Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Lucian Freud Project at IMMA

I went to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) recently to see the Lucian Freud work, which will be exhibited in the Garden Galleries for the next five years. While at the moment all the work is being exhibited as a large collection, I got the impression that over this period that the work may be exhibited in different curatorial permutations, so now was the time to see the work before there was any personal "agenda" attached to it! This etching is Self Portrait: Reflection, 1996

I have to admit that I was never particularly interested in Freud's (what seemed to me) hyper realistic painting before, but there is something compelling about seeing a collection of works together. And that I have long been interested in psychoanalysis. And that there is an unmistakable psychological element in his work that definitely is reflective of the work of his grandfather. So the name becomes part of the intrigue, and part of my reason for going to the exhibition. This etching is Bella in Her Pluto T Shirt, 1995.

The basement gallery was devoted to works on paper, mostly etchings. Given my relatively recent interest in printmaking, I was delighted to find the room full of work that was unfamiliar to me. This etching is Girl with Fuzzy Hair, 2004. I thought this print was especially interesting as I thought at first the white highlights in the hair were were created manually when wiping off the plate before going to the press. However, there was another print with similarities and the display included the metal etching plate; the highlighted areas were actually burnished on the plate itself! These burnished highlights in curly hair are a major feat of burnishing brilliance!

There were quite a lot of etching portraits in this exhibition, which had incredible detail and certainly did not speak of flattery; as I said above, something about psychology and the artist's name... This etching is The New Yorker, 2006.

Although most of the basement gallery exhibition displayed images of people, there were several landscapes, which also indicate Freud's meticulous translation of observation. This gorgeously detailed etching is Painter's Garden, 2003-2004.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Jai Jai launch

Though it seems like an age ago now, it was less than two weeks ago that my friend Jai Thorn launched his fashion-art label Jai Jai at an evening event in The Chocolate Factory, Dublin. Jai's exhibit was a tactile mix of organic matter and living material. 

Despite the use of a male and female model, the garments themselves are conceived as "gender non-specific" and the models are perceived as vehicles for the movement of the garments; the choreography of the interaction between materials is paramount.

While the guests were invited to wander the space throughout the event, one looked at the still environments as sculpures most clearly during periods of time when the models were absent from the space. 

During the first presentation, the individual models slowly moved around the warehouse space, interacting with the sculptural materials throughout,

 After an interval, in a second presentation, the models reappeared in different garments. There was a heightened sense of change as there was more interaction with each other while the models continued to visually and psychically explore the materials of the environment-sculptures.

Even while the sculptures were still, one always had a sense of movement because of dynamic forms and the use of living material -- soil and plants.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Intaglio and Chine collé printing

I was out early on Sunday to head into the National Print Museum in Dublin in order to attend a printmaking workshop given by artist Elaine Leader. I signed up for this workshop because the technique of "Chine collé" was featured and I have been curious about this technique since I became aware of it about 20 years ago (I had never heard of it in printmaking classes I had in art school in Toronto). To start the day we were given some pieces of thin plastic (or thick acetate?) referred to as "axpet" (which I had also never come across before). Once I removed protective film from the axpet I could use it as a plate to do an intaglio sketch on. My tool of choice (we had our pick of several  etching tools) was a converted large sharpened nail. I ended up with two plates, the first one, done in the morning a city ruin sketch and the second, done in the afternoon based on one of my stick sketches.

The plate was inked with a dark ink, cleaned and then given a "roll-out" layer of translucent colour. For the Chine collé I ripped two random pieces of a light weight handmade paper. Wallpaper paste is thinly spread on the back of the paper and they must be placed upside down on the plate (so that the glue will adhere to the print paper). The Chine collé is the last thing to do before going to the press as the paste must be very thin and thus can dry out quickly -- make sure your paper has been removed from its water bath and blotted before you prepare the Chine collé paper!

We were printing on lovely Fabriano paper, so it needed to be in the water bath at least 10 minutes before blotting.

This is a close-up of the sticks print, with two pieces of Chine collé.

 Although I had the sticks plate ready to go, Elaine Leader was talking about the embossing technique, and I wanted to quickly try it out. I cut several pieces of sandpaper into "natural" shapes, got my paper ready, and at the press itself, placed the shapes onto the back of my first piece of axpet. A piece of tissue paper is placed between the plate with shapes and the paper, which keeps the paper clean (and in my case, it was a great barrier between the paper and rough sandpaper I was using for incredible texture).

