habu thread; and are housed in a Perspex slip case.

I don't know that I would have ever explored the birds and nests without having made the collaborative book along that theme; or without having learnt how to do solar plate etching during the making of White Ribbon the collaboration has really sent my work in new directions.