Archives for posts with tag: Paper

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If I’m being honest I haven’t been in the shed properly for a while. Sciatica is a loud condition and my mind hasn’t really been able to rest enough to paint with integrity. But I started these three pieces. I was surprised to select red as the base for these paintings… I think they’ll end up being white but the red underneath seemed important.

I remember naively thinking I would do a series of paintings while I was giving birth 12 years ago. I even got the canvases ready and primed. But then pre-eclampsia took over and that was foiled. But I remember being mindful of the colour of pain and my conclusion is the same today as it was then. It is white. Blinding white. Computer screen brightness white. White so stark it makes your head pound and your eyes close tight and your whole body curl tight, which is exactly the opposite to the response encouraged response to pain which is to relax and embrace and breathe through it.

Last night was a bad night. In my wisdom I decided to come off the stronger pain killers, which in short was a mistake. I have never known anything like it. No position was pain free. Nausea and dizziness contributed their fine qualities and without the care and compassion of my children and husband I think I would have wept all night. Needless to say the stronger pain killers are welcomed back with open arms….. I cannot allow my kids to see me like that. But the whole thing gets you thinking.

I recently watched the film ‘Cake’ starring Jennifer Aniston, and her depiction of a woman in chronic pain was just so moving. The journey of choosing to live, of wanting to try, to get better was portrayed so brilliantly. It’s not dislike the film ‘Girl interrupted’ which I watched years ago. A similar journey. I have also recently met up with an incredibly courageous woman who has gone through so many operations and pain over the last eight years it’s unspeakable. And yet she is still standing, still loving her boy, still fighting with everything she has to live.  That is courage standing right there.

Don’t you find that it’s only when you lose something you appreciate it fully? Putting on your socks, sitting down for a whole meal, thinking clearly, little things. Our bodies are just so incredible, just so intricate. But it is when they don’t work that all these things we take for granted are realised. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We ARE fearfully and wonderfully made. And that is what these pieces are about.

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I’ve used sewing patterns over the top of the text to refer to this but, again with most of my paintings, by the time we get to the finished piece these may not even be visible, but the fact that they are here now is important to me. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

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Anna Crook - found things collection

Oh my word. I’ve gone back through my posts and realised I didn’t post any of the pieces that resulted from my experimental play with plasticine and kitchen foil!! Ironically the final pieces didn’t include any of these experiments but instead led to something completely different. Don’t you sometimes find that…. that playing with one material actually enables you to make progress elsewhere in your practice?

I love the ‘Thursday Next’ series by Jasper Fforde in which the main character Thursday Next goes in and out of novels to solve literary crimes. I wanted to take this concept a little further and imagine I could step inside a book myself and select an everyday object or garment which features in the book.  Accompanying the item is a piece of prose which is supposedly written by the character who came by it. Parallel to this narrative is my own story as to how I came across these items.

I loved doing these pieces, it was so completely different from anything I’d ever done before and yet it felt so familiar. I suppose they drew on the elements of my practice but came out in a different format. The finished pieces and explanations are below:

Anna Crook - found things i

Found items i – burnt nightdress

Down came the great staircase. There was a great crash as all fell. I, Richard Mason, came upon the said place where she fell and found, amidst the ruins, this piece of sad, torn cloth that came free as her body was taken and lain aside.’  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (written by Richard Mason, Bertha’s brother)

I could just imagine Richard Mason visiting the place where his sister fell, lamenting on her whole sorry life and, as standing there deep in thought, the fragment of material catching his eye. I imagine him picking it up and gazing at it with recognition and sadness before placing it in his breast pocket.

I came across this incredible Victorian garment in Second to None in Walsall, in fact they had a variety of near perfect Victorian night dresses. Due to how I was going to treat and distress the garment I asked if they had any already torn or worn pieces I could buy. She had one or two which exactly suited my needs and I progressed without guilt, tearing, burning and smoking the piece until it could realistically be taken for the torn and dirty fragment of Bertha’s dress.

 

Anna Crook - found things ii

Found items ii – locks of hair

‘I told Mr. Lockwood that I enclosed the black lock and the curl of light hair within the locket that hung around Catherine’s neck. Within the locket I’d twisted the two together, but instead I secluded them in my apron and stole away, intending to give them to the child when she was grown.’  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (written by Nelly, Ellen Dean)

Nelly had quite a complicated relationship with Cathy so maybe she could have done this. The scene before as Heathcliff hovers by Cathy’s bedside as Linton arrives, Nelly petrified for all their safety, evokes deep emotions. She may have taken the two locks and kept them, not only for the newly born Catherine, but to protect herself and the part she had played.

