Autumn Reflections on Summer High Jinks: Part Three – the incredible work of Scottish artist Victoria Crowe

In my last two posts, I wrote about our various comings and goings through the summer. A particular highlight for me was seeing the work of Scottish artist Victoria Crowe in two stunning exhibitions.

My Victoria Crowe library!

 

“I am not at all interested in making a generalised statement about landscape, or light, or people or anything – I’m interested in making a very particular and very informed statement about those things.” ~ Victoria Crowe

 

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition ‘Beyond Likeness’ is an incredible collection of ‘Crowe’s sympathetically curious, vigorous, painterly portraits’. I could hardly catch my breath as I wandered round, taking in painting after painting where the power of the sitter blended seamlessly with amazing colour palettes and textures.

 

Photo of ‘Studio Venice: Mirrored View’ by Victoria Crowe

 

Further treasures were on offer at The Scottish Gallery, where the exhibition ‘A Certain Light’ showcased Crowe’s landscapes. Again, her combined approach to place, light and palette was absolutely mesmerising.

 

“What I really want somebody to take away from a portrait is the experience of almost having touched that person. I want to see beyond the immediate physical impact.” ~ Victoria Crowe

 

I think perhaps my response to her work was heightened by my own exploration of texture, colour and movement as part of my 100 day art project (only seven days to go as I type, by the way!). Over the course of this challenge, I have come to understand how much interest there can be for the artist in creating a piece of art  which tells some kind of story beyond the canvas, rather than trying to produce an accurate, photo-realistic representation of something. One example is this image below, which I produced only a few days before seeing the exhibitions.

 

64/100 Foggy London Town, Liz Humphreys

 

Victoria Crowe has mastered the visual art of story telling in ways to which I can only aspire. But I know her work will help me in the development of my own.

 

Photo of ‘November Window Reflecting (Self-Portrait)’ by Victoria Crowe

 

I found this short film (below), in which Crowe speaks about her approach to painting, absolutely fascinating.  I feel changed for the better as a result of even this briefest of encounters with her wisdom, creativity and outlook. What an amazing inspiration she is.

 

“Somebody once said to me, you know, ‘why do you do portraits? You must enjoy it.’  And I thought, no, it’s not about enjoying it and it’s not about ‘doing portraits’. It’s about meeting another human being in a very intense way.
And I find that’s an incredible privilege.”
~ Victoria Crowe

 

 

Autumn Reflections on Summer High Jinks: Part Two

In my last post, I wrote about the fun and frolics of this year’s summer, with a promise of further reflections about my souvenir stack of books.

Yum!

As I mentioned previously, I try not to bring physical books into our apartment these days. We have just about enough space for the books currently in our library, and not too much more. I mostly try to read e-books for convenience these days. But it is hard to resist such delicious treats sometimes.

All of the books in the stack are for reading. Some are also for looking at. They all, just by chance, have marvellously tactile qualities, enhancing the physical experience of reading all the more.

I bought Felix CulpaDrawing Water and Dull Margaret after attending author events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Jeremy Gavron’s novel is about the search for a troubled boy recently released from prison. The text has been woven like a rich tapestry with lines from 100 other books. As a result, it reads like a beautiful prose poem, full of wonder and depth. Gavron gave a fascinating and very personal talk about how he came to publish such a work, including several readings. I urged him to create an audio version when he signed my copy – fingers crossed.

Tania Kovats hosted a thought-provoking event in which she talked to Maria Popova (of BrainPickings fame) about the pioneering environmentalist, Rachel Carson and her seminal work The Sea Around Us. The discussion ranged widely, touching on issues such as climate change, women being taken seriously (or not), and the power of art and poetry to illuminate complex issues. In Drawing Water, Kovats has curated a wonderful collection of art and writings from all kinds of people who are searching for something via the medium of water: map-makers, whalers, engineers etc. It is the most gorgeous collection and one which I will be dipping in to forever.

Before attending the event with actor Jim Broadbent and illustrator Dix, I was not sure about their book Dull Margaret, with its rather brutal graphic depiction of the title character’s bleak existence. Having heard them talk about generously about the development process, with Jim Broadbent at his lyrical best, expanding eloquently about his love for the beleaguered Margaret, I just had to buy a copy. I am only slowly becoming more acquainted with graphic novels and it is a fascinating journey.

 

Further visual feasts were in store, with Roger Billcliffe’s talk about ‘The Art of the Four’, namely Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his wife Margaret MacDonald, her sister Frances MacDonald and James Herbert McNair. His recent book about the work of these four friends and their relationship with the rest of the art world is a sumptuous read as well as being utterly absorbing visually. I love Margaret’s work in particular and it was such a pleasure to hear more about these important artists.

And more visual stimulation arrived via Fiona Watson and Piers Dixon, who spoke entertainingly about their work on the relationship between Scottish history and the landscape around us. I am fascinated by the geology of Scotland, as well as being totally in love with this gorgeous part of the world. I am looking forward to spending many hours pouring over the amazing pictures and brilliant insights in their book.

 

Kate Davies’ book Handywoman is a must-read for anyone interested in the life- and health-enhancing features of creativity. It is no secret that I am passionate about the importance of creativity in our lives, whatever form it may take. I therefore also love the ethos behind the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Playbook, which celebrate the ordinary and everyday through stranded knitting. I know both these books will provide much inspiration.

 

I picked up these two books in the Book Festival shop while kidding myself that I was just having a browse and did not intend to buy anything.  Matthew Herbert’s novel takes place over the course of just an hour. I think its reading experience may be similar to Jeremy Gavron’s novel in that it is a non-traditional, poetic treatment of words as experiences and emotions. Ziyad Marar’s book takes a look at that endlessly fascinating topic of how we judge, and are judged. Once I had picked it up, I could not put it down again because the cover feels so gorgeous. But more seriously, it chimes directly with the themes I am currently exploring with my sister on our Bald as Brass Blog.

 

As for these Victoria Crowe books, well that deserves a whole post to itself – the third and final part of this mini-series, coming soon….

 

In the meantime, let me close this post with the book on the top of my pile – Dear Heart, by Jenny Davis. This is one of those books which feels like a sacred and rare jewel in the hand. It was recommended by my dear friend Gallivanta, who wrote:

‘In 1988 Jenny Davis stumbled upon dozens of letters her aunt, Wynne, had written to her young soldier husband Mickey during World War II. Many of the letters remained unopened, still bearing the mark of their tragedy, a war office stamp, “No Trace”. This book is the story of an exceptional love as told by those letters written over a four year period from 1941 – first daily, then weekly. Wynne received only two replies and yet she poured out her hopes and reassurances and titbits of news from the home front. In 1945, at the end of the war, Wynne received both the unopened letters, and the news that Mickey had died in 1943 in Malaya, in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.’

I just had to get my own copy and how glad I am that I did. I am of course looking forward to delving into the story. It also acts as a mark of friendship across the miles. How I love this online community of ours! 🙂