Sunday, July 20, 2014

Abstract Art for Quiltmakers - the students' favorites

I currently have a class running at  called Abstract Art for Quiltmakers.
It's full, by the way, but will be running again later this year - if you're interested please just contact the dean:

 In the class we discuss abstract painting, but also look at some of the current abstract work in the quilt field.  I ask the students to list their favorites.

This is a list compiled by one of the students of the quilters that the ladies in the class have felt they liked the most who are doing abstract work.

If you think there's anyone significant whom they missed - please do give their name and a link to their website in the comments box - then everyone will take a look!!
Apologies for the weird formatting - believe me I worked on it!!!   but now it's time for a cuppa tea and then some quilting!!!   Elizabeth

Famous Quilters list
Type of Abstract Art
Anna Williams
Decorative Patterning
Barbara Olson
Color & light
Carol Taylor
Emotional & Organic
Dena Crain
Joy Saville
Color & Light
Sue Benner
Katie Pasquini

Elizabeth Busch
Decorative patterning
Velda Newman
Emotional & Organic
Linda Colsh
Decorative patterning
Rosalie Dace
Decorative patterning
Yvonne Porcella
Robbie Joy Eklow
Decorative patterning
Sandra Meech

Ricky Tims

Rosemary Eichorn

Pamela Allen
Emotional or organic
Nancy Cook
Nancy Crow
Decorative patterning
Ruth McDowell
Liz Berg

Melody Johnson

David Walker

Lisa Call
Decorative patterning
Inge Hueber
Decorative patterning
Cherilyn Martin
Emotional or organic
Jette Clover
Ann Brauer
Bonnie Bucknam
Emotional or organic
Mary Arnold

Dominie Nash
Emotional or organic
Liz Brooke Ward
Emotional or organic
Terry Jarrard Dimond

Ita Ziv

Cher Cartwright
Jenny Hearn
Charlotte Yde
Geometric & organic
Cheryl Lynch

Gloria Hansen

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Art historian and polymath Kenneth Clark: a good read

I was just reading a book by Kenneth Clark, a noted British art historian, critic, writer, presenter and author of the television program "Civilisation" , perhaps not so well known in the USA but certainly a household name in the UK when I was growing up there.

Clark had as his main goal that he should to promote art/artists and that he would make both the art and the artists  comprehensible to everyone.
He believed that the purpose of art is to express ideas and feelings, to communicate them in a way that is perhaps more understandable, certainly more memorable, than a complicated verbal message especially one that might be overly complex, obfuscated by verbiage.

I'm currently running a class "Abstract Art for Quiltmakers" at the and a couple of folk have suggested that only completely non objective art (no reference to anything real at all in any way) is truly abstract art.   I begged to differ for I feel that we can define the term abstract very widely - basically, I would say, to encompass most art where the maker's intent was not to make a realistic copy of something in real life.

Kenneth Clark approached the idea of abstract art from a different angle. He wrote: "Abstract art, in anything like a pure form, has the fatal defect of purity. without a pinch of earth, the artist soon contracts  spiritual beri-beri and dies of exhaustion".   His "pinch of earth" was the connection with reality, the subjective - the hint of a landscape, the evidence of the artist's  handwork, the shape that almost reminds you of something.

Sadly in World War I many wonderful artists, poets and writers were killed.  In WWII, Clark used his influence to keep artists out of the battlefields and instead had them work to record the visual events for history.  Here from the Imperial War Museum  is an example, Paul Nash's Battle of Britain:

In this era when art education has been demoted to elective status in many school because it's not "on the test", we need art champions such as Kenneth Clark.

it's funny how you start reading about one thing - abstraction - and then end up thinking about something apparently different - education...but perhaps not.  Perhaps art is not such much abstract as both  a reality and a necessity.  In many ways, society is trying to get rid of those pinches of earth, evidences of nature and humanity...but they are necessary lest we die of vitamin deficiency.

