Tag Archives: artists

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What's Been Happening Lately?

So, I sort of opened a shop for my drawings. There's not much up there yet but if you've ever wanted me to send you a hand-drawn envelope containing a secret, you're in luck! There's also a couple of my more expensive archival drawings and more will going up next week.

You may remember that back in February I did a 30 minute talk about blogging for the University Of Arts in London - the audio is now online.

On Friday, I visited the American Museum in Bath with the lovely people from Textile Forum South West. We had a guided tour around their current quilting exhibition. Now quilting isn't my thing but it was a fascinating talk and the level of sewing skill was quite staggering, especially when you consider that most of it was done by hand. I also ate my first ever Snickerdoodle, which is quite possibly the best cookie name ever. It was very tasty. The museum have their own kitchen where they bake deliciously exotic American goodies and frankly it's worth a trip just for the baked goods but they also have an eclectic collection set in beautiful grounds.

I sewed lots more sequins and listened lots more podcasts. It doesn't make for very exciting blogging, does it. But I've definitely passed the half way point now. Unfortunately, I've - gasp - nearly run out of sequins. I'm praying that they've got more of the right kind in Fabric Land. I'm going into town to find out tomorrow, if they've run out you'll probably be able to hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from wherever you are in the world.

I finally made another video. If you fancy a four & half minute tour around my studio, hit play:

Chickens

Last night I was fretting that Colette was ill, she had disappeared into the chicken house for hours and seemed strangely docile. This morning it dawned on me that the silly hen is actually broody. We don't have a cockerel, so she has no fertile eggs - in fact, she isn't sitting on any eggs at all but she's making a fairly determined attempt to hatch out a pile of shredded paper. She's not the brightest chicken, that one! Still, at least it's keeping her quiet.

Books
I finished Among The Bohemians by Virginia Nicholson. It's not flawless, she does rather gloss over Eric Gill's unforgivable practice of committing incest with his female relatives but I found it a very readable account of this interesting period in art history. If you've ever wondered where a lot of our contemporary ideas about artists come from, this book provides many of the answers. Highly recommended.

Other Artists
Two artists inspired by animals this week:

Matt Cummings makes amazing sculptures of animals that manage to capture the essence of the animal without being slavishly realistic.

I'm loving these rabbit prints by Kyoko Imazu, especially the more sinister ones. If I had any money at all, I'd buy one.

Cool Things
Sister Diane's video 7 Crafting Supplies I'm No Longer Allowed To Buy to buy made me laugh hysterically. Total comedy of recognition.

I'm currently enjoying Marisa's blog, New Dress A Day, which features daily remaking of thrifted clothing. I don’t always like her finished items but I’m amazed that she looks at some of those hideous dresses and thinks, ‘hell yeah, I can make something with this 1980’s shiny polyester peach number!’ It’s a lesson in creativity, for sure.

If you like things in jars, you'll like this, if you don't like dead things, you won't.

If you've not been listening to John T. Unger's podcast, Art Heroes Radio, you need to remedy that asap. All the ones I've listened to have been interesting but the one on pricing is especially valuable.

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Britain is in the midst of a heatwave (well, what we call a heatwave) and it's too hot to write properly. So instead here's a quick look at the work of Liza Lou, whose obsessive work with beads naturally appeals to me.

Liza Lou first came to prominence with her beaded kitchen - a work that took her five years to make and involved her covering an entire kitchen in beads.

lizalou_sink
Liza Lou: Beaded Kitchen (Sink Detail)

Her more recent work has taken a more overtly political turn with beaded wire fences and prison cells that are partly inspired by her move to South Africa, where she now works with skilled local artisans to produce her sculptures. I find it intriguing that she's scaled up her production in this way. Originally she did all her beading herself but she was finding it impossible to continue working that way after developing acute tendinitis in her hands.

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Liza Lou: Security Fence

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Liza Lou: Security Fence

liza-lou-security-fence
Liza Lou: Security Fence

Make sure you check out this interview with her - I love what she has to say about artists using their powers for good. The rest of that online textile magazine, HandEye, is well worth a look.

And here's another article that explores the deeper motivations for her work.

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I spotted this incredible work on the Dear Ada blog.


Günther Uecker: Tanzender Stern, 2000

I'm not entirely sure how Günther Uecker makes his work but I strongly suspect that it's embossing made with a printing press. However it's done, I absolutely adore it. I would love one of his exquisite white works - not an accolade I give out lightly because I'm fussy about the art on my walls. However, since he has work in the Tate, it's probably fair to say that he's a little out of my price range!

The top picture is definitely my favourite but this image of scattered nails, reminiscent of my beloved pins, comes a very close second. In fact, I just like everything of his that I've seen.


Günther Uecker: Strömung I

Isn't it fantastic when you see art that just makes your heart swell with happiness - I'm doing the Snoopy Dance here.

