Most years for Valentine’s I hide away in the studio and make pictures, but this year was different. I was invited to give a talk at Wrexham’s Regional Print Centre at Coleg Cambria, as part of their Print Symposium, and seeing as it was Valentine’s Day I thought I would theme the talk around Love.

IMG_3172

It is a theme that I have been preoccupied by for many years: prints can be, after all, a token of affection, especially when each is handmade with love. I have explored making prints about love and connection with animals (Spirit and Guardian); sensual love (the Orchis Series); things I love and that make me laugh (Little Linocut Series); and fantastical love stories (Lansu Garden Series, China Love Series), with birds (Swallow Span) and beasts (Devour) that jump straight out from my imagination.

Talking about caesareans

Talking about caesareans. Photograph by Wiktoria Przekora

My current series of works (the little linocuts) has been all about a kind of loving conversation with my dad (without that sounding too weird, I just want to cheer him up with something more concrete that lasts longer than the short time we have together)…

Talking about the Olympic pool

The Olympic Pool and its ridiculous hairdryer situation… Photograph by Wiktoria Przekora

_MG_1417

Clockwise from left, Vasile, me, Tony, Mum and Dad

WG talking about her linocut process

Showing my linocut process: I draw directly on the block. Photograph by Wiktoria Przekora

Anyway there are 35 of these prints now, and I showed my working process (I draw directly on the block) as well as bringing all the BAT (bon a tirer) proofs to Wrexham to show the delegates at the conference after my talk,. These BAT proofs are covered with notes and colour swatches and printing instructions.

IMG_3209

IMG_E3134

I made a special Valentine’s print for sale at the conference, as well as a New Year Card for the Year of the Dog, and enjoyed meeting the other presenters and chatting with the delegates.

IMG_3137

Despite all the excitement of being with a group of printmakers (surely the friendliest bunch, ever), I had to leave early…

IMG_3256

I had an evening reception to attend at Buckingham Palace! I’m not sure how the invitation came my way, or who nominated me, but I was really happy to be invited as an artist, not as a vet.

IMG_3214

After the invitation came, I started to feel completely unworthy of a royal visit. In my life there are many chaotic elements, strivings, failures and disappointments: all my possessions crammed into one room

Rainbow Room

living in a wild and ugly part of town,

Whitechapel Wind yellow_crop_e

a patchwork of jobs and commitments,

the_Scream_e

long neglected friendships, a fridge that needs cleaning, a bike that needs new parts, a diary with scrambled deadlines, a pile of prints that threatens to collapse on top of me. I didn’t feel glamorous enough, or successful enough to be asked along.

Spotlight_crop_e

After some excruciating trips to fancy shops that I would normally never go to (what’s the point of an outfit where you can’t move your arms?) my dear sister Feng Ho, an ethical fashion designer, stepped in and offered one of her bespoke jackets for the occasion, and ethical handbag designer Embellished Truth lent me the statement bag.

Wuon-Gean Ho wearing jacket by Feng Ho and carrying Embellished Truth handbag

Image by British Ceremonial Arts, copyright The Crown.

You aren’t allowed to take photos or record anything when you are in the Palace, so I wrote the description below for my instagram page the following day, when everything was sparkling and fresh in my mind…

***

The Palace is a bit like stepping inside a lavish cake. A red carpet takes you up three flights to a domed lobby, a perfectly white and gold studded ceiling. Prince Albert, looking young, in marble, stands in an alcove, and I’m sure there’s another statue of Albert facing himself, in a weird parallel world. A marble girl plays with a dog, her hand buried in its fur. Heavy sparkling chandeliers glitter. The ceiling is far away, the carpet so so soft.

