This time last week I was on an island surrounded by water, mud, birds, boats and a clear blue sky… Northey Island is in the Blackwater Estuary, Essex and has only two houses on it. One of these was ours for the weekend for a workshop through which we explored the island and recorded our experience of it.
The approach to the island is via a causeway that is covered for a few hours at high tide. It only takes half an hour or so to walk right round the island. Salt marsh and mud continue beyond the land you can safely walk on, creating tantalising patterns that extend toward the watery edges and change with the ebb and flow of the tide.
After a period of bad weather we were blessed with a dry weekend of sunshine and blue skies, a keen wind and stars at night. Spending much of the time outside, we undertook a series of mark making, drawing, printing and recording activities, with students exploring different aspects of the place. We also shared our marks in a collaborative exercise one evening.
Then we made a series of books with our marked papers, which became our personal records of the place to take away.
Anyone who has followed my work for a while may remember that I have collaborated on occasion in cross-discipline projects bringing music and visuals together.Fifteen Imageswas the first of these projects in 2010, which resulted in a kind of graphic score based on colours and textures from a garden, which the performer could use for improvisation (along with defined ‘tonalities’ and a conventional score). This week sees the first performance of a group of works called Fresh Yorkshire Aires. Four different composers/artists have produced graphic scores to be performed by piano duet.
Mapping Yorkshire, with composer Nigel Morgan, takes photographs from four locations in Yorkshire as starting points for our four scores. You can find out more about the scores we produced here. All the Fresh Yorkshire Aires scores are on show in Leeds 14-17th June and the first performance is on Thursday 16th June in the gallery. Later in the month the scores and performance will be in Sheffield. Information and tickets to the performances are available at Fresh Yorkshire Aires.
I will be in London next week with the final showing for Tide Marks this year. In addition to the opening hours shown above there will be a poetry reading on Thursday 25th at 6pm. This will be by Nigel Morgan, who wrote the beautiful poems for my Tide Marks book. It will be great to have the poems read amongst the work that they sit alongside on the page. Do come along if you’re able to. I will be in the gallery all week.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was preparing drawings for a publication. The publication is now live and is available as an e-book. This collaboration brings together poetry by Nigel Morgan (if you have my book Tide Marks you will have come across his beautiful poems already) with my illustrations taken from various sketchbooks. Many of these drawings were done en plain air, attempting to capture something of the experience of these places, although they weren’t done in the knowledge that they would later be publicly viewed – this kind of sketchbook is a very personal record of place.
These images and words blend together as evidence of such visits in each other’s company, and occasionally alone. Some of what you see or read has come into being in situ, others as dream memories. Together they form a record of time spent unconfined, in the opened air and the pressing wind, sighting distance, or observing the close confusion of what lies at the feet, or near at hand.
Having had the very rewarding experience of publishing a small number of books so far, initially with help and then as my own publisher, the concept of the e-book is one I am very interested in. It has to be the ultimate in sustainable publications – no actual materials being used etc. But, being a hands-on craft-orientated artist, the fact that I can’t hold this thing in my hands, turn the pages and feel the surface of the paper is something I have to put aside and accept: this is a different experience. Collaboration pushes you in directions that you might not have taken on your own, provides new possibilities and opportunities to learn as a result.
What happens when 10 artists are each given a vintage shirt collar as a starting point to an artwork? If you are any where near Ledbury, Herefordshire this Saturday or until 19th July do go along to the Shell House Gallery and find out. As well as the collar pieces there will be work for sale by the participating artists. You can find out about all the artists here. If you like words too Ledbury Poetry Festival is on during part of the exhibition period.
I’ve been sorting through drawings for a forthcoming collaborative publication. It has been lovely to re-visit sketchbooks from the last few years and to pick out drawings that are right for the context. Here are a few contenders:
I’ve been working on my contribution to the Shirt Collar Project and it has taken me in a direction I didn’t expect. Pictures of the final pieces from all ten artists will be revealed over on the project blog but here are a few images of my process as it unfolded (or folded!). I didn’t expect to make book forms but having printed from my collar on to both paper and fabric I then tested various routes and this was the one that I ended up following.
A few months ago I was invited by Kathleen to be part of a group project involving some vintage shirt collars. The brief and some of the developments can be found on the project blog here. So this is what arrived back in the summer and has been pinned to my studio board while I considered what to do with it.
Last week I finally got round to playing with this item that is sort of a ‘found object’ except it is someone else’s find. I studied it as if it were some sort of specimen, investigating its make-up, structure and features. I drew it, photographed it, took prints from it and slowly took it apart, documenting the process. At each stage I took a print, initially blind embossing (putting it through the press with damp paper and no ink). The marks it made became slowly more ragged and dis-shevelled as the edges were un-done.
It was so pristine and white that I daren’t mark it with ink initially, knowing that once I did there would be no going back. Eventually I plucked up the courage to do so and now the collar lies in its dissected state, flattened and black with printing ink. The prints it made have wonderful detail where the loose threads caught the ink.
I like it as an object. It has a history and a story that I can never know. I don’t know yet what I’ll do to it next but I’m looking forward to finding out…
You can now hear some of the music that was composed for my Gifts from the Pavement exhibition for Saltaire Arts Trail in May. Composer Nigel Morgan wrote a series of miniature pieces in response to my prints. These were performed by the award winning jazz pianist Matt Robinson and a taster of those is now available here. Matt will be recording an album of these along with other works written for him by Nigel as part of an on-going collaboration.
You may have noticed that there are new links appearing on the right hand side of the page at the moment. I’m in a period of starting projects that have been in various stages of planning for some time.
I’ve been involved in the interdisciplinary group Textiles & Music Interact since 2009, when we created and first performed/showed the work Fifteen Images. We are now developing our third project, Remembering Britten. We’ve set up the blog to record the development of the project. This provides a way for the members of the group to share developments as well as forming an archive and information point for anyone interested in finding out about our work and following it.