You can see more of Uecker's work at the Zimmermann & Heitmann gallery.

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Simple things make me happy - like the form and colour of this faded old towel against the bathroom door.

Draped Towel 01
Kirsty Hall: Draped Towel, Dec 2008

This reminds me of 17th century Dutch paintings but I'm not sure why since as far as I'm aware they didn't often paint towels. Perhaps it's the 'still life' feeling of the image that I'm responding to?

Draped towel 02
Kirsty Hall: Draped Towel, Dec 2008

The history of painting is filled with fine renditions of drapery but most of it is incidental. However, occasionally a painter gets so carried away with depicting fabric that it becomes the central focus of the work, as in this painting of Cardinal Richelieu, who seems quite swamped and overwhelmed by his fine robes. His face looks like a bit of an afterthought to me!


Philippe de Champaigne: Cardinal Richelieu, 1640

I am endlessly fascinated by the way fabric drapes, which is why I love these huge contemporary paintings of fabric that Alison Watt created after a two year residency at The National Gallery. I love the plainness, the folds, the monochrome grey and white tones and the sheer scale of these. I've never seen them in the flesh but I'd love to.

Needless to say, I particularly like the knotted one.


Alison Watt: Pulse, 2006
© The National Gallery, London

This is an interesting 10 minute video about the work and Watt's relationship with the act of seeing. She talks very intelligently about looking and thinking. I got a real sense of the way that making art is a slow, deep and intense process - something artists don't always manage to convey to people because it's such a difficult thing to talk about.

Draped fabric has played an increasing important role in my own work in the last few years. Recently I've been researching linen and acquiring a collection of antique bedlinen that I plan to start working with in the new year. I am particularly fascinated by the idea of worn and torn fabric; I've been playing around with it since I made and photographed this test piece back in 2006.

sheet 01
Kirsty Hall: Torn Sheet, 2006

This is the origin of the work that I'm about to start making - two to three years is about average for an idea to ferment in my head. It's a cotton sheet that I deliberately tore into strips and then knotted together. I was thinking about the literary cliché of imprisoned women climbing out of windows after making a rope from the bedsheets. I've been trying to track down the origin of this trope; so far the only definite example I have is a scene in Terry Pratchett's The Fifth Elephant. If anyone knows of any other instances, I'd love to hear about them as I'm starting to wonder if I've made it up. But I suspect that I just haven't read enough 18th century Gothic novels!

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I can't believe this has been sitting in my draft folder since MAY! It took an age to research, mostly because Americans will insist on using the word 'pins' to mean badges and brooches, which made googling for other artists who use dressmaking pins rather tedious and time-consuming. In this post I've concentrated on art where the pins are the main focus, rather than a way of anchoring or enhancing other things; I may do a post on pins as a secondary medium at some later date.

I've written about Tara Donovan before - I admire her work immensely and although our work is quite different in scale, there are obvious connections with my own art. I am completely in awe of her huge block of pins. This isn't held together by anything other than the pins natural inclination to wedge themselves together - incredible!


Tara Donovan: Untitled, 2001

Mona Hatoum, another well-known artist, has made several works involving pins, including this sinister looking rug.


Mona Hatoum: Doormat II

American artist, Katie Lewis makes stunning wall pieces using pins, drawing and thread that focus on repetition and counting. I think these are fabulous and I wish I knew a bit more about this artist: I hope she puts a website or a blog up soon.


Katie Lewis: Accumulated Numbness (12 months and counting)


Katie Lewis: Process of Accumulation


Katie Lewis: Body Area x Time

Lisa Kellner uses quilting pins in some of her work. This piece, Oil Spill, uses 60,000 bright yellow pins in a highly patterned work that has echoes of quiltmaking. I'm not entirely sure about the use of yellow in this work but I love the way the heads of the pins nestle against each other.


Lisa Kellner: Oil Spill


Lisa Kellner: Oil Spill

Margaret Diamond makes kinetic works. In her piece, Quietly Suffering, she has pushed pins through canvas and then wired them up to a motor so they move.


Margaret Diamond: Quietly Suffering


Margaret Diamond: Quietly Suffering (close up)

Fortunately there's a short video, so we can see the piece in action. Pins are just amazing when they move, they catch the light in such compelling ways - one of my favourite things about my own piece, Quiver, was the way it gently shimmered as it moved in even the slightest breeze.

Hmm, I notice that all these artists are women, if anyone knows of any male artists working with pins, I'd love to hear about them.

A few other pins links:

This site about the history of lacemaking has some beautiful images of prickings (the pin-pricked paper patterns used for making lace) and a delightful cluster of pins in use during lacemaking.

