Buds/Justice, the usefulness of an abstract image.

I took this photo yesterday, not expecting to use it today. But the prompt word for the Instagram account I’m managing, this week, has led me down such a rabbit warren of thoughts and philosophies I’m quite exhausted.

#justice such a big word, so deep, so complex, so personal.

I’ve read some amazing quotes and read some fascinating stuff but is my theoldmortuary pondering mind right to share anything on an arts group Instagram page that is beyond the simple image of the scales of justice.

The simple answer is ” of course not”

What I have comfortably shared is this photograph of Daffodil bulbs, because it makes me think; and for me, today, it illustrates my hopes for justice if not always the lived experience of the word.

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.

Heralds of Spring

My mind will be much taken up by the Heralds of Spring for a while. Living in Cornwall and specifically the Tamar Valley the term is applied to the Daffodil.

It is the subject of an art exhibition at the end of March.

There are other Heralds of spring even in the Tamar Valley. The first to arrive were the Snowdrops.

Closely followed by Crocuses.

and finally the Daffodils

Creatively, for the exhibition, I’ve been working on some Daffodil yellow abstracts and some fantasy birds with a yellow theme all finished and framed up today. Freeing me up to paint my own personal Heralds of Spring.

Everything about this painting is the opposite of my yellow creations. The painting is big. 2 metres by 50 cms. The yellows are 60×60 or 25×25. This dirty,big, grunge image has been playing with my head whilst I painted in shades of pastel yellow. Yet without the constraints of the yellow images their dirty blue sibling would not exist. A couple more days of tinkering and the Big Blue will be released. A Herald of Spring also.

Traces © theoldmortuary

Yellow

Daffodils from Rising Sun Nursery, Cornwall

Yellow

Yellow is the most easily perceived colour. It is seen before other colours especially when it is next to black.

Yellow on black or black on yellow is used as a sign of warning in both the human world and nature.

©Cornwall Live
©Amazon
©theoldmortuary

Yellow as a title was inspired by a trip to a nursery today. I want to paint some abstracts using shades of yellow as the only or principal colour, not really a colour I’ve ever had much success with.

These beauties are pretty inspiring, photographed using a normal lamp to uplight them gives quite an abstract look.

Talking to Alan Elias and his daughter Georgina who welcomed my art group to their family run nursery was fascinating and inspiring. Their company has passed through four generations and their tales of horticulture in the Tamar Valley have given me plenty of thoughts to create a painting. It helps that their nursery is called Rising Sun.

Daffodils are quite dominating this Yellow blog. It was a stroke of luck that the only photo of a bee that I had in my archive was doing his bee thing on a purple artichoke head, complimetary colour matching at its serendipitous best.Not so much serendipity more a way life, radiation signs are or were a big part of my life. Cornwall Rugby Union black and gold shirts. Both obvious and a warning.

The colours and conversations of the day inspired the abstract below.

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.

Meeting Mrs Marvellous

I first met Mrs Marvellous at a Drawing Day, in the Autumn, organised by Drawn To The Valley, an art group based and inspired by the Tamar Valley. The Tamar, running North to South, forms the boundary between Devon and Cornwall. We arranged to meet again but work and life commitments got in the way until today.
https://www.mrsmarvellous.co.uk/

This is not the blog I had expected to write but like all the best conversations at theoldmortuary it swirled and grew organically taking us in many directions, some of them sad but mostly hugely positive.

Mrs Marvellous uses appliqué, embroidery and quilting to create memorial quilts or pillows and dementia friendly aprons or lap quilts.

” I take the material fragments that embody the most priceless of times- the milestones, the adventures, the hurdles conquered- and stitch them into something magical to preserve memories”

Mrs Marvellous likes to meet the families who commission her quilts or aprons, just receiving a bag of anonymous fabrics wouldn’t feed the creative process for her at all . Engaging with families or friends who have lost someone to death or dementia must be tough, there are often tears but also pleasure in sharing stories. I know that when I have been sad and grieving Mrs Marvellous and her magical stitchery would have been just the uplift I would have needed to shed a little light into the gloom. After consultation, the families or friends collect clothes and textiles together for their bespoke item. All washed by the family they are delivered to Mrs Marvellous.

” Every parcel has its own fragrance, in part a vestigia of the person to be commemorated but also the fragrance of their washing products and home”

So much more than stitchery goes into every creation. Mrs Marvellous has had personal experience of both dementia and loss, but beyond that she is involved with Plymouth Dementia Action Alliance. She says Plymouth is a hotspot of dementia innovation and research. She advocates the need for protection of pride, respect and dignity for those living with dementia. Her lap quilts and aprons are designed to keep people warm and engaged, with pockets, textures, familiar fabrics, perhaps samples that are representational of their old life and loves. A brilliant techy addition to the magic of the creations is a tag sewn into its own pocket.

