Category Archives: Exhibitions, books, blogs & films

Paul Nash study visit 10 June 17

12 June 2017

Paul Nash study visit



The study visit was held at the Sainsbury’s Centre for the visual arts in Norwich and was hosted by tutor Hayley Lock. The exhibition was essentially the same one that appeared at the Tate, London earlier in the year.

Paul Nash (b. 1889, d. 1946) was a British painter whose work spanned the period of both World Wars. Initially trained as a designer/illustrator, he served in active service during WWI, becoming an official war artist during the latter parts of the conflict. Nash experienced the full horror of the trenches, and had to endure the death of close colleagues. As a result, later suffered mental illness (which we would now describe as post traumatic stress disorder). He also suffered physical illness; notably severe asthma.

During the inter-war period, Nash continued to paint and draw, being especially influenced by landscapes, found objects (the life of the inanimate object), the prehistoric, ancient architecture, natural history and the emerging surrealist movement. In addition to painting, Nash continued as a writer, author of natural history and artists’ books and photographer. He later painted powerful images depicting the destruction of WWI, most notably the airframe scrapyard in Cowley, which he depicted as a sea of tangled metal in “Totes Meer” (1940-1) (Tate, n.d.a)  In his latter years, Nash reverted to landscape paintings returning to favourite scenes and the recurring themes of mysticism and spirituality. 


Focus on specific works and areas of interest:

Paul Nash was a prolific artist and it is possible to see development in style and influences over the course of his career.

The first of these is the crossover between his background in illustration: Nash’s work shows a characteristic interest in the use of straight lines and angles in the form of triangles and zig-zags. Theses feature are present is almost all of Nash’s works. 

Nash was interested in the spiritual (perhaps with a Pagan slant?), and his work is full of symbolism. The sun, moon, moonlight regularly feature in his paintings, as does the idea of the viewer “floating above” the subject matter of the painting; suggesting an otherworldly detachment from the scene. Also present is the suggestion of an “underworld”, the idea of there being a hidden world underneath the soil or water. The fruiting bodies of fungi feature frequently in Nash’s work. However the bulk of a fungus is in fact the mycelium; a strange branching, thread-like fibrous material permeating the ground or substrate from which the fruiting body appears.

Throughout his career Nash used a very distinctive colour palette; yellow ochre, pale blue, black and grey, soft brownish pink, olive and viridian greens. He also used a distinctive oxide red, as in the dock leaves in his famous WWI oil painting “The Menin Road” (1919), (Imperial War Museums, 2017) and the red tress and brick wall of “Behind the Inn” (1919-22) (Tate, n.d.b)

Throughout his career, Nash frequently bent the rules of perspective, deliberately using it to make his paintings more intriguing, for example “Nostalgic landscape” (1923-38) (Artuk, n.d.), “Pillar and moon” (1932-42) (Tate, n.d.c)

For the 1930’s, Nash became increasingly interested in Surrealism and became a pioneer of the Surrealist movement, promoting it through the International Surrealist exhibition of 1936 (Parker, 2017)

A recurring theme of Nash’s work is the English landscape. We saw in his early works that he had painted landscapes close to his home in Iver Heath, and the “Wittenham Clumps” (1913) (, n.d.) (twin beach woods on the site of an Iron Aged fort he had visited in Oxfordshire). After WWI he moved to Dymchurch is Kent and many of his paintings of the period (1921-25) reflect this seaside landscape, such as “Wall against the sea” (1922) and “The Shore” (1923) (Holford, n.d.). Many of these themes reoccur in this later work.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the exhibition from a student’s point of view was room 4 ‘Life of an inanimate object’ – essentially a study on how to develop a concept. This part of the exhibition gave insight into how Nash took an idea (e.g. a piece of wooden driftwood or found object) and worked it up into sketches, collages, photographs, exploring and focusing on particular elements, thinking about groupings, contrasts, or perhaps how the objects would look if placed out of context.


What can I learn from the exhibition and how will it translate to my practice?

  1. The exhibition demonstrated a process of how to use everyday objects to identify and develop ideas for visual art.
  2. It made me look at still life in a different way (i.e. that it doesn’t need to involve obvious/conventional grouping – for example his surrealist work).
  3. Elements of Nash’s practice which I could translate to my own work include mark-making and the use of line (in particular fine straight lines for texture), his colour palette, the intentional distortion of perspective.



