The Leviathan is a prominent sculpture, by Brian Fell, situated on The Barbican Plymouth. Locally it is known as the Plymouth Prawn . The Leviathan is set to become famous Worldwide as the Mayflower400 celebrations build up in Plymouth. The Leviathan is close to the commemorative Mayflower Steps.Leviathan has its own Twitter account , not that it’s particularly active or has many followers. Strange really. Leviathon lives in a lively location.Leviathan was installed in 1996 and is made of patinated steel. Leviathan is a sea monster created from regular sea creatures. Cormorants feet, the fins of a John Dory ,the tail of a plesiosaur, lobster claws and the head of an Angle fish. Despite this callaloo of body parts Leviathan is majestic.The Leviathans location is on one of my regular dog walks. There is a fabulous circular walk around the harbours and quays of Plymouth taking in both historic and contemporary port buildings and activities. I’m tempted to photograph the sculpture almost every time I see it , sunshine is the very best weather for Leviathan snapping, not unlike life really.I used the fishy subject for a watercolour subject, minus the drumstick! Although a competent image of a skewered Leviathan kebab eludes me.A little bit of printing magic and I’ve created a psychotropic Leviathan. At night The Barbican is nightlife central. Who knows if the Plymouth Prawn partakes.And then just one little move to create a completely abstract image with no hint of sea creatures.Not such a romantic blog as the date would suggest but to my regular blog readers a simple message, thanks for all your comments and feedback.This blog is linked to a social media Instagram project. The prompt for today was #valentinesdaynohearts.https://drawntothevalley.co.uk/I believe Leviathan has a heart. It just needs to find its Sole Mate.
I was driving over Dartmoor on Wednesday. This programme was on the radio. A fine example of serendipity. The artist featured in this broadcast is based on Dartmoor. I had never heard of Garry Fabian-Miller. Something I need to remedy, but for now his subject matter was what interested me.
Garry Fabian- Miller creates images with a dark room but not cameras.
His days in the darkroom are numbered as the production of photographic developing chemistry is coming to an end.
He speaks movingly about leaving his darkroom.
Darkrooms are one of the casualties of the digital photography/imaging revolution.
I don’t remember the moment when I left a darkroom for the last time.
It’s madness that such a significant part of my professional life slipped away unnoticed and without a fitting farewell.
Medical darkrooms could be massive spaces serving many x-ray rooms with automatic processors or tiny cupboards with smelly tanks of developer and fixer for hand processing. Darkrooms have a strange life of 24 hours of darkness illuminated only with red lights. The similarity to nightclubs doesn’t stop there. Darkrooms are not unused to illicit liasons, or it has to be said, cockroaches. Either way it was always wise to clatter about a bit before entering a dark room, particularly at night or weekends. I rather wish I had taken the time to say goodbye.
Half an hours listening to the programme in the link is worthwhile even if darkroom nostalgia or art are not your thing. This is a gentle conversation about more than those two subjects.
I’ve never really known the correct term for the incidental art created by street posters, graffiti and general wear and tear. Some years ago I settled on Palimpsest, this article in the Guardian has made me question my decision but I can’t really find a word that works any better.
Cultural and creative vibrancy can be measured by these serendipitous spaces.
Not all owners or administrators of walls are fans.
Palimpsest fascinates me , even the corporate version on traditional , paper and paste, advertising billboards are a rich source of serendipitous art if you can catch them on the day old posters are ripped off . The current trend to advertise gigs with notices, cable-tied to street furniture gets around the Bill Sticker haters but removes a layer of lovely colour and text that could be adding to palimpsest.
Occasionally I use the technique to create my own art.
Sometimes the most intriguing stuff can be found down alleyways. Hunting it out can require a strong stomach as these places also gather the excrescences, of a vivid and active night life.
London gives great palimpsest. The images below were collected on a walk from my hairdresser to a favourite coffee shop, half an hour max. My phone is full of palimpsest images from all over the world, some of it from teeny tiny places and sometimes in locations that are unexpected.
Hunt street palimpsest out; you will be rewarded.
” Dull places have immaculate walls”
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #1
This year was the third Art Weekender in Plymouth but having only recently returned to the area this was my first experience and I was impressed! The quantity and quality of the art was astonishing. Despite having one of the few dedicated Art Schools in the country and a well respected Arts faculty at Plymouth University, when I left 10 years ago Plymouths Arts Community was not hugely visible to mainstream Plymouth and beyond.
But things are changing and Plymouth Art Weekender is a vibrant sign of ‘Artsy’ Plymouth. I’ve attended week-long festivals which haven’t had such a voracious and high quality itinerary as PAW17. It didn’t pass me by that Art Weekender exhibits started popping up well before the weekend, and I hope some of it will hang around a bit as well. For me the weekender has been a case of ‘so much art, so little time’. I’ve written about the exhibits and events that really stood out in my weekend but there were many other wonderful pieces I would have loved to write about.