I have got into the habit of keeping hair after haircuts, especially when the children were young. I have also kept my own and the variety of colours it has progressed through as I’ve aged. The hair in the piece is my own and my daughters. In researching for this piece I discovered the world of Victorian hair weaving which was incorporated into jewellery pieces. It can be quite intricate, but in reading the book and with the haste in which the hair was removed and replaced within the locket, I cannot see there being time for more than a twist of the two locks, curling them together.

 

Anna Crook - found things iii

Found items iii – burnt veil

‘The great cloth, with its heap of rottenness and all the ugly things that sheltered there, mended with her veil. As it became like patches of tinder a piece separated and fell, floating in the smoky air. Every vestige of her dress was burnt but this.’  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (written by Pip)

Pip could have potentially kept this but I doubt it! However I loved the idea of the once beautiful veil being singed and covered with cobwebs, dust and dead insects. I work in a large shed in the garden and create alongside insects of all shapes and sizes, especially spiders. Every now and then I give the place a good dust, and this time I using some worn and dirty chiffon to collect all the detritus. The result was perfect and only needed burning and smoking slightly for the piece to be complete.

 

Anna Crook - found things iv

Found items iv – soap

‘To speak of such things, I dare not. What’s done cannot be undone, I am sure of that. Troubled with a mind diseased therein, I minister to myself. Hands scoured will no longer ease my brow. Thinks me a purging deed to undertake. I seize sweet oblivion.’   Macbeth by Shakespeare (written by Lady Macbeth)

The thought of someone, after discovering the soap used by Lady Macbeth to wash her bloody hands over and over, hiding it somewhere, intrigued me. This soap was handmade in Cornwall.

 

Anna Crook - found things v

Found items v – feather and horse hair

‘On my Father’s bench amid spanners and wrenches and oily rags was the most perfect pheasant feather. I gently picked it up and twisted the remaining horse hair around its base. I hung it alongside the fire balloon, the boomerang, the kite and the bow and arrow, against a wall in the workshop, for another day.’   Danny the Champion of the world by Roald Dahl (written by Danny)

Danny describes two wonderful events he had with his Father, the fire balloon and the kite, and both hang in the workshop. I thought it would be probable that Danny would select a pheasant feather to remember the most magnificent day of all.

This particular pheasant feather was retrieved from the floor of a large open stable, after I watched a gamekeeper pluck a dead pheasant ready for the evening meal. We were at a manor house and using the sports facilities there. We couldn’t miss the gamekeeper as we walked through the stable area into the sports hall. It was quite surreal watching this man transform a beautiful bird into a main course and a pile of feathers.

 

Anna Crook - found things vi

Found items vi – thimble

‘Called to give prizes, and the comfits handed round one a-piece, the elegant thimble was all that remained. After being gravely presented it went to where it had come and became the companion to mushroom morsels and cake crumbs in her pocket.’  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (anonymous)

There were many and varied memorable items that could have been taken from this book but I think the thimble is one that could be overlooked and makes the viewer work harder to guess the book. Such a non-descript item, it is mentioned and then forgotten almost as quickly. Something about this appeals to me: that even though its function was unnecessary at the time, it had a moment of redefinition and then became itself again.

I trawled through several antique shops to find one that would potentially have been used during the time which Lewis Carroll wrote his Alice book, and this is the oldest one I could find hiding amidst coins and buttons.

 

‘Danny, Champion of the World@ is at Emporium Gallery, Lichfield (see outlets for address)

Commissions taken. If interested please email artannacrook@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

broken-pieces-iv

Looking back over my artwork I have noticed that I often use material or stitching within the composition, making or stitching together material scraps and paper to form my own material like the piece above, or using important or significant material within the work, like in the piece below which incorporates pieces of my wedding dress material alongside the Terry’s nappies that my Mum placed me in and kept from when I was a baby. I think sometimes you don’t realise a theme in your work unless you revisit and look again at the work created.

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I was startled to see how often I use material. Each time the reason for use is different and significant. Recently ideas for artwork have started to form around the use of filthy rags.

The Japanese word ‘boro’ means tattered rags, clothes that have been patched and repatched. It is linked with severe poverty and yet the current fashion ironically incorporates a similar method.

4,000 unwanted babies were left at Foundling Hospital between 1741 and 1760. The mother would often leave a piece of material cut from the clothing she was wearing to serve as a form of identity if she ever wanted to reclaim the child and this material was kept with the hospital’s paperwork for the child.

The sense of identity wrapped up in the clothes we wear or keep for sentimental reasons.

All of these thoughts are linked and yet very separate. No idea where this will lead but ideas are starting to form.

Images below are of past work incorporating material spanning work from 1999 through to last year.

