27 November, 2011
This morning I awoke from a dream where I was being greeted by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada at a World Shibori Network gathering, and lay there for a minute a little bemused by my dream. Whilst I was processing it, sudden ideas flashed into my mind about how I could approach an upcoming assignment that I am doing for my masters degree. Then another idea popped into my mind about how I could use weave structures other than plain weave for my planned pieces, and then another idea about how I could adapt my loom to do what I want to do with another piece.
Ten minutes in bed and a host of ideas to set me up for the week! That’s what Sunday mornings are for!! ;^))
This week has been a painful one physically for me. Over the last two weeks, I have done things to give my back little twinges, and I have not paid attention to my body and stretched out my muscles. Last weekend, I compounded the effects by loading and unloading my car, and driving 6 hours in one day, then followed the next day by leaf removal on the lawn. On Monday, my back was grumbling at me, on Tuesday I had to visit the osteopath, then on Wednesday was flat out on my back on the study floor because I had sat at the computer for too long on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning!!
I know it’s my own fault, and I have vowed to look after my body better. Once my back has settled down, I am purchasing a Yoga DVD and will make a Yoga session part of my morning ritual, like my morning visualisation exercise. This is not a vain New Year’s resolution. My body needs this or I shall be suffering many more bouts of painful, debilitating back pain and weeks without being able to weave….
However, I did have an ‘aha’ moment this morning. Whilst I am unable to weave on my AVL (which has a warp sitting there just waiting to be started!!), I can at least start work on some miniatures on a miniature loom. Over the Christmas holidays, I usually find myself fired up and full of ideas for weaving, but have to put the lid on them as we have company and it would be so rude to leave them all to it whilst I slope off to weave. But this year, and whilst my back is still not 100%, I am going to use my little 8S loom to weave indoors. I can be sociable(ish) and still weave!!
This will be the first time I have broken my own rule of not bringing looms into the house. I did wonder whether there would be objections from my DH (after all, he does know what I’m like when I’m weaving!!), but he was delighted. Even if I don’t hear a word that people say to me because I’m in weaving-land, at least I will be in the room with them in body – and they can always nudge me to get a response!!
So now today’s task is to set up a small warp for my small loom and plan the first of my miniatures!! Then watch how quickly my back sorts itself out!!
21 November, 2011
I can’t believe it – a record 777 spam comments on my blog this week!! So if you sent me a genuine message, and it hasn’t appeared as a comment, please forgive my heavy-handed delete!
Certain number combinations attract our attention – which is one reason I noted the 777 spams. Other combinations have things to do with our cultural references – for instance, 8 in China is an auspicious number, whereas 3, 7 and 9 tend to be favoured numbers in the UK. 13 is considered unlucky, although I really don’t know why because it’s also known as the ‘baker’s dozen’, dating from times past when a baker would add an extra roll to a dozen just in case the total weight of the twelve rolls came up underweight after baking.
I was watching a film this weekend based on numbers, partly because I enjoy numbers (although I’m not good at maths), partly because I love codes (like many children, I used to make up my own codes as a child and weaving allows for code-making through techniques such as alphabet drafts), and also because I love looking for patterns, whether in nature, in puzzles, or in numbers. My son seems to have inherited this ability to see patterns in apparently random collections, as he is excelling at signals and codes during his latest phase of training. He’s also inherited his dad’s trait of memorising apparently useless nuggets of information that suddenly come into their own when you least expect it!
Back to the film. It was called ‘Knowing’ and featured Nicholas Cage as a single parent of a young lad called Caleb who has problems deciphering words and wears a hearing aid to assist him to sort out the jumble of words. The father is an astro-phyisict teaching at MIT. The film starts off with a time capsule being buried at a newly opened school in the 1950s, and one piece of ‘art’work being included that was a whole string of numbers. The girl who wrote this down kept hearing people whispering to her. Roll on 50 years, and the capsule is being lifted up and the contents handed out. Caleb gets the paper with the strings of numbers and his father starts looking at it. Being someone who is interested in numbers, he suddenly realises that the strings of numbers include dates, so he starts researching. To his horror, he finds that the dates all refer to horrific accidents and natural phenomena with large loss of life, and then he notices that the next few numbers relate to the number of people killed. Following the numbers through to their conclusion, he realises that there are dates that haven’t happened yet, and to his horror he witnesses one of the events on the list. …
When I first started perusing popular physics books by authors such as John Gribbin, I began to realise just how big a part numbers play in our understanding of how the world, our galaxy, and ultimately the universe (at least the one that we know of) works. The more I read, the more fascinated I became. I find it great fun to be working in a field that requires me to manipulate numbers, albeit in a very different way, to create the tactile effects I want. It doesn’t matter to me that I might have 4, 8, 16 or 24 shafts to use. What matters is how those different shafts and the threads that are manipulated by those shafts can interact to create patterns in colour, line and surface relief. The challenge is to create fabrics and textures that seem to defy the limitations of the shafts through using different combinations and thinking in ways that push how you normally would think of using them.
