Discovering the Joys of Baklava…

This morning was one of the best Studio experiences to date imho. We were asked to critique the Level 7 Studio students work, and I had some great students in my group.

I saw a very cool video about the absurdity of everyday life, which I totally get, it was cool to see someone create a film that is a reflection of exactly how I see daily life myself. One big splash of fast moving colours, shapes, light and shadow.

The movie that followed was the antithesis of the previous one. We were treated to a journey across a mellow sea, followed by the most gorgeous filming of baklava being made. Layer after layer of filo, butter and honey poured and brushed over and over. The green of the pistachio’s crumbled on. It was like watching a bed being made in some ways with the billowing of the sheets. But best of all, we got to sit on a rug of mixed origins and eat the most incredible baklava. I have tasted this very sweet dish before, in several countries in Europe, and have never liked it, but the baklava that Jesse made… oh my it was perfect and not too sweet at all.

Sadly I had to forego the rest of the critique for a lecture, but what a treat it was to spend time with the year 7 guys n gals. It was very inspiring and also comforting to know that they too struggle with theory etc. But I loved their confidence, their faith in themselves and their work. We can all have that, we are all human, and we are artists.

The critique session was very valuable for me. It was purely student led without tutor input, and I feel this was the best critique I have had so far. Critique is about the students and what they need from it, and today that worked very well. Timing was great, everyone  who wanted got to have their say and best of all we got to hear the artist speak about their work which there is often not time for. I just love being with other artists or writers, more than anything I think!

Now I need to get Jesse’s baklava recipe! Apparently there are 40 sheets of filo in some recipes… can’t see me making one of those, I am not much of a baker, but this well, it is a form of meditation.

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Image retrieved on 25/8/14 from:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/michael-symon/baklava-recipe.html

 

As I was saying…

Every time I have a lecture in Visual Culture I get new ideas… and I feel like I could just do this forever… but then none of the ideas would eventuate, so I am sticking to my path. Happily the recent lectures on the feminists kind of tie in with what I am doing. Except I am more into the power of the matriarchy than in the feminist movement.

Somehow nature seems to fare better than political movements, no matter what the cause. But that’s just me, I sometimes think that life is far simpler than we are led to believe, but then I have been spared many of the atrocities of human existence, by way of being born in the Western world, and not during a world war.

So anyway… more reading… and what joy it brings…

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Reading Pile

Just a few of the books I am currently reading. I sometimes thing research is one of my favourite things of any project. So many pathways that twist and wind away from the main track, and then you meet the wolf, in the guise of having to make a decision!

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Twists and turns on the forest path…

As I read and continue to make art my project is taking on a life of its own.

I have recently been influenced by the study of feminism in our visual culture classes. I find this difficult, because much of what has been written is dated, and although very relevant at the time I cannot help but find some of it as crazy sounding as the fifties housewife ads that we laugh at today. The Bitch calendars that subvert those advertisements say it all. Another reason I find it difficult is because I believe in the power of women goes far deeper than politics or any of the ism’s, and it always has. I believe that men as a race are fully aware of this although it may be in an unconscious way. This is what drives them to try and subvert women, although few men I know have ever tried to do this. I have had far more experience of women subverting men, treating men as objects of ridicule. I do like that Simone de Beauvoir was not a feminist, but wanted equality, as tis is what I believe in. Equality for all genders, and it is not so simple as male and female.

I have never seen women as the innocent scapegoat, more the Goddess, the one who holds the secrets and the wisdom. Angela Carter’s books are very refreshing because they accept that women too is bestial and it is by admitting this side of her that she claims her power. Paula Rego has something to say about this too, notably in her large and powerful drawing of Dog Woman. To quote the Saatchi gallery:

Inspired by a story a friend had written for her, Paula Rego draws her Dog Woman in pastels, referencing the raw physicality of Degas’ drawings. “To be a dog woman is not necessarily to be downtrodden; that has very little to do with it,” She explained, “In these pictures every woman’s a dog woman, not downtrodden, but powerful. To be bestial is good. It’s physical. Eating, snarling, all activities to do with sensation are positive. To picture a woman as a dog is utterly believable.

Dog Woman by Paula Rego 1994, Pastel on canvas. 120 x 160cm

Paula Rego DW

I love this work, and I want my project to have a similar nature. I want to show the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood for example, as the wild inner desire within all of us. I feel the biggest problem with life today is that we may have come too far from the cave. I love Rego’s Dog Woman as it says this so perfectly. I doubt pre-paleolithic women were sensitive about hiding their animal desires, and they probably gave as good as they got.

If you want to be a wolf, be one, if you want to be  model 50’s housewife, do that too, just be happy in your skin. As for me, for all my wolf talk I will probably end up as the cat lady…or the goat lady… I have been the witch for a few years now…

Image sourced from: http://culturoid.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/paula-rego-dog-woman.jpg

& so the wolves keep a coming…

I started painting another book right away, trying to get more abstract, but again I am going with the flow. I like how this has taken on the look of the wolf becoming more of a playful puppy. I am taking up wolves as a cause, in all of their guises. Watch out for the begging letter at Christmas for my new charity. My daughter said that some of my wolves remind her of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things, and *that* is a very good thing.

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Wolves are people too…

I spent a whole afternoon painting wolves, and I love them. These critters just came to visit my imagination and insisted on portraits… I chose my favourites and created a book, using recycled books pages, thread, and stitch. The substrate of the book is cartridge paper which I dyed using walnut shells. I thought this was appropriate for wolves in woods and I like to have reasons for doing things sometimes… just sometimes, not always.