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!  Elizabeth

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Monet and Abstraction

Seeing the Real Thing, i.e.Monet's paintings in the Orangerie  and the ones in the Musee Marmottan Monet in Paris, I became strongly aware of just how very abstract his work is.  Monet lived from 1840-1926 and while his work was very popular when he lived and he had many commissions, after he died it was largely ignored by the avant garde of the art world. It's hard to believe today that his famous water lily paintings attracted so little attention - when we see them reproduced everywhere! It wasn't until the 1950s when painters began to be interested in abstraction, both in France and the USA, that Monet was "rediscovered".

 Andre Masson, a Surrealist painter, who experimented with inducing altered states of consciousness (by various means) and then producing what he called "automatic" drawings, was one of the first to write about Monet.  It's interesting to think about the effect of altering consciousness on art work - I don't think you have to be drunk, starving or sleep deprived (!) - thank goodness! - but being able to get into the creative zone where the critical mind is not commenting and dictating is really helpful.  Of course you do then have to assess and adjust carefully AFTER you've produced your "automatic drawings' - or perhaps "semi-automatic!"  A little bit of control is a good thing, too much can stifle your ability to come up with something fresh.

Anyway (presumably when reasonably sober and nourished), Masson wrote that he felt that the Orangerie (the building in Paris that houses water lily paintings that completely surround you (a concept later used by Rothko and several others)) was the "Sistine Chapel of Impressionism." When you see the paintings, the depth is almost feel like you're sinking into the pond itself...and yet when you get close this is all achieved with very loose brushwork.  It was not done "automatically" though - Monet made a lot of sketches of the ideas he used before he started painting.  There were also a great many preparatory paintings many of which can be seen in the Marmottan museum.

Along came the abstract expressionists and they were incredibly inspired by the dissolved light in Monet's painting and also the vigorous brushwork.  Joan Mitchell is a favorite of mine and  I could definitely see a huge likeness between close ups of Monet's paintings and her work.  And of course, all the others: Pollack, Krasner, Riopelle, Tobey and so on. Clement Greenberg, the highly influential art critic, supported the idea that Monet was the chief precursor of abstract painting in America, despite the fact that "he himself could not consciously accept or recognize "abstractness" - the qualities of the medium alone".

Greenberg described Monet's monumental water lilies as a new type of painting, one that is "all over, decentralized, and polyphonic, relying on a surface knit together of identical or closely similar elements which repeat themselves without marked variation from one edge of the picture to the other."

I see many parallels between the arts and I think that an understanding of one helps in the appreciation of another.  I love the idea that Monet's work parallels that of the polyphony so popular in the Baroque period in music.  So, now for a nice cuppa tea while I ponder how to bring polyphony into my quilts.....

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Paris and beyond - too much inspiration!

Back in North America after 18 days in France - filled with inspiration!!!  I've been trying to think how to process all the wonderful things I saw...I sympathize now with people who come to a workshop with packed inspiration notebooks!!!  Which to choose?  I do think the answer is to give yourself time, to keep looking over and over and the pictures...cropping where necessary and also desaturating so that the value pattern is clearer.

Here are just a few of my many (600!) photos with some of my thoughts:

a giant wall painting by the Pompidou Centre...very striking - all in black and white...extreme close up and unexpected location....

While I must admit I did get tired of tourists posing In Front of Things usually obscuring them - you've probably got to have one or two images to prove to yourself - at least - that you were Really There in this Magic Place!!

Stained glass in Saint Chapelle...although it looks rich there are really very few different colors - we don't need every last color!! Using a few and using them well...with a dominant color will make for a grand and lasting color scheme.  These gorgeous windows are being renovated, each little piece being taken out of its mount and cleaned and replaced, repaired or a copy being used.  Notice how the geometric division of space gives structure to all these little pieces.

Not a very clear picture, I regret!!  But such a brilliant idea!  squares of black glass - I wonder if one could get away with that at Quilt National!! - strung from thin wire in columns and as the glass squares turn in the ambient air movements they reflect the  constantly shifting patterns of light and shade.
Isn't that grid structure so reminiscent of a quilt??
Grids rule!!!  

always keep your eyes open for funny signs!!
This, loosely translated, says that frotteurism is dangerous!!!