In one way, you could think of weaving as a game of number manipulation. It would be interesting to hear how you think of weaving and what aspects of weave get you inspired. Let me know?
13 November, 2011
Yesterday I visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for the first time. This landscaped park, with its sculptures by such luminaries as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, David Nash and Andy Goldsworthy, amongst many others, also boasts several gallery spaces, a good shop and a great restaurant. A great place for a family day out where you only pay for car parking, and access to the rest of the facilities is free (donations very welcome!) The place was very busy, from hikers and dog walkers to family parties enoying the autumn colours and the sculpture.
Many people were there, as I was, to see the extended exhibition of Jaume Plensa‘s work. I had never seen his work before, but had been told in no uncertain terms that I was seriously missing out on an experience that I would enjoy. So on a beautiful autumnal day, with the leaves an amazing array of colours, and falling, I experienced with many others the wonder that is the work of Jaume Plensa. (We were allowed to take photographs for our own personal use, but because a blog is more of a public forum, I would urge you to go to the YSP website, or Jaume Plensa’s website to see the images there.)
The first piece to greet you as you walked down the corridor towards the main exhibition in the Underground Gallery was a ceiling hung collection of silhouettes of people engaged in ordinary things, with speech ‘tails’ coming out of the tops of the pieces containing lines of poetry (Silhouettes, Blake-Canetti-Valente). Letters, words and poems are something that is totally integral in Jaume Plensa’s philosophy, life and art works. The shadow effects of the silhouettes on the walls and floor of the corridor was equally as effective as the silhouettes themselves. On a bright, sunny late autumn day, the sun was low and quite strong and formed images that almost were as strong physically as the actual piece. That set in motion the feeling of the rest of the exhibit.
Walking down to the Underground Gallery, you could see the ethereal wire forms of two heads, Nuria and Irma, situated on top of the grass-covered Gallery roof. They were fugitive as well as present. Depending on how the light was, and where you were in relation to them, they variously appeared as two heads in silent communication with each other, or as a shimmer in the space in front of the background landscape, or somewhere in a spiritual space between the two extremes, with the wire creating a moire effect that layers of translucent fabrics do so they lost their outward form and became the communication waves, somewhere between corporeal and ephemeral.
Directly outside the Underground Gallery was a group of seated figures (‘Heart of Trees’) hugging their legs with the boles of cherry trees encased through their forms. These figures were created from individual letter elements welded together to express the forms. This is a regular leitmotif in Plensa’s sculptural works.
The walkway connecting the Underground Gallery exhibition spaces is a long corridor with glass walls leading to the outside so that the Heart of Trees was visible at all times from the corridor. Hanging from the centre of the walkway, and dividing it lengthwise, was Twenty-Nine Palms. This curtain of letters containing quotations from several favourite texts of Plensa’s was both visual and aural, with the metal of the letters, connected in vertical strands with each strand close enough to contact the strands on either side, creating a huge wind chime that visitors were encouraged to energise by stroking their hands gently across the strands as they walked down the walkway. Again, the shadows cast on wall and floor were an integral part of the piece for me, with the words easier to read in their shadow form that in the close-up encounter of the metal.
