Anna Barlow's Delicious Ceramics
Anna Barlow, a ceramicist based in Tottenham, London, creates the most fantastic ceramic ice-cream. Her artwork is both representational, with glazes made to match strawberry sauce and sculptural, with scoops of ice-cream piled impossibly high.
Anna took some time to talk to Redbird about her work and we are so pleased she did!
You have an amazing technical ability with glazes. As I understand it, glazes are a completely different colour when they are applied to how they turn out after firing. Can you tell us a bit about how you work with glazes and how much experimentation work you have gone into to achieve the results you have?
My first year out of university was spent purely experimenting with textures, materials and glazes. It was great to have that time to really push my knowledge to the limit and it has given me a great knowledge base to refer to. It was also a case of using methods that were achievable without using a lot of facilities so I started to apply the glaze in similar ways that you would treat food. The chocolate and strawberry sauce is squirted on as if out of a sauce bottle and I use the firing process to really melt the ice cream glaze down- most ice creams have at least 3 glaze firings to get a very edible melty effect.
Working with clay is a very tactile experience. Can you tell us about the emotional reward of your work?
The best time for me is opening the kiln after a glaze firing- it’s when I get to see if the idea in my head has become an object in reality- or sometimes even better than I hoped it to be!
Another side of the process that I find extremely rewarding is mould making. I find it so fascinating to make a mould of a biscuit and then to use that mould for the first time, it is amazing to see all the detail of crumbs and pattern capture for ever in clay.
The final sculpture is made up of lots of small detailed components like the cherries and fondant flowers, it’s great to spend hours producing these bits. I can get lost in the love of repetition!
Its beautiful the way you have combined shoes and cushions into your ice-cream work in a statement about consuming. It’s reminiscent of Sebastian Errazuriz’s 3D Printed Shoes (12 shoes for 12 lovers.) Our relationship with domestic objects like cushions, shoes and even ice-cream is really quite fleeting and often connected to trying to comfort ourselves. Can you tell us about your plans to develop this theme in your work and what other foods you would consider using?
Yes, I am fascinated by the many roles of consumerism, how it is used for comfort, celebration and indulgence, but it isn't a lasting or a particularly wholesome activity. I am starting a new range that features mirrors. It looks at perceived identities through the consumer choices we make. Often people we know will judge who we are through what we like to buy/wear/eat - phrases like "It's so you" are expressed and, although it can be touching to think that someone has engaged with our taste, it can also be stifling to be categorised by what we have rather than all the other things that make up our personality. It is becoming more of a theme in our lives now that companies like Facebook and Amazon target us with recommendations of what we might next like to buy and they clearly build up a picture of our identities and sell them back to us which I find slightly sinister....
Absolutely, it creates a silo of our tastes, preventing the very thing that made the internet so great in the first place, organic discovery of new things. What do you think about the work of Michelle Wibowo? Her work does rather the opposite of what you do, using consumable produce to replicate an object.
I love this! My other passion is also baking (that is probably obvious!) I have a feeling that the best way to engage with a beautiful object or significant event is to be able to consume it. I think there is something deep within us all that feels that to truly own something is to either destroy it or eat it- a destructive desire - a bit like the need to kick a sand castle... I love her Kate and William cake, to truly experience their marriage I guess you have to eat them as a cake!!
The super gloss finish and rich colours in your work is also reminiscent of the painter Ralph Goings and the food marketing airbrush art of 70’s and 80’s America. Can you tell us about your own artistic influences?
My first influence to make the work that I produce now was Morgan Hall- she made a huge lidded pot with a long fork that fitted inside and called it a marshmallow pot. Apparently the client that bought it actually filled it with marshmallows; it's that sense of fantasy fulfillment that I find so compelling.
I am inspired by beautifully crafted tableware, from old Sevres porcelain to contemporary potters like Sue Binns and Louisa Taylor. I find that a beautifully crafted cup or bowl really celebrates precious everyday moments - I find this attention to detail so important and I hope to bring a similar spirit to my own work.
I have worked alongside Kate Malone for many years. Her ceramics caught my attention when I first started to work with clay at school. Her bright colours and generous forms were (and still are) exciting and engaging to my un-trained eye. I have continued to be increasingly influenced by her approach to clay; to not over handle a form and to let the clay's qualities come through. Also her glaze knowledge and experimentation really influence me to continue the research side of my work and engage with new uses of materials.
Other major inluences are Dirk Stascke, Dale Chihuly, Guiseppe Arcimboldo and Tjalf Sparnaay
For a long time art was used as an avenue for political satire and social commentary, but, considering all the things happening in the world today, I’m not sure how much that is still the case. What do you think? Have artists become less political?
I do agree that there is a lot of decorative, trendy art at the moment- I think this is influenced by the level of consumerism in the art market at present.
On the other hand I believe it is almost impossible to create an object without it being political in some way. It may not reflect world politics but I feel that it is also important to comment on the politics of domestic, family or personal everyday life which reflects the way we live. It is important to me to produce work that is relevant and engaging to everyone whether you are a child or an art expert to raise questions and thoughts on what we have come to accept as the norm.
