Monday, April 28, 2014

Jumiege, Making Art, A Long Ramble

I could say pfoof, pftt, woosh- and what would you imagine happening? Where does art begin and where does it end? Is nature art or does it need to be applied by imperfect interpretations that can become perfect in their own right? How is art made and what fires the imagination to  try to make art? There are as many answers to these questions  as there are questions to ask.

People often ask what inspires me and it is a difficult question to answer- no one particular thing inspires me, but things that I love often arrive at a confluence where things can be made or where process is explored in order to begin to make things. Sometimes it takes years to evolve other times it arrives quickly- and that brings me to Jumiege- the  ruin called "perfect" by Flaubert and admired by George Sand.

Confluence.A number of unrelated threads coming together;


  • 1The junction of two rivers, especially rivers of approximately equal width:the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Fossfarther down the Tigris at its confluence with the Euphrates
  • 1.1An act or process of merging:a major confluence of the world’s financial markets
 I read Flaubert many years ago and was really annoyed with Emma Bovary, I was annoyed with her flacidity and I was annoyed with  Flaubert for creating such a heroine though I admired the writing itself ( I read this in the seventies when the womens movement was escalating). I admired the writing enough to want to read Flaubert's biography, and thought he was a bit of a syphilitic old fart, but out of this emerged his correspondence with George Sand- an extraordinary woman by any stretch of the imagination, not only did she count Alfred de Musset and Chopin as her lovers, not only did she nurture Chopin's wonderful etudes, she wrote an extraordinary amount of books herself, was considered one of the great french writers of the nineteenth century,was political, started a newspaper though only for three issues, she wore mens garb, smoked cigarettes and was involved in preserving french heritage when destruction of such heritage was rampant after the revolution, and had a remarkable correspondence with Flaubert.

Jumiege- I stumbled upon Jumiege some years ago- we were looking for a camping and happened to find one at Jumiege- the ruin there of the abbaye was love at first sight. The intention had been to go to Rouen the next day but instead we explored the ruin- took many photos and were interested that this abbaye was apparently the starting point for William the Conquerors journey of war and capture of England( every child in Australia learns about this at school- William the Conqueror that is)

Just the last few days I have spent at Jumiege again with my aunt. It's a lovely part of Normandy sprinkled with apple trees and cows, colombage houses and churches and great food and great sweeps of the Seine.In a way I was researching, I can feel that this ruin will one day be part of something I make, and I must admit to a fascination with the middle ages. Imagine my delight that 2 people whose writing I  admire felt the same way about this me that was a confluence, that two such unconnected strains of enjoyment could come together in one place. So here is some of Jumiege... I think it's attraction is that it leaves "open" space for the imagination....

I said this would be a ramble- I don't think I have answered any questions except to share some of the things I enjoy and I don't know whether I will ever make anything to do with Jumiege, but it is  bubbling away in the background somewhere as are the stories associated with it... William the Conqueror ( though to be truthful I am more interested  by his wife Mathilde)... Bayeaux tapestry, Lady and the Unicorn.......

This is said to be a sculpture/bust  of  William the Conqueror... I have not found any representation of Mathilde

Some lovely carved imagery...

And some lovely sculpted bestiary...

And I have not been idle- I have been working on something weird which is related to travellers blankets ( there is still time to join the on-line Travellers' Blanket class if you are interested - it has started but it's such a long slow process that few days don't matter) and another love- fabric steels/fabric sample books, which money can't buy these days unless you have a lot of money. So meanwhile I mooch  around on the internet, dream and think how can I combine my love of books and fabric and stitch, and illuminated texts of the medieval kind? I know I have shown images of stitching on khadi paper before, but I did not take khadi paper with me in my suitcase, that contains my life at present.

What i did find was some  brown wrapping paper when I was at Palaiseau- now brown paper is an attraction in its own right as well- don't I neatly fold it and put it away from some  thing or another? So whilst at Palaiseau I started  with some random thoughts about  Books of Hours ( because I was whiling away hours and I had been to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries at the Cluny Museum and seen some illuminated texts)
and this is what emerged...

But the fabric " sample" squares weren't quite right, the messiness of it somehow, and I do subscribe to the theory of not making just one, sometimes the wonder is in whole collections of things, so  this idea  has morphed into these following pages that keep my hands busy, that make me realise that stitching on brown paper is  difficult even on one page let alone a concertina of pages, it's a record of days somehow, of travels and wanderings , of musings and stitches, of small repetitions and nuances

The backs of the pages are as interesting to me as the front, a kind of writing in dashes and dots and threads

Hardly perfect, somehow flawed, somehow silly stitching on brown paper ( I can't tell you how many times I was asked why was I stitching on brown paper at Quilts en Beaujolais- and the reply of I am just playing seemed to be odd to some people) and somehow bookish- which you can't see in the photos but which you can see when you hold the pages.

Oh my goodness what a ramble this has turned into but one last thing- I drove through the Picardie/Somme countryside at a time of remembrance  for Australian and New Zealand soldiers , thousands of whom died in the fields coloured with poppies in World War I. I had thought of perhaps going to one of the ceremonies to remember all those young men and to think of those left behind,  but  because there are are many ceremonies to do with 100 years since the commencement of World War I an especially big one had been planned for Anzac day- 25 April at Amiens and at the many cemeteries that spot the countryside around there, I didn't. I found this grave- lone and forgotten at Jumiege- the young man it had belonged died, at age 17 in 1916- I have no idea whether the war was the cause of his death, but for me  he was a tangible remembrance for all those  doomed youths who lost their lives- 5000 Anzac lives were lost in the Battle of the Somme alone.
A collection of memories surround his head stone. And so I cannot say better than what Wilfred Owen said:

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
      Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
      Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
      Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
      And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
      Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
      The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Source: The Complete Poems and Fragments of Wilfred Owen (1984)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On the Go

I seem to have been on the go almost non-stop since my last blog post, though the last few days have been quiet- I needed the rest and also to recharge!

First some photos from Quilts en Beaujolais, which was as usual lots of fun, catching up with old friends, making new friends, Els Mommers from Saba in the Dutch Carribean, Chantal Guillermet, Caroline Higgs, Jane  Rollason, where I will be exhibiting in her village Viville in September and also conducting a workshop.
  So here are my five Chartres ladies altogether and below also faces inspired by Chartres for the Voyage art exhibition which was also shown at Quilts en Beaujolais.

I did spend a day or two in Lyon and in particular in Vieux Lyon after Quilts en Beaujolais where i found this  carved door handle  to an atelier of a young  card/textile artists whose name I did not record.

And a lovely  bookshop Diogene full of second hand books and  old  and rare books to die for, but there is only so much you can carry... alas. I spent a lovely hour or so there regardless.

And last but not least there is still time to join the On-line  Travellers Blanket class starting next week- just email me if you are interested in joining. I am also teaching this class in the flesh in Colac in begin July. And now that I have some moments to reflect on the last few weeks I think I shall make a start on one myself as well- something with a new  twist!