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“I am not interested in the relationship between form and colour. The only thing I care about is the expression of man’s basic emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, destiny.”
rothko speaking about his work
It had been a long time (too long!!) since I’d visited a gallery or museum, so I was very glad to be able to catch the last-chance late view of the Mark Rothko exhibition at the Gemeente Museum in The Hague last Friday evening (the exhibition ended on Sunday 1 March). I have always enjoyed looking at Rothko’s vast colour fields and pleasingly tactile, scumbled surfaces… exuding their shifting, ethereal inner luminescence. Even when his palette fades to black (on black) there’s depth and a remotely elusive glow to be found. For me his canvasses have the potential to envelop one with an effect akin to that of listening to music.
 &  No.9 [details], 1948
 orange & tan, 1954
 untitled [detail], 1949
 untitled (seagram mural sketch) [detail], 1959
 untitled, 1969
 &  untitled (seagram mural sketch) [details], 1959
 &  untitled (harvard mural sketch) [details], 1962
Despite Rothko’s assertions that his work is never about “the relationship between form and colour” I couldn’t help, on leaving the exhibition, feeling more attuned to noticing the colour fields…
and (sometimes dizzying) abstractions in the 1930’s tilework of the museum’s stairwells and corridors.
Vigeland Park is located a little north west of Oslo’s city centre in the Frogner district, and is the largest sculpture park in the world made by a single artist. More than 200 bronze & granite sculptures, and beautiful gates wrought in iron, fill the park. It’s all the work of the dauntingly prolific Gustav Vigeland (1869 – 1943), predominantly made during the last two decades of his life (although sketches and models for many of the sculptures were conceived earlier). It’s a “fantastic concoction, medieval in spirit and complexity” – a weirdly wonderful, exuberantly enigmatic celebration of life, death and everything in between. We made our first visit to the park late at night, and in the darkness and silence it’s a strange and eerie place…
We returned the following day – a breathtakingly beautiful spring day with an indescribably blue sky – for a better look (and to soak up some spring sunshine)…
And here’s the man himself, chisel and club hammer at the ready (and one of the intricate wrought iron entrance gates)…
I’ll be at Amsterdam’s Sunday Market at the Westergasfabriek this coming Sunday (3 Nov). It will be my first market experience as a ‘shop keeper’ rather than a ‘shopper/browser’, and I will be sharing the stand with my talented friend, Carmen – the designer and maker behind the unique carhusa range of bags, purses, phone & tablet cases. In addition to some of my ‘Curiosity Cabinet‘ and ‘Specimen‘ prints I will also have lots of new work available – such as this print, as well as the hand-coloured ‘huisje’ (‘little house’) screenprints and various hand-printed & hand-coloured cards shown here…
screenprinted and hand-coloured ‘dragon’ cards in blue…
… and orange
hand-coloured (watercolour) ‘huisje’ screenprints
‘sprig’ cards, hand-printed in two colours with envelope detailing
hand-printed ‘huisje’ cards in a restrained range of colours…
… and some eye-popping colour combinations too
If you’re in the area on Sunday pop by and say hello. The market is open 12 – 6pm, and I have it on good authority that in addition to the art and design that will be available to peruse and purchase there will also be lots of good things to eat and drink, and plenty of reasons to be merry :) Hope to see you Sunday!
‘The Sleeping City’ is the silkscreen print I completed recently (and for which the drawings in an earlier post were made). It was inspired by a slightly disquieting, though strangely invigorating, dream I had in which a ghostly, glowing thylacine-headed dragon-creature twisted and turned its sinuous body across the dark night sky above a silent, sleeping Amsterdam. I have long wanted to make drawings of Amsterdam’s iconic canal houses and this perplexing dream gave me the nudge I needed. Of course I couldn’t draw the beautiful step, neck and bell gables as they actually are – I wanted them to appear slightly ‘other’, to give them a dreamlike quality… gables for an alternative-reality Amsterdam. The octopus gable and the dragon were particularly fun to draw – I love making drawings that allow me to lose myself in their intricate twists and turns… so much so that I’m sometimes reluctant to resurface!