Every surface is embellished with gilded twisted vines, intricate repeated oak leaves and acorns, goat hooves, naked women clutching their breasts, lions feet on every chair and lions heads on the armrests. There are crests and shields, fleur de lys and red pentagonal roses, Corinthian columns and swirling mirror surrounds. Ming vases, rosewood inlays, opal cabuchons, a pair of pink thrones, embroidered ER on the left, and P on the right.
In the picture gallery, Rembrandt, Vermeer(the light! The shades of blue!), Frans Hals, van Eyck, Rubens, there, on the wall. I spent a while gazing entranced at the Rembrandt portrait of Agatha Bas. Her creamy skin glows in the light, and her hand posed casually on the picture frame makes you think she is just there, beyond the archway.

Carved wooden vines sprout from doorways and birds nestle on swagged foliage on the walls. A pair of mirrors reflect you into a blue limpid infinity. Marble girls posed casually, resting an elbow on either side of the fireplace, hold yet more abundant grape vines. I tried the sofa out for comfort, it was padded with fraying satin, the silky fabric split by regal weight.

The Queen is so pretty she has a soft sparkling air and smiles at everyone, calmly greeting everyone individually. They read out your name from the pink card so she knows who you are. She gave me her gloved hand and I didn’t kiss it but shook it awkwardly with a half curtsey but didn’t fall over, hurrah (oops clumsy me)…

***

Sheika bag by Embellished Truth

When things have settled down, perhaps some of these things will emerge in new work, who knows. In the meantime, I’ve cleaned the fridge, repaired the doors, done some laundry, and started to tidy up some of the piles of paper… just in case she ever wants to visit me in return…!

Advertisements
Shedreamsofflowers_mini

She Dreams of Flowers

I’m very happy to be one of the 30 shortlisted artists for this printmaking prize in Belgium 2018 http://award.renecarcan.be/

RA Schools Lick the Moon_ee

RA Schools, Lick the Moon

The works I submitted are selected from the diary prints: little linos that I’ve been making, more or less every 10-14 days, ever since I started the fellowship at the Royal Academy Schools in October 2016.

IMG_9833

Green block for This Granny Can

I set myself some rules: all the prints would be made from blocks which measure 15 x 20 cm, and that there would only be two of them.

this granny can_cropped_e

This Granny Can

If I wanted more colours, I could make blends of ink and print them on top of each other.

Rainbow Room

Rainbow Room

In many of the prints, I used selective inking and wiping to achieve the effects that I wanted. So on the print above, the face and arms have only one coat of ink, whereas the rest of the block has been inked up four times.

IMG_1238

My ink!

Deciding which colours would work best has been a huge learning curve for me.

CTP Made of Earth, We Are

Colour Trial Proofs for Made of Earth, We Are

Sometimes the colour trial proofing has resulted in more questions than answers!

CTP Eight to One

Colour trial proofs for Eight to One

Actually, I would have loved to submit all the prints, in one big panel, because this project has recorded what’s on my mind, as well as being a kind of postcard home: I made these to make my dad smile.

Aberystwyth Printmakers

Work displayed in Aberystwyth Printmakers

Sometimes they were a record of the absurdity of swimming pools

Lino Block for She Doesn't Care

Block for She Doesn’t Care

Sometimes I was poking fun at our obsession with phones and selfies, even when in the presence of amazing things, like the terracotta army

Xian_selfie_e

Xian Selfie

However, although I’ve plastered the walls of the care home where is is staying, he doesn’t show me that they interest him in any way at all. They have more effect on my mum, who snorts with laughter whenever she sees the mirror print, and tells me to keep on going…

mirror mirror_cropped_e

Mirror Mirror

The show opens 15 Feb and runs til 15 May in the Bibliotheca Wittockiana– 23 rue de Bemel -B 1150 Brussels http://www.wittockiana.org Apparently this is a museum devoted to book arts and bookbinding. I’m looking forward to going along.

Work laid out for framing at ELP

If you would like to see all the prints in the show, you can visit the online site http://award.renecarcan.be/current_edition where you can also vote for your favourite work…

In December, I was invited by Sabine Delahaut and Ozan Bilginer to take part in a show called Print/ Pressure, located in Ankara, the capital of Turkey.

