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Sunday, 9 December 2018

Spotlight - Wrapping paper

Spilt paint delivery.  Our art materials travel.  They can have a life of their own, and express themselves
It’s a wrap.
Olafur Eliasson, 'Ice Watch' ice sculpture installation at Place do Pantheon, Paris
Do you have old books or comics? Why not use them as wrapping paper?  Old 'Far Side' albums, or Steve Bell or Viz, gathering dust on a shelf or in the loft, loses its “Wow” as we grow past it and see more new things. Same as any art – it gets dull gradually.  By the time we drag that rough-papered book out of the box or shelf, we find it’s a nice chuckle, but maybe not as stunning as when we first met it. Same as that watercolour that we loved when we bought it, but are now so comfortable with that we don’t look at the petals and leaf light very often. We could even use this analogy for relationships.
Wrapping paper used as interior decor

Wrapping paper does not get old.  It does not last long enough to get old. It last about ten seconds, and usually is ignored.
  If you ever wonder about superficiality, consider pretty paper that is barely looked at, as one dives into the core of the gift. Wrapping paper is rather wasteful. Plastic festive cheer and binbags of paper are probably on the decline, in these times of austerity.
Statuette of Harry Potter
There is a balance to be made, of course. Consumption is otherwise pretty essential and useful, and part of our pleasures and purpose. 
Detroit based environmental artist Michael McGillis lets each site dictate how he fills the space with his celebrated land art. Above and below, at the University of Oregon’s Overlook Field School, the decision was glass collected from the site and incandescent lighting. 
Far Side cartoon, by Gary Larson
If climate change is important, is it right to use energy and materials in order to highlight climate change?
Ice at Nuuk Kangerlua Fjord, Nuuk, Greenland, where the ice was harvested
Olafur Eliasson is arranging for many tons of ice blocks to be transported to London’s Tate Modern, where they will sit and slowly melt as several near-leaders of countries get together for COP24, to discuss ways to solve climate change problems. They will meet in Poland. The 24 ice blocks shipped or flown from Greenland, will not be very near the COP24 summit. Still, it gets people talking.
Christmas presents wrapped in 'Far Side' cartoons
Olafur says “By enabling people to experience and actually touch the blocks of ice in this project, I hope we will connect people to their surroundings in a deeper way and inspire radical change.”
A cartoon by Steve Bell
We can readily say “But, Olafur, you have tons of oil and energy to get them here, what a terrible waste, and how ironically foolish.” This conundrum is well known. My own environmental works use polyester resin, when bioresin is unaffordable. The materials need fossil-fuel-based delivery, and all this causes much anguish in the process. 
The vast blocks of ice look like an extravagant statement, and that makes us uncomfortable – which is exactly the truth, and the point. They are also pretty Cool (I’ll get my coat).

Olafur has designed energy-efficient household items that self-charge, and he has been heavily involved in creating and providing solar powered lamps for refugees. So on balance he is way ahead. We often find there is great merit to the lives and practices of those we can criticise – once we take off the wrapper.

Olafur Eliasson

This Christmas, find out something interesting about a friend.  And share something about yourself.
And have a fine, refreshing, fun-filled, spiritual and joyful Christmas everyone.
With very best festive wishes from LAS.
You can watch the London Ice at

Friday, 23 November 2018

Ludlow Chocolate ... Perfect for Christmas

We currently have three different bars for sale. Purchases support our artists as well as local charities. They're a perfect Christmas present for friends and family and they help spread the word about Ludlow Art Society. If you haven't already tried it, the chocolate is top notch, and fairtrade. Lisa Anne has stock available at her shop 'La Jewellery' on Parkway, near the library.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Spotlight: the moods of art appreciation

