London has changed colour again… as white and pink fades the gardens show us blue, lilac, silver green, sharp leaf, acid yellows.
The ceanothus certainly are at their best – their intense blue mass – soft sky – cobalt – hot ultramarine – forgive those tight little flowers and poky leaves. A couple of years ago a flight of Monarch butterflies were blown off-course across the Atlantic and a rather dusty ceanothus hedge was suddenly shimmering with amber wings – “The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen” said a grandson.
And best of all for me, even more welcome than the elegant and lovely wisterias, are the Paulownia trees gracing the streets of Lambeth. From their unremarkable branches dark upright candelabras have suddenly opened into a banquet of cascading lilac coloured blossoms, without the interruption of leaves, a surprisingly exotic public display. It’s everyday name is the Foxglove tree – so you’ll know what to look out for.
Other streets are bordered by the thrusting bare-knuckle fists of the newly pollarded plane trees, their softly dappled trunks patiently waiting to host the sprouting green to come.
The speckly froth of forgetmenots and cow parsley along the verges of Sussex fringe the hedgerows bustling with weighty hawthorn branches – arms reaching down clothed in costumes encrusted with new may blossom. For them it’s what David Hockney calls ‘Action Week’.
Freshly shorn sheep sit about, looking rather surprised, sporting smart sharp haircuts – the sort I always wish I could get away with!
That recent car journey gave me the chance to hear the pianist Murray Perahia discussing his musical life on Music Matters, Radio 3. An inspirational conversation, I rather wish I’d heard it on the way to, not from, giving the talk at Hastings. He beautifully described the nature of an artistic work – it’s growth, it’s inevitability, it’s surprises, its resolution within the piece. I identified with his description of discovering all about the piece to be performed and then somehow letting go of that knowledge and simply making a song of the performance. It reminded me of the need to understand all the restrictive limitations of a repeat and then to forget everything about them in order to let the image flow. Listen if you can – there’s lots lots more.
My talk, a companionable evening hosted at the Beacon by Judy Dewsbery, gave me the opportunity to show a series of designs around the folk ceramic theme that became the best-sellers ‘Gipsy Dance’ and ‘Paysanne Folklorique”. Putting several of the paintings up on the walls reminded me of the time, late
80s early 90s, and the strength, the optimism of colour, the wholehearted fun of paint and pattern – countering a time of gloom in the American market. Judging by the audience reaction they haven’t lost that power – the marks still speak.
And a brief discussion the next morning about techniques and materials made me reflect on the need for a really good paintbrush – it does make all the difference. I’ll be talking more about this at a workshop at the Fashion and Textile Museum later in the summer.
It was at the FTM that Pat Albeck gave such a good and funny talk about her long productive working life. Our experiences interweave and connect across the generations though the paths of our work have been quite separate. I enjoyed Hilary Rosen‘s lino cuts – particularly her ‘Red Figure’ 2010, and Gerda Loost‘s exhibition ‘Following the Light’ where her paintings do just that. There are a few days left of the ‘collaborations and conversations‘ exhibition, and check out Pie Chambers‘ sale.