Your work shows a real understanding of the texture and enjoyment / messiness of ice-cream. So how do you eat your ice-cream? (ie, do you bite the bottom off the cone?)
I used to! But now I eat it like a grown-up; very neatly and carefully, trying not to make a mess...
What is your first food memory from growing up?
My mum used to work in a show home when I was about 3 years old. I remember falling in love with the fake fruit in the kitchen- especially the peaches. When the house was sold my mum brought the fruit home for me and I still have it- and still love it!!
Ewing Paddock - Contemporary Commuter Art
Ewing Paddock is a graphic designer, sculptor, furniture maker and painter. He is probably most well-known for his paintings of people on the London Underground. We had a chance to catch up with him about his work.
You set up an underground set in your studio and invite commuters to model for you, which gets around a number of problems with taking equipment on a crowded tube! Can you tell us a bit about this and how you approached people to ask them to take part?
Making the replica Tube seats was essential for the way I wanted to do the project. It made people understand how serious I was but there was also an element of fun about it. Also, the seats were comfortable and relaxing so my passengers didn’t feel they were posing.
The idea of inviting strangers was essential (ideally I would have included every possible combination of ethnicities, ages, sub-cultures, etc), but as you say a bit daunting. So the first paintings were of people I knew well. When I’d completed a few paintings I made a small folder to give to people I wanted to invite. Nobody was ever offended by being approached – I think most were quite flattered – but not everyone responded.
Were people who you really would’ve liked to have painted who refused?
Memorable ‘escapees’ were a very amorous couple, slightly smashed, and a full-dress Admiral reading a Kindle. But getting recruits was never a problem. Some who got to hear about the project would even invite themselves, which was difficult if I’d never met them.
Each of the underground paintings have their own narrative, the people in your paintings are both models and actors and each painting is like a scene. Did you have a clear idea about what you wanted / who you wanted to have in your paintings before you started making them?
A few of the paintings were deliberate constructions (Adam, Eve, and Grace, Grace, Grace) but mostly they seemed to invent themselves. A good example is Alex, Natasha, Peter. I spotted Peter on the tube one evening in his bowler hat and pinstripes, a normal sight 50 years ago but very unusual nowadays. Luckily he accepted my invitation, and for a several weeks his image sat alone on the canvas waiting for someone to join him. I’d originally intended to include two Australian girls who had been collecting for charity dressed in mad costumes, but they never showed. Some weeks later, as a result of an attempted burglary at the studio, I met Alex (the police officer who came to take statements) and she more or less recruited herself. The gap between Alex and Peter stayed empty for a few more weeks until Natasha, who regularly modelled at the studio between acting jobs, offered herself in her wedding dress, just because it was such a contrast. The image of this wild-but-lost-looking girl caught between the two authority figures seems to demand explanations – has she been rescued, arrested, saved or summoned? – make up your own story.
As time went on I started to use the images in the carriage window – posters, exteriors etc – as a way of adding extra layers of interest. In David, Joe the windows reflect what’s going on in their heads rather than the seats opposite.
What kind of preparation (pre-drawing, iterations, research etc.) do you do for one painting?
At my passenger’s initial visit to the studio I’d photograph some poses and we would agree on one they’d be comfortable with, also what to wear and what stuff to bring – bags, phones etc.
Typically, people could only sit for three sessions of three hours or so, which isn’t long. So my method was to work on the difficult parts first, the portrait and hands, without any preliminary drawing, and also establish overall outline. More reference photos were necessary to make corrections and complete complex bits of clothing when the sittings had finished. The fixed points of the seats, armrests and floor helped a lot with getting proportions right. I often borrowed the sitters’ bags and shoes as I enjoyed painting them from ‘life’ later. In Paul, Janet, Paul I strung up the Financial Times in mid-air to re-create its position in the reference photo.
How much of an influence on your own creative development was the work of your Grandfather, William Paddock?
My Grandfather, William Paddock, died in 1925, so I only know him through the paintings and drawings that remain in the family. He was a genuinely accomplished artist, and although he exhibited at the RA and other places, he worked for most of his life as the senior art master at University College School in Hampstead. I have always been able to draw reasonably well but when I retired from graphics I started life-classes to see if I could somehow develop my talent, sort of in William’s memory. It doesn’t actually make sense! But I hope he’d approve anyway.
What is your first memory of creating art?
Nothing to do with art, but I was one of those kids who’s always making things out of cardboard or match-sticks (we had to make our own fun in those days) – I’ve still got a little knife-scar on my thumb as a souvenir. I have continued making things on and off, pieces of furniture with wood inlay, and window panels of sandblasted glass. So I enjoyed researching and building the Tube seats replica and it definitely added to everyone’s enjoyment of the project.
As well as the underground paintings you have also been working on figurative sculpture. Both the painting and the sculpture work are quite a departure from graduating as a Graphic Designer in 1967, just as the Photorealist Movement was taking shape. How much did photorealism influence how you have developed as an artist?
