Most artists will have experienced that frustrating phenomenon often called “block” when nothing you do seems to be right, and somehow every idea you have just doesn’t seem to be able to become realised. I have been troubled by block for a while now and believe me, it’s certainly no joke. The ideas are rushing round my head simply bursting to get out, but somehow I have been unable to turn what I am thinking about into a physical entity through my hands and the making process. It is most frustrating.
In a matter of just a mere seven weeks I will have to have produced a piece of art which will form part of an exhibition in which I am to take part alongside nine other fellow artists and friends. We all met while studying Fine Art at UCA, Farnham and have exhibited together four times already. While previous exhibitions have been of mixed work, this forthcoming show follows a theme in which each of us purchased an item from a charity shop, these items were then passed round among the group randomly, the idea being that the object should (hopefully) inspire the recipient in some way to create a new piece of work. My own object is an Indian silk painting depicting the lovers Rama and Sita.
The painting itself has some age to it, but is not what could be called precious or of especially high quality. Having said that, the painting has been undertaken competently and with care and in a stylised form, and I can only guess that it was probably painted as a tourist piece.
Well, a brightly coloured highly decorative image such as this should have been meat and drink to me, sadly not. It took me a while to identify the figures and after several failed attempts on my part I asked my friend who showed it to her mum who knew exactly who they were and also added that theirs is the greatest love story ever told and it can be found in the Bhagavad Gita if I wanted to know more. I must confess that I didn’t look at the Bhagavad Gita, but I did look on the next best thing… the Internet! There are many references and articles available about Rama and Sita and after reading several I came to understand more about their story.
My first idea for a piece of new work was to make a series of Love Tokens and after seeing an article in my local newspaper about embroidered cards sent by women to their menfolk in the trenches in WW1 (these would be embroidered with a motif or slogan and the recipient would then stitch something else into the card before sending it back thus telling their loved ones that they were still alive), I decided that these should be pieces of embroidery, but perhaps machine embroidery as opposed to hand stitching. My first efforts, while receiving positive comments from people who saw them in the making, were not, I felt quite the right thing. Perhaps they were too literal, too obvious, too contrived, too obscure; whatever I just felt I could not continue with them.
Small collection on Love Tokens from World War 1
An alternative version was more densely stitched and without wording, but simply embellished with beading and ribbon.
Somehow these lacy pieces weren’t ‘doing it’ for me. Time to get the thinking cap on again. I began thinking about the subject of the painting again and began to visualise it in a more westernised and modern way. I looked at how other artists had dealt with ideas about True Love and Romance which led to a new piece of work. I had in my head an image of a young couple embracing set in an idealised ‘sylvan glade’ or garden, making reference to pure love and perfection, youth and beauty.
The next stumbling block for a piece of this nature was colour. That may seem to some to be the smallest of concerns, but for me, colour is all-important. Colour has so much to say, and indeed much is written about the Language of Colour and it’s properties of affecting or influencing mood and emotion. What colours would be right to convey what I wanted to say; so difficult….. We sometimes find inspiration in the oddest places and it was almost as if I had been following a predetermined path. I was doing the weekly shopping in my local supermarket and pausing at the magazine stand I was struck by the front cover of the latest issue of Grazia magazine. There it was, the answer to my dilemma. The most amazing and interesting colour combination – purple and green. That was IT! Researching more about these two colours they seemed even more right. Purple, the Royal Colour, a colour of devotion (it is worn by grieving widows in Thailand), the colour of authority and rank, of inspiration and ornamentation. Purple was perfect to convey ideas about the purity and absolute devotion of true love, love which inspires. Green on the other hand is the colour of nature, it has connotations of jealousy (the enemy of true love) but it is also a healing colour and is youthful. So really, the perfect foil to purple.
Now we have the idea of an image, the embracing couple depicted on a purple and green background surrounded by flora in purple and green. Oh yes, the flora! I had almost forgotten, what sort of flowers? Obviously they should be purple! After much deliberation the chosen blooms are Wisteria, as a warning against over-passionate love or obsession, in Japan an 1820s, kabuki drama Fuji Musume, “The Wisteria Maiden,” is about a young woman waiting under a wisteria vine for her lover. In this context, the durable, long-living wisteria vine lends a meaning of endurance in the face of heartache. Purple tulips representing a forever love and purple violets to represent daydreaming, something which affects new lovers in the first flush of romance. I decided that the figures should be naked, a nod towards Adam and Eve, the first True Lovers in their perfect Eden, and that the medium should be stitch on a painted background. The following images show the initial stages of the creation of the work, it is as yet unfinished, but as soon as it is completed I will add it to this post, or as an additional blog about the exhibition and the way the piece was received.
The painted background and close-up of background showing wisteria racemes
Drawn image of embracing couple, scanned into my computer, translated into a bitmap image and then printed onto ultra thin organza treated for passing through an inkjet printer (Extravorganza – available for Crafty Computer Papers), backed with Solvy vanishing film, ready for stitching to be added to render it suitable for adding to the painted background as an applique.
Once the individual wisteria racemes have all been created, the image itself has been stitched – drawing with a needle and thread, and the other flowers designed and created in thread the whole can be built together to create the final image ready for exhibiting.
Watch this space!