For me the first event was live music at Hutong Cafe. Hutong Cafe cuddles up to the outside of the main entrance of The Royal William Yard and is the evolving brainchild of George, Jack and Emma who opened the Cafe earlier this year. Diamond Family Archive are a Lo-Fi psych folk duo and they filled this intimate venue. The music was mesmerizing, the music swelled and grew to the point that it seemed impossible that only two men were creating it. Ambient sounds, seemingly plucked out of the night air were woven into the performance. Coupled with good wine and food, this could be the new way to enjoy live music.
Ocean Studios played host to JoJo’s photography exhibition before and during the Weekender. This exhibition features couples who have committed to life together alongside single mothers with their children. I posed for Jojo 10 years ago in his first Plymouth Uncovered book and know from experience what a charismatic photographer he is so I felt a particular connection to this exhibition. His empathetic approach to his photography gives it the quality of painted portraits, evolved over a far greater timeframe. Faces, but also hands and feet are expressive at a deeper level than in a usual portrait because of some special magic that Jojo manages to infuse into his sessions. Some of the photos in this exhibition ache with the amount of information they are trying to convey.
I was lucky enough to talk to the artist after seeing the exhibition, and told him some of the sentiments I had picked up on from his images. Ever the consummate professional he said nothing indiscreet about his sitters but I’m sure his eyes agreed with some of my thoughts. I’ve been back a couple of times to enjoy his exhibition; it is well worth the time. This diligence has nothing to do with the great coffee and cake that can be bought at The Ocean Studios Cafe next to the exhibition…
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #2
Saturday saw bright sunshine and driving through Plymouth early in the morning I could sense there was something arty in the air. As I drove around the city I caught sight of what can only be described as human sized litter, performing strange activities. I arrived to my first venue of the day, Ocean Studios Open Studios. This event took up way more time than I had planned for and the event blew me away. It was like visiting a massive advent calendar. Every time I took a peak behind the door of a studio I had no idea what I was going to experience. The ground floor, larger, studios of ceramicists and other makers were alive with the chatter of children’s workshops.
Space was at a premium as the peripheries of the rooms were filled with proud and attentive parents who marveled and photographed the skills and achievements of their offspring. Chunky stone stairs led me upwards to smaller spaces. My nose led me in the direction of an artist who was using oil paints, brilliant jewel like colours shone off canvasses, coupled with the smell it was a heady mixture. Sadly the artist was missing, (everyone needs a wee sometime).
Teresa Pemberton was in the building and her big bright canvasses bring a smile to anyone’s face. Talking to Teresa it was easy to discover the value of working as a lone practitioner within a collaborative space like Ocean Studios. Mosaicist Emma Spring works was working on a brightly coloured commission in her studio space.Emma has been creating Mosaics a long while, examples of her work adorn the streets of Saltash and she is also closely associated with Flameworks in Plymouth. I’ve recently taken more interest in mosaics, it was great to meet her and see the process as a contemporary practice.
So far so familiar, and that is not a bad thing but on opening one of the doors I met a woman who Free-style embroiders on a machine. Who even knew there was such a thing! Ewa Morawski has recently relocated to Plymouth and lives close to her studio in Royal William Yard. She studied textiles in London and has had commissions from some interesting organisations. Her creations are stored in clear crystal boxes and as her work tumbles out it is hard to believe that the flimsy, beautiful objects are not petals and blossoms just plucked from a bush. One recent commission had her making delicate orchids for the Royal Horticultural Society; they were better than the real thing. She works on an old Singer sewing machine that looks just like the ones that retailers use to give their interiors retro credibility. Ewa creates flowers for brides and corsages but not all her work is soft and sensitive. She rocks punk sensibilities when she recreates tattoos in fabric and her version of a Remembrance Day poppy is vibrant and jazzy.
As I came to the end of my journey I connected with Shayne House. Shayne and Sarah Smalldon share a studio, Shayne is a digital marketing expert and creates wonderful prints with Letterpress and Silk Screen. Sarah produces prints and exquisite house portraits. Perhaps most importantly after four hours of poking my nose in Studios they had a lovely squashy sofa to rest my weary art tourist feet.
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #3
Sunday, I planned to spend the whole day with one topic – Commit This To Memory. Jessica Wright had installed QR codes at each of the 32 sites identified by Plymouth City Council as ‘at risk’. My interest in this project was that each of these sights was already known to me from years of hunting down old bits of Plymouths history, however I have neglected them for the ten years I’ve not lived in Plymouth. The project aims to get Plymouth people involved and interested in the architectural features that Plymouth Council consider to be at risk of becoming unsustainable, to preserve their history. As a family and group of friends we love finding ‘Old Plymouth’ and the conversations and happy memories that spring out of an old piece of Plymouth architecture are precious.
