Saturday, 22 June 2013

British Museum Print exhibition

One of the underused wonders of London is the Print room at the British Museum, tucked away on the 4th Floor. The British Museum holds untold treasures (you can visit the print study room and order up prints to look at, I believe you have to make an appointment.)

But I  like the exhibition room, they have started to do more to put the work on show to the general public, though they are not great at advertising these exhibitions. At the moment they have Kitaj and a whole random selection from their collection.

Goya, Love and Death etching. The paper's a bit wrinkly but we won't hold that against him. 
Peter Blake, These etchings won me over and convinced me he's not just a jammy lucky sod. These are beautifully etched with the drawing just built up by cross hatching.

This one was etched then painted, it made me think about reworking some of my old prints by painting on them.

This was from another undiscovered gallery, the Brunel Gallery which is part of SOAS in UCL. UCL has lots of great little museums tucked away, like the Grant Museum (stuffed animals) and the Petrie Museum (Egyptology.) UCL is like a little city within a city in London. These were from a tiny but beautiful exhibition on 100 years of Japanese book art. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

On Jack Vettriano & working class art

There's a great series on BBC4 called 'What Do Artists Do All Day?" Short and sweet interviews with different artists, about their working methods and their lives. They have a good cross section of different kinds of artists and they've all been compelling. Norman Ackroyd, printmaking hero, showing total cavalier disregard for health and safety as he waves his cigarette around in the midst of highly flammable materials in the etching room. Cornelia Parker who endearingly can't seem to believe her luck that she makes her living doing this.   (Must confess I skipped Polly Morgan's though. Taxidermy, meh.)

Most fascinating was Jack Vettriano. He is scorned by the art establishment and probably the most successful living British artist. I'm not sure why they scorn him so much, there's worse painters and much worse art about which is critically accepted. Maybe its appeal is too easy to understand. Pretty girls, pretty colours, nostalgia, kitsch. But not meant ironically at all.

One day in the the far distant future some hip young curator will rediscover him, write a monograph which repositions him and demonstrates how he was misunderstood and he will become fashionable for the first time. But he'll probably be long dead and unable to appreciate it. *

You felt sorry for him somehow despite his millions. He seemed hurt by the viciousness of the critics, and not able to understand just why people might not like his work. Loved by the public and forever shut out in the cold by the art world. He explained that he grew up in poverty in Fife and worked down a pit from age 16 and how it was hellish - it became blindingly clear what motivates him to paint this idealised, glamorous movie still world. Pure escapism.

There's a moving moment when he talks about how he went to see a Francis Bacon exhibition and had a moment of crisis and nearly gave up painting. "I just got this awful feeling that I was looking at a real artist..."

 Francis Bacon is like the anti Jack Vettriano. Interestingly I think what makes him the subject of critic's scorn is his refusal to see or paint darkness or ugliness, to prettify things and present the world as this glossy, 2D graphic, Hallmark card. Some of the better paintings in this programme are self-portraits which seem to be more doubtful and human, more rough around the edges, and therefore better art. His journey from working class boy working down the pit to successful artist must be a riveting story, but it's not reflected in his work at all (and they missed a trick by not including any of it in the programme.)

* Parallels here with Lowry. Even the Tate curators seemed to want to distance themselves from him.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Foil blocking

If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done.

I was pretty relaxed about the cover, mainly because I was freaking so much about making the book.

Now I have the book block (the pages sewn but without the cover) and I had booked a foil blocking workshop at the magnificent London Centre for Book Arts. I'll take my paper, print the cover, all finished and sorted with a week to spare.

Nothing so simple.

I didn't know that you can't use letterpress for foil blocking, the heat would mess up the type. You have to order a block for whatever you want to foil block from a specialist company. (Metallic Elephant, in this case).

There's always just one more step than I anticipated. It's ordered now, and I'm going in on Sunday to print the cover. Cross fingers, I will be done on Sunday. I've been thinking about this and working on it for about a year.

Still we had a great time at the foil blocking workshop. It is totally addictive. You can foil block on all sorts of surfaces, paper, thin wood, card, glassine... Here is a picture of the different papers and colour foils,

This is a link to some beautiful foil blocked work. I especially love the playing cards.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Unending poster

I love this poster for the exhibition, made by Victoria Brown in the style of library book stamps.

Feel a bit humbled at seeing my name alongside these superlative artists.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Model book

or book model. Coming together. I had to send photos for the catalogue before it is finished, so used the model book for now.

Look, it's a book! With pages!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Learning curve

Ran after work to pick up my paper from John Purcell in Stockwell, I'd pictured a shop but it's a massive warehouse and you enter through the carpark. For any first time paper buyers like me, here's how it works:

  • Enter warehouse via carpark
  • Walk through warehouse to little staircase at the back 
  • Go upstairs to the office
  • Tell them what you want and pay for it. 
  • Take the receipt down to the boys on the warehouse floor, who will find it, and roll it into a nice roll for you with a masking tape handle. 

I had a eureka moment when I realised I could get the tube all the way from Brixton to Walthamstow without navigating and changing lines with my massive carpet like roll of paper, which would have led to some Laurel & Hardy moments and extreme stress during rush hour.


Owing to non mathematical brain, I purchased twice as much as I need and now have more Heritage Bookwhite 120 gsm than I will ever be able to use Not sure where to store it. I NEED A STUDIO & PLANCHESTS.

Anyway. Now I know why there was a notice up in the warehouse saying "We do not cut paper". It is a tricky wrangling such huge sheets of paper and cutting it to size.. Was up til 2.00 am trying to cut it with a scalpel with nice straight lines, and making a mess of it.

I realised my puny 30 cm ruler is not up to the job. So, off to Atlantis Arts today to find a big ruler.  There's always something more needed, but I guess you learn by doing it.