The Bristol Presentiment Series have been made using pigments recorded in the Bristol Presentiments 1770 papers, are those that were imported into Bristol by ship during that period.
These papers record the imports and ships in and out of port during the period, a significant one in the development in sea trade both in Bristol and in the transatlantic sea trade and slave trade triangle. Only two years before the only traders able to import were London based and belonged to the King. for more details see the Brsitol Presentiments Collection page on this site.
The painting stage of the Bristol Presentiments collection is complete. The next stage is finishing the edges, varnishing and framing. The summery weather is helping me because the heat speeds up drying times. The edges cannot be finished until the surfaces will not be damaged by gentle handling.
My challenge is my space which is rather small, and while I have a series of work drying I have limited space to make new work. Happily for me, we are planning on building a garden studio which would allow me to use the current studio for storage (it is very small), and allow me work and drying space in the new studio in the garden. Our garden is small so it will not be enormous, but it will be a big improvement on what I have already. I am working with Rachel Dein at her stall in Chelsea Flower show on Friday, so I can seek some inspiration for beautifying a garden building there.
This solution works better for me than renting a space in shared studios as it will be a one off payment, all be it expensive, rather than a rent. In addition my current studio is accessed via our bedroom, so not ideal for bringing visitors to, this will be much better. I am excited and delighted by the prospect of having more space and feel a warm fuzzy glow towards my family for being willing to give up part of our small garden. So up until now my solution to a small home based studio has involved colonising other parts of the house there has been quite a creep in storage into the bedroom, and out into the hall....
And then there is the headspace you need, the headspace you need to face your fears and to stop getting in your own way. This is where a group of supportive fellow travellers are important. There is no singular defined route to take as an artist, no singular model of success which means developing and implementing your own creative goals and then going for it. For me I need deadlines, and someone to check up on me, to make me face fears and do the thing anyway. So for doing just that for me recently I want to mention Paul Anderson Morrow, Sam Peacock and Alex McIntyre, all of whom have given me a bit of a push just when I need it the most.
Another helpful thing that has happened is that one of the agencies I am represented by Why Not Art have offered their artists some storage in the near future. We may just get our bedroom back.....
This summer I have the delight to be showing at the Other Art Fair Bristol, my stall is paid for and I have booked a place to stay. If you want to come along and don’t live near by the fair is in the Passenger Shed building really close to Bristol Temple Meads train station.
I have been researching the history of trade in Bristol and the work produced especially for the Fair only uses pigments that are on the imports lists of ships which docked in Bristol in 1770. This is the beginning of the boom time for Bristol. In 1668 the government monopoly in the form of the Royal African Company of the transatlantic slave trade triangle was broken and Bristol merchants stepped in big time in the form of the Society of Merchant Venturers. This transatlantic sea trade is the context of Jane Austin’s Bath elite. The builders and the elites of Bristol and Bath made their money here in the 17-1800s. And also notable are the non-conformist churches of Bristol which were central to the abolitionist movement in the UK, the Quakers and others who helped provide a platform for voices of resistance. However it is strongly arguable that the reason for abolition in the end came down to the resistance of the enslaved people after a number of uprisings in the Caribbean.
So among the wide range of imported goods to Bristol in the year 1770 is indigo. I have a gorgeous indigo. It is fair trade indigo from south India and it has this amazing red tint within the blue. Sensuous and lovely to mix, grind and apply it makes my heart sing.
Of interest to me in the collection of imports are ochres, red and yellow, madder, vermillion, pitch, tobacco, turps, linseed oil, wood, cotton, linen, lead white, Irish clay, sumac, saffron, pimento, beeswax, and sugar.
This is what I learned this weekend: Selling art is watching people fall in love.
My sales this weekend did it themselves. I watched people fall in love with work, the first person did it quietly and didn’t even want me to notice, a little relationship building quietly, hiding in the company of her friend while I spoke to other people. At the end of the Private View she came back and confidently came and bought the piece to take back with her to Australia.
With the second piece the buyer was scared and excited exactly like the beginning of a love affair, coming to and from the stand several times, and then so delighted because her husband felt the same and they “never agree on art” but this time they did.
I saw others fall, eyes widening, irises blackening with widening pupils, but then their partners came along and didn’t feel the same. So any talking I do gives context, but the paintings... they do it themselves.
Traditional ink papers are quite difficult to handle because they are absorbent delicate and and some of them are translucent. In the early days of using papers like this when I was first back from China, along time ago, I made the mistake of using glues which coloured over time, and this is problematic, so now whem sticking any kind of light paper my bet is with flour paste.. This is made by mixing flour with a little cold water, then adding more water and heating and stirring to form a paste, once the paste is cooked add more water until the paste is milky, and seive then stand to cool before using.
While the glue is cooling, collect your tools, a second water only brush or squirty bottle filled with water, masking tape, cutting board,
Tape one end of the heavier in this case Fabriano paper to a cutting board using masking tape and either spray or lightly wet the back of the paper with a brush
Fold it back with the hinge of the tape and leave the space clear for the original work, leave the water to soak into the Fabriano paper for a little while while the paper relaxes
So this is the top , turn the paper over so the back is up
Leave to dry with the edges weighted
As you can imagine I own alot of books about colour and pigment, so I thought I would review a few here, opinions expressed are of course my own...
