Saturday, May 28, 2011

To frame or not to frame ... part 2

It seems such a simple thing to produce a series of small, hand-finished prints. I’ve done sets of them in different colours, sizes and dimensions.

The process is straightforward:
scan / upload photos; crop, colour and print; hand finish with paint, chalk, pencil, pen and fixative or spray varnish.

The last bit is the messy part. It also requires a lot of space for spreading out the pieces that are being worked on, to allow them to dry out before working on them some more and then fixing or glossing them.

It felt like I was making a big production out of a simple idea, until I read this, by Annie Dillard:

“How fondly I recall thinking, in the old days, that to write you needed paper, pen and a lap. How appalled I was to discover that, in order to write so much as a sonnet, you need a warehouse.”

("The Writing Life" by Annie Dillard)

I felt a little better after reading that.

Scattered thoughts about ways to present this series of hand-finished prints were at the back of my mind when I went to Bath one day a few weeks ago, to meet my daughter, her husband and a couple of their friends. I’d mentioned to them that I wanted to visit some galleries, bookstores and independent shops. As we wandered around the city we came across the historic Octagon building where there was an art exhibition in progress. The Octagon is disused nowadays and a little rundown. But it’s available for hire and had been taken over for a week by a local artist.

The walls of this huge space were filled with large, colourful paintings. And what struck me first and foremost was that many of them were unframed. The painted canvases were either attached directly to the wall or hung from bulldog clips and lengths of string.

They looked fantastic. There was an immediacy and an accessibility to them that was very powerful. They looked like they had only recently been painted and had been hung straight away. And some of them had.

Chatting at some length to the artist, Al Greenall, it turned out that not only was he exhibiting there that week but he was also working. He had a large canvas on the floor in the centre of the room and he was painting as people came in and out.

These are his words, taken from his website:

“Running from 18th - 24th of April, my Spring exhibition at Bath's historic Octagon building came to a fantastic conclusion. I wish to thank everyone who came, whether deliberately or simply passing through. Your time, conversation, and contributions made my fusion of hung works and live studio painting an exhilarating and enlightening process. The large painting that I created during the week - excerpts of which can be seen on the right - will be entitled 'Festival City' in acknowledgement of one of many Twitter descriptions of Bath I was sent when planning the show and asking for peoples impressions of the city. I hope it captures the blend of city/Spring/colour/people/celebration that I was feeling throughout the show!”

I came away with lots of photos and lots of thoughts, but I’d still not worked out what to do.

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