Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Tait’


August 2, 2011

August was to John Clare a pivot of the year, as the harvest drew a concerted effort from everyone in the rural community, and the ‘bustling day’ took precedence over everything else – until it was done, and time to celebrate. This large serving dish from the Shepherds Calendar dinner service is a centrepiece of the plate rack, with its warm appetising colours and the beautiful text. Here’s the back:

Though we’d rather like to hang out in the sunshine (now some’s finally here) throughout August, it’s going to be rather a busy month for us too, as we’re taking some of this year’s harvest to Edinburgh. My partner Frances will be reading from her acclaimed new novel The Principle of Camouflage at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where it is also an entry for the Festival’s Newton First Book Award – and as it has also been suggested as a possible contender for the Guardian First Book Award this year, it’s receiving a lot of attention for a book from a small publisher. Frances is also reading in the Festival’s Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers series, from the work of Nizametdin Akhmetov, a Bashkir poet.

On the same trip, we’ll also be delivering some of my work to the National Library of Scotland; I’m very proud to say that the NLS is acquiring three of my artist’s books, Season’s Dancing (with text by Robert Burns), Love and Freedom: Burns’ Year (a group of four books, one for each season), and Light Music (from a text by Margaret Tait).

This is the August page from Seasons Dancing, a concertina book made from 24 sheets of handmade paper (A3) which opens out to a continuous circle joining December and January, and celebrating the cyclic dance of the seasons with fragments from Burns’ poems.

The ring of months is double sided, so that as it stands opened out, you can see the months in sequence on the front, and inside, the rhythmic flow of the turning seasons:

The outer pages are painted and collaged month by month, and the pages on the inner side are made with handmade papers in different colours for the flow of the seasons, with Burns’ text dancing round:

Here you can see the December page (And O for the joys of a long winter night) linked to January (That merry day the year begins) – and so on round the year.

Round and round the seasons go

This year I’ve been working on a series of contemporary illuminated manuscripts reflecting the passing of time and the turning year. The largest works (so far) are the group of four books that make up Love and Freedom: Burns’ Year which will also be in the NLS collection; these four books are each made from a single huge sheet of handmade paper, torn and folded into a sequence of pages, but possible to restore to the whole sheet again, like a magic carpet that transports you to another time and place, but which you can also fold up and carry about with you – the essence of ‘book’, in fact. I’ll be writing more about the ideas behind these books (and showing how they look) in September; meanwhile you can see Light Music with its luminous text from Margaret Tait’s film Colour Poems in a page by page sequence in a Work in Focus post – click here.

If you’d like more information about any of my work, please leave me a note in the comments box below, or click on contact details for other ways to get in touch.

Store of happiness

August 19, 2010

This week, instead of the proposed risky attempt to call back the heatwave – after all, we don’t want a hosepipe ban – I’ve decided to focus on a very desirable seasonal effect, in the hope that the weather will take a gentle hint, and do a bit more of what we like to see in August. Store of happiness is a one-elephant artist’s book made from a sheet of handmade paper, torn and folded into a book form, which you read by opening and turning the pages, following the spiral form of the book.

The text is by from La Possession du Monde by Duhamel, quoted in one of my favourite books, M. Minnaert’s Light and Colour in the Open Air, and like the text in The lovely blue, it’s characteristically brimming with an infectious enthusiasm for the delights of nature, while being rather formally expressed; the lettering reflects this combination of firmness and pleasure. I’ll show it to you page by page.

This way of looking at nature – Do not depart before you have understood – reminds me of Margaret Tait’s penetrative investigating gaze, as described in her text ‘On seeing’ in Subjects and Sequences: A Margaret Tait Reader. She calls it ‘peering’ through the camera lens, a combination of studying and contemplating that allows her to see the thing more deeply, to ‘follow’ it. This in turn reminds me of Van Gogh’s opinion (in an 1888 letter to Theo) that ‘It’s not enough to have a certain dexterity. It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper understanding.’

Margaret Tait suggests further that ‘treating everything equally’ is also important – that ‘the woman standing here, and the leaf on the wall, it’s all got equal significance.’ This is another echo of Minnaert’s inspiring philosophy. Some obedient close observation of birch trees against the February sky this year proved that it’s absolutely true about the ‘delicate glow’ – a pleasure to look forward too, but not just yet.

The Summer hath her joyes,

And Winter her delights.

(Thomas Campian)

Perhaps I should repeat the first line of that couplet.

Light music

August 6, 2010

We first discovered the films of Margaret Tait at the NFT in the 1990’s, and I was very pleased recently to be able to buy a collection of her shorter films on DVD. My all-time favourite is the short reel/reel John McFadden – an exercise in joyous anarchic subversive wildness – and I also love Colour Poems. I find her open, poetic, penetrating vision very inspiring, and I’ve just made one or two works based on her texts, including Light music (a one elephant book) from her lyrical voice-over in Terra Firma, a section of Colour Poems.

Light music, one-off artist’s book, signed, open 80cm x 60cm, closed 20cm x 20cm, with cover; handmade papers, watercolour, acrylic and ink. This work has been acquired by the National Library of Scotland for their collection of artists’ books, and I’ll be adding details of shelfmark and visiting opportunities when it has been catalogued.

For more information about this or any work, please leave me a note in the comment box below, or click on contact details.