Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blood on Paper

The V&A currently has two artists books exhibitions, Blood on Paper and Certain Trees. The two shows are a great foil for one another, presenting two very different aspects of the book arts. Unfortunately I have posted my brochures home, so I’ll have to write from memory. I guess this is an interesting exercise in itself, as it will show what really made an impression.

When you enter the exhibition the first work you encounter is Anselm Kiefer’s book which was commissioned for the exhibition. Unfortunately I can’t remember its title, although I know it was something about “nature”. It is taller than me and a codex form, with a speckled grey surface which I thought evoked galaxies. It’s the first time I’ve seen a book of human scale and it was intriguing to stand beside it. As a book, it was massive, as are the galaxies, but really I longed for some human-scale content on the pages with which I could interact.

Blood on Paper includes books by some of the big names of contemporary art – Picasso, Matisse, Robert Motherwell, Anish Kapoor to name just a few. It is interesting to see what artists of this calibre do with a medium that is not their primary form of expression. In some cases, the works represent earliest examples of artists books as a modern genre and I did enjoy seeing some of these iconic works. An example is Ed Ruscha’s 26 Gasoline Stations, a photographic essay in concertina form, which is an early example that is often cited.

The most surprising work was a digital one, which turned the two walls of the gallery into the open pages of a book. I never did quite work out who the artist was, but if anyone reading knows, I’d love to hear from you. There were white and red words projected high onto the walls, and they slowly moved around the “page”. I sat for a while and observed their movement, and realized that they were in fact layered, and therefore perhaps represented multiple pages. Occasionally the words would form sensible two or three word phrases, other times they would bounce off each other like a toy car rebounding from an obstacle. Mostly, it was not possible to make any sense from the words and I thought the work operated as a very effective metaphor for the virtual online world, which contains so much information, but arguably contributes relatively little that is understandable.

I also enjoyed 'Danger Book' by Cai Guo-Qiang. His work often includes fireworks and I’m familiar with it from the Asia Pacific Triennials in Brisbane. This work included a video of the book being formed, as well as its charred remains. Fireworks were set across the pages and once ignited, it did appear possible the whole thing could be destroyed. I did really enjoy the smells associated with the book and the allusions to the burning of books throughout history, while obvious, remain with me and are still disturbing.

I love an exhibition which introduces me to a new artist that I end up loving, and this one did that. The artist was Eduardo Chillida and maybe I should know him, but I didn’t. His books were examples of beautiful bindings and I was really pleased to see this type of book included in the exhibition. From my google search I see Chillida is a sculptor, and I guess I should have realized I would love books made by a sculptor.

In the final space in the gallery, music by Brian Eno was playing, creating a quiet, meditative space well-suited to the books here. There were works by Anish Kapoor, Caro and another one by Kiefer. This one was three large open books laid flat. The pages were created with paint and medium, but the effect was highly textural and initially I thought they may be clay. I could have stood and soaked up these pages for ages.

The V&A website has some good information on this exhibition, including quite a few pictures. You can find it here and here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

9 Days in London....

Tube station: surprisingly deserted definitely not enough, especially when you have migraines on two of them. Never mind.

My main interest in London was to visit some art galleries and maybe do some clothes shopping, and I was able to do both those things. I had a long list of potential galleries, which I knew I would not be able to get through, so I was forced to try to prioritise. This is harder than it may seem, because you never know when you are going to stumble across some jewel, an artist whose work you connect with powerfully, but with so little time, I just had to go for the big names.

My list of must-sees was: the V&A, Tate Modern, Saatchi Gallery and a little shop called Bookartbookshop at Hoxton.

At the V&A there are currently 2 artists books exhibitions, Blood on Paper and Certain Trees, which was really lucky, although I was sad to see that the ceramics galleries are closed till 2009 for refurbishment. I also managed a quick whirl through the 20th Century Design galleries, and these were great to see.

Over the next few days I will post some more about the art I saw, but now it’s time for a confession. On my last day I headed off to the Saatchi Gallery. I was really looking forward to seeing some very recognizable works of art, but when I arrived I found it is shut while they move….re-opening in summer. Pooh!

So what can a girl do to cheer herself up in circumstances like this? Well, to give you a hint, I’ll tell the non-English of you that the Saatchi Gallery is in Chelsea….and another hint here. Yes, ladies, I shopped till I dropped!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kew Gardens

Went to Kew Gardens on Monday, but I was too late....

