Joan Eardley -A Sense of Place
Joan Eardley has become a favourite artist of mine. An exhibition of the Glasgow Girls at the Kirkcudbright Art Gallery introduced me to her paintings of Glasgow children. I was drawn to the use of collage and lettering in the background, and the bold colours. Curious to find out more, I began online research and was struck by the energy Eardley captures in her land and seascapes. I tracked down an exhibition in the Clydebank Gallery a year later – and worked a visit into that summer’s holiday itinerary (!)
It was fantastic to be able to observe first hand the work that I had seen on line. The landscape paintings are around a metre square,the seascapes even bigger, as if she was trying to make life-size representations of the scene in front of her, so powerful. Imagine trying to manipulate a canvas or board that size outdoors in Scottish weather – Summer and Winter! The texture and colour were inspiring. As I stood in front of the work I tried to follow through the process; looking at underlying colours, often very strong and dark, the way thicker paint was applied in parts of the composition and, how in places real plant matter was embedded in thick layers of paint. There was a book supporting the exhibition. I bought it and took it home to study.
I started trying to build the ideas I gained from studying Joan Eardley’s work into my own textile art; stronger colours, more consideration of composition, thinking about how and where to build up texture. Learning from another artist is empowering, encouraging creativity. The biggest lesson is that reminder that in working in situ ideas and feelings flow into the work.
Then, in December 2016, I found out that there was to be another, more comprehensive exhibition of Joan Eardley’s work at the Scottish Museum of Modern Art in Edinburgh – it took me til’ the February Half Term break to persuade my family that they really wanted a weekend in Edinburgh! We compromised – I took them to the Camera Obscura, they accompanied me to the gallery. We met up with friends there, it was good to be able to discuss the work with a great pal – and ex art teaching colleague (Hello Linda!)
This exhibition includes work from throughout Eardley’s all too short career. Completed paintings are supported with sketches and studies, photographs and artefacts and a wonderful film of the artist at work. The work is divided into five rooms, themed through chronology and subject matter. Again, I was entranced by process, the use of media, expensive paints used sparingly then splurged or padded out with filler to create texture. Sketchbook pages stuck together to make a big enough surface to draw on. Collage worked into paintings and sketches. Again, I was struck by the sense of life and energy in the work. And there was another book…
I got the chance to return to this exhibition on Saturday. It was a very short follow up visit- only an hour to go through the five rooms. I was on a weekend trip with the 12 year old, ostensibly to visit the Knitting and Stitching Show and hit the shops with her left over Christmas money. So, we negotiated and an hour was what I got! Focus and determination was the plan. In each room, I studied the pieces that most grabbed my interest, standing in front and typing notes directly on my phone (must get faster at touch typing!) So what follows is the transcript of those notes, with images from the books I bought to remind me. Even reading through them now I get that rush of adrenaline and excitement – it is so important to continue to study other artists’ work. It gives me enthusiasm and ideas, a sense of determination to continue with my work so I get to what I want to achieve. The exhibition is on until the 21st May 2017. I don’t think I’ll get another chance to see it but I have my memories – and I hope there’ll be another one soon….
Be bold bright blue and orange ochre in with greens and charcoal
Obvious layers thick rough texture
Brush marks long embroidery stitch
Field with wild flowers 1960-2
What happens if I add larger pieces (organza) over small?
Marks go in & out of focus
Turquoise lime green salmon pink
July Fields 1959
Patchwork raw edges
Thick thread stitching in texture
That blue again
Summer Fields 1961
Colours layer and smudge together
Small clear details catch the eye
Real plant matter smothered in dripping paint
One side blurred – yellow ochre
Just fabric- minimal stitch
Centre -green/ochre heavy texture
Right- greens clearer bold marks over thinner paint
Fields under Snow 1958
Charcoal & burnt umber on top
Brush marks unravel like frayed yarn
Beehives Storm Approaching 1961
Green jade under grey umber
Black black house
Rough tweed tea texture field
Aggressive wind whipped marks
Stitch collage on top
So much energy
Winter Day Catterline 1957-60
Gable end of tenement 1955
Big flat fabric patches
Two Glasgow Lassies
Flame over blue grey
Is it torn, faded, dirty?
Stained glass colours
Child before a tenement window 1958-60
Illuminated window- lace curtain?
Glasgow Corner shop
Sketchbook collages of local shops
New series collage raw edges mounted on stained white
Children playing in a street 1960
Pen n ink drawings – become machine stitch sketches?
Girl and Chalked Wall 1955-60
Lettering (for Julia)
Texture on dress French knots
Such a Chagall blue
Summer Sea 1962
So big bold and wild
Paint drips and slashes across the wide sea
Shore is dark as peat
Surf crashes desperately on to it
Short thick vertical marks become wide dripping horizontals
Taste the salt spray
Winter Sea III 1958
What was it like to paint in that storm?
Everything crashing rapid direction changes
Difficult to see through pouring rain?
Fishing Nets Catterline 1962
Ochre n khaki beach thin brush texture visible
Cross hatch netting
Sunset fire colours in the waves
Sun thick like butter on burnt toast cliffs