I don’t tend to write that much about being a vet, but I did qualify almost 20 years ago and still work part time.

Double Caesar SundayI like the sense that in the hospital we are all part of a complex organism that is working towards one clear goal, to relieve animal suffering. Everything else is extra.

img_0696.jpg

Every now and then, it goes wrong: I got bitten a few weeks ago, and my finger still feels like it might fall off…

img_0695.jpg

At the end of the day, I have to remind myself that the first linocut I made was of a cat, and that cats are still complex, intriguing and inspiring animals.

img_0770.jpg

Having a degree makes me feel responsible for animals: the training comes with a duty of care…

IMG_0554

 

Advertisements

I’m continuing to make prints that record some spare moments, absurd situations and interesting encounters. It’s like a slowed down version of the instant sharing of selfies with a sanitised/selective commentary on what its really like, over here, in my world. Since March I’ve made another half dozen or so, though some have been abandoned half way: ironically work or life got in the way…

This Granny Can is a print about the grandma I met in China who raises pigs, runs a small vegetable farm, makes home rolled tea, smokes ducks in the kitchen, and has hands hard as sun-bleached wood. She says she can’t read and has never been abroad, with a self-deprecating chuckle. I think of all the things she can do, how we are sitting in the same space, sharing the same tea, but that our lives are completely different.

this granny can_cropped_e

My last day in China, my friends Lan and Tang Wei took me to a pottery village in Changsha, where we spent a morning happily browsing ceramic goods, buying cheap shoes and enjoying the sun. The store at the end of the village sold practically everything, from kites to underwear to dried fruit, as well as having a small snack area where we ate chicken feet and drank barley tea on tiny chairs, watching the world go by.

kite shop_cropped_e

Since my favourite pool in London, London Fields’ Lido, has been shut all summer for renovations, I’ve been searching for an alternative place to swim. The heated Lido, 50 m long, surrounded by trees and tower blocks, with glittering water and the illusion of the Mediteranean, is hard to compete with. Of course, the Olympic pool in Stratford in a good contender: the air is heated with the crisp smell of a sauna, the water is like silk, and the magnificent Hadid roof makes you feel like you are in the belly of a whale. However, the “village-change” for mixed ages and sexes tests my prudishness each time. Why exactly did they feel they had to put up a sign that reads, ‘These hairdryers are solely to dry your hair. Please do not use to dry your body or other items.”? IS this normal?

hairdryerama_cropped_e

I have to say that York Hall is much smaller, closer and friendlier, and fairly beautiful on a sunny morning, when the light tracks through the water giving off the illusion of the outdoors. It has wooden benches and generous splashy showers that cycle between scalding and lukewarm. The funniest thing is that the main mirror in the changing room is a piece of stretched and polished metal, that shocks everyone who catches a glimpse of themselves. It’s like the reverse of vanity sizing, where people go shopping and buy clothes that tell them they are slim, smart and attractive. This mirror tells you are too far gone to even try.

mirror mirror_cropped_e

So imagine the joy that users felt when a new, normal mirror, with a bank of free hairdryers, popped up in recent months. Imagine the happiness of hanging out in the changing room and seeing your not-too-shabby reflection. She Doesn’t Care (If We Stare) is about that lady who loves to do her face and hair while naked at this new mirror. We all pretended not to, but we did all take a look. I couldn’t work out whether I thought it was empowering and celebratory, or if I thought this was a bit too much showing off…

she doesn't care_cropped_e

Meanwhile, at the vets, I’m always amazed at how people work so seamlessly together. I expected the art world would be creative by nature, but the vet world strikes me as more fluid, adaptable and kind. I admire the clear and honest communication, the humour, the teamwork,  the lack of ego. I particularly like that in the vet world, women speak, and are heard. Women do, and get results. Words have face value: no one second guesses your agenda because everyone has clear goals: the pursuit of truth; reduction of suffering; compassion. How these things are achieved requires plenty of lateral thinking and creativity…

eight to one_cropped_e

 

Life zooms on, meanwhile dad remains stuck in a care home in Oxfordshire after breaking his neck, and cannot venture into the wider world. So I started to make linocuts as a visual diary of my life. These are prints I made to comment on what was happening at the time, to pin on the fridge, or on the walls of his room.

RA Schools Lick the Moon_ee

I was lucky enough to be invited to be a print fellow at the Royal Academy Schools last Autumn, so started to make prints about this iconic place: the corridors with elegant arching vaulted ceilings and huge north facing windows lit by moon-like lamps…

RA Life Room Heads_ee

…the life drawing room with a collection of impressive casts of Roman and Greek busts…

RA Life Room Statues_ee

…I put myself into all the prints like a sort of old-fashioned selfie, and added some arms to Venus, with a cell phone, just to bring her back to the present day.