Unsurprisingly, I love this sort of obsessive stuff - A. Schiller, a convicted forger imprisoned in Sing Sing in the 19th Century spent 25 years carving the Lord's Prayer on 7 pins.

A fun little page about the history of small items like pins, zippers, needles and buttons. Lots of lovely pictures.

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I really appreciate the comments I get on this blog but I'm a bit lousy at answering them, as those of you who get a reply weeks or months later already know! I've been making an effort to catch up lately and while doing so, I was struck by the insightful comments I got on last month's Falling Off Beams post: it seems that I'm not alone in struggling to find a balance between life and art. Instead of answering the comments individually, I thought I'd quote them here and just for a bit of fun, I set myself the challenge of going to the sites of those who commented and trying to find an image that related to the idea of balance.

Vivien Blackburn wrote:

That description of childhood gym and the terror of that beam for an un-athletic child with no balance brought back memories for me!

me too

and yes, life is often like that

Vivien was easy; on visiting her site, I immediately spotted this beautiful charcoal drawing of an apparently impossibly balanced rock.


Vivien Blackburn: Rocks above Sennen Cove, Charcoal

iHanna wrote:

Thanks for writing what I’m feeling too Kristy! All those unwritten blog posts, all those things one plan and never will get to! :-)

calmness and chaos!

More chaos than calm by the look of it - iHanna's moleskine notebook is full and so is her brain!


iHanna: Image from Moleskine journal

Annalisa from Kaizen Journey wrote:

Well said! I feel as though I have been buffeted by conflicting forces for awhile now too, and like you said balance can be hard to find but the struggle for it is what makes life lively…

This was a tougher choice, I could have chosen some of Annalisa's lovely symmetrical shibori but in the end, I decided on this delicate floating image. Maybe on the days when balance feels hard we can all try to breath deep, lie back and just float a little?


Alsokaizen: In Solution

Daniel Sroka wrote:

I have a partially written post just like this one sitting in my blog’s Drafts folder. I believe that you may need the tension between what you have to do and what you want to do in order to move ahead with either. It is the energy created by the two, like a magnetic force, that pushes you forward.

Wise words there from Daniel, I shall try to keep them in mind the next time I'm beating myself up for not working hard enough. I knew I'd be spoilt for choice on Daniel's site and indeed, the problem wasn't finding something appropriate but narrowing it down to just one image.

Daniel Sroka: Flight

dryadart wrote:

good to know there are others struggling to make room in a “real” life for the art they must make… some days one feels so alone… balance, peace, space, wisdom, all such elusive and fleeting things, thanks for the post

I just loved this quirky drawing from dryadart. I enjoyed the sense that all the figures were slightly off balance, the centre figure in particular looks like she's about to fall.

Lee from Dancing Crow wrote:

thank you for a reminder that balance is not-falling, rather than any simple pose that can be maintained over time. I am flailing my workroom, trying to winnow and weed and return to the pristine space only things I really want to work on. An impossible task, of course, all the old projects and ideas are crowding about looking for a chance to be made (or finished) as well as new ideas…

And here's a perfect image from Lee to finish.


Lee: Untitled

Thanks to everyone who commented, I appreciated all your words of wisdom - although it did make me wonder if any of us are ever in balance? If you have any tips or tricks to finding a balance between your life and your art, then please let me know because it sounds as many of us could do with some help in that department!

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Celia Richards is an artist living and working in Edinburgh. She removes the notes from sheet music to make installations that I find very poetic and delicious.


Celia Richards: Sheet music with the notes removed


Celia Richards: Notes from The Planets (for Two Pianos) by Gustav Holst

I particularly like her works using pianolo rolls because my grandad used to have one in his garage. He had a big box of the rolls and would let us sort through them to load into the machine. We were always awestruck by the undeniable magic of an instrument that played itself.


Celia Richards: Untitled

While exploring her website, I was delighted to find that she's also been using stitch on some of her pieces, including this darned pianolo roll.


Celia Richards: Untitled


Celia Richards: Untitled

There's more of her delightful work on her website and her Flickr pages. Thanks to the Rag And Bone blog for alerting me to her work.

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"If you've done all your own mending, there's a heap of socks to be
looked over. Then I'll show you about darning the tablecloths. I do
hate to have a stitch of work left over till Monday," said Mrs.
Grant, who never took naps, and prided herself on sitting down to
her needle at 3 P.M. every day.

from Jack And Jill by Louisa May Alcott

I should be sitting down to my needle at 3pm every day but sadly I'm still unwell so apart from a tiny bit of drawing, I've not had the energy to make any art. I certainly haven't been able to start the new series of work I'm planning, which involves a lot of sewing. However, I have been researching mending and darning in preparation and I've come across a couple of artists who use darning as an intrinsic part of their work.

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San Francisco artist, Michael Swaine trundles around with a handmade sewing cart mending people's clothes and engaging them in conversation.


