Sunday, 18 May 2014

A few lines on landscape...

I find myself caught up in the contemplation of landscape: a somewhat unexpected statement because my enjoyment of it is normally of the moment, when I am actually in it. But it is as if several artistic paths I have been mentally ambling down have unexpectedly merged into a broader track with a sudden and wonderful view of hills, fields, beach and wide sky. That I have spent the past few days actually walking such countryside (minus the hills) in glorious sunshine has been an added pleasure.

What has inspired such musings in a townie more used to dirty pavements and the Tube? First, the newly chosen theme for next summer’s Prism Textiles exhibition – Lines of Communication. (This year’s show, Coded: Decoded, is at the Mall Gallery, London, May 27-31. I am anticipating some wonderful work – the standard seems to get higher each year. Please come along.)  Secondly, a highly enjoyable  book, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, in which the author, Robert Macfarlane, having walked some of the ancient routes and paths that criss-cross Britain, writes of them with a deep knowledge and love that border on the poetic and mystical. The overarching theme is the marks that man leaves on the landscape. Several times he refers to paths as lines of communication, and at one point even compares the making of footsteps to stitching.

Diana Bliss, Bosigran: Iron Age Fort

Diana Bliss, Landwrap

Diana Bliss, Field 

I was immediately reminded of the work of my good friend the textile artist Diana Bliss, who creates impressionistic landscapes using textiles, paint and minutely executed embroidery, the mark-making with tiny, repetitive stitch becoming almost a meditation.  One series explores ancient field boundaries, “lost paths, plough marks and mysterious markings from the past”.

Landscape and poetry again merged in visual form at a delightful exhibition of Ross Loveday’s Land Lines, at Eames Fine Art, which I came across by happy chance near London Bridge on my way to the Fashion and Textile Museum. Here were paintings and etchings again on the fine line that separates figuration and abstraction: “Time, place, weather and light alongside gesture, glimpse and memory.” (I have kindly been given permission to reproduce some of the works here.) Unlike Bliss's soft, foot-friendly lines of stitch, the lines are hard, fine, dry, like wire or primitive scratches on stone.

Ross Loveday, Mudflats, drypoint with carborundum

Ross Loveday, Breakwater, drypoint with carborundum

While I have been away this past week in North Norfolk, I have been exploring some lines in the landscape of my own. (Not necessarily lines of communication, although aircraft vapour trails could well fit this category.)

I have also been looking again at the later paintings of Patrick Heron, who in his sixties left behind his purely abstract, flat areas of dense colour to return to the landscape and, as Mel Gooding describes it, “forms and configurations that we recognise, not as being directly descriptive but, rather, reminiscent of things seen”. His scribbles, scumbles and lines of raw paint in lemon, scarlet, mauve, pink and sage green on bare white canvas evoke an aerial view or map of the rocks, paths and garden around his home perched above the sea in the far west of Cornwall.

I have been amusing myself trying to work out how I might recreate his paintings in textiles (mainly reverse appliqué I think), not with the intention of doing so, but more to absorb his aesthetic. I’m not a landscape artist and never will be, but sometimes I do so wish I was.  

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