RA Life Room Skeletons_ee

The schools have a fabulous chef called Sephy who feeds everyone til they are rolling with contentment. I will never forget the pork chop that was bigger than my face and reminded me of a map of Africa.

RA Schools More Meat Than I Can Eat_ee

The print room itself has a beautiful old Columbian press that I tried to make an etching of. In fact, as my linocuts are better than my etchings, here is a linocut of me trying to make an etching.

RA Schools Columbian Press_ee

In January I went to Malaysia and Singapore with my mum, who dramatically declared it her last supper.

Fried Carrot Cake_ee

In reality we had at least 20 last suppers, and ate a lot!

Mobile Zombies Malaysia_ee

The current mobile phone obsession seems to spill into our daily lives, and I found myself increasingly surrounded by phone zone silence.

Mobile Zombies_ee

Normally I don’t mind, but sometimes it seems so ridiculous to see people dripping wet after having been for a swim, standing like statues in front of this portable screen. This is the changing room of the London Fields Lido, my favourite pool in the world.

Cried Eyes Out_ee

When I started this series, I was really sad about many things, including how little I can do to change my dad’s mobility.

Wolf Blossom Mist_ee

I don’t know what the future holds, but I feel that we carry our burdens with us: sometimes they feel heavy, but sometimes they help us fly.

Finally finished my animation Shadow Boy and Shadow Girl

You can click on the link to view it here :  https://vimeo.com/208883758

This work has taken me a while to complete, as I started this series of prints two summers ago when visiting Crow’s Shadow Press in the USA.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 12.54.44

Crows’s Shadow Press is located on a Native American reservation in the eastern high desert of Oregon. This print studio is surrounded by rolling grassland and huge clouds. Distant views of the mountains are filtered a luminous blue with the atmosphere.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 12.51.48

The area feels ancient. In front of the studio there is a small graveyard: a scattering of graves on a grassy plot, complete with plastic flowers, windmills, flags and clothing, all in homage and reverence.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 12.52.06

If you were to sit there for a while, you would only hear the fluttering of flags, the crisp rustle of insects in the dry grass, and perhaps the gentle creak of your own muscles and breath.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 12.52.32

I started to imagine what it would be like to become and then not become again in this place. I started to make a series of prints of a boy and a girl, dressed in clothing from the 1850s, during the time when formal traditional clothing was being abandoned for western styles.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 12.52.55

In the animation, the boy and girl emerge from the darkness, defined and described by a sequence of white lines. Gradually they change shape and expression, they appear to get older, more serious, lighter and brighter, until eventually they are carved away completely.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 12.53.09

The images are from two reduction linocuts which I carved and printed in sequence, using only one type of mark: a carved horizontal line. I made 14 prints of each image, one set of prints for the boy and one for the girl. Then I created thousands of in-between frames in photoshop by deleting the frame in front to reveal the frame behind and saving it as a new image.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 12.53.36

It was difficult to continue to carve away at the figures until almost nothing was left, as it felt like destroying the individuals themselves. I learnt a lot with how much can be said with very minimal lines.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 12.53.55

In some respects, the progressive carving and whitening of the block could be read as a loose metaphor for the whitening of indigenous populations, as well as a reflection on blurring of the past…

Here it is again https://vimeo.com/208883758

I’m happy to say that the work will be displayed in China next week.

I have taken a selection of 160 frames at life size (each frame is 15 x 20 cm, and there are 80 frames from each sequence) and placed them side by side to show the working process. The inkjet prints of these frames are a rich and velvety black. As the prints do not exist any longer, because the blocks were entirely carved away, it is nice to bring the prints back to life again. The animation and the inkjet prints will be displayed alongside each other in Changsha Normal University in Hunan province, China, during April 2017.

crow girl poster for changsha sheet 01_eecrow girl poster for changsha sheet 02_ee

crow boy poster for changsha 02_rejigged_eecrow boy poster for changsha 03 rejigged_ee

Pictures of the installation to follow!

HKK, a gourmet Chinese restaurant based in East London, contacted me late last year to see if I would make them eight huge prints for their Chinese New Year celebrations. As I love a challenge, I said yes.

feast-1-mini_ee

The storyline was about an Emperor who threw a birthday feast: here he is writing his invitations.

feast-2-mini_ee

The ingredients for the feast were gathered from far and wide: here they are aiming at the hawk in the sky, while people (and an enormous chicken) look for fish in the river.

feast-3-mini_ee

Chefs created new and beautiful dishes from the fruits of the land and sea.

feast-4-mini_ee

The banquet hall was decorated with splendid finery: I imagined these strange silver flagons shaped like rooster heads.

feast-5-mini_ee

The emperor arrived to the feast carried on a palanquin by four women (why not?) over a lavish staircase, inspired by the one that goes up to the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City.

