Monday, September 29, 2008

Visiting Artists’ Studios

I’m back home from an excellent trip to Scotland and England; I’m greatly inspired by all the beautiful landscapes I saw, but especially by the studio visits I made.
I was lucky enough to be invited to visit Pauline Burbidge’s studio and Elizabeth Brimelow’s studio. I also saw the Tracy Emin retrospective in Edinburgh and, by the way, here’s a brilliantly scathing review of the show. Also, a complete contrast …..the Lowry centre in Manchester,UK.

Both Pauline and Elizabeth make quilts inspired by landscape.
Pauline lives in an idyllic setting in the Berwickshire countryside in converted old farm buildings. Lots of black and white patterns everywhere – the whole interior is an art piece. It must be lovely to be able to make one’s home a work of art – every time I see an artist doing that I feel cowardly about the conventional beige carpet we have!

Pauline showed us pictures of Applecross – a gorgeous area in West Scotland – views for miles over lochs and mountains.
She then showed us her sketches, and then the quilts she has made based on the images – just enough detail to capture the scene. As my friend David Wood (with whom I also stayed on this trip) said “it’s important not to be too obvious!” However, since he was Damien Hirst’s
art teacher I don’t know that he always got that point across to his pupils!!

Elizabeth Brimelow also abstracts from nature to create her stunning work. She focuses more on the texture than on the overall chiaroscuro of the landscape. And the texture she creates is amazing: hand stitching, machine stitching with big loops and swirls – it really conveys the idea of the piece. Though I do remember, once having a piece in the Houston show where I’d deliberately (as if one could do it by accident!!) fed 2 and 3 strands of thread into the machine needle to create loopy texture…the piece came back with the comment by the juror that I needed to improve my machine quilting!!

Tracy Emin: well the critics panned her! And there were some weird and gruesome objects – I don’t think we’d get into a quilt show with used band aids etc…but the blankets with stitched text (large felt letters) were well crafted and quite fascinating to read and study. She conveyed her ideas clearly and the formal aspects of composition were well served. There was a gripping interview with her mother where they discussed the pros and cons of abortion and child rearing– the mother is so honest and open with Tracy. She stated she prided herself on giving Tracy and her brother great freedom….but Tracy pointed out “and look where it got us” and around you is the proof of just where it got her…..rape, rejection, abortion and squalor. No I wouldn’t want to take a piece home!! But she definitely got me involved in her struggle.

L.S. Lowry – a painter not well known in the USA but his work is enjoyed with great affection in England. A sad lonely man – he turned his feelings into paintings that delight with puns (a man lying on a wall smoking a cigarette in front of a smoking chimney!) and bring tears at his self criticism to the point of excoriation (The Man with red Eyes). If you ever go to the Lowry Centre be sure to watch the 20 minute documentary about his life – extraordinarily revealing.

What struck me overall about all these artists was how clearly their work relates to their own personal and specific experiences – whether these are experiences you would want or not. We must work from our own visions!!! Also, how dedicated they are/were – so committed to putting onto paper or into cloth the images and events of their lives that have given them joy or sorrow.

And , if you have been, thanks for reading!


Del said...

Welcome home, Elizabeth! I guess I have another blog reader in Athens since you weren't home when she/he read my blog. I have posted quilts from the TCQC for eight days and will now get back to my life, such as it is. Boooorring!

Margaret McCarthy Hunt said...

Brimelows quilts are so fabulous...awesome fiberartist...thanks for sharing...