Monday, 10 August 2020

Welcome to the Circus

 And apologies for not blogging yesterday - I had a frustrating weekend with a burst boiler hot water pipe so no gas or water as had to turn everything off and it took 3 days to sort a plumber - nightmare; got a nice man today - so very strange letting someone into the house after all this time and dressed like a surgeon with glove and mask to operate on our pipe  from the back garden....

It held up editioning a bit as hard to concentrate but here we are ...    on with the show ......  

and we have agreed I will not print all James's poems except perhaps the first one to start you off so you can see how the words and images are just a counterpoint to each other...then I will write a commentary in normal lettering with maybe further snatches of the poems in italics.

 These circus images are not what you might expect from the poem at first - but jolly circus images show of course violence, animal torment - being ridden and baited and made to perform; a woman being shot upwards in a cannon, having knives thrown at her, being sawn in half .... acts that are on the edge of the abyss, like we are, on the high wire, in the wings, a world on fire, clowns and fools....

I am showing them in order






James' title is Blind Tiger  - subtitle Perfidious Albion

The first one introduces the Tiger: as I explained previously the remaining skull from a taxidermied tigerhead he was given and ritually burned. It faces us menacingly, confrontationally, propelled loomingly from the forest, from within which a small circus tent can be seen glowing in the dark...

underneath the printed image is a faint suggestion of a hand-painted skull , maybe of a human -you can't see it but I know it is there....














here is the first poem:

An offering of grain:

an offering of drink.

Blind Tiger forgive us

for making you a stuffed head:

your jaws set to grimace

for a hundred years:

your eyes as jewels

reflecting the setting 

suns of empires.


Is the tiger listening 

to the trees?

Place its skull in the river,

force open its jaws,

place a leaf on its tongue.














In image 2 we are introduced to a magical creature drawn to the lights of the tent; the forest is full of magical creatures if only we can stop destroying them and their habitat and see their beauty and strangeness, so much they could teach us....the poem describes a  child in the birch bark cot...warm in his bed of moss, in his fish-skin clothes....

Image 3 ...but the forest is burning and we are complicit: the river is drying up to a trickle...Blind Tiger your forests are gone and the rivers silt with effluent.... the borders are diminishing, we are on the edge of catastrophe, the tiger paces within his confines.

Image 4 ...the circus acts begin. We can shoot a woman into space, but it is no use trying to escape the mess on this planet, are we looking for somewhere else to exploit? the poem talks of  ...the wound's dark hole...

Image 5 ...the Fools of the previous 3 packs of images have become Clowns, one of their various manifestations, some less wise than others. We are indeed in the Age of the Buffoon - we are currently led by one. The Clown clutches his bowl - empty of ideas, against the backdrop of the Great Flood (as depicted by Bosch), the Ark abandoned on the mountain top, the land littered with the dead and dying of all species, dog eat dog. The poet wakes to ...stand on this mountain as waters rise...life is ending in a putrid crucible and I am here cupping water.

I put image 6 to balance the set and show how the colours rise and fall but I will start from there next time and continue - hopefully next Sunday if the week is good to me.... it is a long business and will last into September I fear but I am enjoying taking it steadily and it is nice and cool in my basement; rain forecast for the end of the week so darker down there in the late afternoons evenings which may be problematical....

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Editioning


I am quitting overthinking and starting to edition - spent today doing some backgrounds - time to just go for it and then experiment further when I have finished sets of them as cards; these images are still proofs for tweaking but the first three are nearly there...
and below are a few more that are getting there....





Sunday, 26 July 2020

Progress proofs

trials....


















I am taking these photos for myself really to see how the colours begin to hang together...
I have cut lots more blocks for trying different things out
I may end up with 2-3 different sets - a colourful set, a dark set, a very dark set cut in a completely different way, even a drypoint set.... fun fun fun

takes a lot of time though but very therapeutic I am sure....



















I am having lots of lovely walks in the woods as well in the evenings....


















together with my wizard friend.....

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Fool as Amphibian......

...Enid Welsford's book The Fool says that the Fool stands apart from a story ...'equally at home in in the world of reality or the world of the imagination...'
these images are not illustrations but a counterpoint to the poems....
















These are still very rough scribbly proofs mostly hand-coloured for ideas and so very pale at the moment....some still not printed at all.....

