Getting Ready for Oxford Artweeks

I can hardly believe it is that time of year again.  Emma Ablitt and I have exhibited together with Oxford Artweeks for the last five or six years so we reckon we have it down to a fine art (no pun intended!).  However, it still always takes me by surprise how much of one’s time is taken up with the peripheral things that aren’t actually making images – so, framing, mounting, signage, personal statements…the list goes on.  I have just lately been having a go at carving in soapstone.  I am really enjoying it but it brings its own set of problems – how will I display them and do they need attaching to their base in some way?  Decisions decisions!   Anyway, I have collected the last few of my pictures from the framers, added the finishing touches to my paperwork and then I should be pretty much ready for the big hang.  Artweeks are a great opportunity to show friends and followers what you have been doing through the year so I try to put a selection of all the different things I have attempted over the months.

Ground-feederThis year I have a handful of carvings, quite a few linocuts and monoprints, and some pastels.  I am generally reasonably pleased with the selection so hope people like them.  It is incredibly useful to get feedback from ones audience and if people are enthusiastic about one direction then I will often go back to the studio and pursue it further.

Setting up starts next Wednesday and we continue the exhibition from 15-25 May – please do drop by and say hello if you are in the area.  Details on the Oxford Artweeks website.

Review of Truth and Memory at The Imperial War Museum

This is a fascinating exhibition featuring some of the most famous images from British war artists in World War I. The pictures so much inform our idea of how trench warfare was that it is difficult to imagine how shocking they must have been to their first audience. Futurism with its subtext of ‘humanity subsumed by the machinery of war’ [IWM text] produced pictures which vibrate with anger and despair and their titles punctuate that purpose with an exclamation mark! Nash’s desolate landscape entitled ‘We are making a bright new world’ or Nevinson’s bleak painting of dead soldiers, ‘Paths of Glory’, are raw with emotion and were even occasionally banned by the ministry as unhelpful propaganda. The relationship between war artists and government has to be an uneasy one – that would make a fascinating dissertation topic…which is a particularly interesting point in the context of the exhibition, which separates in different rooms works of ‘truth’ and works of ‘memory’. I preferred the ‘Truth’ section as it felt more directly from the experience of war but how much is my taste governed by the fact that our contemporary culture values the instant, the immediate rather than the mature and considered reflection of ‘memory’?

I absolutely recommend a visit if you get a chance. It raises all kinds of questions and, as with the best exhibitions, doesn’t provide any of the answers. Personal favourites were a series called ‘Dance of Death’ by Percy Delf Smith. Finishes 8 March.

 

Back at work!

monoprint with drawing

monoprint with drawing

More-autumn-fruits

Monoprint with drawing

Finally I have got back into my studio and started printing – feels great to be back.  So I thought I would update with a couple of examples that I am working on.  I have been looking at Ben Nicholson among others and really enjoy the way he uses line, and different viewpoints so have been experimenting with that.  They are, I suppose, monotypes rather than monoprints but that is quite a technical difference.  We have quite a crop of apples, and gourds from the garden this year and autumn feels like an appropriate time for these sorts of colours.

What else has been going on?  Well, if you subscribe to ‘Artists and Illustrators’ then check me out as I wrote the ‘star letter’ which resulted in a lovely voucher for £50 for art materials.  Decided that maybe I should abandon art as a career and just write letters to magazines!  I have nothing booked up in the way of exhibitions till next May when we do Artweeks but that always requires a lot of new work, and, in addition, publicity photos need to be in before Christmas!  I have another biggish exhibition in October 2015 in New Brewery Arts Cirencester, which feels like a long way off but, again, will require all new work, so I really do need to start getting serious.

 

Working as Curator

I have rejoined the employed temporarily as I have taken up the post of acting Curator at West Ox Arts Gallery in Bampton, Oxfordshire.  It is only one day a week in theory and I am responsible for hanging and organising exhibitions, producing the publicity and a few other bits and pieces.  It’s actually quite fun and should only be until the summer as I am providing maternity cover for the existing Curator but it has really brought home the issues that maternity benefits throw up for a small business.  The Gallery only employs 2 people and to lose one for up to year but not be able to fill the post makes life really difficult.  Don’t mistake me; I have children and I used the advantages that maternity laws offered but it does seem to me that it might be more sensible to have slightly different rules for large and small companies.  Apparently we are a) not allowed to ask the curator whether or not she wants to come back until she is ready to tell us (within a certain time frame which is I think a year) and b) any decision she makes in the meantime she can revoke so, even if she says today that she does not want to come back, she can change her mind and the job must be available.  Can this really be correct?  Because if it is it seems incredibly patronising – a woman six months after she has had her baby is still not sufficiently in her right mind to make a decision as to whether or not she wishes to go back to work!  Really?!  Ok – just a small rant and now it is over…

…meantime my lovely new Polymetaal etching press is still sitting waiting for me in my studio…

Exhibitions coming up

It feels a lot like autumn already with the nights starting to draw in.  I have noticed quite a few really interesting exhibitions coming up so thought I would share them: close to home (for me anyway) there is ‘Bacon and Moore’ at the Ashmoleum, Oxford which looks to be fascinating.  I have been doing quite a bit of stonecarving over the summer so am looking at sculpture with whole different eyes!  That one runs from 12 Sept to 19 Jan.  Then at the Royal Academy from 26 October is an exhibition of Daumier’s work; his washy monochrome atmospheric paintings are a joy!  And the V&A are running a ‘Masterpieces of Chinese Painting’ also from October 26 which I imagine will be drawing on pictures from the vaults and should be really interesting.

Then I must not leave out (as I am now a Trustee and have been involved in the organisation) our very own West Ox Arts in Bampton is putting on an exhibition of costumes from Downton Abbey throughout September.  Bampton Gallery has lost grants this year because of the local council cuts so are trying to raise some funds with this exhibition which is a paid entry.  Bampton is the outside film location for Downton Abbey and Carnival Films have lent us the costumes as a thankyou for putting up with them.  Hopefully it will be a huge success and put some money in the coffers so we can continue supporting the arts locally.

Anybody gets to any of these exhibitions before me, I would love to know what you think!  In the meantime, I am off to Andalucía in early September for a pastels holiday.  I haven’t ever done one of these before and am really looking forward to it.  To be able to just paint all day with no chores hanging over you feels like a real indulgence.  Can’t wait!