Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Solo show in Chichester

You won't be surprised that the title of my upcoming exhibition refers to my current project (or should that be obsession?) .... Cut Paper Places.
It's on in December at the lovely little Lobby Gallery in the Oxmarket Arts Centre just off East Street in the town centre and I'm hoping to have about a dozen writer's houses hanging plus a few small monoprint collages.

There will be a local Sussex emphasis and I am hoping for a blizzard-free fortnight. My last show at this venue was blessed by a mixture of weather that ranged from beautiful winter sunshine to a near Arctic storm which hit on the day I had to pack up and take the remaining paintings up to London. The train journey took the best part of 4 hours.

Anyway, with the publicity at the Oxmarket grinding into motion, it's time to really get cracking. While my Sissinghurst tower continues to languish up at the printer, I am getting on with a house which stands at the end of East Street in Chichester itself, a stone's throw away from the gallery: Number 11, Eastgate.
A distinctly shabby-looking terraced brick building, with a jumble of ugly tacky shops below, sweet papers and discarded crisp packets littering the entrance last time I was there, hideous neon Nails and Hair signs hanging in the upper windows, this poor neglected house perhaps dreams of former days when it ushered in the beginning of the miracle that was Keats's Living Year, the incredible 12 months which started with the Eve of St Agnes and ended with To Autumn.

A plain, honest sort of building, with no pretensions to grandeur apart from the pedimented entrance which is now smothered beneath layer upon layer of paint, it belonged to the parents of the poet's friend and sometime Hampstead neighbour Charles Wentworth Dilke and during his few days stay, which took place in February 1818 shortly after the death of his brother Tom and his meeting and falling in love with Fanny Brawne, he composed the first lines of The Eve of St Agnes.
The poem was heavily influenced by what he saw about him - the medieval buildings and especially the magnificent cathedral and its stained glass.

My stained glass sky is less medieval than modern. It is a passing tribute to the cathedral's wonderful Chagall window. Only mine's blue rather than red, of course. And wouldn't have been there in 1818!

And I am trying to tidy up the building and restore it to what it may have looked like when owned by Mr and Mrs Dilke (now interred and no doubt spinning in the cathedral cloisters at the thought of a Nail Salon in their front parlour).

Still a long way to go on this one ...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Tudor tower

This might look as if I am going off on a completely different tack ... but it really is a writer's house as anyone recognising Sissinghurst Castle's tower (okay, so I have replaced some of the facing which appears to have dropped off over the years) will confirm.

In this case the writer's house really was her castle. Vita Sackville-West had her study on the first floor of this wonderful building. She was the friend and lover of Virginia Woolf, whose house was the subject of my last image. So you see, it's not the non-sequitur it at first appears.

Vita Sackville-West with Rollo and tower
By coincidence I had borrowed The Queens and the Hives by Edith Sitwell from the library, the Queens of the title being Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. There is an evocative description of one of Elizabeth's visits she inflicted on her aristocratic subjects and courtiers during her "progresses" through the kingdom. Dumping herself and her hundreds of followers on her hosts could prove costly to the point of bankruptcy but was an unavoidable honour.

Sissinghurst was a port of call in 1573, on August 15 to 17 to be precise, when the then lord of the Sissinghurst manor was one Richard Baker. Unfortunately I haven't come across any references as to how the Virgin Queen was entertained during her brief stay. The surviving record of her visit to Long Itchington in Warwickshire two years later veers between the sublime (she was met at the Castle gate by the porter in the guise of Hercules and greeted at the lake by a lady and nymphs who seemed as if they walked upon water) and the ridiculous (as the Queen dined under a large tent she was shown two wonders of the district, a huge fat boy and a correspondingly monstrous sheep).

Here is an Elizabeth which will eventually take her rightful place in the foreground. Not sure where I will fit Vita in yet.  But first I am going to get the tower finished and properly scanned as I quite like it in its naked state on a white background. That means it will be out of my hands at the printer for at least a week or so, so I will probably start on something else before I get this house finished. I have a show coming up in December and must crack on ....

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

All framed up ...

... and ready to go to:
a large consignment of eleven collages and paintings which, having been scanned and framed, are now being parcelled up for shipping tomorrow. Quite a large parcel. I always find parcels a challenge. Sticky tape and me not being what you might say the best of friends. Can you hear the fear? Not for nothing did I only last one day on the gift wrap counter in Selfridges in my student Christmas job days.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, I am deep into Edith Sitwell's Queens and the Hive and on an Elizabethan roll which has filled my former creative hiatus ... this is how things stand at the moment:

It's at that exciting stage when it has ceased teetering on the edge of the waste paper bin and looks as if it will shape up nicely.
Where, what and who?
I'll leave you guessing ....

Thursday, August 9, 2012

At an uncreatively loose end ...

She Was Entirely Unprepared For What Awaited Her.
I do so envy people who can have two or three paintings on the go at once. Mostly by the time I am finishing one picture I already have a good idea of What Next. But at the moment I am at a loose and listless end and being overtaken by life, bulldozers and everything.

The brilliant upside is that a gallery in the north of England is taking 9 of my collages and two paintings (I will put up a link to it in the next post).

The frustrating downside is trying to get them to the stage of being sent off - which means constant badgering of the printer (in charge of scanning) and framer (in charge of guess what) at a time when short Spanish summertime hours are in operation.

Strangely, this quaint custom does not seem to apply to the team driving three earthmovers and one rock breaker not ten yards from my studio door. They are shunting backwards and forwards all day, eleven hours a day, like their lives depended on it, stirring up dust storms and blasting noise in our direction. Anyone who knows me knows I have an exceptionally low noise threshold. I hate it.
I am the sort that visibly winces and gibbers when the crackly sound system in the supermarket swings into action informing shoppers of the latest offers. So imagine ...

The night before last, after midnight, while real peace reigned at last, I did this monoprint collage, triggered by a sentence I had copied down (and thought would make a good title) in a sketch book while reading the biography of the eighteenth century epic artist Benjamin Robert Haydon. The poor man killed himself in a somewhat ham-fisted and gruesome manner, driven to end his life by debts, despair and disappointment.
I drew the line (so to speak and you will be glad to hear) at the frightful mess on the floor boards ...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Virginia Woolf in the snow

I think this is finished. In fact I will put it away before it gets over fussy.
Virginia Woolf being greeted by the couple's dog, Pinka, the spaniel given to the Woolfs by Vita Sackville-West, the aristocratic writer/poet/gardener who was also at one time the lover of  Virginia and muse for her novel Orlando.
Note her Omega-inspired handbag and Omega-style curtains!
(The Omega Workshops were the artistic wing of the Bloomsbury Group).

I have taken a massive artistic liberty in leaving so many leaves on the plants and trees at Christmas time. My excuse is that they are the ghosts of leaves past.
And I'm sticking to it. Or rather they are if you'll excuse the pun.

This is the fourth in my series of Christmas card designs.
On sale later this year ... watch this (and other) space(s).