I was thrilled with the way the embossing worked and wanted to see if Chine collé could be worked with it, so I started the process again. 

I thought the workshop was fabulous! I learned so many things in such a short space of time and can now think about how these processes can be used in other works.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Knocksink Woods - sketches

We have had some gorgeous weather over the past few weeks and, as I mentioned in previous posts, I have had the opportunity to enjoy some shinrinyoku in the nearby Knocksink Woods of Enniskerry. As well as foraging for wild garlic to make pesto, I have also been taking the chance to do some research for a project that I am at the early stages of.

I am excited to be going to a one day printmaking workshop at The Print Museum, Dublin this Sunday and in preparation I wanted some sketches of stick forms.

I am not sure if prints created at this workshop will make their way into my final project, but at very least they will be additional research.

 The project involves making books (these sketches are in one of my handmade sketchbooks), prints, and some natural elements like sticks and stones.

These pencil sketches are true to the stick forms that they represent, but by focusing only on the sticks, leaving out their surrounding environment, they have become very abstract.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Knocksink woods

The springtime weather is really becoming obvious over the past few weeks. Of course there are some glitches in the form of storms, wind and hail, but the longer days, flowers blooming, trees in bud and quite a few warm days give that great sense of renewal.

With decent weather, and despite the feet still bothering me (almost a year of plantar fascitis!) it was well beyond time for me to partake in some shinrinyoku (forest bathing for relaxation). A short drive inland leads to the lovely Enniskerry and Knocksink woods.

The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the ground cover of wild garlic was becoming apparent. We picked some young leaves (of which there was an abundance!), picked up some crusty bread on the way home and it was simple to whip up a batch of wild garlic pesto (recipe posted previously) and have an almost summery lunch of bruschetta. A perfect day!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Eugeen Van Mieghem: Port Life

A week ago I was in Dublin and, among other things, eagerly went to The Dublin City Hugh Lane Gallery to see the Eugeen Van Miegham: Port Life show. I was only familiar with this artist's work through facebook postings from The Hugh Lane and was intrigued. 

This is a close-up of the studio sketch in the upper left of the above photo. Mieghem's drawing is beautifully energetic.

There are a number of large paintings of ships in both wet and dry dock, which are fantastic, but the lighting made it impossible to take photos of them. I loved the gallery's "List of Works" as an alternative to wall labels; the list had colour thumbnails of each picture and as well as the usual details often had a little blurb of extra information.

The work in the show was quite attractive and I could see the comparisons to Edvard Munch, whom Mieghem admired. I have been to the Munch museum in Oslo, so it was easy to understand this comparison in style and subject matter. But the scumbling style of dry brush painting also reminded me of Canadian artist, David Milne, whose work I also love and have seen quite a lot of.

Miegham also did a large number of paintings and drawings of people working in the port, including these two (left in pencil, right in black chalk). The exhibition continues till June 11 2017 and is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Day in Dublin

I had a few things to do on the north side of Dublin and passed by this drawbridge. Actually, I am not sure exactly what this is (formerly a canal lock?) but it seems to be a bit out of place. It reminded me of old Dutch landscape paintings and I thought this was appropriate as I planned to go to the Eugeen van Meigham show at the Hugh Lane Municipal gallery later in the day (which I will post about next week).

In the meantime I took the opportunity to have a closer look at the giant iris outside the NCI building. I had spotted this on a previous visit to Dublin, but the rain kept me from further investigation then.

This stainless steel piece was created by Vivienne Roche and commissioned by the National College of Ireland (NCI) and entitled NC Iris.

On the way to The LAB to see a couple of exhibitions, I came across this plaque on Foley St  in commemoration of specific women who had fought in various places in Dublin during the 1916 Uprising, and generally to all women who had taken part in the activities of 1916, the War of Independence, and the Civil War, which followed.

Although it was in the smaller gallery at The LAB, Lucy McKenna's exhibition, "Astronomical Mashup", was  definitely the main attraction (and totally perfect in the entrance exhbition space).

McKenna combines sci fi mythology with factual knowledge about Mars to examine the way information is understood about our neighbouring planet in specific and on a wider scale in general.

The exhibition is intriguing: it possesses both beauty and humour. McKenna's small scale painted images are delicate while the large graphics are in-your-face technical wallpaper! The overlaps keep perspective shifting while all the time the viewer is aware of the set-like tentacle streams (a la War of the Worlds) hanging from the scenery, and always in peripheral vision in this small space.

