This week I have mainly been building a ship.
1620 ‘Caravel’ Merchant Vessel
Once again I am working on a large scale charcoal drawing (1.30 metre sq.) This time being a meditation on the influence upon my artistic life by maleness, Leonardo da Vinci, movement and touch. The ghosts of ancestral giants.
With a side dish of smaller drawings to complement the process.
Even bringing my work as a mask-maker into play:
All to be continued:
The early summer has been dominated by this project in Leicestershire, working with Andy Barret, The 1620 House, a Primary School and Dragon’s Breath Theatre. I can’t believe I had never heard of this extraordinary person, Sir Kenelm Digby. Our Ken was a proto scientist, diplomat, privateer, man of letters and inventor. Such an inspiration to all of us involved.
The House and Garden are a delight. Visitors are encouraged to truly interact with the place as most ‘things’ in the house are replica’s and therefore handleable. This was the home of the sister of Sir Kenelm. She who modernised the medieval building with new windows in 1620. The garden is laid out as of the time with a maze, herbarium and roses.
In the House we told the story of Sir Kenelm Digby and his world. I, as Dr Jon (Phenomenologist,) took on the role of a scientist looking back at 17th Century through the five senses, smell, taste, sound, sight and touch. Andy in role as an Historian, told the story of Sir Kenelm, of 17th Century world view and the rise of science out of superstition. Sir Kenelm was the son of one of the Bonfire Plot conspirators.
Back at the school the children spent three days with us to make manifest their own story of the visit to the 1620 House and of Sir Kenelm Digby, his wife Venetia, through puppetry, scientific experiments, writing (prose and poetry), image making and performance.
A fascinating journey for us all, with history and science made alive.
Over several month I have been working on a new ‘Arlecchino mask, breaking away from traditional representations in a search for a more mature, tricksterish and altogether joyous character. Initial drawings to find some sort of ‘Essence’.
Progression was made in the clay design with several changes of direction, which retained elements of tradition but with a greater emphasis on asymmetry and uplift.
Experimenting with a lighter paint scene in order better see the sculpture.
Following the British Museum Exhibition of Scythian Art and Artefacts which I saw in 2017, I have been meaning to apply some of that inspiration to my mask work. I was particularly drawn to the painted funerary masks from the Oglakhty burial site. These extraordinary objects are still attached to the skulls of the individuals for whom they were made. The originals are made of gypsum. The mask of the woman, which is somewhat better preserved, has remained in my consciousness as an inspiration. I recently made a cast of an existing mask of a woman and then realised that there were some similarities between my mask and the Oglakhty mask. I have therefor tried to replicate the painted design from the ancient Scythian mask onto my contemporary version. They are not the same, my mask has the eyes open and the forehead finishes at a hairline rather than lapping over the cranium. The overall proportions are not quite the same.
I have had to improvise and make up details which I cannot see in the source images, especially as some area’s have been damaged. Painting this has given me a greater respect for the Scythian creators and their skill in making the original. I have at present left the paining in this bold state, rather than distress the paint-job to beautify and make it more acceptable to modern audiences. My instinct is to do some subtle shading to enhance the modelling and I am not sure I like my eye lid painting so I think that I will repaint them in the white. I have enjoyed the asymmetry of the design and applying it over the nearly symmetrical face. There is a hypothesis that the painting replicates a tattoo .
Is this character an Amazon, an ancient feminine warrior ? Certainly my original mask was intended to represent the strong mature woman. This being my version of the Artemis archetype (The Huntress).
Making ready for the forthcoming exhibition at Surface Gallery and exploring different ways of hanging drawings and sculptures, with regards to the probability that they will get splashed. Lots of fun flinging dirty water about. Studio floor a delightful mess now.