Atuk (n.d.) Nostalgic landscape (1923-38) At: (Accessed 5 July 2017)

Benson, E. (n.d.) Inspiring landscapes 3: “Wall against the sea”. [Pinterest pin, n.d.] At: (Accessed 5 July 2017)

Chambers, E. (Ed) (2016-17) Paul Nash. London. Tate publishing. 

Holford, J. (n.d.) “The Shore” (1923) [Pinterest pin, n.d.] At: (Accessed 5 July 2017)

Imperial War Museums (2017) The Menin Road (1919) At: (Accessed 5 July 2017) (n.d.) Paul Nash and the Wittenden Clumps: Wittenden clumps (2013) At: (Accessed 5 July 2017)

Parker, P. (2017) ‘Paul Nash’s commitment to the English landscape’ In: Apollo magazine. 13 January 2017. [online] At: (Accessed 5 July 2017)

Tate (n.d.a) Totes Meer (Dead Sea) (1940-41) At: (Accessed 5 July 2017)

Tate (n.d.b) Behind the wall (1919-22) At: (Accessed 5 July 2017)

Tate (n.d.c) Pillar and Moon (1932-42) At: (Accessed 5 July 2017)


The big painting challenge

20 March 2017


Usually, I steer well clear of reality TVs shows, but this years’ big painting challenge has provided some useful tips. Mentors Pascal Anson and Diana Ali (also an OCA tutor) have made some excellent suggestions which I will be able to apply to my practice.

When approaching the project to paint elephants, mentor Pascal Anson suggested that one way of expressing the massiveness of the animal would be to frame the image such that it is not fully contained within the canvass. This worked very well, giving the painting presence. I was also interested during the warm-up exercises to see that Pascal asked the contestants to express the animal with a single painted line worked with a thick paintbrush. He also asked them to spend 90% of their time looking at the subject and only 10% of the time drawing it. This reminded me of some figure drawing classes which I attended where we were asked to do ‘blind drawings’. This helps to focus on the object and draw what you see, rather than making assumptions (which are often wrong).

Last week’s programme involved drawing moving ballet dancers and I was interested to see the mentor’s ideas on how to suggest movement in a static painting. These included multiple images of the same subject in different poses and using sweeping marks (such as scraping paint with the edge of a credit card).

Links suggested by my tutor in Part 2 feedback

25 February 2017


In her review of Assignment 2, my tutor made suggestions of artists and designers whose work was relevant to my interest in configurable artworks, constructed textiles and 3D structures.

I started by looking at the mobiles of Alexander Calder (Tate, n.d.) I could see the relationship with some of my samples joined with brass fasteners in particular Project 1, exercise 5, sample 10 (see below).


It’s not that the piece closely resembles Calder’s mobiles in shape, or colour, rather that it shares a feeling of precarious poise and balance. There is a feeling that the piece might be transient, and that it could be disturbed by the breeze.

Other links were also concerned with configurable surfaces (Strozyk, 2013-16), (Smith, 2014a). Of these, I was particularly taken with a video of Martin Smith’s Rainbow (Smith, 2014b). The piece consists of a series of seven stainless steel frames, each of which is motorised and orientates at varying angles. Each of the panels contains many small coloured aluminium squares which flutter in response to air currents and create natural rhythms of movement across their surface. Although bold rainbow-colours, the piece also seems to emulate leaves on a tree through it’s movement. Because the aluminium pieces are shiny, there is reflection too, depending at what angle the light catches them. It reminds me of the play of light over the surface of water. This is a gentle piece which has a lot in common with the natural world.

The examples of constructed textiles and 3D structure chosen for me to look at included dynamic woven/gathered textiles (Pleun, n.d.), 3D lattices (Gwillim, n.d.a.), raised surfaces (Gwillim, n.d.b.) and the varied deconstruction, disrupt, reverse, reinvent ethos of the Envisions group (Schuurman, n.d.).

Gwillim’s 3D lattices (“systems” series) very much reminded me of Project 1, exercise 3, sample 3 (below).


His work made me consider that I could develop my samples in a similar way, by stacking them together to make a 3D shape. I also liked the way that the final piece of his “flow” series incorporated cut-outs, or “windows”, so that the raised surfaces was only revealed selected areas (Gwillim, n.d.b.) 

