Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I'm back home after a trip to Wisconsin - 3 little workshops in a row with outings to see the countryside (and cheese and chocolate factories - the staples of life!) between each one.

I'm working on a Long Talk I'm giving to the local "learning in retirement" chapter - I need to either shrink it, or learn to speak a lot faster!  The talk  accompanies an extensive power point about Abstract Artists, specifically female ones, though most of the things they talk about are universal. so the issues are not particularly feminist, rather the artists are less well known than their male counterparts - UNdeservedly so!

It's fascinating reading about these artists' practices; so many of their comments are directly relevant to art quilts and to the way I teach. My workshops in Wisconsin were really about ways to derive and evaluate designs - first on paper, then in fabric.

For example, Eva Hesse (1936-1970) always loved drawing.  She said that because it was more flexible and immediate than painting or sculpture, it was much more useful in developing ideas. She frequently worked with found materials: latex, cheesecloth, resin.  The forms she created were sometimes ordered, sometimes chaotic but the compositions were often worked out in drawing, or little watercolors.  (For images, just google "eva hesse images".)

She found  that,  while drawing gave her pleasure and satisfaction, it was also a very efficient way to work: 

 " First, feel sure of an idea, then the execution will be easier.” 

Drawing  is both a way of  working through ideas and a way to explore different technical issues.  Hesse found  that she could use the drawing to follow a chain of thought, a variety of serial techniques,  using repetition  as both content and form.
One of her favorite shapes was the square; in repeating squares, she could look at shape, negative space, and also the relationships between the squares.

 Hesse believed that “repetition does enlarge or increase or exaggerate an idea or purpose in a statement”.
These  "statements" or concepts also revealed the artist's feelings as well as their cognitions.

 Sometimes her drawings began with a grid which was fairly regular but then  the slight variations between the units would begin to  suggest resistance to enforced regularity - as happens in the improvisational approach to cutting out squares.   in using grids in a more flexible way, Hesse emphasized the mark of the hand, its variations and unpredictability and its beauty. 

Doesn't this sound like many of the exercises I give in my workshops?  Alas, like so many artists, Eva Hesse died of cancer at a very young age...I would love to have given her a pile of fabric to work with!

And now for a nice cuppa tea to soothe my PAC (plane acquired cold!)....if you have been, thanks for reading!


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