Pandemic Pondering #140

Borders are the subject of today’s art group prompt.Borders have always fascinated me. I am a blurred borders sort of person, grey scale rather than black and white. Curiously a border is the underpinning geographic feature that defines the art group that these prompts are set for this month.The Tamar Valley divides and is the border between Devon and Cornwall. Conversely it divides Cornwall from the rest of the World.What creative things will the Artists of the Tamar Valley be inspired to create or share when the word Borders drops into their Instagram or Facebook feed today.It’s very difficult to predict. August is traditionally both quiet and busy for local artists. Quiet because the creative work is mostly done and busy because it’s open Studios time. Open Studios is a big deal in any art group , a time for artists to throw open their studio/workshop spaces to welcome in the public. Or to arrange a public space for groups of artists to show their work.Open Studios has been going on for years.But not this year.August will pass in the Tamar Valley without its usual artistic flurry.Time to sit in the sun and consider the word ‘ border’ or indeed any of the 31 words on the prompt list.PSI’m aware this is not the most scintillating blog but this little post script might make you smile. I’ve just finished reading this month’s book club choice. Post shower there was a visual joke.

Pandemic Pondering #139

Crosshatch throws up quite a story. Considering I chose a career, radiography, that was, somewhat, Physics-based my love of Physics has never been passionate, best described as a loyalty and even that seems too warm.

Beyond 14 my school, in common with many in Britain at the time, did not make it easy to study a mix of arts and sciences. I was streamed towards the sciences. When I say streamed, a word that suggests gentle flowing, I actually mean I was weird.

The flow characteristics of my entire life were altered.

Obviously I’ve used a little artistic licence with words to show the impact of the educational choices imposed on me. I did eventually get my Artistic Licence.

Physics with Mr Jolly did not ignite pyrogenic interest but developed the skills , so useful in life, of dull diligence and sketching.

During Physics lessons I diligently learnt physics but filled the borders of my notes and sometimes the text books with crosshatched sketches of Mr Jolly. He had a magnificent 70’s style moustache and wrists and ankles that seemed determined to escape his clothes.

You might wonder why I was drawing in a physics class. Everybody was. My class was made up of 31 boys and me.

14 year old boys are avid artists, nothing is safe from their sketches of penises and breasts, especially when their minds are not engaged fully with the official subject.

I quickly discovered that I could avoid their bullying and ridicule,and be accepted into the drawing gang by being able to sketch Mr Jolly in a series of cartoons. Crosshatching gave him shape and form as, unsurprisingly, only a pen was necessary for physics lessons.

This story could end here, but in honesty it doesn’t.

Radiography took me to many life experiences that did not require too much artistic talent. The medical world has its public face and in a Pandemic the world owes everything to Science and Medicine. However there are some who work in that world who are ego-driven nasty people, they mostly go unchallenged.

On bad days working with egotists those early sketching skills came in useful. The gift of a quickly drawn cartoon sketch of a colleague who was behaving like an utter dick, depicted as an actual dick, could turn the tears of a sad colleague, the victim of unkindness, into smiles.

My 14 year old self would never have drawn a penis but I observed how to do it in Physics. Some talents take a while to find their useful place.

Crosshatching, my story.

Pandemic Pondering #107

I don’t think I’m alone,as a creative person, in having utterly failed to fill the pandemic lockdown with a meaningful career defining response to these strange times. I’ve drawn,painted and sketched. Written obviously. My Magnum Opus is,so far, eluding me.

My Mistresspiece is missing.

It will come as no surprise that I am utterly disappointed by this definition of Mistresspiece.

An outstanding example of female beauty.

What utter bollocks!

A Mistresspiece is career defining creative work by a woman.

It stands alone and is not in my opinion mistress + piece, after masterpiece.

Rant over , time to continue the pondering about my missing Mistresspiece.

To be fair, a missing Mistresspiece is just a symptom of Lockdown Ennui. Expressed by so many people who have failed to do tasks or achieve goals, during Lockdown, that has previously been excused as a failure because of time constraints.

There is something going on in my studio. I doubt very much if it is the Mistresspiece. It hovers somewhere between collage and Palimpsest.

It is an attempt to get down in 2D the swirling thoughts of Pandemic Insomnia, which in turn seems to involve a return visit to those complex and often sinister repetitive dreams of childhood.

To be continued.

Pandemic Pondering #91

Palimpsest is one of my favourite visual experiences. I’ve written about it in a couple of blogs.

Originally the word described the effect of parchment being reused and the original script showing through the newly scribed text.

The contemporary use of the word applies to, a mostly urban , experience of Graffiti, street art , posters and stickers jostling for attention on walls and structures.

Tidying my studio recently has given us an almost parchment experience of Palimpsest.

We’ve started reusing an old familial blackboard as our shopping list. The blackboard has lost the ability to shrug off earlier messages. I could repaint it but I am charmed by the old messages butting-in to our current life.