In the dream the city’s slumbering inhabitants were oblivious to the creature’s presence (which, although not malignant, was also not entirely benign). But not everyone slept through this anomaly… Amsterdam’s cats – shape-shifters and dimension-skippers one-and-all – were awake to commune with the strange apparition in the sky.
I have no idea what this dream meant, if indeed it meant anything at all, but it did provide me with some fun material to work with!
As I generally favour working in black & white, colour-mixing the inks for this print was quite a challenge – I really wanted to capture the harmonious, almost monochromatic midnight-blues, purples and ghostly-glow qualities of the dream, but also wanted enough contrast for the individual elements to have the graphic impact I was after. So I worked with tints and shades of a single colour (that ‘midnight-blue’ I’ve mentioned) – and for the colour layers that called for a more translucent quality, I added lashings of transparent base to the ink.
I chose to print on a coloured paper (Fabriano Tiziano 160gsm pastel paper in ‘Danubio’) as I wanted the elements to emerge from a darker ground, to appear out of ‘the night’ as it were. Printing such a relatively complex (seven-screen, five-colour) print on coloured paper was a first for me and doubtless increased the colour mixing challenges, but generated some very interesting effects. The image disappears almost completely in very dim light, but in brighter light elements positively *pop* off the page – it therefore seems to shift & change in the fluctuating light and as a result replicates a certain surreal quality of the dream that inspired it. I’m fascinated by these temporal effects of colour, light and darkness and will definitely be experimenting further, in future projects, with printing on different coloured papers
Here’s a little animated GIF showing random snippets of the process, including some of the film transparencies created (from the drawings featured in my earlier post) for the seven separate print layers, exposure (of these transparencies) onto screens, ink/colour mixing, test prints, the print at various stages of completion and finally cleaning/reclaiming the screens at the end of the process.
And here is the print, temporarily framed and hanging on my studio wall, to give a sense of scale (those are standard sized postcards on the pinboard to the right). It’s available now, in a limited edition of 45 pieces
, in my Etsy shop.
Now to put Kronk‘s yeti back where he belongs, before his temporary displacement angers him…
… oops, too late!
The Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg has a series of six magnificent wool and silk tapestries, made between 1593 and 1604 that tell the story of Zeeland’s most important sea battles fought against the Spanish during the Eighty Years’ War (1568 – 1648). The tapestries are vast in size and the sea battles depicted are very epic indeed…
… but as I don’t know much about ships or care much for battles I was most interested in the small, beautiful details at the water’s edge…
… and the flora and fauna depicted in the tapestries’ intricate borders.
There are many other fascinating and beautiful artefacts to be found at the Zeeuws Museum, presented in a fresh & simple manner which works beautifully to enhance the history, the detail, and the (long lost) craftsmanship of the objects.
I usually try to make a note of the things I am inspired by and photograph in museums… but on this trip I was short of time and eager to see as much as I could. Apologies therefore that I cannot provide much information on, or attribution for, several of the objects pictured below.
[top: carved ivory comb ?]
[bottom: mummy of a child (organic material, textile, wood, paint), Egyptian, c.332]
[top: the Egyptian mummy again]
[bottom: more intricately carved ivory… wish I’d made a note of what this thing is! A Chinese puzzle ball, perhaps?]
[top: painting, Dutch, 19th Century ?]
[bottom: ceremonial woman’s blouse or huipil (cotton, silk), K’iche Maya / Quetzaltenago, Guatemala, 1930-1940]
a very beautiful stitch sampler… hard to believe it was made almost 120 years ago – the patterns and colours (especially that almost-fluorescent pink!) seem very contemporary [Netherlands, 1896 ?]
[pig mask worn by a dancer during harvest rituals (wood, rattan, feathers, mirror glass), Dayak / Kalimantan (Borneo), Indonesia, 1930 – 1960]
[top: Guido Lippens ‘Memento’ (oil on panel, sawn, burnt), Middelburg, 2002-2003]
[bottom: monkey skulls ?]
[top: war hat (rattan, leather, teeth, shells), Lesser Sunda Islands,
Indonesia, 1850 – 1900]
[bottom: shards of ancient green glass ?]