Josef Albers, Interaction of Colour, 50th anniversary edition, Yale University Press, USA 2006 Any one thinking about colour will have come across the work and writing of Josef Albers. this work is considered to be a classic of its time. My very brief opinion of this book is that for a book about colour the presentation is dry. It reads as a series of lesson plans, which is fine if you want a ready set of lesson plans to teach about colour without using any paint at all. While I think his work is truly beautiful in a stripped back minimalist simplicity, and a massive range of colour relationships are explored, they are approached in a rather puritanical systematic way, which I find too spartan to bear. I have found this book useful by noting down the relationships he explores, but would not use his approach to exploring them in either my practice or in teaching. I know that I am being sacrilegious to some, but I am bound to the sensuality of paint and painting.
N Easthaugh et al, Pigment Compendium, Routledge, 2013 USA My favourite Colour Book of the last year is The Pigment Compendium, this is a rather ramshackle book, like the old V and A museum as it was when I was a student. You can find the chemical structure of pigments here, their history, mythology, it is really useful as a research source for particular pigments, and as a starting point . Sometimes the text is rather wiwpediaesque in its eclecticism but I actually quite like that.
J Balfour-Paul, Indigo, The British MuseumPress, 2011, UK The third book I am going to recommend is published by the British Museum and written by the researcher and indigo guru Jenny Balfour-Paul. Called Indigo, this is an overview with global and historical reach about indigo its qualities, trade relationships, and place in the geopolitical world. It is comprehensive and fabulous, and properly indexed so you can research further if you want to. When I was researching indigo I kept coming across Balfour Paul in academic citations, and once I found this book I found my shortcut.
I think that is enough for now...happy reading.
Today I had the delightful opportunity to meet Beverley Thornley in person for the first time. I love it when a social media contact becomes a real world one, and Beverley with her fascination with chalk and concrete and traceability makes beautiful work which comes straight out of the earth .
We had lovely conversations around traceability, memory, and also about our shared interest in pigments, and her very site specific work, and how my work even when site specific is only in as much as it related to the global history of trade.
She has some projects she is thinking setting up so watch this space....
And sweetly she is the second artist to visit my very small studio space and say “I am impressed you manage to produce what you do from here...."
In addition I am delighted to announce that I am to be represented by Luminaire Arts.
And delighted that Why Not Art are at the Ideal Home show this week with a catalogue of artists including me.
Spring really is in the air with all these potential new beginings.
Yellow Ochre Light, 2018, 60x60cm, hand mixed oil on canvas
Some times when you walk into the studio there is a tingle in your fingers right from the start, sometimes it comes after a few hours of working and is accompanied by a smile, and other times it doesn’t come, so what to do?
Well I find it helpful to have a tidy (nearly always necessary) and sometimes in the process of tidying something delightful happens
You may for example find an indigo eye looking back at you from the bottom of a pot you are cleaning, that makes you smile, and then you think about the studio jobs which need to be done, that don’t require special flow or inspiration and you get on with those.
The Boating Pond At Alexandra Palace Park
There is nothing quite like snow and ice for pushing vision into stark contrasts, or perhaps its got something to do with my current state of mind. The work I have been preparing for Roy’s People Art Fair over the last few weeks has had this as a back ground. Playing with the fact that along the Southbank there are a series of buildings which were once the power stations of the city due to their proximity to the river and the ease of shipping coal there, they are now arts venues, providing a different kind of energy and light.
Light collection, wet paint, in the process of being built....
So I picked up the work from Trace Elements after being frustrated by the snow. I had been going to hire a self drive van, however I really didn’t fancy driving an unfamiliar vehicle in the snowy weather so I had to book a last minute art van, I booked through Gallery Services, and they were great. The driver saved me from having to return on public transport by giving me a lift with the work. Great service!
At the show I had had a conversation with Alex McIntyre which put me on a mission once I got the work back, the four pieces I had there have now been coppered down the edge, which happily looks like rivitted copper bottoms. These pieces will be with Why Not Art as a collection from next week.
Then this week I had the delight to be invited to the Curious Duke Gallery for Chris King’s show No Opportunity For Regret, so as it was on a single bus ride I braved the snow and was so glad I did. This is the first time I have been to the Curious Duke, I have been wanting to for a while but never quite made it there. I met Eleni Duke, and chatted but flaked out of introducing myself, that will have to wait for another time...The show is quite soulful, urban images empty of people, they reminded me of Hopper, and then some of them had an intensly graphic sensibility. Really worth going to have a look.
And in reposnse to the clarity I was feeling because of the snow, I decided to follow up on a few opportunities I was still waiting to hear from. So before the snow melted I had heard back from the No Format Gallery crisply and clearly that I will have a Solo show in November. Another opportunity I was hoping to hear from by the end of the month has given me a more snow melty blurry you have been added to the waiting list response, and the third people I contacted simply have not answered my email.
So while the landscape emerges out of its blanket of snow ice and fog I am still hoping for a little more clarity in my plans.