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Eleri Mills is one of wales most successful artists.

We swung by the Ruskin Craft Center on our home from Port Merion – I’ve got to say that seeing some real art in a real art gallery was so soul-filling after these many months of Lockdown.

I didn’t realise how much I respond to seeing art in real life until we were walking around and I was literally soaking it up – I went around twice.

Apart from the recent denial of such pleasures, I enjoyed this so much because Eleris work really talks to me.

It is full of mark making and those marks translate to say something about the landscape which inspires her but also can be abstract and I like that.

She also develops those marks into stitches put directly through the canvas.

And these are often running stitches but can be a gorgeous hue or an eye catching luxe thread but they serve to continue to talk about the landscape in an even more tactile fashion.

It’s an approach which really inspires me.

I also loved her use of scale and the way she played with diptych and triptych approaches to drawing over several sheets of paper either to expand the same scene or to make companion pieces.

It reminds me also to never stop drawing or dipping my soul into nature to feel grounded and alive.

Eleri Mills – Egni: a decade of creativity is running August – November 2020 at Ruthin Craft Centre, The Centre for the Applied Arts.

JD Innes Arenig North Wales

A while back I happened across the above image and thought it gorgeous. I hadn’t heard of the painter James Dickson Innes ever before so I did a Google search and liked what I saw and so began to track down the only book there is on him. I’ve since realised that what I saw and liked was all there was to see and like.

JD Innes Palm Trees at Collioure

I’ve just finished reading it and have mixed thoughts – he died young at 27 from tuberculosis and so he never really hit his stride as a painter. The pieces I like show that he was beginning to be onto something; inspired by French Impressionism and The Fauves he brought unusual colour to the Welsh and French landscape pieces he painted.

JD Innes Storm Over Arenig

His watercolours also describe the landscape with semi-abstract dots and dashes which is a style I’m drawn to.

JD Innes Promontories & Coast at Cerbere

What I haven’t shown you here are the terrible (sorry to say it but it was said to him at the time) portraits and mediocre pieces. I’m guessing if he’d lived he’d have continued to hone his skill and produce more pieces of worth and standing but as he didn’t, I felt this book included them to his detriment. I have piles of sub-standard stuff that will one enjoy a trip to the recycling – I wouldn’t ever show them publicly. Other than his association with some high profile names (Augustus John, Eric Gill, Walter Sickert) I’m left not entirely sure why he warrants a whole book?

JD Innes Tour Madeloc

I do take away his delicious use of colour and representation of light but stick to Googling him – you can borrow my book!

A couple of weeks ago I was in Manchester and made the opportunity to go to The Whitworth Museum to see the Thread Bearing Witness exhibition and it was awesome!

 My first contact with it was through the Stitch a Tree Project where anyone could stitch a small piece of fabric with a tree to show their support for refugees. This project grew from work done in a Dunkirk refugee camp with children using the Tree of Life as a motif to think about strength and resilience.

 

Our stitched tress were collected and stitched together to make a forest as a symbol of support and togetherness for all displaced people around the world. It’s just a photo here but it has a big impact in real life. It makes a statement and in the under-stated way that only fabric, textiles can because it appears so domestic and unthreatening but then you consider the strength of it’s message.

Not a brilliant photo of me but unbelievably one of mine was at eye level so I could spot it! And it meant something to have taken part and put my voice to a chorus.

There were also 3 big panels Sky, Ground, Sea undertaken by Alice Kettle- huge machine embroidered works of art made with refugees contributions in the form of drawings mostly translated into stitch.

 

Big sweeps of stitch and fabric expressing the broad big spaces that refugees have to cross and inhabit to survive.

These can be view in purely aesthetic way as they are simply beautiful pieces layered with lustrous stitches, colours and pattern.

One can also feel good work has been done giving people creative inclusion and opportunity in the workshops that the project supported such as Pipka camp and elsewhere.

But I think the message broader and stronger and more urgent and seen most in Sea.

  This had the biggest impact on me;  this is not just art, occupation, awareness raising –  the floating bodies ethereal in gold thread spoke very clearly of life and death.

The brochure begins with this beautiful writing by Choman Hardi which says it all and says it very beautifully;

“I have come to learn your pain,
fill me up with your words, I have not been gassed, nor imprisoned, nor mothered children to watch them starve or wither away,
don’t know what widowhood feels like.
I have not lived in a shack, nor worked hard in fields to bring food back…

I want to document your suffering, make sure your voice is heard.
I cannot promise redress or direct help.
But I promise to listen with all that I have, stay true to your story, not distort or edit your grief”

***

When I was in London this week I also went to see the Anni Albers exhibition at Tate Modern.

Anni Albers (1899-1994) was one of the first to move weaving on from being for purely practical purposes to being seen as an art piece for itself.

I found all the technical diagrams as fascinating as the finished pieces.

And enjoyed seeing what can be made with only a few colours when they are manipulated in certain ways.

I loved the hand painted design sketches made in preparation before weaving – just as an artist would sketch a quick study.

And I am determined myself to master some of these twists and turns into actuality.

This piece is almost where weave and embroidery meet and so effective with just 2 colours.

Thoroughly inspired and if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I just started my first big weave pattern so I am stacking up the possibilities now and can’t find weaving-time fast enough!

This week I got one of my much-liked London fixes by popping down to see a couple of exhibitions.

First up was Oceania at the Royal Academy which was equal parts inspiring, educating and humbling.

The show is made up of ethnographic collections dating from the 18th century to the present with a free audio guide explaining the thought behind practises which go much deeper than simply surface decoration or use.