I am not too keen on the cover at this stage… needs something, it’s that white squareness that is bothering me…

Wolves are people too…

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They are a strange combination of hidden sexuality… they are unnaturally tall

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Severus, he was a man. As gypsies go he wasn’t so bad…

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…until he got moody. He just wasn’t husband material…

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Colophon by yours truly…

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Antlered creatures

I made this collage with my own photographs, manipulated in Photoshop, and then I used oil crayon to draw on the images and the gel medium on top to blend it all together.

I like the way that the differences between the girl (my gorgeous daughter Tabby is the model), and the wolf/deer man are subverted by both of them having antlers. I like this piece. I definitely seem to be focused on Red Riding Hood, woods, forests and wolves at the moment, so I am going with the flow.

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Little Red Riding Hood

I have decided to focus on Little Red Riding Hood for my first theme within the fairy tale series. I have read many versions of this tale and I still like the original Perrault version, apart from the ending. I dont want Little Red or her grandmother to actually die.  Maybe I will write my own version with all the best bits from the many re-tellings of the tale.

The illustrations below are by Gustave Doré. This is exactly how I imagined it as a child. Sadly I lost my original books of fairy tales during the itinerant lifestyle I led in my teens and twenties, so I am not sure who they were illustrated by, but it could well have been this artist as they feel so familiar. Gustave Doré reminds me a little bit of Edgar Allan Poe in his looks, his art certainly fits the Poe genre and he did some fantastic illustrations for The Raven.

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I like wolves, I have been looking for my own wolf since those lost childhood days, when the biggest treat of the week was Mum coming home from work on Friday evenings, with a Little Red Riding Hood style basket full of gorgeous smelling library books for me to lose myself in. Books were my security and sanctuary then, as they are now.

These images are very suggestive, the way the girl eyes the wolf, and him rubbing himself against her in the woods. She certainly doesn’t look afraid, more daring I would say. I think I like these images because of that, they hint at the deeper meanings of the tale.

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Perrault wrote a little poem at the end of his tale, a kind of moral:

 

Little girls, this seems to say,
Never stop upon your way.
Never trust a stranger-friend;
No one knows how it will end.
As you’re pretty, so be wise;
Wolves may lurk in every guise.
Handsome they may be, and kind,
Gay, or charming never mind!
Now, as then, ‘tis simple truth—
Sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth

Images sourced from: http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/ridinghood/index.html

Multi Story houses

I like houses that tell stories.

This three dimensional fairy tale scene is a follow on from my last installation project, based on the effect of shadows and light, and how you can transform a room to a place that is a doorway to another world. That too was influenced by fairy tales.

The house has its own story, it is constructed from recycled book pages which I rescued from a tip. There is no glue or tape holding the house together it is just paper folding. I like that it is held together by the words and pages that make up the stories, houses should be held together by stories. Everything in this scene is recycled, including a few tatters from my dreams, little wisps that caught on the branches as I was waking…

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Art that’s lived in…

Warning… this post rambles. It is thinking about art, out loud, and dripping paint all over the place.

When I think about making art, and selling art, I often get all maudlin about the whole thing… whats the point? Whats it for? I have no BIG statement to make, it won’t change the world. But then I look around my home and it is full of art, in all different forms, and it all gives me a warm wintery afternoon when it’s snowing outside feeling, (which for me is the very best kind of feeling in the world). A lot of well known contemporary art is controversial, it has a statement to make, often a statement that subverts the world it exists in.  Some of the Turner Prize winners for example… some I love and I get, Simon Starling’s Shedboatshed, now that is my kind of art. But the work of say, Jake and Dinos Chapmandoesn’t do it for me. I don’t want what I find ugly or miserable, neither in my home or in an exhibition in some gallery.

My kind of art is of course very personal, just like your kind of art. I like art that you can live with and be joyful about, or art that you can live in, and be happy living in. Joyful doesn’t have to be all bright and cheery, I get a lot of joy from dark, bleak landscapes.  I could happily live with Starling’s In Speculum which I was lucky enough to see in Wellington earlier this year. It has a story, to me it has meaning. Just like my artists books, limited edition prints, original paintings and screen-printed tea-towels. Whether it cost £2000 or $10 matters not, whether it was done by a Royal Academy artist or a postman in his spare time, matters not. All that matters is that  for one reason or another it speaks to me loud enough that I want it in my world.

And so, the big challenge I have with my own art, is to make sure that it has a place in my world, or one of my worlds. My art and writing is very much about making other worlds, twisting reality to fit my concept of joy. I need to have a reason for it to exist, for it to be created, and  if it brings a good feeling when I look back at it, well that is reason enough. If I like it, then maybe someone else will too. I have in the past, made controversial art: giant tea pots lined with photos of the poverty that tea workers live in, child sized coffins made out of Nestle Smartie boxes, etc. I have my corners to fight, but right now I don’t want to do it with art. It doesn’t mean my art will have no message, just that the message may be ambiguous, foggy or for some, silent.

The photos below are not mine, but they kind of say something about how I like my art, kind of lived in...

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I am not sure what it is about this guy, I have a phobia of the *F* – word, but I love this…, and I love how its is sitting there, not hung on the wall, just part of the furniture. The room below is a bit orange for me, but that chair looks so comfortable, and I like how the art is just nestled in there.

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Images sourced on 8/8/2014 from:

http://tinyurl.com/ocoj6d8

http://tinyurl.com/266zhym