Thursday, 31 October 2013

Artist's Book Yearbook 2014-2015

With the light fast draining from a sullen sky I've scuttled down the garden path and into a cosy warm kitchen for coffee and a proper look at a BOOK . . . not any old book, but my copy of the Artist's Book Yearbook 2014-2015.
This is a biennial reference which focuses on international activity in the field of book arts. 

It serves as a resource for artists, academics and students, for librarians and researchers, in fact for anyone who is interested in artists' books!

In this issue there are many and various essays and interviews - so I'm already planning to set aside some afternoons for a couple of weeks to get through them all, maybe bake some cake? . . 

First off, John Bently's Against Orthodoxy: A ramble in the woods of art. Looking at how effectively the criteria in Art Schools (these days Uni's) is now a worrying tendency to make a 'one size fits all' approach to both students and learning . . . as someone with experience of Art School in the 70's and as a recent mature post-grad student of course I found myself nodding in agreement as I drank my coffee and read this, but then . . . there is some sense in creating standards from which to assess a students work . . . mind you should there be any rules in art? 

In the craft element, most probably, but in the concept, the idea of a piece, who should we allow to decide on those rules. Why one set of rules and not another? I know, I for one, don't like to be boxed in. 

Surely, the joy (and the acquisition of skills and knowledge) in being an art student is in the freedom to try out ideas and not to be constrained from the get go . . . constraint inevitably will come soon enough.

As you can see, half an hour with this BOOK and hours worth of cogitation. I highly recommend you get hold of a copy.
And there are over 190 national and international artists listed with examples of their recent book works. I shall be engrossed for some while yet . . .

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Footpaths, pheasants and furiousness . . .

Feeling the need for a good stride-out and with such glorious sunshine after the weekends wind and rain how could I not take Rufus for a walk at Rudge. 

We are lucky to have so many great public footpaths in our part of Wiltshire, and as Rufie and I walked out along one of my favourites I could hear kites mewing and the sound of pheasants cackling in the undergrowth. 

I know the shoot is reason that there are so many pheasants. I understand landowners need to make a profit . . . and that the shoot brings good revenue . . .

However, what I don't understand is why the chaps with the guns are driven to their prey, which after all is in turn driven to them, and after they've shot the birds, dogs go and retrieve the carcases - so maybe they could do just a little bit of walking - perhaps even notice the landscape in which they are, instead of messing up the footpaths and sitting on their b'hinds.

I know it's private land and that I only have a right of way - I get that . . . and I'm jolly lucky to be free to exercise that right, but I'm still cross that these lazy numptys just blithely make a huge mess and inconvenience for anybody out walking.

Public footpaths often form a dense network of paths which offer a great choice of routes to many different destinations, and it's probable that most footpaths in the countryside are hundreds of years old or even more . . . so any walker follows in the footsteps of many previous generations. And thank goodness that in England a public footpath is a path on which the public have a legally protected right to travel on foot, (not to clamber in and out of potholes!)

Last week this path was just smooth grass . . .
so was this one . . .
This photo from January last year shows how the wear and tear of vehicles wrecks the grass paths - and it's looking horribly like the footpaths this year will turn into a quagmire well before December.
Now I'm back in The Shed and feeling a little less indignant, so on a lighter note, it's truly lovely out in this bit of Wiltshire countryside, and any berries still found in the hedgerow absolutely glowed in this morning's sunlight.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Did you know the BOOK?

In a time when pundits regularly consider that the physical book as a device for reading is being brought into question, and the activity of reading is changing considerably, I'd like to share this little video which came to me from Beau Beausoleil (who started the al-Mutanabbi Street project) via al-Mutanabbi Street book artist, Laura Blacklow.

A short film that will speak to every person who makes, loves and reads the printed page!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Honolulu Museum of Art, Spalding House

Quite by chance we found out about Spalding House, a private, nonprofit museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art in Honolulu. The perfect place in which to spend some time on our last full day in Hawaii.

On walking through the front door we were greeted by a fabulous view of the gardens and a large mirror and fibreglass construction by modernist sculptor, James Seawright, Mirror XV, 1987
Set in beautiful gardens of about 3.5 acres the house, built in 1925, integrates both Asian and Western design and was donated in 1986 by the then owner (Thurston Twigg-Smith) to the newly formed Contemporary Museum of Hawaii, which opened in 1988.

The gardens were originally landscaped between 1921- 1941 by the Reverend K. H. Inagaki. He had been disabled in a car accident and had gone on to organise every aspect of the garden design with wheelchair use in mind.

Incorporating the Japanese doctrine of shizen (nature) into the garden, he used rocks as pathways and as edge stones, painstakingly selecting stones, and their placement, to subtly emphasize the the natural terrain and beauty of the place, transforming what had been a barren ravine into a classic Japanese stroll or promenade garden.