Michael Swaine: Sewing For The People

There's an interesting video showcasing his projects here. He was recently in Britain undertaking a new project where he documented and darned people's socks.


Michael Swaine: Darning Socks

That little box of thread and tools just makes me drool with longing - the neatness and particularity of it is very appealing to me.

His way of working instantly reminded me of my own Pin Ritual which uses pinning as a conduit for conversations about subjects like domesticity, repetitive labour and, almost invariably, people's grandmothers.

pin ritual 01
Kirsty Hall: Pin Ritual

Celia Pym is a British artist who spent a year darning holes in clothes for her degree show at the Royal College of Art.


Celia Pym: Mend

Unfortunately Celia doesn't seem to have a website, so I can't tell you much more about her although you can see more of her work, including some very lovely little ink drawings, here.

Both these artists were found on Treehugger, an interesting site focused on green issues. Although they don't have a specific art section, they do cover some contemporary art.

Other Darning Links

Prick Your Finger is an alternative haberdashery/knitting shop in London who have a fun blog that often mentions darning. They recently hosted Michael Swaine.

Jerry Barney from Fergus Falls in Minnesota recently wrote a charming post about finding a pair of socks that his mother had darned.

My Front Porch has been darning a sweater, while Kate from Needled repaired some jeans with the help of a vintage book.

I found the diagrams on this 'how to' page about Pueblo darning and mending quite delightful.

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If anyone knows of any other artists who are working with mending or darning, do let me know because I'd love to hear about them.

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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.

Kirsty Hall, photograph of 3 tiny translucent fungi
Kirsty Hall: Fungi, Sept 08

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.

Kirsty Hall, photograph of tiny translucent fungi on palm of hand
Kirsty Hall: Fungi, Sept 08

Kirsty Hall, photograph of tiny translucent fungi on palm of hand
Kirsty Hall: Fungi, Sept 08

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.


Chris Drury: Destroying Angel – Trinity

Chris Drury, Destroying Angel, mushroom spore print and drawing
Chris Drury: Destroying Angel – Trinity
White printed spore prints and radiating lines of text in white ink and pencil on black prepared canvas. Text reads: 'Amanita virosa- Destroying angel'

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.

Chris Drury, medicine wheel, circular sculpture of natural objects collected over a year
Chris Drury: Medicine Wheel

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...

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Whilst reading this month's Art World, I noticed that two of the artists I was most taken with were both shown by the Kate MacGarry gallery in London. It turns out that the gallery has quite an interesting roster of artists, including several who use fabric in a fine art context, which is always good to see. However, the artist I am most impressed with (and the reason I bought Art World magazine in the first place) is Matt Bryans, a London based artist who works with simple everyday materials like newsprint and aluminium foil.


Matt Bryans: Untitled 2006, erased newspaper cuttings.
Unknown photographer

I wish I'd made these incredible erased newspaper works. Bryans collects discarded newspapers, cuts out the photos and then partially erases them. The combination of the act of physically erasing - a process that's been interesting me for a while now - with the intrinsically ephemeral nature of newspapers on their daily journey into oblivion is very seductive to me. I love the idea of taking paper that is already thin and cheap and making it even more fragile by rubbing away at it. A bit of an art conservationist's nightmare, of course, since woodpulp newspapers are notoriously weak and filled with acid but how wonderful that the results are these visually strong, hauntingly strange and eerily poetic works.


Matt Bryans: Untitled 2008, erased newspaper cuttings.
Image by Oak Taylor Smith


Matt Bryans: Untitled 2004, erased newspaper cuttings.
Unknown photographer

Looking at them, I was reminded of the cultural violence of the Reformation which destroyed so much Catholic art in Britain and remains a huge scar across British art history. It's not unusual to visit churches and find empty plinths where statues of saints once stood or sculptures and paintings where faces have been scratched or chiselled out or painted over.

Bryans is clearly a very process-based artist - his huge rolled ball of aluminium involved four people rolling a massive 27km of foil for 8 days, apparently it was quite difficult to stop it forming a square. I love the absurdity of taking metal that has been deliberately made into thin sheets and then reforming it into a large, heavy solid object by hand. Of course, he could have melted and then cast the aluminium foil into a perfect sphere but it's the laborious hand rolling aspect that really makes this work for me.


Matt Bryans: Untitled 2008, aluminium foil.
Image by Oak Taylor Smith

His smaller aluminium wall works were made by rolling foil into balls, melting them and then hitting them with a hammer to flatten them before soldering the hundreds of resulting "fragile but surprisingly heavy" circles to the wall.


Matt Bryans: Untitled 2008, aluminium foil.
Image by Oak Taylor Smith

He's showing at Kate MacGarry from 17th October to 23rd November, I shall have to make an effort to get over to London to see it.