The tag activates recordings of favourite music or voice messages.

Three images of a dementia lap quilt. All completely washable. This is a man’s lap quilt. Apparently keys are hugely significant to men , equivalent to a woman’s handbag. Who knew?

The bottom image explains just a tiny proportion of the memories, textures and love sewn into this quilt.

I guess that’s more or less the blog I thought I’d write .

You just never know when you meet someone new how a conversation will flow. This one travelled like the Severn Bore. It surged in places, gently rolled in others and quietly crept where appropriate. Appropriate really as Mrs Marvellous grew up.in Clevedon, and played in the grounds of Clevedon Court.

©MrsMarvellous

We found people we knew in common, many that we didn’t. Talked at length about Drawn To The Valley, the art group we both belong to. Podcasts, Social media, Saltash all took a turn in our nattering. Finally. Finally! We ended with my Ice Breaking Questions. Clearly no Ice to break with Mrs M.

Mrs Marvellous favourite place in the Tamar Valley.

Mount Edgecumbe by the Folly overlooking Plymouth. Especially when fog hangs near the water, snaking up the river.

Mrs Marvellous best place to take friends.

The footpath walk along the river at Newbridge near Callington.

( I have to add a note of caution. Otters have been seen here. Good. My dogs love to roll in Otter poop. Bad)

Mrs Marvellous Sunny Day Outing

Devils Point Plymouth with a packed lunch.

( Another warning, don’t try this at night.)

Mrs Marvellous Rainy Day Outing.

Not one to share.

Her bedroom overlooking the Tamar through massive windows. Great accoustics with rain clattering on Velux windows and properly cosy apparently.

Mrs Marvellous best cafe.

Away from the Tamar for this one.

Inkies Cafe at Golitha Falls.
https://m.facebook.com/inkiessmokehousebbq/

Serendipity has its way. Joining Drawn to the Valley.

Serendipity plays such a part in life. I have serendipitously joined an art group local to me in the Tamar Valley. I’ve joined but I was not quite ready, obviously I applied to join but I had no expectation of being accepted so I hadn’t factored in my unavailability for various key events, or the fact that I was barely able to create any art in the critical early months of my membership.

The art group was not completely unknown to me. I reviewed their London show in an earlier blog.

Drawn to the Valley, Drawn to London. Artists of the Tamar Valley.

I had also often been to exhibitions over many years that were held in the Tamar Valley organised by the group

Joining a new art group is always a little tricksy. No two are the same and getting involved is the surest way of navigating your way in. A few months in I’m finally able to participate more fully. Here is a trio of my experiences so far.

The Summer Exhibition was a wonderful experience. For the first time ever the exhibition was curated in a new public space, Butchers Hall in Tavistock.

http://www.tavistock.gov.uk/

The Private View was fabulously busy, the venue was probably the star attraction for many but the art was not overshadowed. Visitor numbers were high and sales were impressive. As a new member I was thrilled to sell a piece. Anyone who buys a piece of original art at these events is more appreciated than they probably realise. A red dot 🔴 is guaranteed to make even the coolest artists perform back flips, mentally if not physically.

Open Studios is a fine arty tradition organised across the length and breadth of Britain. Artists open their studios ( obviously) but also their homes. Some group together and share a larger space. It’s a chance to grab a bargain for art lovers and a chance of a good clear out for artists.

I couldn’t participate because all my recent work is hanging at UltraCardiac, a cardiac ultrasound facility at The Science Park in Plymouth. Next year I will be better prepared, but for now I’m thrilled to have big white walls to show my pictures on. Grateful thanks to Sean and Sarah for their space.

https://www.ultracardiac.co.uk/

Not participating made it easier for me to get out and about to see other people’s work. There was a helpful guide book to assist people to locate artists around the Tamar Valley .

Drawing Day at Kelly House.

Once again the location was the star, that and the amazing hosts Sophia and Warin. Kelly house has been in the same family since 1100. About 15 artists were given freedom to sketch and draw both inside outside the house. There was also a room to gather in and chatter over drinks. I found a crumpled crown, previously used in a pageant in the 1930’s, and hunkered down for five hours of painting still life. A crime, I know, in such beautiful surroundings but it’s not every day that a crumpled crown presents itself to me.

https://kelly-house.co.uk/

I can’t say I’m the most sociable person when I’m painting but it was lovely to meet some other members over a cup of tea. I’m intrigued to see where Drawn to the Valley will take me.

