A Choreography Of Space

“Limination tells you that you are in one spot and it’s not the same as what preceded it or what follows. It’s a way of creating a flow, a progress, like reading a book. As you pass through a gate, you’ve turned the page to a new chapter, and at the following gate, you start on the next chapter. Or, you could think of it as unrolling a hand scroll, turning as you go from one image to the next. It’s a choreography of space.” Alex Kerr - Another Kyoto.”

I love the different processes involved in making a print. Here are some pics of rubbings I made with carbon paper to check the images after carving the keyblocks for In ‘Praise of Saints.’ Top Left: Saint Catherine of Siena. Top Right: Florence Nightingale. Bottom Left: St Veronica. Bottom Right: Saint Catherine of Siena.

I love the different processes involved in making a print. Here are some pics of rubbings I made with carbon paper to check the images after carving the keyblocks for In ‘Praise of Saints.’ Top Left: Saint Catherine of Siena. Top Right: Florence Nightingale. Bottom Left: St Veronica. Bottom Right: Saint Catherine of Siena.

Limination

At the beginning of the year I began working on woodblock prints ‘In Praise of Saints’ after my visits to Queen Alexandra hospital in Portsmouth over the New Year.

While sitting in the hospital chapel I reflect on this new word ‘limination’ coined by Alex Kerr as he explores the concept of Kyoto’s stone paths that lead to the ancient temples. Along the path there are many gates. Each gate is an entry point into a new place, a new chapter and another path that continues to the next gate and the next and the next and so gradually “removes you step by step from the outer world”* making gentle progress towards your final destination; the temple.

This state of being between places and removing oneself from the outer world resonated with my time in the hospital. Watching my mum being rolled through a maze of corridors, from the emergency room, to acute medical, to the recovering wards. Each ward, a gate of entry to the next phase of recovery, with these new places came new nurses and doctors, new sounds and smells, new doses of intravenous therapy. My own perception of time warped and I was in the hospital ward bubble observing the gradual path of recovery and the desire for us all to be closer to the ‘temple’.

St Catherine of Siena & Florence Nightingale

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Emerging Saints

There are twelve stained glass panels of saints in the QA hospital corridor and four inside the chapel. I initially had the idea to make prints of all the saints but I realised once I began the work, and Tony and Glen had asked me to take part in their exhibition, that I needed to scale down the project. I focused my energy on St Catherine of Siena, St Veronica, and Florence Nightingale. I carved two-colour woodblock prints of each saint, ommiting many elements from the original stained glass panels, focusing on the saint’s hands and faces and simplifying each composition. I printed the keyblock with Japanese carbon ink and watercolour for the background. The carved woodblocks were printed on Kitakata Japanese paper which is beautiful in texture but extremely delicate and a challenge to print!

St Veronica

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In Praise of Saints - Shrine

On completion I explored the idea of framing the prints but after a visit to the framers I realise I didn’t want the images to be boxed in behind glass. I wanted to keep the lightness of the prints to evoke the lightness I received from the stained glass panels. Paper lanterns and Japanese sliding doors sprung to my mind.

“The sliding doors of the house itself and the cupnoards are made of paper mounted on a light wooden frame - so light they can be moved with a fingertip.” A Traditional Japanese House Bruno Munari.

I couldn’t work out how they should be displayed until I had a conversation with my friend and creative buddying partner Lilla Duignan. After much discussion about my process she suggested the idea of a shrine. It made complete sense and I set off in search of something that could lightly hold the space for these saints. Thanks to Bristol Reclamation I found a piece that was just the right size for the exhibition and enabled me to create a more reflective three dimensional piece allowing space for contemplation and invitation.

For the exhibition piece the two-colour woodblocks have been printed seperately, the keyblock cut out and placed in front of the pale background to invite a deeper connection.

For the exhibition piece the two-colour woodblocks have been printed seperately, the keyblock cut out and placed in front of the pale background to invite a deeper connection.

Thank you to all of you who came to The Golden Show exhibition at Centrespace Gallery. It was wonderful to see the little notes of gratitude gradually filling the bowl.