In Jessica’s words- The project is about the here and the now, engagement in the present and the infra-ordinary – the little things that go unnoticed. Scan the QR codes on the stickers to find out more about the sites included in the project and use the hash tag #cttmplymouth to get involved on Instagram. Follow the project @cttmplymouth.
Following the project on Sunday got more and more unpleasant as the rain tracked down my neck, and photography became impossible. The great thing about this Art Weekender experience is that these artifacts have been around a while and will last even longer with love and respect from the city even if this particular project is transitory. Sunday’s weather defeated me but Monday, saw sunshine and climate induced enthusiasm. I popped out to three of my favourite sites on CTTM. And in the spirit of the project shared some of our familial memories.
Thanks to Jessica Wright and her project, I’ve had a great Sunday/Monday. As my personal conclusion to Plymouths Art Weekender, CTTM beautifully illustrated how art enhances life. Just visiting these architectural locations makes me enthusiastic to learn more about each of them and to experience and talk about them with other people.
The 3rd Plymouth Art Weekender, what a blast!
Plymouth Art Weekender Saturday was perked up , if perking were needed, by glorious weather.
The city was like a creative ice cream van offering choice and temptation in equal measure . Following the analogy, it was great to be able to sample so many different flavours of art. Not all were served in a way that encouraged me to prolong the experience but others were made for gluttony.
In the gluttony category was the ‘Open Studios’event at Ocean Studios. Architecturally pleasing, box-like studios, make the best of the original features of the Royal William Yard. The uniformity of the studios alters immediately you open a door and step into the creative space. I loved the art and skills I experienced there, more importantly every one of the artists or makers was engaging and interesting.
Elsewhere I experienced a vignette of a pretentious arty person. If this had been a comedy or theatrical festival I would have stayed and marvelled at the accuracy or wit of the performer. As it was it was easy to move on and enjoy the work of other artists more deserving of my time, that is the beauty of a diverse art event.
Today the Plymouth Art Weekender will be robed in ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’. The weather is shocking. Jumpers are packed for a full day of art.
Not so long ago my creative life was hiding behind a busier life. Until recently I worked in the Cath Lab of a busy London teaching hospital. At times it was 24 hours a day. The team I worked with saved lives, sometimes in controlled but dramatic and messy circumstances. Mostly we were successful , other times we weren’t. Art and creativity happened on my days off. If I had a creative block there was always an entirely reasonable excuse given the pressures and hours of my day job.
Three months into my year of not doing the day job I’ve hit creative block without having a decent excuse.
So here are my not so decent excuses.
#1 The weather
#2 My iPhone camera is playing up
#3 The dogs are playing up
#4 Can’t really be arsed
Faced with zero creative energy I did what many creative people do, I tidied my studio. Surfed the net. Ate chocolate. Bought some new pens on-line.
The turning point came when my phone unfroze. I wrote an article that was overdue for a local magazine. When I looked for the photos I needed to send in with the article , I discovered my phone had taken a crazy abstract image when I had dropped it in the woodpile, which is why it froze. The only portion of this picture that I recognise is a portion of a decking offcut. Beyond that I’m mistified , but I love the image.
After finding this I was inspired to get back to finish painting the picture that I had planned for the day. I had been printing in the studio so there was no alternative to painting outside in the rain. The painting only needed its top coat so I figured rain was just another fluid to add to the already eclectic mix of mixers . The painting is another one featuring litter and pollution in a harbour . The bright colours are created by the reflection of an amazingly clear blue sky in May. I get the pollution effect by mixing paints and pigments with a variety of clear fluids so that they attract or repel each other. Today the clear fluids were the unavoidable rain, lube, saline, gin and acetone.
Now the studio is completely unusable. This will take days to dry and is in the centre of the now tidy floor.
Creatively damp from painting in the garden I took the grumpy dogs for a very wet walk, happy in the knowledge that even if I could be arsed tomorrow there is nowhere left to be creative . Who needs good excuses?
Early June is the perfect time to hunt for contemporary art. Art Schools and Universities showcase the best that their art students have to offer. Usually held over a week or so the Graduation exhibitions are vibrant , eclectic events. Last night I went to Plymouth College of Art and Designs Graduation Showcase, Breaking Through., Plymouth is one of the few remaining independent art schools. It teaches an eye watering number of creative courses and the end of year show reflects the huge diversity of subjects. The standard of these shows is always high . Proud parents, tutors and graduates rub shoulders with interested art lovers and talent scouts from the creative industries. Bargains can also be found and I’ve bought some lovely pieces from Degree shows around the country. One or two pieces have turned out to be a great investment as their creators become well respected and successful as their careers progress.
The following black and white images are a snippet of my experience last night. The show closes on 22nd June. There is ample time to see these lovely things in full colour and in their entirety before the show closes. Go to the PCAD website for times and details.
This weekend theoldmortuary.design team went to the inaugural Royal William Yard Festival.
Here is the article that I wrote for Made In Plymouth
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