Most people my age, and younger probably, will have heard of Art Garfunkel, the second half of Simon and Garfunkel (I love that name!). They had several hits through the years, mostly through the sixties. ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, ‘The Sound of Silence’, ‘Homeward Bound’ and ‘Cecilia’ were among my favourites. ‘Scarborough Fair’ was picked up by Paul Simon from Ewan Mc Coll via Martin Carthy and is a traditional ballad from my home county, Yorkshire; the melody dating from the Middle English Period.
Art is subject close to my heart. I love listening to music, as you would have gathered, but Art is something I can practise and be fairly good at. Everyone loves their own particular piece, be it a painting or 3D object. When it comes to defining art, the definition I gave to a philosophy group I was part of was slammed by an art teacher: a work of man/woman that is aesthetically pleasing. I think to say more would be to go round in circles, in effect. I love craft, too. A craftsman will make something that has practical use, and when that something is too precious to ‘use’, it becomes a work of art.
At school, I was average but whatever I did my heart was always in it. I had potential in other words. I think my teacher recognised this and entered some of my artwork in competitions, in which I did well. But, when it came to choosing the subjects I should study for GCE o’level (as it was then) I was strongly advised to stick with the five academic subjects. That, I regret. However, baking, which was what I chose to study after school, is a craft which allows me to engage in an art form called modelling. I have made ‘sculptures’ in bread and sugar modelling paste. These are not for consumption, and generally inedible. Over the years, our children’s birthday cakes, wedding (and cakes for other occasions) cakes for family and demonstration pieces for work were all done by my hands. I very much enjoyed teaching a group of women in an evening class. This was on Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides; in the Nicholson Institute, situated in Stornoway, a six mile bike ride away from my caravan. ‘Twas a challenge ferrying materials to and fro, teaching and working the night shift at Stag Bakeries. I did this for a term, and then chanced my arm at demonstrations for the WI, which I enjoyed immensely. Later, I turned to wood carving with some success but couldn’t make a living from it. Taking away bits of wood to reveal a 3D form is harder than adding bits of clay. If the effect in clay isn’t right, of course you can take a bit off. So now I enjoy modelling in self hardening clay. And hence Bardy, who I made for my sons. He is a wire armature wrapped in clay, with helm, shield and axe made from aluminium and steel nails. Copper wire makes up his chest plate.
Though I can’t draw or paint well, I appreciate art with a passion. Except a lot of modern art. If I cannot make out a pleasing form, I am not interested. Having to look for a message, or trying to understand the point, in a work of art is not art appreciation, I feel. Whatever it is has to ‘grab’ me, command my attention. Then I look at the detail. For me, the detail just isn’t there in abstract art, it isn’t beautiful. Well then, what examples of art does appeal to me. Lets start with (some) comic book art, particularly 60s British comic illustrations. I avidly read Dan Dare and Wrath of the Gods, and both stories had very good British artists. My favourite artist (there were quite a few) on Dan Dare was Frank Bellamy, Wrath of the Gods was illustrated by Ron Embleton, who captured the adventures very imaginatively.
Faeries are, I think, are in every child’s imagination. Some artists have captured their images superbly. Here, I love the work of Arthur Rackham. I had a poster illustration of his on my caravan wall without realising the image was of a Faery. I made it into a base relief carving which now hangs on our sitting room wall. I remember vividly a huge poster, which depicted a scene from the abduction of Persephone by Hades, that hung on the classroom wall as a junior. Hades was mounted on his chariot, snatching up Persephone. The style of painting seemed to me now as Pre-Raphaelite, but I do not know which painter. The Pre-Raphaelite art movement started in 1848, and included Millais, Hunt and Rossetti, the three founding members. Later, other artists became involved: Ford Madox Brown, Burne-Jones and Frederick Leighton.
Later that century, (1890-1910) started a revolutionary style and philosophy known as Art Nouveau , influenced strongly by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, without doubt one of my all time favourites. I have posted one of his paintings. This style also influenced design in architecture, furniture and ornaments throughout the world, and is highly collectable. Who couldn’t look at a favourite painting or object and not be lost in its splendour; not me.
Enough of me, it’s time to wrap up this post. Be seeing you.
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