A big thank you also to Tony and Glen Eastman for inviting me to take part in celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. It was so lovely to share the space with so many interesting artists.

I have gifted most of these two-colour prints to friends and family who have been an integral part of this journey. I may print more if there is interest so do get in touch.

with thanks to

Tony Eastman

Glen Eastman

Lilla Duignan

Alex Kerr

Shiko Munakata

Junchirō Tanzaki

The Golden Show

Just a little reminder that this Friday 17th May you are invited to The Golden Show private view at Centre Space Gallery from 6pm - 9pm.

Top left: Tony Eastman. Top right: Glen Eastman. Bottom left: Terry Williams. Bottom right: Eleanor Glover.

Top left: Tony Eastman. Top right: Glen Eastman. Bottom left: Terry Williams. Bottom right: Eleanor Glover.

Artists Tony and Glen Eastman will be showing their design projects, sculptures, drawings, paintings, prints and short animated films. The exhibition is to celebrate their 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary. Thirty friends and relatives have been invited to share the gallery space. These artists will be showing prints, ceramics, paintings, photography, sculpture, drawing, jewellery, wood turning, furniture and textiles.

Artists

Tony & Glen Eastman, Eila Goldhahn-Young, Diana Van Loock, David Henderson, Andrew Jelly, Stella Pole, Joe Wilson, Bob Gale, Viv Allbright, Ruth Ander, Ruth Piper, Philip Booth, Dave Pole, Terry Williams, Daphne Hill, Sylvie Duncan, Jan Nesbitt, Martin Reiser, Sarah Penrose, Eleanor Glover, Mog Fry, Philip Walker, Emily Haysom, Onny Thomson, Richard Quarrell, Alex Phillips, Stuart Young, Louis Eastman, Susie Fitzsimmons, Nick Bridson Baker, Dave Morgan-Davis.

Close up of my recent project ‘In Praise of Saints’ woodblock prints and shrine. The piece will also be an invitation for you to make your own small offerings.

Close up of my recent project ‘In Praise of Saints’ woodblock prints and shrine. The piece will also be an invitation for you to make your own small offerings.

The Golden Show

May 12th - 22nd 2019

Artists' PV: Friday 17th May 6 - 9pm

Open daily: 11 - 6pm

 

In Praise of Saints

“There’s a powerful saying that we tell each other stories — sometimes we need a story more than food in order to live. They tell us about who we are, what is possible for us, what we might call upon. They also remind us we’re not alone with whatever faces us and that there are resources, both within us and in the larger world and in the unseen world, that may be cooperating with us in our struggle to find a way to deal with challenges.”

Rachel Naomi Remen - On Being with Krista Tippett

Details of carved woodblock for a collection of woodblock prints ‘In Praise of Saints’. Exhibiting at Centre Space Gallery from May 12th 2019.

Details of carved woodblock for a collection of woodblock prints ‘In Praise of Saints’. Exhibiting at Centre Space Gallery from May 12th 2019.

Onbeing

I carve the curve of a closed eye as I listen to another episode of On Being with Krista Tippett. These podcasts have been my solace in the last few months as I continue to grapple with family illness from afar. Krista hosts a gentle and open hearted space where she invites writers, poets, musicians, artists, philosophers, spiritual teachers, scientists and many more to embark on a conversational journey full of wisdom and inspiration. With Krista’s theologian background she opens up each conversation with the question: “Was there a spiritual or religious background in your childhood?”

Raised in an Irish Catholic family, this has not always been the most welcoming spiritual path for a young girl quietly questioning her own existence and wanting to feel accepted by her family and friends. Over the years I found my own spiritual path through art and music.

Through recent family illness I have been drawn to the iconic imagery that was instilled in the religious teachings of my childhood. In the hospital where my mum spent this New Year after a seizure, I discovered a chapel on the ground floor. I would take time out from the intensity of the hospital ward and find peace in the stillness of this space. A sanctuary. A sanctum. Time to reflect. To relieve the stress. Outside the chapel in the corridor were twelve stained glass panels of saints. I found these a great comfort during my time in the hospital. Partly the familiarity of these iconic images, their story and what they represented but also the aesthetic quality: the details, forms and shapes of colour radiating from these beings of light.

