Friday, 30 July 2010

Open Air Art in Rouen: the Boieldieu bridge

Last week I went with a school friend on a package tour to Normandy with the aim of seeing as much art from the Impressionist Festival as possible.  The festival continues until the end of September.  Unfortunately we could not find a tour that focussed on art history or the festival in July and I was not prepared to drive as I have done very little driving on the continent so we ended up on a more general tour.  Overall we did quite well though as we had quite a bit of free time.  In addition to very interesting exhibitions in museums (to follow) there were a number of open air pieces of art in Rouen.  The most spectacular of these is an installation by Arne Quinze on the Boieldieu Bridge right in the centre of the city.

It is built of wood and looks very light.  It takes up most of the space on the bridge and buses have had to be diverted.

Walking across the bridge underneath it is interesting.  The artist says that the installation aims to reproduce the energy of the original impressionists and to make the energy absorb the spectator in an active way.  I am not sure if I quite understand this!

The bridge has several permanent sculptures as well as a row of busts of famous explorers.  They are an interesting juxtaposition to this temporary work.  I do not know who the sculptor of the main pieces was but they remind me of Eric Gill's work.

As you can see, they represent Viking warriors who invaded this part of France.

And here is the second one end on:

There are lovely views of the old part of the city and the cathedral from this bridge, not to mention a city plage  on the river bank.  That is what the people leaning over the bridge are looking at.

Near the bridge on the embankment are some very small art objects.  We managed to find them but could not understand what they were saying!  I also found an interesting exhibition in the basement of Galleries Lafeyette.  These were photographs of Mount Fuji taken at different times of the day and at different seasons.  I have never given much thought to Mount Fuji and some of these made it look almost like something out of the mid-West of the USA.  Next day we went to Giverney and I began to learn about the connections between the Impressionists and Japan.  I knew there was a connection with pottery and Bernard Leach but I knew nothing of the Japanese influence on the painters.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Port Eliot Literary Festival

Since my last posting I have had two holidays: or rather, a week in Normandy followed by two days at home to do the washing etc. and then a weekend at the Port Eliot Literary Festival in St Germans.  My sister has lived in St Germans for several years but is moving away next week so she very kindly invited me to join her at the festival.  The festival combines literature and music and also has lots of traditional fair type attractions.  And the food is very good!

There was a flower show with classes where you had to use weeds and wildflowers.  Here are a couple of examples:

As you can see from the label in the background this was an arrangement in a Wellie boot while the photo below is of the class for a garden on a plate.  It reminded me of the local flower show we used to have when I was a child when we spent all morning constructing gardens with mirrors for ponds and moss for grass and then returned in the afternoon to see if we had won a prize of a shilling, sixpence or threepence - plus a posh card of course.

The Port Eliot grounds are wonderful as they stretch right down to the river.  Fishing was an alternative activity and on Sunday afternoon when the weather was really good a lot of children went swimming in the mud.  I couldn't get a close up photo but this should give you the idea.  The tide was right out and started to come in rapidly just after this.

The talks were held in the usual assortment of marquees in different parts of the garden.  The two I enjoyed most were Margaret Drabble and Grayson Perry.  Margaret Drabble was interivewed by Rosie Boycott.  She read from her 1965 novel 'The Millstone'  which the woman sitting next to me and I could remember reading the first time round.  It has just been republished.  She then went on to discuss aspects of feminism with Rosie Boycott who, amongst other things, was the founder of Spare Rib magazine.  It is sometimes good to be reminded of what we all fought for in our youth!  They also talked about the different pressures on women today, the daughters who in theory have been able to have it all.  Margaret Drabble's new book The Pattern in the Carpet: a Personal History of Jigsaws sounds really interesting but unfortunately the festival bookstore did not have any copies.

I then went to the Persephone books stand.  I discovered Persephone books a long time ago and have a couple but I had rather forgotten about them and it was good to be reminded of their interesting list.  I realised that I had heard quite a lot of them in various forms on Radio 4.  The books are beautifully presented.  Some of them were illustrated by very famous artists/illustrators and they all have endpapers taken from textile and wallpaper designs of the decade when the original book was published.  I was very pleased to see that they are planning to publish a book of these in the autumn.  It will be called Diary: The Persephone Ninety and will feature ninety endpapers with details of each fabric and the first line of each book. What a treat for textile lovers!