IMG_7194_ankaracastle_wg_e

Photo by Sabine Delahaut

The premise of the show was that in Turkish language, the word for Print (Baski) is used to express concepts of coercion, oppression, discipline and restraint, as well as being the word for printing/ impression and pressure.

_MG_0732_ankara_mosque_e

Seeing as many cultures hide intimate depictions of the body, I thought it would be apt to show the Orchis book series.

_MG_0144_orchisbooknine_e

As I’ve written before in this blog, the word Orchis is the ancient Greek word for testicle, after which Orchid flowers were named, owing to the shape of their bulbs. In Old English too, the same parallel was made, and Orchid bulbs were called dogstones.

_MG_0153_orchisbooknine_e

The luxuriant feminine aspect of the Orchid flower, and the masculine shape of their roots makes the Orchid plant a metaphor for sexuality. The book format allows for a private viewing of what may be considered a socially taboo subject. The books are intended to be portable and discrete.

_MG_0159_orchisonebook_e

However, this time round, the gallery chose to display eight of the nine books on shelves above and below each other, emphasising their sculptural qualities. The ninth book, Orchis Nine, is in the catalogue.

_MG_0921_orchisbooksankara_e

In my statement for the catalogue, I compare the book to a body. Turning the pages stretches limbs and crushes and expands the timeline.

_MG_0882_orchisbooksankara_e

The landscapes that result flow and merge from bodies into plants and flowers, jungle and folded fabric, between figures that are solid and those that seem to shimmer and disappear.

_MG_0872_orchisbooksankara_e

I like to think that if the body is enclosed in the book, equating paper with skin, then skin smells of black ink.

IMG_1818

Other artists in the show were Atilla Atar, Beyza Boynudelik, Charlotte Massip, Engin Esen, Hasan Kiran, Heather Huston, Jean – Michel Uyttersprot, Ozan Bilginer, Sabine Delahaut and Oleg Denysenko.

_MG_0863

Atilla Atar

The gallery, Arte Sanat, made a really lovely publication with images from everyone, as well as a statement, the link is here

IMG_1802

Heather Huston

_MG_0877

Sabine Delahaut

The show runs until 20 Jan 2017 so there’s still time to view it.

IMG_1789

IMG_1788

I was particularly intrigued the work by Ozan Bilginer which used thermochromic ink and heaters inserted behind the installation of prints: as the heaters raised the temperature of the print surface the black ink became transparent and the screenprinted scene below was revealed. This was interesting to observe, as well as to watch viewers captivated by images that were permanently in flux.

IMG_1813

Ozan Bilginer 

After the opening, we all went out to eat a hearty meal and drink Raki.

IMG_7257

Photo by Sabine Delahaut

The showing of the Orchis Library in Turkey had an additional coincidence, in that the Orchid root is commonly made into a winter drink called Salep (also popular in 18C Britain as an aphrodisiac) tying in with the notion of the Orchid plant being related to the body and its sensual functions.

IMG_2081

On my last afternoon there, the hotel ordered Salep for me to try. It was a creamy sweet comforting hot drink, but it didn’t have its required effect…

I didn’t fall in love with anyone on the way home…

 

 

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

 

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

 

In June, I was awarded the Atelier Presse Papier Prize at the Biennial Internationale d’Estampe Contemporaine de Trois-Rivières (BIECTR 2017) for my Orchis print series. The prize was a solo show in their gallery, and a residency in the print studio for two weeks, so I packed my bags and flew out to Canada.

IMG_6191

Trois-Rivières is a small town which has been hosting this amazing print biennial for the past 20 years. As the town is so small, the print biennial takes over the museums, library, galleries, old train station and cafés, with a suggested walking tour of the whole show that takes up a good afternoon.

TR18

Catherine Gillet (Honorable Mention), Sabine Delahaut (Grand Prize winner) and yours truly.