I thought it was a clever idea to look at what else was happening in the world when the RA was being founded… the answer was Captain Cooks discovery of the island civilisations from Tahiti in Polynesia, to the scattered archipelagos and islands of Melanesia and Micronesia – all collectively known as Oceania.

The indigenous populations they met came with their own histories and practices of social and artistic traditions. There is a rather sobering (and very well done) video graphic of the impact European adventurers had on these communities that we are now re-evaluating without the assurity and self righteousness of previous generations.

So there is a lot to wonder at, understand and learn in this exhibition and of course there is always pattern to be found!

Yesterday I got to meet my absolute painting hero – Jean B Martin when she did a talk at the opening of her exhibition in the Cotswolds. She has much to teach me as a painter and in real life she is both full of advice and new approaches and also witty and down-to-earth in a unstarry way which doesn’t belie her huge talent.

I discovered her work quite by accident when on holiday years ago – there was a beautiful jewel of a painting propped on the floor waiting to be framed (we were in a frame and exhibition shop)  and we loved it so much we bought it and that was the beginning of my discovery and subsequent adoration.

She also brought along her beautiful charcoal laden sketchbooks and I spent a long time getting grubby fingers and memorizing as much as I could! It was very special and I hope to put some new things into practice really soon.

Currently at the Midlands Art Center, Birmingham, UK is a wonderful Textile exhibition by The 62 Group called Ctrl/Shift. It’s on the theme of changes and shifts in the artists way of working whether that be by using new technology or a change of understanding or personal practice.

The 62 group has become one of the most prestigious Textile groups to be a member of and now has both international membership and a strict activity requirement to stay a member of and in doing so it keeps this prestige.

Here’s a few snaps of just a little of the exhibition.

Joanna Kinnersly-Taylor is an innovative fabric print maker from Glasgow.

Recast represents the change of light and space as you walk through a space.

Sue Stone uses machine or hand embroidered stitches (or a mix) to create amazing textures which are true-to-life of the object represented. She draws on the past and present, often in a portraiture style and her pieces are very close to a drawn/painted image but done with thread, fabric and dye.

Caroline Bartlett is based in the UK and produces tactile works involving pleating and fabric manipulation and which also often incorporate ceramics.

Jane McKeating   is an avid drawer – see her sketchbook film in the artists processes area of the exhibition and her instagram page.

This love of drawing translates through into printed and hand stitched embroidered art.

These pieces are found handkerchiefs which represent aspects of old age pertinent to her own experience of caring for an ageing parent.

They were my favourite pieces – so intricate, patterned and colourful yet sombre and emotive and intricately executed.

Come along and see it all before it closes.

A week ago today we were soaking up the sunshine in Giverny, France, visiting Monet’s house and garden.

I think it’s a sign of ageing that I enjoy the nostalgia of a place such as this,

that and it’s cute, old world french-ness.

He lived here for forty-three years from 1883 to 1926 and I love theres still the sense that (however romantic and untrue it may be!) that he just sat here, or ate there…


The original house was very small and Monet enlarged it on both sides making it not very deep but very wide, which is kind of nice as there are now lots of windows all looking onto the garden.

The barn next to the house was adapted to become his studio although it was mostly for storage as he painted in the open air.

Above it’s the product of patience – below the reality! People everywhere.

Monet chose all the colours in the house and particularly wanted the blue kitchen to show through to the yellow dining room.

If you visit and happen to arrive when the queue to look around the house is small, then my advice is do it before the garden. We couldn’t resist the garden first and ended up with a long hot queue in the sun.

Hope you’ve enjoyed an armchair tour – here’s some fun facts I happened across if you want more 🙂

 

I wanted to share a little of this awesome exhibition we saw at the South African National Gallery.

It successfully aimed to raise questions about what is ‘fine art’ and what is ‘craft’ and is there a difference and also what roles gender play in how we think about these.

Quebeka Fine Art Bead Studio

The C18th brought about the prestige surrounding the Fine Arts by the creation of Academies for study and these typically excluded women.

Quebeka Fine Art Bead Studio

Craft practices continued to be connected to everyday living due to their necessity but with no status or artistic value attached to them.

Usha Seejarim Sequence City

Usha Seejarim Sequence City

Over time both art movements and the feminist movement questioned fine arts usefulness and the position of craft as a woman’s practice and so craft and fine art began its journey of meeting in the middle.

Hendrik Stroebel

Hendrik Stroebel

Hendrik Stroebel

The artists in this exhibition continue that journey of thought by showing their typically perceived ‘fine art’ thinking as social commentators but through the mediums of crafts which we usually write off as ‘domestic’.

Tamlin Blake Taking Time

Tamlin Blake’s work is a great example of this: she dyes old newspapers and then weaves them into tapestry’s which she says are the oldest form of storytelling, to get us thinking about the stories we read and their impact on us.

Tamlin Blake Taking Time

Pierre Fouche has drawn on the traditional crafts of  sailors knots, macrame and lace making to create this art piece.

Pierre Fouche

All in all it was a visual feast, and both inspiring and thought-provoking. Hope you enjoyed a little peak too.

When we stayed in Cape Town, South Africa we visited the The South African National Gallery where we discovered the exciting work of Lionel Davis.

Lionel is a self-taught artist having discovered his artistic creativity at the age of 41 through contact with a local community arts programme.

I think this exhibition was a retrospective of his life and work thus far.

It’s his experimentation with all kinds of media and the joy of his discoveries and makes his work appealing to me.

I don’t know about you but I often get stuck in my own groove of using certain techniques and mediums but it is refreshing to see a portfolio of work that plays with different approaches and methods.

It reminds me to keep trying new things.

But his work is not just attractive to the eye,  it plays a real part in channelling and expressing his social activism, his cultural views and in depicting life as he sees it in South Africa.

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