The highlight of the festival for me was the next talk I went to.  This was Grayson Perry.  He was ostensibly being interviewed but the interviewer did not need to prompt him much as he is obviously a skilled and experienced performer as well as artist.  He talked about consumerism as a kind of religion and of its influence  on art and showed slides of the scarf he made for the Tate Gallery and the Westfield Vase.  Go to to see the vase and his Walthamstow tapestry.  I also liked the medal he had made for the British Museum exhibition 'Medals of Dishonour' in 2009.  This depicted Our Lady of Bond Street complete with designer carrier bags.  Grayson Perry described himself as a collagist who cannot bear to leave any space blank.  He says he will fill any spaces in a work with marbling or patterning of some kind.  That is an interesting concept for quilters as perhaps we use quilting for the same purpose.

When I look back at the programme I realised that I missed quite a few interesting things at this festival but maybe that is because I had not been before and the various venues were not well signposted so I kept getting lost.  And did I wear wellies?  No.  Crocs were OK.  It rained on Saturday evening but it wasn't a mudbath (apart from the banks of the river.)

In my next posting I will write about Normandy and the Impressionist Festival exhibitions.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Pole-wrapped painting

Following on from my rust dyeing this week I have tried colouring fabric by pole wrapping it shibori style.  My aim is to dye fabric but somehow it seemed easier to start by painting it, having been directed to Gloria Hansen's tutorial:.

This began as a piece of space-dyed cotton that had not work worked very well.  It was a combination of grey and orangey brown.  Having struggled to get it onto the drainpipe I bought six years ago when I originally learnt this technique I wet it thoroughly and then painted it with Setacolor Ultramarine.

I was really pleased with the effect.  The grey became blueish and the dark blue really looks like marks in the sand at low tide.  I have been trying to get this effect for years!

I then decided that I could use up some of my silk paints.  I have had them for years and some of them are beginning to look as though they might die if not used.  I found a piece of poor quality silk which was good enough to experiment on and covered it with strips of yellow,, blue and red allowing them to run into each other.

This was one long thin piece but I cut it in two.  The effect is similar to the cotton.

I realised that our garden pond looks very like this at the moment.  There are striped grasses on the edge and rather a lot of pond weed because the filter has broken and my husband supports the newts and is very loathe to scrape it off!

I'm afraid the colours on this photo are not brilliant as I took the photo at midday and the light was very bright.  I rather liked the abstract effect of this shot though.

Overall I think the technique works well and I will make some more.  The pieces are quite narrow but it is a good way of using up some of my stash of bridal off-cuts, many of which are rather odd shapes.  I am also thinking about what I can make with the resultant pieces.  I am off to Normandy for a few days on Wednesday so if I can get it together I may turn the silk into a journal quilt that I can hand stitch while travelling.  I have a six hour train journey to London (and another back of course) and the holiday is a Great Rail Journeys package so in theory there is plenty of 'dead' time when we will be sitting on trains.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Rust Dyeing

Well at last I have sorted out my rust dyeing..  The cans that I put to soak back in the winter have rusted nicely and I also have one or two other items, notably an old striker plate.  I was also lent a very long twisted piece of marine detritus but my attempts to wrap cloth round it were not very successful.  However, I think that thanks to all the good weather I have now learnt what I have to do.  I find the cans a bit frustrating because they are quite small and consequently so are my samples.

Here is one where I used a piece of previously dyed cloth that was waiting to have something more done to it.  I have some other dyed fabric that I think might benefit from this treatment so that is my next plan.  I stocked up on malt vinegar at Tesco this afternoon!

Here is one made from keys.  Changing the front door lock proved a useful source of objects.
I think this has potential because they look a bit like trees.  As the fabric is linen I might try to embroider it at some point.

The can does make a good impression.  I have several like this and it has given me a journal quilt.


I was reminded of some photos I took at Hayle harbour a couple of years ago so this one seemed to fit my theme of water.

And one of the prints from the striker plate worked quite well so that has formed the basis of another journal quilt.

The entrance to Hayle harbour is shallow and has to be marked, a bit like the Venice pilone so that was my inspiration for the patterns of the hand quilting.

This one is mounted on a piece of hand-dyed and quilted 'sea' fabric.  That is absolutely the last scrap of a piece that I dyed shibori style by wrapping around a pole when I was studying with Committed to Cloth six years ago.  So now it is panic stations to produce some more especially as a group of us who are members of the St Ives Arts Club are planning a craft fair the first weekend in October and I need some work for that.  Down here that means things related to the sea and lots of blue.  I have bought some Navy-Indigo procion dye because I don't want to go the whole hog with an indigo vat, and I have started to work on ways of making more sea fabric.  More in the next posting.