Glut

I love the word glut, even though it’s harsh and ugly in sound and shape, it reminds me of the fecundity of autumn, lush and abundant with harvested produce.

It’s meaning is an excessively abundant supply or to satisfy fully.

The last weekend of September in Plymouth had an outrageous glut of arts and culture. Three different arts organisations included this weekend in their programmes.

Drawn to the Valley , straddles the area adjacent to the Tamar Valley. Predominantly featuring ‘Open Studios’ the work of just under 100 artists was available for 8 days, finishing on this weekend.

Plymouth Art Weekender also has some open studios , but it also features performance art, sound art and interactional art experiences over 63 venues all over the city. Events started on Friday evening and carried on until Sunday afternoon.

The Atlantic Project is three weeks of an International Festival of contemporary art starting on this weekend with sites both indoors and outdoors across Plymouth.

www.drawntothevalley.co.uk

plymouthartweekender.com

www.theatlantic.org

With so much to do and so little time to do it in the weekend passed quickly. Flashes of recycled plastics in a green and white funeral-like procession with discordant music. More discordant music and watery sounds. Amazing enthusiastic people doing their thing everywhere. It was a brilliant weekend. I could list the stuff I saw but that would be very dull. I’m going to write about three artists, one from each organisation. They happen to all be women but that’s a coincidence . I also saw some amazing work from men.

Drawn to the Valley- Jill Coughman Open Studio.

Jill was one of my art lecturers , she is inspirational. I’m drawn to her work even when I don’t know that she is the artist. Much of Jill’s work is autobiographical, it is emotional and evocative of both herself and her environment. Even tough subjects feel safe to explore through Jill’s response to them. I bought a print of Dockyard Blues. I love it.

Plymouth Art Weekender- Juliet Middleton- Batts

Juliet invited me to visit her group exhibition ‘Work In Process’

The group comprises both graduate and post graduate students from Plymouth University.

Juliet’s work was stunning. Her title Heroes gave no hint of the works definitive topic but a bike outside embellished with flowers and ribbons in the colours of the Women’s Suffrage Movement was a not so subtle hint. Inside her installation, 100 discs laser etched with the names of imprisoned suffragettes hung on fine thread . The discs represented the medals awarded to all of these women who had endured participation in Hunger Strikes.Illuminated, they cast typography shadows on the walls or flashed a quick bright reflection into the viewers eye. It was mesmerising to look for familiar names but also intriguing to catch the names of people not so well known. The small scale of the Perspex discs massed together as an installation were a fabulous representation of the power of combined and cohesive effort.

The Atlantic Project – Chang Jia

Chang’s work was the only one that made good use of the phenomenal setting that is the Melville Building at Royal William Yard. The other works in this building made no use of the industrial sized epic architecture. Such a shame for them . It would have been amazing to see work projected onto those beautiful walls. Thankfully Heavenly, Corrupted Landscapes has the scale and impact to drag my eyes away from the internal architecture . Her massive canvases owned the space. Referencing traditional Chinese landscapes from the Ming Dynasty the image is created using microscopic photography of the bacteria that is polluting four rivers in South Korea.

F2C58035-A7EA-4E5D-9D1B-2432E2156F2E

The Atlantic Project runs until 21 st October.

Art events like the three mentioned are not all about planning. Serendipity and missing things is also part of the experience.

I missed meeting Nikki Taylor www.nickitaylorscupture.co.uk . I’ve loved her mesh sculptures since seeing them in London and was thrilled to find out she works from a studio in Plymouth. When I popped into her studio she was knee deep in great conversations , so actually I got no closer to talking about her work than I ever have in London.

It’s always good to run into people unexpectedly, and really great when you can connect people from different parts of life.

I met a Fine Art PhD artist who was studying the seaweed of Devils Point. www.duncantheartist.tumblr.com that’s pretty specialised stuff but coincidentally I have another friend whose Biology PhD covered the exact same topic. Surreal things happen, in a good way,when you talk to strangers at art exhibitions. Apologies to Duncan, every photo I took chopped your head off.

To make amends for chopping off a head I will finish with some serendipity. a head from Nikki Taylor superimposed over a mural.I love this image of a mesh head in front of a mural by www.loci-collective.weebly.com

So there we are, a seasonal glut of art and culture. All showcased in great venues surrounded by beautiful scenery and radiant sunshine. Summer slipping into autumn with a huge creative Boom!