What is your mood when you like a work of art?
What do we want from a work of art? What is it we seek or crave? Is there something we need art to give us?
With a couple of strangers, on the last day of the street art festival, Upfest, I looked at this piece. It is a spraycan artwork on a large board, outdoors, like Sam Manley did with the Ludlow Paint Jam.
The three of us admired this piece for a while. It was Monday morning. It took a while to admire it. Or six eyes helped take it all in. We shared observations about it, mentioned details. The verdict was "So... it's got everything."
It has nature, history, fauvism, perspective, caricature, deep shadow, journey, contrast, palette, use of tools, relatability, civilisation, economics, composition, heroism, dignity, and a branch turning into a pencil.
Zipf's law is about the frequencies of words in a book, or in a magazine. Zipf analysed how often words occur, and concluded that written works contain a limited number of themes and main identifying factors. There is more to it than that obvious conclusion, but that is the essence of it. Zipf actually demonstrated a mathematical formula for the frequencies of words in books, which really works and is quite surprising. Zipf's principle could inform us as to the ways in which some factors dominate in a team, a room, or a painting. (It does not, but it could.) A painting of friends having a picnic by a river could focus mainly on shadows with a dose of heroism, or be about nature with a side salad of economics. It is unusual for anything to have an even spread of attributes.
On that Monday we stared at this painting long, and said it is epic. We loved it. I still do. Now I am confused.
Maybe our taste, at any given time, fits our mood and surroundings. For example, when all around us is calm, we like balanced art with a sense of equilibrium - and conversely, when we are emotionally charged, or loaded with caffeine, we revel in bold art that displays excesses.
Or... Maybe it is the other way around. Maybe we go for bold art when we are in a calm state, as a way to mitigate against possible boredom. And maybe we like calming images when we are in a state of agitation or excitement.
This notion, of how art matches our mood and circumstances, might also apply to how we make art, as well as how we view it.
If you are making art, presumably it matches your mood. If we start painting something calm when we are agitated, we feel calm. And vice versa.
Something we liked about this piece is that it felt exciting and bold, while also being calming. I think that is why it took us so much concentration to take in: by having such an array of attributes it matches your mood, and simultaneously hits the opposite state as well.
This is something I crave to achieve when I create art pieces: comfort and challenge. 
This painting went down very well at the end of Upfest. It is by Peter Sheridan.  I would like to meet the artist and ask him these questions.  Please tell me if you have answers.  Thanks folks.  
Happy painting.  May you be heroic and calm.
Today (9th November this blog is scheduled to publish) is my birthday.  I also have an opening of an exhibition in London this evening. A good time to feel heroic and peaceful. 

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Derek Plant

We learn the sad news that former member Derek Plant passed away on 7th October. His sons Steve and Phil let me know that "even in his last few weeks he was talking of returning to painting, but he didn’t quite make it. That said his house is full of his work which will remain as a lasting memory for many." We are glad to have had Derek as a member, and we extend our condolences to the family.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Spotlight: Artistic choices of addition or subtraction. Is everything already there?

This Spotlight outlines a way of thinking about one’s practice, and each stroke decided and made.

If you put an infinite number of monkeys in front of typewriters - or in front of keyboards, or paper and a quill pen - one of them will produce the entire works of Shakespeare.

Billy Shakespeare, probably

This is no idle theory, because one monkey already has. That one was called 'William Shakespeare'. He penned lines on a white-ish background, using ink. That ape descendent created plays and sonnets, which gain life by being enacted or read, or simply by being thought about.
Give the monkeys chisels and white marble, and they will create Michaelangelo's ‘David’. We know this, because it happened.
These miracles of chance have been done. Inky curves and carved shades.
Some of Michaelangelo's 'David' from one angle, in a certain light

This got me wondering. Does blank paper, or the white marble, contain within it the finished object that we admire and cherish? Are the words already in the paper, or perhaps in the ether, waiting to be revealed? Is there always an equivalent of “The Works of Shakespeare” or “The Works of Frida Kahlo” somewhere in a space unseen, waiting to be made into reality by one of us monkeys with our brushes and pens and chisels? How do we summon these exquisite creations?
Frida Kahlo: 'Roots', 1943