feast-6-mini_ee

The Emperor was offered wine from a jade goblet (modelled with oak leaves taken from the design on a Dutch lamppost from Amsterdam) with gold dragons as handles.

feast-7-mini_ee

He joined his family and guests for a toast to health, happiness, abundance, peace and prosperity. The VIPs wore pearl necklaces and women had fresh flowers in their hair.

feast-8-mini_ee

After the meal, they were entertained by acrobats and ribbon dancers, harp players and singers, roosters and jugglers.

img_7391These prints were designed in four days and carved in japanese vinyl (gomuban) over 11 days: a record time for me. I made use of the Royal Academy Schools’ library where I found lots of books on Qing dynasty clothing and customs, and admired paintings of ancient landscapes, throne-rooms and interiors. I was buoyed along at this crazy pace by adrenaline and the looming Christmas deadline for approval of the images.

img_7618

Once approved, I scanned them and enlarged them to 133 x 76 cm each, and started phase two of the project: screenprinting them onto delicate shoji paper to hang in the restaurant interior. Luckily my studio, East London Printmakers, was quiet over the Christmas break, so I had enough space to work…!

img_7906

img_7893

img_7894

This stack of paper took over 100 hours to print… done in only 6 days.

2_img_5935_blog

Finally some of the work was picked out with gold leaf. It’s not that obvious on a backlit image, but the gold shimmers in the light.

img_8170

Here are some installation shots of the work in the restaurant HKK Shoreditch, London.


The work is up until 4 March (extended an extra three weeks!) 2017. Let me know if you go along!

http://hkklondon.com/ 88 Worship Street, Broadgate Quarter, London EC2A 2BE

http://www.eastlondonprintmakers.co.uk 42 Copperfield Road, London E3 4RR

I’ve finally got round to photographing the Orchis prints (which make up the images in the Orchis books) on their own. Each print is 20 cm high and 91 cm long; on a webpage they tend to look like a smallish black squiggle. So I’ve added in close-ups in a section below each main image, which allows you to see more of the detailed carving and printing.

Orchis One

orchis-one-1000-pixel-squre_e

 

Orchis Two

orchis-two-1000-pixel-square_e

 

Orchis Three

orchis-three-1000-pixel-square_e

 

Orchis Four

orchis-four-v2-1000-pixel-square_e

 

Orchis Five

orchis-five-1000-pixel-squre_e

 

Orchis Six

orchis-six-1000-pixel-square_e

 

Orchis Seven

orchis-seven-1000-pixel-square_e

 

Orchis Eight

orchis-eight-1000-pixel-square_e

 

Orchis Nine

orchis-nine-1000-pixel-square_e

The prints are linocuts carved on three panels of Japanese vinyl, printed with black sakura ink on lambeth cartridge paper with a French American tool press, which has exerted enough pressure to stretch the print by 1-2 cm longer than the original blocks. Some prints (Orchis 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9) have been wiped and re-inked to achieve the different depth of greys. Some prints (not photographed here) have had a small bit of red colour pencil drawn on top to add highlights.

Orchis Four as a flat print has been accepted to the Society of Wood Engravers’ annual touring show, and will start off by being displayed in Bath.

79th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers, 44AD Art Gallery, 4 Abbey St, Bath BA1 1NN  44AD Gallery 11 Oct – 5 Nov. Private View: Saturday 15 October 2016, 2.30 – 5.30pm.  http://www.woodengravers.co.uk/79th-at-44ad-gallery-bath/

When the prints are folded into a book format they become a very different object: the long panorama is collapsed into a set of shapes that bring separate parts of the image close to each other. For me, books are portable, secretive and tactile. The images are read individually, rather than remaining in constant comparison.

A complete set of Orchis books will be displayed in the University of the West of England in Bristol in February 2017.

A complete set of Orchis books has also entered the collection of the British Museum (Nov 2016)

The Orchis prints were awarded the Atelier Presse Papier Prize, Trois Rivières, Canada in June 2017.

 

dance_couple1_red_grey_img_1350_e

Around November 2014 I started to make this series of works about bodies

dance_double_green_img_1363_e

dancing

dance_two_pink_indigo_img_1379_e

intertwined

dance_purple_lovers_img_1343_e

tumbling, blurring, merging

img_0778_orchisfive_7a_e

colliding

img_0777_orchisfive_7b_e

diagonal lines signifying cuts in time

img_0776_orchisfive_7c_e

faces hidden in the forest.

My works are often stories told from the heart; I think the colour makes them more emotional. In the above prints I used colour blends and irregular shifts of the paper to make playful variations: each one is totally unique. They are screen prints 112 x 76 cm large, so each was the absolute limit of my arm span.

The studio is shut at the moment, so this is a strange time: thinking rather than making, reflecting rather than doing, planning over running. It’s probably good for me!!!