Like a moth, I was drawn to the curiosities of the light bulbs, which had subtle photographic images on their back surfaces: a darkened crescent moon on one and tiny spots (the Pleiades) on the other.

I also enjoyed the other exhibition, IAWATST (Interesting And Weird At The Same Time), which took up the main gallery (including upstairs space). It was a group exhibition of work from the OPW collection curated by students from an inner city primary school. I didn't get any pictures from this exhibition, but they are available online and further information is available on The LAB website.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Hummus recipe

My cousin and her partner will be in Ireland this week, and they will be having a dinner visit at my place on Friday. My cousin's partner is wheat intolerant, so everything I make for the dinner party will be wheat free. Both my husband and I have decided on a very yummy menu, with nothing glutenous in sight! One of the pre-dinner nibblies will be our family favourite hummus and crudités. As tends to happen with most of my recipes, I just eyeball everything. If using dried chick peas (like I do), soak overnight, rinse, boil for about 1/2 hour with a bay leaf, let sit an hour or so then rinse and drain before adding to recipe.

Sorry I cannot include accurate measurements, but here is my guestimate for the recipe: 1 tin chick peas (garbanzo beans) or equivalent, 1/2 cup yoghurt (I use Greek Style -- adding yoghurt makes the hummus lighter to eat!), 1/2 cup tahini, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2-3 cloves garlic. Throw everything in mixer and whizz till it is a smooth consistency. Add a bit more olive oil or yoghurt if it still seems too thick. When serving, drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle some paprika over hummus. Serve with whatever crudités you like (celery, zucchini, red pepper, carrot and/or cucumber sticks, baby tomatoes, button mushrooms) and it is delicious also with crackers, bread sticks or crusty bread if you are not catering to wheat-free.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Day-planner sketches

For most of January and February, I have been back to work on the studio attic, trying to sort and purge things to make space (and sense!) so that I can get back to painting. Perhaps I have not been brutal enough, as I am still hanging on to quite a lot of "stuff", but I have been doing a fair amount of shredding (about 6 bags full so far) and recycling. One thing I have finally realised -- this is like a revelation to me -- day-planners are not the same as diary-journals! With this knowledge, all I had to do was rip out the personal details to shred and recycle the very useful, but no longer necessary, items. Good thing I do check them before discarding, as this sketch of my daughter (I remember her being asleep in the car) was in the 2005 book.

I do use sketchbooks most of the time, but if my purse is too small a sketchbook doesn't fit in it. So if needs be, pages in the ever-present day-planner get used, and I always carry a pen with me. I was living in rural Kerry in 1995 and I must have done these cow legs while walking past fields.

Again from the 1995 day-planner, I was taking a close look at cow parts -- here are two views of a snout (along with a bit of budgeting info!). Because of the date, I am presuming these cow sketches were research for my cow curtains, exhibited for the first time in November 1996 as part of "Pastures Green and Dreaming for Dad" at The Basement Gallery, Dundalk.

This sketch of my husband (before he was my husband) is from my 1993 day planner. I had to do a bit of research on this one to find out that "Last Temptation" was a tiny club in Toronto's Kensington Market. We were out providing support to a friend who was playing a gig there. It was February in Toronto, still cold -- my husband still has his scarf and coat on even though we would have been indoors. As I type this, it is February in Ireland and, though grey, outside my window I see lots of pink blossoms in bloom.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Valentine's Day

I have been making occasion cards since I was a child as they were always class art projects -- something to do for our parents -- by teachers who were not artists and had to come up with something to keep kids occupied! I continue the practice, however, enjoying hoarding bits of interesting paper, and then as an occasion comes up seeing how I can vary the annual theme. Since I have recently photographed all the cards from my Mum's archive, that she has kept over the years, I can easily compare them. Here is a sample of Valentine's Day cards I made for my Mum, starting with this one from 2002, using bits of wrapping paper and coloured construction paper as a base.

This one is from 2008, the base card being white corrugated cardboard and the hearts and other elements are made of a spongey material with an adhesive backing. 

This card from 2010 uses white card stock as a base, some wrapping paper scraps, and various coloured paper scraps. I also made use of a silver pen!

I used some heavy green card stock for the base of this 2013 card, The white paper with white and gold bits threaded through it is specialised wrapping paper. The red heart is a bit of an envelope I think, and the red background is simple coloured photocopy stock.

The card for 2016 made use of red card stock as a base, and several bits of coloured paper scraps to make the hearts. Goes to show how one symbol, a heart, can be used repeatedly to create a different card. There were many more variations in the archive, but I thought these provided a good example.