What is the act of revealing? Are we adding something, or removing blinkers and barriers to something which was already there? In sculpture, are we removing marble, or are we adding dark shadows, to create form? In literature and sculpture and painting, we think that we are adding words, or removing marble, or adding paint.
But is it really that simple?
Consider music: the canvas of sound, we think, is silence. We believe that notes and voices are added to silence to make music. As if silence is a blank sheet, upon which to add sounds.
But sounds are already there: babbling water, birdsong, and the howls and laughter of monkeys. Volcanoes. Wind on an island... It may be that the infinity of sounds is the canvas from which music is carved. Suppose that a musician is acquainted with the plethora of sounds of nature, cities, instruments, voices, and all that is out there. When they create music are they adding sounds to silence, or are they carving from a cacophony to shape more succinct soundscapes?
When we paint, there are a lot of things that we are not painting. A lot of strokes we do not make. Sometimes it feels like a reductive process, as much as it feels like an additive process: “There are many shapes that this brushstroke could have taken, and I removed the other options in order to keep just this possibility of shapes which I want.”
Like selecting clothes, or choosing a meal from a menu, we add to our selection only by removing from the choices. In love and friendships, when we meet someone and build a relationship, is it adding love to nothing, or revealing an underlying connection that is already there between every living thing? Are we removing barriers and blinkers?
In sculpture this yin and yang notion is quite tangible, in considering where the forms are, and the choices we make of presence and absence in space.
This image is of something which happened by accident. At least, to me it was not consciously deliberate. What do you see?
Do you see a head-like form just slightly north-east of centre, flying towards the left? This is a picture I took of the white plastic board which I used to protect the floor when I was working with black-pigmented polyester resin. The shapes in the image are accidents: a by-product of making something else entirely. This image may be better than what I deliberately constructed that day. If the aspiration is an as-yet unknown “Complete works of something” then it is difficult to tell.
...Her head flies from the cliffs that shatter into the sky. She was made by chance, spills of dark resin, at the hands of this monkey. Or she was always there, and the dark splash is what it takes for us to see her.    We Monkeys... ourselves made by chance, choosing what we add and what goes? Do we start with nothing? Or do we start with everything?
Pablo Picasso: Carnet Dinard, 1928.  Ink on paper.

Of course, this philosophising misses the point. The existence of Shakespeare’s plays is not on the page. It is in the theatre, and in hearts and minds. They exist through being experienced. If never seen or read, their wonder would not be manifest. Similarly a painting is only really active if it is seen and experienced. Michaelangelo’s ‘David’ would not be ‘David’ if it had remained in a crate in a warehouse somewhere near Rome, gathering dust and spiders.
Warehouse scene still from 'Citizen Kane'

Indeed the piece is not really the word “‘David’“, or the marble shape. It is also very much the experience, and perhaps the context. So, whether or not we are adding or removing, our works will thrive through being shared.
In which case I’d best get on with building things and getting them out there. Personally, I have some pieces out there in the world at the moment this month, but I have, as yet, built nothing. There is a yin and yang to be balanced.
'The Great Divide' opening at OVADA, Oxford, September 2018

How is your practice going, and does any of this ring true for you?
Happy painting and drawing, and making, and singing and sharing, everyone.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Spotlight : Who is Lucky?

Who is Lucky?
  Plenty of us are talented, clever, and we make some amazing things. Sometimes we get lucky, and people notice our stuff, and we do well out of it, and reach a big audience.
'The Other Art Fair', London, Brick Lane
Success needs luck, we think, as well as talent and hard work and brains, and often charm too.
  Imagine your own lucky thing happening, where someone in a gallery or a book company notices what you do, and gives you a chance, and then a magazine does an article on you, and you end up really popular and selling loads of paintings or book illustrations.
  All because of that lucky moment when someone noticed that what you do is worth being given an opportunity.