Tidying the studio also provided plenty of old work filed away, today I decided to put it to good use.

I’m not really certain where one person creating a work moves from Collage to Palimpsest.

This is the first layer of whatever this is, drying off its first layer of sticky gluey creativity.

Progress will be blogged.

Whenever I revisit palimpsest I do a search on WordPress to see if anyone else is talking about it. Today I found

Elizabeth, saved by words.

Blogged on the 18th April, she was one month into quarantine.

Three months in Lockdown and reluctantly easing, my thoughts run in a similar way to hers.

Life in lockdown has been layered. There has been a lot of thinking time, too much sometimes. I’ve definitely gained many new skills, I’m fitter of body and my blogging muscles perform much better but the losses have been eviscerating. Despite social distancing I know more people now than I did in March.

The thinking space has definitely helped the negative aspects of the last three months and created some wonderful memories and perspectives.

There is also a tiny layer of guilt that while some jobs have been done there are a pesky few that we have been resistant to.

Creating Palimpsest in the studio is the best antidote to chore guilt. One little detail is a bit of a wish for a return to normality.

Pandemic Pondering #61

Hugging the void. I wanted to find an image of a hug to illustrate this blog. My own archive didn’t have what I wanted. I don’t remember my exact Google search, maybe ‘famous hugging painting’. Klimt came up with several versions of Kiss, all gorgeous and sumptuous but not what I wanted. @theoldmortuary we are huggers and touchers. Like many people, we really miss everyday human touch. Family hugs and good friend hugs are obviously top of the list but random people hugs or a touch of an arm to express understanding or support are also much missed. It just feels strange not to touch other humans. It is also important for our health. Let’s do it more.
During a hug we release oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes us and lowers anxiety. It’s often called the “cuddle hormone,” and when it’s released during a 20 second hug it can effectively lower blood pressure and reduce the stress hormone norepinephrine. … Good, long hugs are good for your heart , mind and all the other important human bits.

Regular readers would know that we live very close to a church. There is one vicar who absolutely rocks a good hug outside the church gate. It crosses the boundaries of secular and sacred and it seems so right when people are in distress or blissfully happy.

But back to the image I found that expresses hug so eloquently.

The fact it is painted on a huge chimney plays nicely to the void part of my first sentence. Painted by Loretta Lizio in Brunswick, Melbourne, Australia.

It depicts Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister comforting a Muslim woman after the Mosque massacre in 2019.

The subject matter is significant but it’s the rendering of the hug that made me choose it.

Hugging goals for when we can do them randomly and with no restrictions.

Pandemic Pondering#16

Another day, another Pangolin.Pangolins are the colour of a winter sea. I am immediately inspired to paint another cuddled- up Pangolin painted in the colours of my favourite winter sea. That of the Atlantic coasts close to my adopted home in the West of England. The greens, blues and browns of seas and minerals stirred up by storms and winds in the wet months of October to March , most years, are every bit as beautiful as turquoise tropical seas.As isolation stretches into the distance , ponderation seems happy to hunker down and settle on one subject for more than one day.I realise not everyone may have had a childhood fascination with the Pangolin or Spiny Ant Eater . So today I’m going to share some top tips on Pangolins. Pangolin is a Malay word for one who rolls up.Pangolins are said to be the most Trafficked Mammal which brings us instantly back to Covid-19. For today I’m going to talk about pre-pandemic Pangolins.They are poached and Trafficked because their scales are highly valued in Chinese Medicine. This trade is illegal internationally. They are also considered to be a luxury bushmeat. I’m unsure if this trade carries a world wide ban .It should. China and Vietnam are the countries where most Pangolin are tradedPangolins are solitary peaceful animals, mostly nocturnal, who only socialise annually to mate. Mating is not instigated in the usual sense by males. They simply leave a bit of poo and wee around and a female sniffs him out when she feels in the mood for reproduction.
What thrilled me as a child was the Pangolin tongue. Longer than the length of its body it is stored in a pouch by the Pangolins hip.

Rear view of Pangolin featuring hip pocket for tongue with spare ants.

This seemed like a super power accessory we could all do with. Their spit is super sticky, all the better to gather termites and ants . Pangolins have no teeth and swallow pebbles to grind the ants into a pulp in their first stomach. Curiously they also have scales inside their stomachs to aid this grinding.Pangolins are found in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The illegal trade in their meat and scales has forced three of the eight species close to extinction , this coupled with the loss of their natural habitat by deforestation has put all eight remaining Pangolin species on an At Risk of Endangerment or Extinction register at various levels of severity as of January 2020.Pangolins in literature might be my Pandemic research of the day…

This is why Instagram matters to Artists and Makers

Yesterday was an interesting day. A coffee meet up with a friend serendipitously introduced me to an artist and jeweller . Then an unexpected printing hiccough gave me some water colour scraps to create a new image.For interest I though I would use the Instagram Grids of the three people I met to illustrate this blog.