There were 4 exhibition rooms, two with large fibreglass installations. These pieces were impressive in their size and presentation, but for me, the two other pieces had more personal impact. Upon entering one of the rooms, you saw a number of alabaster heads, elongated to create a sense of removal from reality. The lighting was subdued but direct, with white light shone directly on each piece, creating some shadows, but emphasizing to me the translucence of the alabaster, the spiritual serene quality of each head with its closed eyes, silently contemplating within, not disturbed by anything that happened outside themselves, in a reminder of Buddhist carving. Some were hewn from the rock, inspiring a direct connection to Michelangelo’s wonderful Slaves sculptures in Florence. These pieces gave me weird feelings in the pit of my stomach – the lighting gave them a dimensionality that my eyes couldn’t translate. They were 3-dimensional sculptures, but their flattened elongated features only just raised above the surface of the alabaster and gave me the feeling that they were in the process of growing and if I waited long enough, they would become more distinct. The desire to touch was almost overwhelming, but because the alabaster is so fragile, we had to control our instincts.
Moving on from the Alabaster Heads, the other piece in the Gallery to affect me physically was Jerusalem. This was visual theatre, with a darkened room containing a spotlit circle of beautifully shining gongs complete with mallet to beat the gongs with. Each gong had a phrase from Song of Songs engraved onto it. The direction for this exhibit is that only 5 people can be present in it at any one time – with good reason. The piece is not complete until the viewer interacts with the piece, picking up a mallet and striking one of the gongs. The resonance from each gong is felt as vibrations within your body. Each gong is tuned slightly differently, and more than five being struck creates resonances that affect your internal organs. With just 5 people in the room, the vibrations are spiritual, meditative. With more, especially when someone decides to flex their muscles and whack the gong, the vibrations become physically painful, even nauseating. This is definitely a case where the artist knew exactly what reaction he wanted to evoke. Just ensure that you are only one of five!
Outside the Gallery, in the Park grounds itself, there are other sculptures by Jaume Plensa. Above the Underground Gallery, standing outside the Bothy Gallery, was a huge lettered figure (House of Knowledge) facing the amazing landscape view. This was another interactive piece, hollowed so that you could walk into its interior, see the landscape through the lettering, and be in contact with the piece. Near the car park was a double figured piece, smaller in scale but still with lettered ledges for people to sit on inside. Other pieces were of the lettered figures kneeling on rock or sitting in contemplation and silent conversation with each other.
This was a wonderful exhibition. So many of the pieces communicated, either with each other, silently, or with you. Several of them had aural and tactile aspects that were integral to the piece and your experience of them. All of them engaged the viewer. The exhibition was due to have closed but the popularity of it has encouraged YSP to extend the exhibition until the end of January 2012. If you get the chance to go, I would encourage you to. It opens up doors to places in yourself that you might have suspected were there but weren’t sure. The use of the space, the way that the visitor experiences each work, all are thought through. Jaume Plensa is a man whose vision is personal but universal, intelligent, deep, spiritual but ultimately very human.
6 November, 2011
It’s curious the things we choose to commemorate, isn’t it? This week is the ‘celebration’ of Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes night) in England, which is historical and political but not relevant to today, other than if the terrorist plot had not been discovered, UK history, religion and especially the seat of our government, would be very different now.
There’s a great description of the event all those years ago on the Hatfield House website, which gives the story an interesting slant. Religious wars, and terrorism in the name of religion, has been with us since religion began and the more recent events of past years, seen in that context, are a continuation of hard-headed people trying to convince, or eliminate, others who don’t share their point of view. UK history certainly has more than its fair share of religious persecution, even within Christianity, but it is curious that we still burn an effigy of a person on the bonfire. Not a particularly pleasant thing to remember, surely?!
However, most people these days just go to bonfire night celebrations to watch some spectacular fireworks, enjoy hot dogs and have some fun by a huge bonfire! I shouldn’t think too many stop to think that the fireworks they are watching could have been the Houses of Parliament going up in flames if the plot had succeeded, and that the whole course of our history would have been very different from that point on.
Religion and politics – two subjects that influence the whole way the world works and how everyone relates to everyone else. Nothing changes, and yet nothing stays the same. History repeats itself, yet situations are different. What was an unprecedented act in 1605 has now become all too real. It seems so sad to me that we, as a species, cannot get past such behaviour and thinking. As individuals, the vast majority of us would like to live in harmony with our neighbours, but there are always a few who wish to impose their warped view on everyone else. Many terrorist plots are foiled these days. So maybe Bonfire Night could be a night to commemorate and silently thank those who work hard to keep it that way!