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

North Wales


Twenty-two years ago I was lucky enough to spend 9 months backpacking around Britain and Europe with my (then) future husband. Early on our travels, we met a lovely woman who kindly offered to let us stay in her cottage in Wales. We made our way there in mid-March and found a charming old place with a wood stove for heating, nestling into the hills of Ty-cyn-haef near Dollgellau. Our fire building skills were rudimentary, and the weather was c-o-l-d and rainy with occasional sleet. The clouds sunk low over the hills, obscuring the highest mountain in Wales, Cader Idris. It was in this chilly setting my (then future) husband proposed to me.

To celebrate, we donned our best gear including high heels for me, and tottered down the main road for what seemed like a mile (but wasn’t really) in the dark. We were hoping to have a celebratory dinner in a rather grand-looking restaurant we’d spotted. When we finally reached the door we were turned away – the place was fully booked for a private function.

We struggled back up the hill to our cottage to celebrate with Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie (it comes in a tin, for those of you not familiar with the brand) and a Sara Lee dessert.


So before heading north we did some research and from the description and the location, we booked into a B&B that we thought just might be that restaurant….and we weren’t disappointed. We were able to spend 2 nights there in Borthwnog Hall, a grand old house built in 1680, situated on the estuary of the Mawddach River. And this time the skies were clear and the sun shone, so we saw the mountains and were amazed to realize what a truly beautiful area it is. I wish I could show you. I had planned to, but the folder of photos of Wales seems to be corrupted and I can't open it at the moment...hopefully I'll be able to sort it out but till then you can see a few pics on the Borthwnog Hall website.

Added 20th June, 2008

Finally added some of my own photos of Borthwnog Hall and the Mawddach estuary here, and some more on my flickr page.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Once upon a time a girl from Australia ventured far from her homeland, to country known for its green valleys and its leeks. One clear, cool afternoon the girl went for a walk on her own, taking her camera. She had not gone 50 metres from her door when she spotted a beautiful wood, and the ground within the wood looked as if it was covered with snow.

As she drew closer, she could see that the “snow” was actually flowers. Entranced, she walked to the wood, pushed open the wooden gate and entered into a sublime wonderland.

The Australian girl had never seen such a thing, but she was curious about the strange smell in the wood. Savoury, earthy, not exactly pleasant, but not really unpleasant either. She could not identify the odour.

She followed the paths through the flowers, taking photos in every direction.

Then she spotted a path that climbed up the hill, and thinking she might find a place to take a better photo from there, she began to climb. Through the trees ahead she could see something…a dark, square-ish form. She couldn’t be sure what it was, but she had to investigate.

At the top of the climb, the path led away to the left and then curved out of sight. Her curiosity building, she began to walk quickly. And then it appeared….a castle.

Now this is a story with a moral. There was a freezing wind near the castle, so the girl took only a couple of photos and decided to return the next day, bringing her traveling companions. When she returned, she became engrossed in the view, and trying to take a good shot of Mumbles from the hill, the girl turned her ankle and fell over. She tore her brand new pants, bruised her left knee and sprained her right ankle. So the lesson from this story is…never mind the view….always look where you are going!

P.S. The strange smell came from the flowers which were garlic!

Thursday, May 01, 2008


While I am traveling I will try to keep in touch by posting photos and some commentary here. In the spirit of this being a blog about art, I’ll try to avoid straight holiday snaps, and keep to either: pictures of art, potential sources of future inspiration for work, or photos I have worked on in PS.

Unfortunately I think my photography skills are still pretty basic, but hopefully they might improve having this two month period to work on them. I can usually manage to make photos usable for inclusion in a mixed media art work, but they really aren’t of a standard where they can stand alone yet.

If you are interested in seeing some more photos of the trip, more in the line of snaps, I will be posting them on my Flickr page.

Although I am in St Davids in the far south-west of Wales, today I will post a couple of photos of our first stop in the UK in London (Twickenham). This was really just a “recovery” stop, but the Thames was across the road, and the park across from us was just lovely. I’ve hurriedly put together a 360 deg panorama I took while standing in the park. It’s pretty rough, and needs more work, but it’ll give you the idea.

This is a view of the local boys’ school, taken from the same park. You can see that even though it is the end of April, and lots of bulbs and fruit trees are flowering, there are still some trees without their new spring growth.

I hope to have some photos of Wales to post soon. I experimented with using “camera raw”, and am having a bit of a time working out how to open the files! Raw files, for those who don’t know, is apparently a better format to use unless you are an expert and can be sure of always getting the exposure etc absolutely correct. There is more capability to modify the file without losing information. Raw files are smaller than uncompressed tiffs, and have much more information than jpgs. I made the mistake of thinking that all I needed to do was to change the setting on my camera to “raw” and start shooting….silly me! Anyway, I’ll share what I learn, once I can get it all to work.