©tessajanedesigns Instagram

Coffee was with tessajanedesigns at Ocean Studios. We were just having a social catch up after teaching a Social Media workshop earlier in the week.

Mark Wiggin saw us nattering and came to join us.

©. Mark Wiggin instagram

Then we popped upstairs to see Val Muddyman. Her current work recreates the tiny details of the beauty of a beach really close to her workshop at Devils Point.

©Val Muddyman Instagram

Hugo loved her workshop.

For completeness here is my Instagram grid.

©theoldmortuary Instagram

I met all these people in just one hour, the images I found of their work on Instagram is such a simple illustration of why Instagram is a great piece of Social Media for Artists and Makers.

The image above is a future palimpsest but for now it’s a collage.

One clean finger and a camera phone.

Artists and makers tend to be isolationists. Not, perhaps, deliberately but almost certainly circumstantial.

In order to create original work a space is required. Those spaces become a unique location where the artist or maker has the tools and ingredients of their production alongside reference materials and importantly the space to think.

Even in the most delicious communal art spaces ,artists quickly set about erecting boards and barriers to mark their own individual territory.

Shared areas, the loo or kitchen have an almost international grubbiness to them . Marked with indelible signs of the artists that have passed that way. Artists ,Mark-Making on communal areas like a tomcat with territory acquisition and the balls to do it. Just like tomcats artists communal spaces have a distinctive odour.

As an aside I believe the art world has missed a trick. Imagine an exhibition of Butler’s sinks, or local type, brought together from around the world’s greatest artists studios. All displayed in a huge white space. With their original fittings and adjacent work surfaces. Imagine the smells!

Social Media allows artists to maintain their isolationism and yet join with like minded people without the effort of putting on their arty clothes and washing their faces. Social media just needs one clean finger and a camera phone.

Last night we had a real-time gathering of artists from the Tamar Valley to share and expand their knowledge and use of Social Media . Everyone arrived with at least a clean finger and a camera phone. Everyone left with fresh knowledge, a few more followers and probably some new friends.

Digital Learning Day

Every day is a digital learning day @theoldmortuary as we are both digital migrants, very far from Luddites we are early adopters of technology who have a fondness for the hardware of the pre-digital age. Currently involved,and failing, to engage local artists in the benefits of Instagram , this morning I adopted irony with my post.

© Guardian

This image captivated me over the weekend, it illustrated an article about Hilary Mantel and her new book. Another image from the weekend was this typewriter in Joe and the Juice, Wimbledon.

I love that the hardware of the pre-digital age are loved by so many people and not all thrown into landfill.

Joe and the Juice, Regent Street had another gorgeous typewriter when I was there in the winter.

Lurking in the studio @theoldmortuary there is a collection of wooden letterpress letters.

The sentiment is somewhat appropriate.

And, thank goodness, neatly brings me back to art.

I would be really grateful to anyone who has an idea or experience of engaging artists and makers to engage with Instagram and Social Media in general. Comments either on here or on theoldmortuary Instagram/ facebook page. Thanks in advance.

Sputnik,cheese curds and me + a little art.

I was known as Sputnik during my childhood , conceived and delivered in the same year as the first artificial earth satellite named Sputnik.Things could have turned out so very differently. Had my parents lived in Quebec, I could have been called Poutine.

Considered one of Canada’s greatest inventions, it was created in the same year.

It evolved in rural Quebec when a customer regularly asked a chef to add cheese curds to a plate of chips, gravy was added later to keep the whole dish warm.

The chef involved declared “Ça va faire une maudite poutine!” (“It will make a damn mess!”)

It has become the perfect comfort food. Crispy chips, rich meaty gravy and squeaky curd cheese. Textural, gustatory ecstasy for mouths and minds.

I discovered Poutine in Toronto, at a bar overlooking AGO, the Art Gallery of Ontario.

It was a day of great discoveries. AGO was full of wonderful but unheard-of, to me, artists, none of them ever mentioned during a British Fine Art degree. There was something really thrilling about discovering new-to-me contemporary 20th Century Western Art. It was refreshing not to have the opinions of art historians,critics or lecturers already seeded into my head before viewing the works.

There were so many that I loved but this vivid work is the first to come to mind. Beyond the colours it is the certainty of mark making that gives it such impact.

This work is by Rita Letendre one of Canada’s best known living artists, she is 91 as I write this. Known for her bold visceral style, her images are created using many techniques, printing, painting, scraping, bare hands, knives.

This one is called The Joy of Living.

I’m not sure I get ‘Joy’ from this image. Energy, powerful passion or excoriating pain are my immediate responses.The work has creative exuberance and I love it but I think I feel joy more calmly. Maybe it was the carb overload at the time of viewing!

After researching her many works I realise that one of my earlier synesthesia images painted to a piece of Jeff Beck music has some of the qualities of a Letendre . ( Who do think I am! )

I will add an image of my painting to this blog at a later date once I’ve contacted the current owner.

So much pleasure and knowledge gained in one day. A good amount of calories too.