The Chateaux gardens of the Loire valley yield many grid like parterre designs, but viewing them at an angle leads to delicious dynamic diagonals!!   Here the lavender bushes almost look like little foundations and the diagonals contrast with the rows of strange topiaries...
I can see a very strong abstract design based on this....

One of the constants in both Paris and in the French countryside is the allee - rows of trees (sometimes alternating varieties, sometimes disciplined into square shapes) , always giving a great sense of perspective..leading one on into the distance.  These are very formal designs and very characteristic of the French landscape - and, I suspect, the French culture.

More diagonals!!! Large shapes with texture retreating to smaller less defined ones.

A quick snap from the car....a distant row of poplars, the same distance apart but all different shapes with their varied growth patterns..a simple foreground and background.  Looking at the many Impressionist paintings we saw, I could see that simple foregrounds lead you forward into the design much more quickly than something very detailed and textural up front.  Oh yes - I'll be stealing that idea!!

But I don't think I'll be copying this one!  The black bedroom at Chenonceau Chateau is probably very restful at night, but rather gloomy to wake up to!! And imagine if you were in bed sick with all that black around you......

Poppies growing out of the side walk...a natural little arrangement, but so many possibilities for a design. It's a study of simultaneous contrasts. The old paving stones give a background grid upon which the more organic shapes of the poppies and their stems become very relaxed and alive by contrast.  The  bright red stands out against the warm and cool neutrals of the stone...the shadows contrast with the saturated color of the petals to make the flowers brighter, the shadows cooler....

well yes I had to take one of the iconic Eiffel tower photos!!
But making a fresh and interesting quilt design from something quite so iconic  would be very difficult.  Sometimes I think it's better to say the photo says it all, I can't add anything by translating into fiber.

And I think Monet's garden at Giverny would fall into that category too - the flowers are so beautiful and lovely and lush and so (apparently) artlessly arranged!!  It's hard to beat nature in this, and very hard to capture what the eye can actually see and experience.  But the addition of some manmade elements by it's Monet's some interesting geometric shapes against the more organic ones...can lead to some ideas.  Also the flowers in the garden were arranged into rich, but not too rich, color combinations that could easily be stolen for color schemes.
In this photo also, there's a very nice grouping of values that I think would work well in a design.

Here the contrast of pink roses and chartreuse euphorbia yields a delicious complementary color scheme: cool pinks against yellow greens - difficult to do, but so beautiful when done right.  Hmm...that should definitely be on my potential design list!!

In Monet's house many of the walls were painted in unexpected colors, a lot of mixed with a golden yellow and a deep rose......

Monet's kitchen - well probably Monet's wife's kitchen!! I don't think he had much to do with domestic beautiful the copper tones are against the cerulean blue and white....
notice also the contrast of repeated circles and the blue/white grid pattern..

Well who could resist the classic pose with parasol in the poppy and cornflower fields behind the house?  Should have worn one of my long square dancing skirts of course with all the frills!!!

A surprise find in the main church at Vernon, the little town near Giverny some modern stained glass.  No particular artist name given, alas, but there were about 20 or more of these designs.  Loose, flowing, different palette per window.

but nothing compares to the blue stained glass windows in Chartres cathedral.  The glorious blue, somewhere between ultramarine and cobalt is SO rich, such an amazing feast for the eye...
this little corner design though would make a great quilt!!! those little floating golden devices on the field of deep sapphire....hmmm....

And in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery, the serried ranks of ancient trees wind around creating intriguing patterns that are both formal and organic.  Take a row of trees and bend....

Interesting designs can be found a wall of peeling posters in the Metro is apparently being viewed with fascination by the man and the this Art? What is Art? !!!

And now to let some of these images mellow for a while in my imagination...will I work from the great color mixes I've seen, or the formal grids and allees, or the unexpected juxtapositions of glimpsed vignettes......for sure it will take time to know...

I was very blessed indeed by my good friends in Paris to have the opportunity to see and experience SO much - the trip of a lifetime!
And, if you have been, I hope you've enjoyed some of my musings upon the many inspirations I've collected in the last month.   Thank you for reading!!!  All comments are Most Welcome!!!   Elizabeth

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Stitched histories: A Memory of the World.

