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Notes from an exhibition 

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….

Fields Catterline 

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



Dashes and squiggles with patches on top

What happens if I add larger pieces (organza) over small?

Marks go in & out of focus

Turquoise lime green salmon pink

July Fields 1959


Flat patches either side of texture flower wedge

Patchwork raw edges

Thick thread stitching in texture

That blue again

Summer Fields 1961 


Speedy marks texture change direction

Colours layer and smudge together

Small clear details catch the eye

Real plant matter smothered in dripping paint

Harvest 1960-1


T shape composition

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


Many grey and ochres large smooth patches overlap

Charcoal & burnt umber on top

Brush marks unravel like frayed yarn

Beehives Storm Approaching 1961


Sky smooth blended

Green jade under grey umber

Black black house

Rough tweed tea texture field

Aggressive wind whipped marks

Sketches




Pastel on paper in sketch book

Rust marks

Stitch collage on top

So much energy
Winter Day Catterline 1957-60


Turquoise under umber white peach

Smooth sky

Textures land

Mud fest
Gable end of tenement 1955


Charcoal umber terracotta flashes

Big flat fabric patches

Stitched over

Organza
Two Glasgow Lassies


That pinny

Flame over blue grey

Is it torn, faded, dirty?

Lettering emerging

Stained glass colours

Child before a tenement window 1958-60

Illuminated window- lace curtain?

Positive/negative lace/graffiti
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
Seascape 1956


Sunset fire colours in the waves

Sun thick like butter on burnt toast cliffs

What colour!

Tin Can Holidays

It’s amazing how much fun you can have with an empty mackerel tin! I started making these miniature pieces after thinking about caravans as tin cans on the road- and then with my obsession with recycling, well, one thing led to another and now I’ve made a whole series of little pieces housed in recycled mackerel tins!

Tin Can Caravan

Tin Can Caravan

This is one of my first experiments with tin can art, I’ve collaged the tin with an old map and used a CAD embroidered caravan on a simple appliqué ground.

Garden Party

Garden Party

This one is more complex, with free machine embroidery on an appliqué ground, and the tin is covered in pages from an old gardening book.

Part of the fun is that the tins come in many different shapes and sizes depending on which brand you buy – so the artworks take on different forms!

I’ve also developed a workshop day where participants learn how to do it too – so there’s a bit of a tin can movement going on! Today I’ve been working in Gateshead with a lovely group, we started off developing story boards of holiday themes, then sketched out designs. The next step was to collage the tins – always fun but a bit sticky! Whilst the tins are drying we take a lunch break and then move on to create the image that will be housed in the tin. To keep things simple today we used needle felting, hand stitching and Bondaweb (can’t do a project without it!) By the end of the day, everyone had produced a unique mini artwork in a tin. It’s always good to get out of my attic studio and work with other people, so big thanks to everyone involved today!