Photograph Rachel Dunlop
I have landed myself an excellent opportunity at the superb Celf o Gwmpass in Llandrindod Wells, Wales. In the past I have worked in the ‘care and concern’ sector, specifically as a support worker in mental health, and I remain full of admiration and respect for the work that people do, but I always felt that creativity was regarded a foreign language or something marginal. Not so here. It looks and sounds like an art centre, it walks like an art centre. It is an art centre, one with a vision, “..to achieve artistic innovation and increase recognition of the value in disability and inclusive arts practice” and a mission, “..to create the connections for equality, nurture creativity and support ambition in the arts”.
I am delighted to be facilitating a few workshops all about ‘getting it together and staying with it’, which is the perennial project for all artists, myself included. I have also been loaned a studio space (till November) which I sometimes share with Dean Warburton*. We are getting on well and cope with each others studio noise, chemicals, sawdust and other studio habits. Its a bit like returning to college which I find deeply nostalgic.
I have begun a series of reliefs and I am already deeply immersed in their making and excited to see complete.
I am very grateful to everyone at Celf for this time, especially Shân Edwards director at Celf who brought me in, and made the place what it is, and Rachel Dunlop who paints, organises and seems to be on the front line of everyone’s demands, especially mine.
Unfinished, as yet untitled, painted wood
Tragically Dean Warburton was killed in a motoring accident soon after I posted the text above. My heartfelt condolences to all his family and friends.
Gouache on watercolour paper 35 x 35 cm
‘Garden (Dead-head) (i)’ 92 x 121 cm
I have been making more of these gouache pictures.
I should be clear, Teddie and I actually made this drawing together, she started it and I finished it, quite a while later.
Although we like to work at very different speeds, we seem to broadly agree about art, about pictures anyway : A picture should have several or many parts to it, and these parts should not all be the same as one another. Pictures without parts or parts that are more or less identical, are not creative pictures in our humble opinion. We think these simple guidelines also apply to food, cinema, music, literature.
The drawing ‘Pannonica’ took about two months. I was about two-thirds of the way through when it acquired a very strong association in my mind with Thelonious Monk (1917-1982), whose recorded piano playing I have been listening to for over thirty years. .
Perhaps it was because my shapes, as they emerged, reminded me of 1950s-graphics, and the fifties was when he was arguably at the height of his powers. We seemed to share a taste for quirky ‘modern’ asymmetry, with unashamedly nostalgic ornament, (you might have to listen to his playing to understand). I listen to Monk in different ways, either intently, or letting it wash over.
By the way, if anyone told me that their artwork was inspired by music, I would take it with a pinch of salt. It’s probably a bad idea. The picture is possibly too decorative and too much an ‘all-over’ picture, but right now I care not. The interest for me is in the close-up invention of shapes. This is the instrument I am learning to play.
I was nearly finished when I saw a documentary about Monk’s soul-mate Pannonica Koenigswarter (née Rothschild), called ‘The Jazz Baroness’. So much of the information was a revelation to me (for instance Monk’s mental health issues) and for days I couldn’t stop thinking about their unlikely friendship. There are numerous musical compositions dedicated to Pannonica, including one by Monk called simply ‘Pannonica’. Her parents, being keen entomologists, named her after a moth. After learning this I couldn’t help seeing a kind of abstract animated dance, like moths around a light source. None of this is important, nor was it consciously put in the picture. It certainly isn’t a prescribed ‘reading’, but after it had occurred to me, I found it agreeable; hence the title.