Sunday, 6 January 2013

Dieter Roth Diaries, 1965-1998

Thinking about my challenging (and great) Christmas sketchbook, reminded me of the recent exhibition Dieter Roth at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.  

The exhibition brought together several decades of his methodical gathering of information including diaries with appointments, lists, doodles, etc, his copybooks (hand-made books produced in small editions) and Flat Waste (1975) which consists of a year's worth of binders full of rubbish.  In his last year, Roth recorded his life on video and there were 128 monitors showing these video diaries.

It took me a while to get started with my own sketchbooks when I started at GSA, so I really appreciated and was inspired when I saw this work and the sheer volume of information and ideas that he collected and recorded.  It confirmed for me that the diary/sketchbook is so important in the process of being an artist - helping to organise, think about your work and inspire you.   His diaries were so jammed with his ideas, thoughts, drawings etc, (he was obviously quite compulsive in his recordings) that I wanted to take them out of the cabinets and leaf through them.   But it also made me realise that even though I'm quite good at my sketchbooking, I probably don't do anywhere near enough of it, and perhaps how too precise I am in my recording.  His were really quite messy and free - which brings me back to my new journal!

An Impossible Challenge!!

My very clever friend T gave me my most challenging Christmas present ever this year - a sketchbook to help me let go!  'Wreck This Journal' by Keri Smith goes against everything in my nature, but is everything I want to be!  It's basically a sketchbook of instructions to help you become more creative in a freer way and is 'dedicated to perfectionists all over the world.'  In fact, the book begins with the following:
WARNING: During the process of this book you will get dirty.  You may find yourself covered in paint, or any other number of foreign substances.  You will get wet.  You may be asked to do things you question.  You may grieve for the perfect state that you found the book in.  You may begin to see creative destruction everywhere.  You may begin to live more recklessly.
The instructions range from 'Rub here with dirt' to 'Collect your pocket lint; glue it here' and 'Place sticky things here (honey, gum, syrup, glue, sucker, marshmallow' as well as lots other crazy things!  T has one that looks great and free and inspirational, but I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to be able to tackle mine; maybe I could wear gloves...?! :D

(c)Keri Smith, Wreck This Journal

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Books and Bits!

After my visit to the Dick Institute and the Sea Fever exhibition, I took a look back at a couple of projects I was really happy with, and where I felt that I was 'on to something' so to speak.

Everything She Knew

I made this for the book project at the end of 2nd year and although I was really pleased with it, I don't think it was received that well.  My great aunt was of the generation that faithfully read 'The People's Friend' every week.  She would cook from the recipes, knit from the patterns and follow the gardening advice; she would even buy from the adverts!

The single book is a copy of the magazine chopped up and hand-bound. The small multiple is a series of the recipes and lessons she wrote as a schoolgirl in the early part of the 1900s - it's interspersed with photographs of her as a young woman, my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and finally me.  It was the continuation of a project I did in 1st year called 'For the Women' - the generations of women in my family on my mother's side.

The Weight of Words

This was a small project that I did at the end of 3rd year and was inspired by an old postcard that T had found.  She had picked it up because it stated that it was a 'real photograph' but on the other side it said '1d for 5 words'. This struck me as such a strange thing - how can you charge by the word?  It got me thinking about the weight of words - how heavy is a word?  Would 'love' be a heavy word or a light one?  So I made some ink from the cement I had been working with - a more literal interpretation of the weight of words; the longer the word, the more cement ink it would take, therefore the heavier it would weigh!

I'm hoping that by reminding myself of these two projects, I'll get some inspiration going for some smaller projects - I'll need a good dose of it for the new term starting on Monday!

Sea Fever

A few weeks ago P and I went in to see the exhibition 'Sea Fever' at the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock.  The main artists taking part were Jem Southam, Will MacLean and Andy Goldsworthy.  Tbh, I'd never been to the Dick Institute before and was a little skeptical about it as it just didn't seem to be the kind of venue I imagined seeing such work.  How judgmental of me - it was fantastic! An incredibly inspiring experience.

Jem Southam - Clouds Descending

This work was the result of a commission by The Lowry and is a series of large format photographs made along the Cumbrian coastline retracing the painter L S Lowry's journeys there.  Southam focuses not on the beauty of the area, but on the intervention of man on the landscape, particularly the manmade remnants of the area's industrial past such as slag heaps, chimneys and harbours.  Several of the images were of the coastal erosion in the area and, rather surprisingly, I wasn't that drawn to them - think I've seen enough coastal erosion for a while!  I did, however, really love his images of Morecambe Bay (they reminded me of Simon Burch's series 'Under a Grey Sky') - empty, atmospheric and huge!

(c) Jem Southam, Cumbria 7 (Piel Island from Walney Island) 2007

Will MacLean

Although I had wanted to go to the exhibition to see Jem Southam's work, I was totally bowled over and inspired by the work of Will MacLean.  I confess I hadn't heard of him before but as well as being a painter, he makes boxes.  Actually, he's regarded as the foremost constructor of box art in the country.
"Maclean is internationally recognised as a foremost exponent of box construction art. Using found objects which he deconstructs and reconstructs in a display of visual thinking that is compelling, he has developed a unique visual and poetic language. Reductive and honed, his metaphorical art is based on the histories and mythologies of those who live and work by the sea. His deep interest in Highland culture reaches out to universal themes of navigation, emigration, whaling and fishing, and global exploration. There is always strong narrative contained in these fascinating works, though immediate interpretations can be elusive."
P and I had actually been to Irvine beach that day making some video work and I had been wondering about how I could incorporate some book and box making into my work.  I'd had an idea about collecting some of the detritus from the beach and creating fictions around them but I couldn't work out how the books and boxes would fit in.  Then I walked in to this exhibition and Will MacLean had already done it!  He'd even used a title I had thought of on the beach 'A Catalogue of Unknown Objects'!!  But rather than being dejected by this discovery, I was totally inspired by his boxes and their narratives of the sea; he's a wonderful storyteller.  I just have to work out how I can do something similar with my own work.

I was also delighted to discover that he lives and works in Tayport - Fife, not that far from my home town - with his wife Marian Leven who is also an artist.

Will MacLean Driftworks, DCA 2002

Will MacLean, Interview 1999

Will MacLean and Marian Leven