Helen A Pritchard wins £10k Evening Standard Contemporary Art Prize
Haha! That is one way of looking at the notion of luck and success. It is the typical way.
  We so often think the story is about us. We feel from our own perspective. 
  The story above might instead be about the gallery owner, whose gallery becomes successful.  It may be about how they were lucky enough to see your work and give you a chance, and then have an article written about it all in a big magazine. Since that lucky day their gallery is doing great.
Hahahaa... Perspectives…. We always think it is about people, and how they feel.
  Supposing we are not the important thing.
    Supposing what matters is the Idea.
There are thousand of ideas, millions, all whizzing about, and hardly any of them get realised. Those ideas are all zipping about, worrying and wondering whether they will ever get noticed.
'Kora', 2018, by Riley Aubrienne Polek-Davis
One day, one of the people who carries a version of one particular idea (about how to paint light on roses, using bold coloured curves based on a way they painted some hair on a life figure), talks to another person, who has an idea about a show. The idea about doing a show about bold bright curves was in someone else's head. Now those two ideas have met.
  And then another idea meets them both. This idea is bouncing around in the head of a magazine writer. It is an idea about how ideas themselves can travel, through music, or through paintings, to join more ideas (which are in lots of other heads - the audience). To us this is an idea for a magazine article about how people understand painted light in a gallery context – but to the other ideas, it is not an abstract concept. It is as real as paintings, and galleries, and people and skin, and just as alive.
  Later, the magazine idea looks back to how lucky it was to have met that nice idea about a gallery show. And the gallery idea thinks “You know, I’m lucky to have met that idea about how to paint roses. Between us we made the roses accessible to a whole lot of thoughts who came along and met the roses idea.” They met the roses idea through that image of roses in light, which was painted by another one of those fleshy-bony things that ideas often have - called 'humans'. And the ideas could each think "You know, maybe I was even lucky to have landed in that particular human's brain in the first place."
  Maybe what is important is the ideas, not who has them, or who gets known for them.
     Maybe we don't have ideas. Ideas have us.

'Family reading', by Alex Grey
I think it's both ways.
  We are all Lucky.

Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged according to the Laws of Chance), 1917. 
Torn-and-pasted paper and coloured paper on coloured paper, 
19 1/8 x 13 5/8" (48.5 x 34.6 cm)

Friday, 7 September 2018

We've grown to 100 members!

Ludlow Art Society is delighted that membership has now reached 100. This is a significant increase which strengthens the society as we build a sustainable future. We will continue to press towards a wider variety of artistic styles and formats, and be totally inclusive of all who want to regard themselves as artists. We still have much work to do on attracting the younger generation. Nonetheless, we have reached a milestone which we should all be proud to celebrate! Cheers to Ludlow Art Society!

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Summer Exhibition 2018 Results

This was by far our most successful exhibition for a long time. Clearly the talent of our artists, including many newly joined members, is appreciated by the art loving public. At least one artist was picked up by a regional gallery! Prizes were awarded as follows, and the results of the visitors' favourite exhibit poll are beneath.

President's Prize:
Light on our Industrial Heritage - Catherine Downes

Twenty Twenty Gallery Prize:
Fisherman's Walk - Sandra Graham 
Mayor's Choice:
Reclining Nude - Alastair Huddart

Castle Bookshop Prize:
Windmill Hill, Much Wenlock - Carl Niblett

Ludlow Brewery Prize:
Street Scene - Lily Wang

The 15 most popular exhibits are as follows. Please bear in mind that some works were removed early and their counts might otherwise have been higher. Thanks hugely to Alice and Peter Burden for counting the voting slips.
1 Carl Niblett Camusdarach Beach, Scotland 66
2 Sandra Graham The Water Into Ripples Breaks 41
3 Lily Wang Generations Apart 39
4 Rob Leckey End of Platform 4, Shrewsbury Station 33
5 Val Littlehales Golden Days 18
6= Margaret Rowson Trees in Winter 16
6= Val Littlehales Shropshire Lane 16
8 Rob Leckey The Harbourmaster Aberaeron 15
9 Samuel Bebb Wigmore Castle 2 14
10 Alexandra Adams Clun in Autumn 13
11= George Loades At the Waters Edge Whitby 12
11= Sandra Graham Coastal Path Pwllgwaelod 12
13 Lily Wang Ludlow Castle 11
14 Sandra Graham Fisherman's Walk 11
15 Mary Phillips Shashi Resting 10

A complete analysis of votes can be found below (click to enlarge).

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Spotlight : From the streets of Bristol

Here are some observations from the street art festival, Upfest, that I raised in last month's blog.

