The blog has been quite text-heavy in the last few days, so here’s an image-based post for a bit of balance.
A couple of weeks ago I planted some coriander seeds that I’d harvested from the plant in my window box. The plan was to have some growing inside over the winter but I don’t think it’s working since all I seem to be getting is a fine crop of admittedly inspirational mushrooms!
The compost was obviously shot through with mycelium. These come up in little clumps of two or three mushrooms and they only last a day or two at most before they crumple into nothingness.
In these two shots, you can see how tiny and translucent they are. I was sure this would disintegrate as soon as I picked it up but although it was fragile, it was stronger than it looked and I was able to delicately hold it while I photographed it.
Looking at these I was reminded of the incredible mushroom drawings by Chris Drury.
Here is his description of how he makes them:
If you cut off the stem of a mushroom and place it on a piece of paper overnight, covered with a bowl, it will drop its spores onto the paper in the pattern of the gills. The spore print here is digitally scanned and printed in three versions and altered by changing the contrast in Photoshop. The prints are glued and ironed onto the canvas which is built up in layers of gesso to form a surface for writing.
This radiating pattern of spore lines draws you in as a mandala would, but if you take a magnifying glass and follow one line from the centre out to the periphery then you will notice that each line branches and branches again like the limb of a tree. In making these densely written works this is in fact what I do: I follow the principle of the line that branches, only in densely hand-written words, in inks of different tones, with reed pens of different thickness, gathered from the banks of the river (everything flows here) and which have to be constantly sharpened and dried. The written words are repeated and hypnotic, like a mantra. The words cease to have meaning, the concentration is on the sound. A word that has a good sound is easy to write. It flows on to the canvas. The concentration is on the sound, the shape, the size, the colour, the tone, the branches. The words are the mantra that shape the mandala.
Needless to say, I adore the obsessiveness and repetitiveness of this process! Imagine doing all that writing, and these aren’t small pieces – each canvas is 187cm square. I wonder if he ever makes spelling mistakes? If I was writing something over and over like that, I know I would start losing all sense of the words and I would start getting them wrong. It reminds me of the sort of obsessive use of writing that you sometimes see in Outsider Art.
I’ve been a fan of Drury’s work since I saw his ‘Medicine Wheel’ piece in Leeds City Art Gallery. That piece – a circular collection of natural objects collected daily for a year – was a definite influence on my Diary Project.
Unusually for a well-known artist, Drury not only has his own web site but he even writes a blog. A recent exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art also has an associated blog by the gallery staff and they even have sets on Flickr.
I’m quite delighted by this. I constantly meet artists who don’t have any web presence and don’t grasp why this is a problem: I often end up doing five minute impromptu versions of my articles about how artists can use the web. Many famous artists don’t even seem to have their own dedicated sites. Seriously, what’s up with that? Surely they can afford to pay someone to do it. Hell, if I can do it, surely Damien Hirst can manage it! What’s the matter, Damien, did someone pinch ‘damienhirst.org’ out from under you? I can only assume that they think it’s unimportant or perhaps it’s seen as a bit too democratic or something – I don’t know why it happens but I find it very odd.
So it’s fantastic to see an established artist and a big institution using blogging and the net to directly engage with their audience and I hope other mainstream members of the art world will eventually follow suit. I know lots of galleries have websites but I often get the sense that they don’t quite ‘get’ the web; I think many of them still think in terms of the old models of top-down publishing. Hmm, something else to research and think about…