Apologies for the long gap - I have been completely re-thinking them after this, cutting extra blocks, re-thinking some existing ones and re-cutting...
and at what seems to be a pivotal time in civilisation ( would we were not just rushing to get back to 'normality' ) - there are some exciting changes afoot in the artworld, perhaps temporary, maybe more permanent....
no more big blockbuster shows for the time being - crowded, inevitably costly and often not a very satisfactory experience, wonderful tho they might be...
to seeing less and marvelling more , a quality experience...
the questioning of the museum's place in our new world, the statue debate, Black Lives Matter,  'Outsider Art' - always a contentious term....
I have been following up on some contemporary artists less well known to me who seem to have interesting solutions and ideas...
all leading inevitably to re-evaluating my own ideas and practise...
no major changes beyond broadening and deepening but always a useful process, especially on days when a certain exhaustion inevitably sets in after 3-4 months of constant work...
It is interesting to consider how much  this initiates the process or whether it is  the work under construction itself which pushes things in new directions...
as does having to work within the limitations of things to hand in some cases.
Limitations always move one towards experimentation so no harm in that, although just currently problematic when 3/4 way through a project which in some ways needs to hang together...

Current technical cogitations centre around the balance between hand-colouring and printing in these new circus cards: I like keeping to the nod to the social and political origins of the hand colouring while also making it work in this case aesthetically.
I am currently trialling a triad of oil-based block over water based block layers plus the hand painting...next week will tell whether it will work.
I am always obsessed by texture, how matt and how shiny, layering and how colours are formed...dates back to all that tempera painting I once did I suppose.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Updates on tarot pack 4 - Fire




















Very indistinct, especially with the horrid new pink-middled wood, but just as evidence of progress - 22 newly cut images awaiting another mammoth printing session; they really do need to be seen in conjunction with the poems, and of course they will print mirror image, and the colour will be everything. Some of them already have second block cut and others may need one too once I see how they print and hang together....
Have just finished reading Olga Tokarczuk - Drive your Plow over the Bones...- Blake-ean, environmental crisis and particularly re- animals - perfect accompaniment to doing  this cutting ...

Friday, 26 June 2020

Brand New set in progress.......

No pics today but there were a lot the last few posts...
the new project is developing apace, a fourth tarot pack , as the poet James Simpson (that regular readers will know I work with a lot) discovered that his set of Blind Tiger Sonnets that he had been wanting me to work with for some time were actually 22 in number - so how could I resist......

and I finally found a way in, and with dealing with the Tiger - as our work is mainly ecologically based and coming from the Down-land which we both live among and love deeply, so that the Tiger , with or without his Blake-ean associations has to be carefully accommodated....
and my way in was by basing the set of images around the idea of the circus....
the Fool has become a Clown, combining his two aspects, his immense wise sadness and his buffoonery and stupidity....
and if the first three sets dealt with the elements of Earth ( Trees) Air ( covid pestilence) and Water (Flooding), then this last set - crying out for completion, is Fire ....the fiery colours of the Tiger, the rings of fire, the firing of people through cannons, and animals and clowns jumping through burning rings etc etc
there is also room for the equivalence with what is happening to our forests, sawing in half, burning, setting on fire and the fleeing of wildlife, as animals flee from burning circus tents when previously lit by live flame and hot lights  and sparks.....so lots to think about.
The idea took hold very quickly like wildfire and I have completed 22 drawings in 3-4 days and am now starting cutting the blocks - there may be more than one block to an image this time and they will look possibly very different from previous sets; colour and type of colour will be of paramount importance.... we are both very excited.....

the drawings are still in a fragile creative state so I won't be showing them as before - yet anyway - and will try and have some prints or cuts at last to show by the end of next week for blogging....

although lockdown is easing I absolutely have no desire to break out from my lovely creative bubble and sit on a hot beach or go shopping  and mingle with crowds - the occasional walk in a dark deserted wood nearby - is is the furthest I am wandering these hot light June evenings;
James and I communicate via the telephone and emails and this blog (but I did email him the new set of drawings for comment without you this time ) - currently he is now writing poems to the sets of tree images particularly, so we are working in tandem in opposite ways, I am imaging to his words and he is wording to my images; we like doing this and I am looking forward to him sending me some of his results......

eventually we may be able to share some of all this with you... keep checking ...
I will try and blog once a week but the midsummer weeks are vital for long sessions and need to be utilised to the utmost..... and oh dear , the evenings are already drawing in folks.... carpe diem.....

Sunday, 21 June 2020

2 More Complete Sets

Ship of Fools -

























































































Fool Gets Sick