A couple of us admired this stencil and spraycan piece by @petersheridanartist for a while on the Monday. It took a while. Six eyes helped take it in. The verdict was "so... it's got everything". Nature, history, fauvism, perspective, caricature, deep shadow, journey, contrast, palette, use of tools, relatability, civilisation, economics, composition, heroism, dignity, and a branch turning into a pencil.
Zipf's law would tell us that some factors will always dominate in a book, a room, or in a painting. A street art piece could focus mainly on "shadows, with a dose of heroism", or be "about nature, with a side salad of economics". It's odd to have an even spread of attributes.
On that Monday we stared at this painting long, and said it is epic. Now I'm confused.  What attracts us?
Maybe when all around is calm, equilibrium is comfortable - and when we are in a spin of activity we associate with art which makes specifically bold visions.
Or... Maybe we go for focusedly edgy art when we are a bit bored, and we like the evenly calming images when the day or night has been far from tranquil. When do you want loud art? When do you relate best to clear bold statement art, and when do you prefer balanced art that speaks to all parts of your psyche? 
This painting of a wise lumberjack, both using and caring for nature, with calm expression, went down very well at the end of Upfest.  It had been a busy time, but also relaxing.  I liked the pencil.

Glitchy future...
This is @deedstencils work at the Upfest Stadium. This horse's streaky bars, of what looks like a technical glitch vision from faulty photo software, have liberated my mind about what precision and freedom can mean. We can paint what we want, how we want. It is fun and enlightening how such a precise work can represent the growing prevalence of glitchy imperfections in our vision of nature.  This is also my favourite palette combination: Red, turquoise, black and white. 
Horses on walls... Cave art horses from about 40,000 years ago are usually facing to the right (I mean the real cave paintings, not modern renditions of horses done in cave art style). It is as if, from pre-history, the horses from the past mostly run Eastwards.  Which is why I noticed that this horse is galloping left.  If you have looked at a lot of cave art horse paintings, there is a barely conscious sensation that this horse if galloping to meet them, back in our long journey through space and time. It is precipitating - moving too fast to be comprehended - with streaks missing, and unaware of its background.  It says a lot about the careless speed of today's obsession with progress, an incomplete picture, and what is black and white.  Yet it is beautiful.  If I were a horse from the past, meeting the future, this is a horse I would be happy to meet. We'd have a lot to share.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Birmingham Watercolour Society exhibitions

Full information here.  Look out for work by our own members Valerie Alexander and George Loades. There should be some good pictures, like this one by Nigel Priddey. Maybe we could organise a group visit? Also there is the annual BWS exhibition which will be held at Hanbury Hall, Droitwich WR9 7EA from 15th August  until 30th Sept.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Spotlight: Going public?

Artist: Leon Keer. 3-D street piece
The end of July sees Europe’s largest street art festival, about 80 miles away from Ludlow, spread across much of Bristol. As a shameless plug, Sam Manley, LAS’ previous Chairman, and I will be producing art and exhibiting there for a couple of days. In public. As it is a street art festival every artist will be out there, painting and making in full view of the public eye. About 70,000 people visit the festival on a sunny weekend. So, why would anyone want do such a thing?
Artist: SHOK-1

Firstly, it tests the quality of your art. There are very talented artists there, as at any major exposure event. It makes you play a strong game.
Artist boards

Secondly, there is an opportunity for networking, including gaining interest of arts promoters and galleries. There is potential to attract professional representation.
Artist: MyDogSighs (one of the founders of Upfest)

Thirdly, one can learn from other artists: techniques and confidence.

Artist: Goin. Photo credit: Plaster copy

Fourth, it is friendly, mostly. Street art is both collaborative and competitive in ways. Some of its scale and techniques necessitate working in groups. The grabbing of public space, and the viewership that it gets, means that there can be competition between individuals and groups who wish to get a message across to the populace.
A view of part of an Upfest zone

The risks are wasted time and humiliation. But you have to try. Yes is stronger than no.
Our Art Society offers similar opportunities.
I hope you enjoy your membership.

Artist: Manu Invisible