This is another post about a fellow student -Lisa Smith ([email protected]; smiffymax.wordpress.com). Again despite being on an Embroidery course Lisa’s work doesn’t focus on this but primarily involves drawing and weaving. She is producing wearable sculptures – objects that are both beautiful and useful. She constructs her pieces from handwoven fabrics but they are as much about the form as the surface texture and colour. Drawing underpins her practice – in a sort of symbiotic process she draws, makes, and then re-draws and re-makes, each step building on the last. This creates an ongoing dialogue between her drawings and her objects. The increasingly large scale drawings depict huge knotted, twisted forms in space – and in turn influence the next form that she makes. She sees weave as a continuation of drawing – that there is no distinction between these processes. Her mark-making on paper explores form and texture and these same explorations occur as she weaves. Through a process of manipulating and sampling and drawing from these her pieces have evolved into functional sculptures. I think this is really what matters to her – a piece that can be worn around the wrist is as much a piece of sculpture as a piece in a gallery. Why should the context change the value that we ascribe to something ? As with many of us, her Dissertation subject has become unexpectedly relevant – she focussed on Japanese makers, in particular the Mingei philosophy of finding beauty in the everyday. Her work now seems to me to embody that very philosophy. Its really important too that her pieces are small – to be worn around the wrist or the neck – so that the wearer can focus on the cloth. Again this is another question of value – we are so used to being surrounded by cheap textiles that we don’t often pay attention to cloth as an object in itself. In turning her beautiful handwoven fabric into items which have that connotation of precious jewellery – this forces us to reconsider and appreciate the material. They stand off the body, retaining their own form, sitting in space in the same way as the forms in her drawings do. She is now working with multiples – finding ways of working with similar forms to be worn round the neck, working with different combinations of twists and knots and fastenings.
I think we are all getting quite nervous now. I have been struggling with my third book and it just has not been working. I realised in the process that I don’t actually like the character and find her quite intimidating – which I think partly explains some of my difficulty. Its also that pressure of having to produce something which is making me leap at solutions too quickly without experimenting sufficiently. I’ve now made three versions and I’m not happy with any of them. So I’ve decided to leave it for the present and and move on to another one entirely. It did do me a lot of good taking a brief break and going to the V & A for their ‘Blood on Paper’ Exhibition. I found it interesting and infuriating in equal measure. Infuriating because I don’t really think it lived up to the tag-line – ‘the art of the book’. Much on show really felt to me that it was only incidentally in the book form and it was often not really clear that the artist had actually been concerned with the fact the work would be in a book. Perhaps it was just that I was expecting it to be much more about that. Anyway I found some things on display really fantastic – Anselm Kiefer’s huge lead pages ‘The Secret Life of Plants’ were massive and evocative. I loved the way the lead wrinkled at the edges. I was also really struck by Cal Guo-Qiang’s ‘Danger Book – suicide fireworks’. In these he draws with flammable material and incorporates gunpowder; the book is then rigged so that the act of opening it will cause it to explode. A thoroughly satisfying concept. I love the idea that books are dangerous – words can change the world so books are burnt and banned and here the book is literally dangerous. Plus it tempts you – if you had one of them would you risk it bursting into flame in order to look at it ? Perhaps more useful to me though was the exhibition upstairs called ‘Certain Trees’ which focussed on a loose grouping of artists and poets who were and are involved in making and publishing books – influenced in many cases by Ian Hamilton Finlay. This was much more what I think of as artists books – books where the form and content are inextricably bound up together. I stayed on for the evening session – Friday Late – and went to a poetry reading which I thoroughly enjoyed, taking the opportunity to do a bit of sketching while I was there. People were invited to take a book and customise it over the evening – then participate in a sort of book exchange. I’m rather uncomfortable with the notion of altering existing books, so drew in mine – I felt it was adding to it rather than destroying.