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.
https://www.lorettalizzio.com/

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.http://www.tessajane.co.uk/

Mark Wiggin saw us nattering and came to join us.

©. Mark Wiggin instagram

https://www.markwigginart.com/

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

https://www.valmuddyman.co.uk/shop-1

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.


https://drawntothevalley.co.uk/

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.

https://ago.ca/

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.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rita_Letendre

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.

Tate Modern is Twenty

Impermanence © Tate Modern

Anya Gallaccio had an installation at her recent exhibition at Tate Modern called Impermanence. A massive pile of oranges were left in the gallery . Viewers were invited to eat an orange, those not eaten would inevitably rot. It makes you think.

Tate Modern has been stimulating the artistic taste buds and making people think for twenty years.
It has become one of Britain’s most visited institutions.
When I did a Fine Art Degree as a mature student, Tate Modern became my 3D immersive text book. So much so that my nine year old daughter spun round the Turbine Hall declaring it was her favourite place in the world. There are some amazing works of art there.

My current favourite installation.
By Yinka Shonibare

The British Library

British Library © Tate Modern

I’ve pondered a lot, on this blog about Tate Modern. Some of them will appear below.

Social Media, a lesson learned

©instagram

Yesterday was the end of my week long ‘shift’ running the Instagram account of an Artist Collective in South West England. Drawn to the Valley is a collaborative support network and promotional organisation based in the Tamar Valley, a beautiful and often overlooked part of Devon and Cornwall. The members of the group work in and are inspired by vastly different landscapes and environments. The maritime port of Plymouth forms the distinctive Southern point of the group’s territory. The point where the River Tamar flows into the Hamoaze, Plymouth Sound and then finally flows into the Atlantic . In keeping with the mythic and folkloric emergence of any river the Northern boundary is less definite. Unromantically I would say somewhere in the post code EX 20. Specifically of course the Tamar arises out of the ground at Woolley Moor, Morewenstow.

©instagram

The area has many significant titles relating to Geography, History and Aesthetics.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Throughout human history the area has been exploited for minerals. It has a unique archaeologicaly significant mining heritage stretching from the Bronze Age to the present time.

European Special Area of Conservation.

Site of Special Scientific Interest

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The last category is represented by the Tamar Valley AONB. Drawn to the Valley has a particularly close association with this organisation

The Makers and Artists in this group are as diverse as the landscape in which they work.

Social Media is a valuable tool in keeping this diverse group of artists aware of what they are doing as individuals or groups but also and perhaps more significantly it is the group’s everyday shout out to the world.

Social Media has been a ‘thing’ for 27 years. It attracts bad press,deservedly, because like everything it is fallible.

But in benign hands for arts organisations it is invaluable. Persuading individual members of this can be a hard sell in any artistic community. As a group we run workshops and support groups to encourage our 160 + members to launch themselves safely and confidently into the Social Media Pond.

Which rather circuitously but hugely importantly brings me to the title of this blog.

I’ve been associated with the Tamar Valley for a large portion of my adult life and have only just learnt that River Tamar is the correct term for the river and area I’m talking about. Whilst #tamarriver is a completely different place in Tasmania.

#rivertamar

©instagram

A quick #tamarriver search on Instagram shows I am not the only person to make this error.

©instagram

There is also another lesson to learn, I fail to remember this one too often.

When operating a social media account on someone elses behalf always log out before waffling on about your own stuff.

Artist of the month.

No need to blog today. I’ve just lifted these two pages from the Drawn To The Valley Artists Newsletter.

It’s been quite a week of chatting at theoldmortuary all of it with other artists from the group Drawn To The Valley. Artists and bloggers live a singularly isolated working life so nattering around a table is a real treat. I think we’ve done some good planning and my Mrs Marvelous natter formed the Meeting Mrs Marvelous blog.
https://theoldmortuary.design/2020/01/27/meeting-mrs-marvellous/

Tomorrow we are all off to a Daffodil Nursery , more arty nattering, sketching and learning. Tomorrow’s blog might well be yellow.

A row of books.

Any row of books has potential.

A row of books that are beautiful, but fakes,  should be disappointing.

Tate Modern bought ‘British Library’ by Yinka Shonibare CBE in 2019.

The installation of 6,328 books is as much a space for contemplation as the Seagram Murals by Rothko in the same building .
https://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/display/in-the-studio/mark-rothko

My response to Rothko is to be peaceful and calm. Shonibares work makes my head fizz. It’s not just the vivid, vibrant colours but the stark utilitarian librariness of it.

3 walls of a gallery are filled with bookshelves. All the books are brightly coloured, covered with Dutch Fabric, a mass produced batik style material from the Netherlands. On the spines in gold leaf are the names of first or second generation migrants to Britain who have made significant contributions to the culture or history of Britain. Some books have the names of people who have opposed migration, this negative group is balanced by the huge number of books that have no names on their spines representing the future when currently unknown migrants will boost and embellish British life in unimaginable ways.
https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/shonibare-the-british-library-t15250

Central to this exhibition is a website where migrants or their descendents can add their stories. These additions can be read on the website.

I took my small granddaughter, also a migrant, to this exhibition before she was one. Already a lover of colourful books I plan to take her regularly until she can add her story.
https://thebritishlibraryinstallation.com/about/

The Guardian ran an article about Yinka Shonibare last week.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/jan/13/yinka-shonibare-london-nigeria-african-renaissance