There was a grand opening and some satellite events in Montreal and the University of Quebec, so my residency started off very social, with lots of old and new friends in town. These included Annie Bissett, Kikie Crêvecoeur, Heather Huston and many more local artists such as Guy Langevin, Jo-Ann Lanneville, Frédérique Guichard and Valérie Guimond.

TR23

I enjoyed getting to know the other artists better, particularly as one afternoon we went from gallery to gallery talking to each other about our work, both in terms of technique and ideas. Sabine Delahaut was the grand prize winner and I loved her print narrative and approach. Other artists who gave talks included Heather Huston, Valentin Capony, Catherine Gillet and Valerie Geard.

IMG_6385

When putting the works together for the show, I decided to gather them under the broad term Seventh Sense. I was thinking about how we know what it is like to touch and taste, see and hear. But what of the other senses in our repertoire, the ones that speak of how we place our body in space, or ones that determine how we hope, those that convey indescribable emotions? For me, these senses fall into the realm of the seventh sense and beyond.

IMG_6217

Packing a show for a mysterious space is hard, but in the end the work fit the gallery surprisingly well.

TR20

On the two long  walls there were big screenprints made as a triptych and a diptych from the Dance series and Orchis series.

TR19

In the alcove I put two photos about leaning and flight that were taken in China, exploring the boundary of real and unreal. In the window there were three artist books from the Orchis Book series.

TR10

IMG_6276

Finally, I showed my animation Shadow Boy and Shadow Girl, alongside an inkjet print of some of the frames of the animation that were scanned and printed life size.

TR11

The works in the show used different techniques, but explored similar themes of dance, and transformation.

IMG_6198

During the residency, I found myself going for a walk and a swim every day, as Trois-Rivières has a very amazing outdoor unheated pool that dates from the 30s.

TR22

Piscine et pataugeoire du parc de l’Exposition

The sky was continually cloudy, with flashes of sunshine and a lot of rain. I’m planning work for a new book about that experience, now that I am back home.

TR21

I completed some prints from the Diary series which I had started in China, and looked at the clouds every day.

TR8

TR7

The Print studio and gallery, Atelier Presse Papier, are located in an old wooden building that leans like a ship, rolling downhill towards the St Laurent River. It’s run by a cooperative of artist printmakers who are both colleagues and friends. On one of the last days of my residency they held a lunch for me, complete with home-cooked Quebecois beans with maple syrup and some nice red wine.

TR3

Seventh Sense is on until 30 July 2017 at Atelier Presse Papier, 73, rue Saint-Antoine, Trois-Rivières, QC, G9A 2J2. Tel 819-373-1980. Email presse.papier.atelier@cgocable.ca

https://www.pressepapier.net/expo-wuongean-ho

TR6

My work for BIECTR is in Musee Pierre Boucher in Trois-Rivières until 10 September

IMG_6399Also, one print is showing at Atelier-Galerie A. Piroir in Montreal until 5th August.

BIECTR runs until 10 September 2017. It’s full of amazing work. For more information, or to buy the catalogue, please see http://www.biectr.ca/ or contact info@biectr.ca

 

 

 

Sometimes it’s interesting to take photos of the physical world that we cannot see.

changsha lean 2

My scarf is my collaborator: together we try to defy gravity.

changsha lean 1

The red earth, scorched yet still wet, is a piece of land in Changsha Normal University, cleared for a playing field. I spent one month there in April teaching Japanese woodblock  printmaking and giving talks in various venues.

changsha jump 1

I like the small shadows from the overhead sun after days of torrential rain and misty gloom. Photos freeze time.

Meanwhile in the UK, just the act of leaning in the forest is like that thought experiment: If a tree falls in the forest and no-one hears it, did it make a sound?

grizedale lean

If I lean on the air, and no one sees it, did it happen?

Ahhhh, but of course! I am seen! Here is the proof online!