“Beauty is about more rounded, substantial becoming. And I think, when we cross a new threshold, that if we cross worthily, what we do is we heal the patterns of repetition that were in us that had us caught somewhere. And in our crossing, then, we cross onto new ground, where we just don’t repeat what we’ve been through in the last place we were. So I think beauty, in that sense, is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.”

John O’Donohue - On Being with Krista Tippett.

I began making two colour woodblock prints based on these stained glass panels. Adapting the images for a more reflective inward and meditative quality.

I will be exhibiting a piece of work based around this theme ‘In Praise of Saints’ at The Golden Show at Centre Space Gallery. The piece will combine traditional images of saints and the celebration of contemporary figures who inspire my own spiritual path. (Thank you Lilla Duignan at Seeing Things for our creative buddying space to share, explore and reflect on our creative journeys.) The piece will also be an invitation for people to make their own small offerings.

The Golden Show

Artists Tony and Glen Eastman will be showing their design projects, sculptures, drawings, paintings, prints and short animated films.  The exhibition is to celebrate their 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary. Thirty of their talented friends and relatives have been invited to share the gallery space. These artists will be showing prints, ceramics, paintings, photography, sculpture, drawing, jewellery, wood turning, furniture and textiles.

The Golden Show

Sunday 12th May - Wednesday 22nd May 2019.

Artists Private View: Friday 17th May 6 - 9pm

Open daily: 11 - 6pm

For more details about the exhibition please click the button below for Centre Space Gallery.

Japan Day at Bristol Museum

This month Bristol Museum invited me to run a Japanese Woodblock Printing workshop as part of their Family Fun Japan Day to tie-in with their Masters of Japanese Prints - Life in the City exhibition.

I carved and printed a netsuke frog last March from sketches I made at Bristol Museum archives. Using the same sketch, I simplified the design and transferred the image to woodblocks made from Japanese plywood. I carved 1 key block and 4 colour blocks from the same design in preparation for a multi-colour woodblock print.

Multi-colour Woodblock Prints

In Japan during the Edo period, a Japanese woodblock print required many stages, and highly skilled craftspeople to produce an edition of high quality colour prints. Many blocks were used in the process just for one edition of prints. You can see the 17 stages of a colour woodblock print for a design by Toshusai Sharaku (active 1794-95) currently on show at Bristol Museum's Japanese Prints Exhibition - Life in the City. These reproductions were printed by Nagao workshop in Tokyo around 1985-2017.

Transfering and Carving the key block

Frog design simplified from netsuke frog sketch at Bristol Museum archives. Image for key block transferred and carved into Japanese plywood.

Frog design simplified from netsuke frog sketch at Bristol Museum archives. Image for key block transferred and carved into Japanese plywood.

woodblock Carving Colour blocks and registration

Colour blocks carved and almost ready to test for printing. Waiting for new chisel to arrive to complete the kento registration!

Colour blocks carved and almost ready to test for printing. Waiting for new chisel to arrive to complete the kento registration!

Woodblock Print Colour Test

Inking up the blocks to test out prints for 5 stages of a multi-colour woodblock print using Japanese carbon ink for the key block and gouche for the 4 colour blocks.

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I’ll be posting some pics from the event to my instagram page @eightfivepress so keep an eye out!

Thank you to the wonderful team at Bristol Museum, Kate Newnham, Steve Bradley and special thanks to Natasha, Sally and the volunteers Nezrin, Mabel and Zhang. I couldn’t have done it without your amazing help on the day! : ))

かえる (kaeru) frog

I went into a French restaurant and asked the waiter, 'Have you got frog's legs?' He said, 'Yes,' so I said, 'Well hop into the kitchen and get me a cheese sandwich.'