The endearing feature which appeals to me about all of these pieces is geometry. Suggesting process and conformity, it provide structure and pattern, however, I also feel that there is scope for it to be explored as a contrast to less will controlled elements, such as a loosely scribbled pattern. I will be considering these ideas as I go forward in this course and my textile practice.



Gwillim, S. (n.d.a) Flow. At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Gwillim, S. (n.d.b.) Systems. At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Pleun, R. (n.d.) Structured textiles. At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Smith, M. (2014a) Rainbow (2014) At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Smith, M. (2014b) Rainbow. [user generated content] Creat. Martin Smith. At: 7 March 2017)

Schuurman, S. (n.d.) Envisions group. At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Strozyk, E. (2013-16) Wooden carpet (2010) At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Tate (n.d.) Art and artists: Alexander Calder, mobile c 1932. At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)


Book review – “Making and Drawing” by Kyra Cane

25 February 2017


I purchased “Making and drawing” by Kyra Cane (Cane, 2012) after it was discussed by Rebecca’s Fairley in an OCA blog post (Fairley, 2016). Before starting with the OCA, I didn’t understand the relationship between drawing and textile practice, and learning how it can be applied to my textile practice has been a gradual process of discovery.

I own several texts on the subject of drawing and mark-making in textile practice (Hedley, 2010), (Greenlees, 2005), (Parrott, 2013). However, the scope of Cane’s book is wider; it covers not just textile artists, but also ceramicists, jewellery-makers, costume designers and other forms of visual creative arts. The context of drawing and mark-making is discussed as a reference, in terms of planning and design, for describing a surface, as a form of making, as a tool for thinking and as it is used in conjunction with technology. This makes it perhaps more illuminating than Texts solely concerned with textiles.

I was particularly interested in how artist Celia Smith uses loose sketches of birds as reference for her metal and wire sculptures (Cane, 2012: 18-21). Her drawing style translates seamlessly into the medium of wire, and it is clear to see how her sketches inform her practice (Jobson, 2014). In contrast, the emphasis of Dali Behennah’s drawing is on planning and design (Cane, 2010: 51-53). As a geographer, her creations made in willow and metal, are inspired by physical features of the eath’s surface (Behennah, n.d.). Her sketches explore, proportion, pattern and tone. Mixed media artist, Hilary Bower, is listed in Cane’s book in the chapter 5: drawing as thinking (Cane, 2012: 158-160). Her drawing/sketching as mixed media work exist in parallel as dependant activities. She uses drawing to explore sensibilities, resolution and balance (Cane, 2012: 159). In her blog, Bower describes how she uses sketching as an everyday tool for clarification of thoughts and thinking (Bower, n.d.)

“Making and drawing” is a wonderful reference book, and is a resource which I will be able to consult whenever I need reminding just how personal sketchbooks can be, and how they can be used if so many different ways.



Behennah, D. (n.d.) Dail Behennah. At: (Accessed 5 Marchs 2017)

Bower, H. (n.d.) Hilary Bower: Concepts. At: (Accessed 5 March 2017)

Cane, K. (2012) Making and drawing. London. Bloomsbury.

Fairley, R. (2016) Book review: Making and drawing. At: (Accessed 5 March 2017)

Greenlees, K. (2005) Creating sketchbooks for embroiders and textile artists. London. Batsford.

Hedley, G. (2010) Drawn to stitch: Line, drawing and mark-making in textile art. London. Batsford.

Jobson, C. (2014) ‘Bird sculptures constructed from wire by Celia Smith look like detailed sketches’. In: This is colossal: Art. 2 June 2014 [online] At: (Accessed 5 Marchs 2017)

Parrott, H. (2013) Mark-making in textile art. London. Batsford

Book review – “In praise of shadows”

20 January 2017


This book was recommended by my tutor at the end of assignment 1, due to my interest in the Japanese aesthetic. Unusually, it is an essay. Written by Japanese novelist Tanizaki (b.1886, d.1965) in 1933, it describes in vivid visual imagery, the beauty of traditional Japanese architecture, homeware and clothing. 

In contrary to Western ideas of functionality and newness, Tanizaki celebrates the beauty of the ‘worn’ look; of dull pewter, of the soft worn surface of traditional Japanese lacquerware, and of wooden surfaces. He describes how, in the modern aesthetic of bright illumination and reflective, sterile surfaces, these items might appear dull and lack-lustre. However, in a traditional Japanese room, lit by lamp-light they take on a glow and softness which can only then be appreciated. Indeed, a traditional Japanese room has areas dedicated by design to darkness, and it is this contrast, the author argues, which is so very important; for without darkness, there are no shadows, no mystery, no beauty.