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It’s a most peculiar thing. For a long time I have had a drought creatively but something over the last two weeks is slowly being released. Been looking at the theme ‘Shadow’ for the up coming Lichfield Prize associated with Emporium, Lichfield. I’ve taken the theme literally for both pieces with an additional twist. For my own I’ve tried to explore the two sidedness to my personality: the hiding, dark negative thoughts, withdrawn and often haphazard side contrasted to the much more presentable and confident positive side, the shadow of the darker one always present but often subdued or pushed back by the positive one. Weirdly, part way through this piece I couldn’t get the lip colour correct and this coincided with a random nose bleed….. the exact colour I needed!!

The second piece is of my Nana and will be much more realistic, a pencil drawing on crumpled paper. The thought behind this one is to explore the growing truth that as one becomes older, one can seem to become a shadow of our former selves and yet all that we are is still present and tangeable to those who know and love us. The scariest thing about this piece is that after sketching in the initial outline to ensure composition and accuracy of feature placement it looked a lot like me, which I suppose is predictable but startling all the same.

Enjoying the sunshine and the shed and the pigeons landing and hopping across the roof as I come to terms with my own mortality and try to embrace the whole of my personality.

The canvases are resting on the floor as I haven't secured the wood yet. Need to do the words first.

The canvases are resting on the floor as I haven’t secured the wood yet. Need to do the words first.

It was an interesting day yesterday. Rectified canvas three by rearranging the bible verses bound around the wood so that there are much less of them and it’s more ordered for the composition. But in doing that I’ve realised that there needs to be something more than the scarlet thread to link the four canvases together… a key verse that is written across them all. It needs to be clear and readable but not so solid that it looks out of place. Have experimented on a separate canvas to see if I can get the effect I wanted and I think I’m there with it.

Canvas I've used to try out different techniques.

Canvas I’ve used to try out different techniques.

I just need the verse…. and the kids break up for the summer in two hours!!!! Good job they still go to bed at a reasonable time. Can see me in the shed most evenings until this is finished but stuck until I know what the verse is. I think it’s probably going to be Jeremiah 29 v 7 as I know the church has a passion for and is seeking the peace and prosperity of the greater Birmingham area and it’s a verse that has been mentioned quite a few times but I need to be sure. Excited that it’s nearly complete.

It’s in these moments of stillness that you reflect over the whole process and realise just what a privilege it is to be an artist and to be able to use simple things like canvas and pigment to form something that hopefully reflects God’s heart, even if just a little.

Canvas three - wood and paper take one!

Canvas three – wood and paper take one!

Worked hard on the third canvas today, felt it was right, it was secure and seemed balanced. The piece worked. Then I hung it next to the others and it’s not right. Totally gutted. So I’ve just stood looking at it, willing it to suddenly become alright, and my boy comes into the shed.

“It’s not right, is it?” I asked him. “Erm, no, but I don’t want to say that because I know that you’ll be sad,” was his reply. And he’s totally right, on both counts: It’s not right and that makes me sad. The wood/paper stands out too much against the background, and the skyline, which worked before, has become flat and lifeless in comparison. It’s too much when placed alongside the others. So time to undo all the binding and start again. I think two or three pieces of bound paper on wood should be used to build the composition of the piece in relation to the others. They need to be horizontal rather the vertical to balance with canvas two and four, but not across the whole canvas as that would be too much. So time to lay the pieces on the canvas and see which work best where.

Canvas three

Canvas three

Frustrating as I really thought I’d cracked it, but that’s fine. It needs to be right. I’m still holding onto the fact that the wood and paper work, but on a smaller scale. Two steps forward, one step back. Nearly there. Ironically I now totally love the fourth canvas and it’s competing in my mind for favourite canvas with number two after weathering it with layers of paint last night!!! Definitely two steps forward, one step back.

Time to load the dishwasher, make the sandwiches for tomorrow and then go back and look at it again before taking the scissors to it!!!

Manipulated paper

Manipulated paper

Last year at Easter time God drew me towards The Passion film by Mel Gibson. I studied the crucifixion during my degree and although it is one of the most explicit films it still does not go far enough in showing the torture and the brutality Jesus endured before and during his death. It is not a film I want to watch but as I watched it God asked me to do to paper what they did to Him: to punch, spit upon and tear at it. The paper was then buried on Good Friday and then dug up on Easter Sunday. The result was a series of pieces of paper, manipulated in such a way that it had softened like skin, was broken like His skin.

Burying paper

Burying paper

I wanted to repeat the process this year using bigger pieces of paper, to revisit this process and to revisit His pain and His sacrifice for us. It catches my breath each time I do this, spitting on the paper, tearing at it as the lashes would have, praying for forgiveness for all that I have done. And the physical act of digging and burying the paper.
The act of reflecting on what Jesus has done for us…. it is so important, to try and grasp what He endured. Thank God for Easter Sunday.