(Tommy Cooper)

Books

Print/Maker

An Encylopedia of Inspiration now available

I mentioned a few months ago that I was going to be taking part in ‘Printmaker - An Encyclopedia of Inspiration’ by Janine Vangool (Uppercase Magazine). The book is available from Uppercase website, it is also now available in the UK. If you’re in Bristol you can also pick up a copy from Arnofini bookshop.

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Masters of Japanese Prints - Life In The City - Bristol Museum

Kate Newnham has curated another stunning set of Japanese woodblock prints for the latest exhibiton ‘Masters of Japanese Prints: Life In The City’ at Bristol Museum.

I arrive early to the museum on the day of opening and already there’s steady stream of people who have been transported into 18th Century Japan - a corridor abundant with tatami mats and sliding doors, scroll paintings and ikebana, 3 stringed lutes and tea ceremonies, calligraphy and poetry, parasols and lanterns, music and dancing. A rich world of theatre, fashion and festivals, temples and shrines.

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I study a print by Kitagawa Utamaro ‘Fishing Boats with Nets under Ryogoku Bridge 1790.’ A young man next to me also absorbed in the detail turns to me with a look of amazement and starts the conversation. We look at a print together, in awe of the craftspeople who have been involved in the making of this scene. How is it possible to carve and print such fine and intricate works of art? The complex textile patterns on the kimonos, the fine string on the fishing nets, the delicate outlines of the waves, the distant crowd of people on the bridge under parasols, so tiny yet such clarity and attention to detail. We stand in wonderment for a few minutes and then slowly go our separate ways to explore further curiosities of this Floating World.

Eating and Drinking 

Being a lover of green tea and music, I am drawn to the festive Eating and Drinking prints of Katsukawa Shunshō, Kubo Shunman. I zoom in on a woman playing a Shamisen on a tea house balcony. She is surrounded by little bowls and cups filled with sake and a lacquer box which may contain sushi or green tea powder. This is just a small detail of the print. A couple of women to the right are holding a book but seem to be more interested in what is going on at the other side of the balcony. 

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Women of the ‘pleasure districts’ 

On the oppostie side of the corridor are prints of Geisha and courtesans. Again the photos here are closeup snapshots from a bigger story. These prints remind me of a poem by Amy Lowell. 

Yoshiwara Lament

Golden peacocks

Under blossoming cherry-trees,

But on all the wide sea

There is no boat.

Kabuki Theatre 

Stretching along the rest of the corridor are prints depicting actors from Kabuki theatre. I take a few closeup shots of actors by Katsukawa Shunsho. Woodblock prints of actors, pop icons from the Edo period, were popular souvenirs from the Kabuki theatres. It takes me back to my teens with posters of celebrities blue-tacked to my wall. I would come home after a concert wearing a new t.shirt printed with the band’s logo or portrait of my favourite pop star!

The detail of the crowd in the lower right corner shows an audience at the theatre. This is a small section from a large scale woodblock print in the exhibition. It’s made up of four prints. At the top, we are given a glimpse backstage with the actors ready to go on stage, then the main stage with the actors playing their parts, the next part shows the audience and staff selling refreshments and below that are people hanging out on the street outside the theatre.

When I was 16 my first work experience was helping the sound engineer at a local theatre. I could sit up in the sound booth or at the back of the theatre while the actors rehearsed their parts. I was introduced to all the different elements that make this make believe world come alive. I explored the whole place from backstage, on stage, trying out different seats in the auditorium, to running back and forth between the theatre and the cafe delivering messages or drinks. I was fascinated with how it all worked and this print is a brilliant insight to the different aspects of a theatre and the people who make this remarkable enchanting world.     

“This set of four prints shows the interior and exterior of the Imchimura theatre, one of the main theatres licensed by the government in Edo (Tokyo).” Bristol Museum (On loan from Kimono Kimono). 

There are so many beautiful prints to explore here that one viewing is not enough. I’ll be back again to stop a little longer. To look a little closer. To step back into this hypnotic magical floating world of 18th Century Japan.

Kate Newnham will be giving a lunchtime talk about the exhibition at Bristol Museum Thursday 7th February from 1.15pm - 2pm.