In relation to my practice, this book has helped me appreciate some of the sensibilities which underly the Japanese aesthetic and which influence Japanese culture. It has prompted me to think about corroded surfaces differently; to consider dullness as a legacy of use, and as a reflection of elapsed time rather than a patina which must be removed. An appearance of newness need not be desirable – it tells us nothing about the history or age of an object, nor the beauty of it’s transient decay. These are themes which could easily be explored and developed for a textile project.


Tanizaki, J. (2001) In praise of shadows. Translated by Harper, T. and Seidensticker, E. (1977) London. Vintage. 

“Penelope” by Tatiana Blass

28 October 2016

I came across an online magazine article about the work “Penelope” by Brazilian Tatiana Blass (Sierzputowski, 2016). It reminded me somewhat of sample 14, Project 5, exercise 1 (see below), albeit on a much larger scale!


“Penelope” is a site specific installation named after Odysseus’ wife in “Homer’s Odyssey”, a character who kept herself away from suitors whilst her husband was at war by weaving a burial shroud in the day and secretly taking pieces apart at night.

Inside the chapel is a 45m red carpet attached to a loom. The carpet is part woven and part threads, leaving the viewer to wonder whether it is in the process of being constructed or destructed. The threads extend outside via existing holes in the chapel walls. Outside, the threads fall to the floor and make a tangled mass of red almost covering the ground. There are threads looped from the trees too. 

The article includes a ‘before’ and ‘after’ 6 months photograph of the threads outside the chapel. I am not sure which photograph is which, and the article does not make this clear. It could be either that leaves are falling and have are covering progressively more threads over time. Alternatively, it could be that more threads have been unravelled from the loom and are forming an ever more dense covering over the ground. Perhaps this is all part of the mystery of the piece!

One of the work’s strong attractions for me is the colour. I find the red hue very striking, particularly against the green foliage and contrasting texture of the rough stone walls. Without knowing the story, it feels somehow like a metaphor for bleeding (or loss); because there is an impression that the colour is being extruded from the walls. 

“Penelope” is a great example of the power of a site specific work; the site being an integral component of the artwork. A piece on this scale is difficult to conceive in my practice (having to post my work to my tutor). It made me think about the work of Christo and Jean Claude and how they started wrapping on a small scale, wrapping tin cans and everyday objects, before moving to oil drum sculptures of several meters high, and finally very ambitious projects of wrapped buildings and coastline.



Sierzputowski, K. (2016) ‘A mass of tangled red yarn unravels from a loom to overtake a Brazilian chapel’ In: Colossal:Art 20.10.16 [online] At: (Accessed 28 October 2016)


The contemporary use of embroidery techniques

22 October 2016

Having just completed an exercise in mixed media stitching, I was especially interested to read Rebecca Fairley’s bog post on the contemporary use of traditional embroidery techniques (Fairley, 2016). Project 5, exercise 2 “stitching”, was my favourite exercise in the assignment, and a technical area which I would like to develop and explore further/make my own. My ideas at this time are to combine stitching with puncturing/drilling and/or printing. From a materials-led perspective, I am interested in exploration games the use of solid media such as wooden planks or stones and over-sized holes, and the contrast with delicate or finely textured threads. 

Rebecca’s blog post provides a wonderful resource of web-link and books from which I can explore the work of innovative contemporary embroiderers in my own time. Of the 5 artists which she briefly discussed, the work of Lithuanian Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene had the most appeal because of her use combination of embroidery of traditional cross stitch motifs onto metal objects (including car doors and household items). I found an interesting link to an interview on the artist’s website (Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene, 2016) which explained in greater detail the motivation behind her work and how it has evolved and developed. After many successful exhibitions, Severija became tired with stitching onto metal, and began to feel that there was too much focus on aesthetics rather than the meaning of the objects. In response, she held an “unravelling exhibition” in which she filmed herself deconstruction one of her stitched pieces. Recently she has developed new lines of enquiry, such as her “carpet series” in which she constructs rugs from recycled sweaters.



Fairley, R. (2016) Traditional textile techniques used in contemporary ways. At: (Accessed 22 October 2016)

Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene, S. (2016) Severija: News. At: (Accessed 27 October 2016)