A truly lovely place.
In the background of the previous image is what looks like a horse sculpture made from driftwood, however upon close inspection it is in fact a bronze. American artist, Deborah Butterfield.

This summer Spalding House is holding an exhibition to explore the relationships between music and art, Now Here This. A series of focused exhibitions that show how the two disciplines complement and resonate with each other.

The most obvious difference between art and music is that one is seen and the other is heard, Noise Machine 1, 2013 by Pas de Chocolat attempts to visualise music and sound through abstraction in a virtual sound playroom activated by movement - a mix of computer software, infrared sensors from XBOX game consoles and video projection. 

When the 'viewer' walks into a specific area a sound, somewhat like a harpsichord, is triggered and abstract marks made with light play upon a dark surface along with the shadow from the viewer. In this case me and my shadow . . .

It definitely brings out the inner child, I found myself happily pirouetting and twirling to make the effects!

Swedish artist and film maker Johannes Nyholm showed Twice, a shadow puppet animated music video inspired by Indonesian Wayang Kulit shadow puppets.

In particular I liked the shadows thrown by the puppets from their glass cases
Unfortunately for us the cafe closes at 2pm on a Sunday so by the time we'd finished our rambles around the museum and the grounds we'd missed our chance of a sit down and drink.

But, on second thoughts, did we really want to sit with these bears for company?! . . .

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Sea Green Turtles . . .

With such a short time in Hawaii (four days) it seems a good idea to squeeze in as much as possible, so we took a trip to the north shore in search of turtles . . .

I had caught a glimpse of one in the water by the bar at our hotel, but we'd been told they where almost guaranteed on the northern shore - so off we went.

Probably not my best option using a camera phone to photograph birds, however it's all I had to hand.

And I couldn't resist these little Brazilian Cardinals . . . or the waders fishing in the prawn producing ponds or what I think may be a type of (pretty cute) egret . . .
So much of hawaiian vegetation is non-native species, human contact, first by Polynesians and later by Europeans, has had a significant impact. 
Both the Polynesians and Europeans cleared native forests and introduced non-indigenous species for agriculture (or by accident), driving many endemic species to extinction. Early Polynesian canoe migration probably brought the coconut, papaya and breadfruit. The British brought cattle and plants for them to graze, now that the cattle are not free to roam (and graze) the plants have colonised large areas.

Papaya waiting to be picked.
A baby mango growing from the old stump.
The beaches along the northern shore are prettier and less crowded than those at Waikiki . . .
And find turtles we did, they were drawing quite a crowd!

At Waimea bay, two sea green turtles are laying, resting in the sun. Each turtle had an attendant and was crooned off from the public behind a red rope. Which amused me at first, that was until one of the volunteers explained that there had been some nasty attacks on the turtles . . .

It would seem that turtle do not have an awareness of people (this makes them vulnerable to our spices) and added to that, I was told, if we touch them and they have any broken skin we can infect them with our bacteria to which they have no immunity.

So, respect to the volunteers that train to look after these remarkable creatures and come down to the beach when ever the turtles appear.

This male is about 30 years old, they know the age from information on the tag just under his skin. He has scarring over his left eye, probably from a propeller blade, and has lost the use of that eye. Previously he was hospitalised so they could tend to the eye, and was released back into the sea about two weeks ago. His attendant thinks this chap is still in recovery from his head wound and will possibly rest more than usual.

This female is named Ipo (hawaiian for sweetheart) and her tag shows that in 2004 she made a 1,000 mile migration and also an astonishing dive of 135 metres.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Diamond Head Hike

Diamond head was clearly visible from where we were staying, dominating the horizon - so how could we not go there?

We'd heard how busy and how hot it could be in the crater so we took an early morning tour, to miss the crowds and the main heat of the day. Even so, by the time we got there (about 7:30) quite a few visitors had already arrived before us.

Looking back at the crater from about half way up.

With such far-reaching panoramic views Diamond Head (or Le'ahi to use it's hawaiian name) was purchased from the King of Hawaii by the Federal government in 1904 as a strategic point for coastal defense.

The trail to the summit was built by the U.S. Army in 1908, with gun emplacements, stairways, tunnels . . . all to defend the island of O'ahu from attack, but no artillery was ever fired during a war.

These concrete landings once holding winches, now are used as viewing platforms.

About 230 feet of tunnel, which made lovely echoing sounds

Stairway to . . .

I had hoped we'd reached the top with the previous stairs - but was met with a spiral staircase . . .

Hold on to your hats, it's windy at the top.

I like my electronic media as much as any one . . . During all the time I was at the summit this fellow didn't once look up, so I couldn't resist.

By about 9 o'clock, as we were on our way down, the hoards were coming up!!

BTW the lovely lady in the green top waving was our guide, Rhiana - I hope I've spelt her name correctly, as it's a bit of a guess, but without her gentle conversation our knowledge of Hawaiian culture and history would be much the poorer.

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