Communicating ideas by means of stitching on fiber is very old.  The role of textiles has at times been a practical matter and at others a substrate for artistry.  But now textile and fiber art is accepted in galleries and museums in its own right.   “From the loom to the white cube” as critic Nadine Monem puts it.

 Textiles have been made by hand by individual craftsmen and artists (usually no differentiation was made between the two) for thousands of years and largely for utilitarian reasons.  However, the scope for decoration, art and story telling has always been a strong part of the craft of making marvelous tapestries, weavings and embroideries .

I’m  soon going to see the Bayeux tapestry in France.  It’s actually an embroidery, 70 meters long, made in the 11th century  telling the store of the conquest of England by William  Duke of Normandy in 1066, probably in a monastery in the south of England.
UNESCO gathered together a record of about 250 “documents/events discoveries, creations, inventions etc that they consider have influenced humanity from earliest times to the present. They are kept in various libraries, archives and museums all over the world and include the Gutenberg Bible,  various war archives and documentaryies, the Bayeux Tapestry, the Magna Carta, Philippine Paleographs , Captain Cook’s Journal, early atlases.
I’ve not seen the entire list (the catalogue is on my wishlist!!) but I would add  Elizabeth Parker’s embroidered diary

which describes so heart rendingly her terribly sad existence – if you ever go to the V&A in London you must see it.

After the “satanic mills” spread across much of England, artists like William Morris realized the tremendous possibilities for design on a large scale…and brought art back into the medium.

Since the Second World War (1939-1945), there has been a steady development of textiles as an art form – fiber art in its many iterations is now something to be seen and admired in gallery and museum settings. 

I saw Ghada Amer’s work in the Brooklyn museum in NYC as well as Judy Chicago’s – both artists using stitch and fiber to the maximum addressing feministic issues.
It is the extraordinarily tactile element of fiber art that appeals so much, I think.  Free flowing stitches (whether created by hand or machine) and the sewn edges of fabric shapes (whether appliqu├ęd or pieced) reveal the personal gestures of the artist in the same way that drawings do.

Reviewer and critic, Ciara Connolly asks “what is the point of a [fiber work] that looks like a painting?” As she discusses the point she concludes that is the very looseness, the wabi-sabe, the mark of the hand, that is so evident in much fiber that differentiates it from painting – and makes it so effective because we can almost see the artist at work.
She quotes French poet Edmond Jabes’  “I dreamed of a work which would not enter into any category, fit any genre, but contain them all; a work hard to define, but defining itself precisely by this lack of definition, a work which would not answer to any name but had donned them all”.

And, if you have been, thanks for reading.  Elizabeth

PS What amazing textile works have you seen that should be considered A Memory of the World?

PPS Apologies for spam in the comments – I try to delete them every day, and have the spam check too – but sometimes they elude me!

PPPS  If I can I'll report from Paris, but it may not be possible, in which case...check this space in early July!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Some quilts from QSDS

I had a great time at QSDS (Quilt Surface Design symposisum) in Columbus Ohio last week and had hoped to deluge you with photos...alas my camera battery thought otherwise.  The new mini-camera, with mini camera battery has a mini length of charge!!

However a few folk did send me some images:

 we worked on lots of different designs both realistic and abstract based on photos that people brought with them....
 This lady was actually an embroiderer not a quilter, I"m hoping we've converted her!!!  She dis some marvelous little designs....
 Arn't these two cats - the positive and the negative just full of attitude???  It's very difficult to make a good cat quilt, because it's been done SO many times, but I think this lady managed to get a lovely fresh feel to her feline fancies!!

And to the right of the cats....another well used image, the heart, was also given a bold new treatment and makes a really successful statement.  You can see that there were a large number of value studies needed to find the right balance.

(it will be trimmed of course...)

This little gem was this lady's very first art quilt...I love it all prickly with the pins!! But I doubt she'll leave them in!  It's a really nice abstract from a very very complex photograph..and is beautifully done.

Thank you to the folk that sent me pictures, there were lots of other super pieces.

Next...I'm off to France to see the Bayeux tapestry, but more about that in my next blog.  
If you have been, thanks for reading!!!  Elizabeth