I remember those Photorealist shows, and the techniques were and are seductive, but I’ve always really preferred ‘painterly’ painters. It’s in my nature to be meticulous, so I feel I have to guard against trying for too much perfection. I’d love to know how someone like Sargent achieved his portraits so quickly, just a sort of genius I guess. Stanley Spencer is another favourite, especially his exceptionally raw self-portrait with Patricia Preece, which seems to anticipate Freud’s work by 20 years. Of course I admire Freud a lot – I was introduced to him and Bacon one evening in Soho in 1968, one of my ‘name-drop’ memories.
The sign of a good portrait is forgetting that what you’re looking at is a painting of a person and instead finding yourself starting to wonder about the sitter. Something enjoyable about your paintings is that they do not appear to be posed and that there is an element of serendipity to them. What is it you enjoy about figurative painting?
Thank you for appreciation of the portraits in the Underground paintings, I worked hard to make them look natural. I think it’s mostly to do with the lack of eye-contact with the figures, they keep their privacy. I began to see that the way people sat, what they did with their hands and feet, was as individual as their features, and that the accidental combinations of hands and limbs made their own visual rhythms within the paintings. This is most obvious in On, Bianca, Charlotte, three friends on a Girl’s Night Out. I found out later that of the three, the two on the left were actually closest, and in retrospect you can see this by their body-language.
There is a touch of Uglow in your life paintings, in respect of using block colours to define shadow and form.
I’m flattered by your Euan Uglow comparison with my life-paintings. They were made at a class at the Working Men’s College in Camden, where speed was of the essence.
I tried to use my experience at the life-class in the Underground paintings, but inevitably the technique got less broad when rendering all the textures of fabrics, leather, plastic etc.
Is the Underground painting project ongoing? What are you working on now?
I’d love a new project but haven’t yet found anything that enthuses me as much as Painting London Underground. I haven’t ruled anything out, even a return underground at some point, but the practical issue of finding an affordable studio has to be resolved first. In the meantime I’m keeping my hand in at life-classes and waiting for something to turn up.
Europeana Fashion Project
The European Fashion network consists of 22 partners from 12 European countries, which represent leading museums, archives, libraries and collections in the fashion domain. The Victoria & Albert Museum is one of these 22 partners, contributing 8,000 digital images and associated catalogue records of post 1900 fashion.
Fashion pieces can be searched by provider, designer, colour, type and technique! Check out the fantastic fashion resource for yourself, you will not be disappointed.
Jerry Gretzinger - The Man on The Map
In December 2013 Jerry Gretzinger travelled from his farm in Michigan to display his life’s work in Summerhall Edinburgh. When I first saw the video on Vimeo of Jerry making his map I was blown away. Here is a man who had spent over 50 years creating his artwork and it isn’t just his life, its his world, one that he calls Ukrania.
Ukrania is a map of a parallel universe piece of artwork, a made up of over 3050 8x10cm panels, each one with its own set of co-ordinates according to where it belongs “otherwise how would I find them?” he said. Due to the size of the map, there are some interesting challenges when it comes to displaying all the panels of it together. There are few venues which would have the wall space to accommodate a piece of work at this scale and so the next suggestion would of course be to put it on the floor.
The last time the map was displayed at MASS MoCA in October 2012 it was laid out on the floor with a walkway around it so that people could explore it from the outside. The problem with that of course is that something with this level of detail needs the viewer to get up close to it in order to appreciate the amount of time and skill that has gone into creating it. Maps especially, are things which we need to really get up close to, so we can understand where we fit in. The ‘You Are Here’ spot.
So Summerhall rather ingeniously not only installed the map panels on the floor but laid sheets of Perspex over the top so that you can walk safely on top of the map. The panels which couldn’t be fitted on the floor spill up the walls instead and from the outside, on first glance, it was like a room sized world had been dropped on the floor and splashed up the walls.
When I arrived at the door of the gallery Jerry and his assistant were discussing how to encourage people to remove their shoes before entering the gallery. I shook his hand while removing my boots and Jerry took me into the middle of the room so we are surrounded by the map. We sat on the floor and examined the panels beneath us, some are checked with ½ inch squares drawn in a grid some have ¼ inch triangles in a similar style. Jerry explained it was an idea he had, to sort of pixelate the map, he planned to lay the grids over each panel, however it was an idea he had tried and then abandoned in preference for retaining the original process. He never removed these grids from any of the panels though.
This is an example of how Jerry uses layering in his work. He is layering up past with present, continually layering ideas, colours and towns on top of one another. He will try a new idea out and even if it doesn’t work he leaves it to become part of the map’s history. Every change is recorded and dated on the back of the panel, ones which have been displayed in exhibitions will be rubber stamped on the back with the gallery name and date. Which means of course that all the panels we were sitting on during the interview, will have been duly stamped with ‘Summerhall’ and Edinburgh will become a physical part of its history.
It’s a kind of artistic archaeology and I told him that. He was pleased, a wry smile broke across his face and he rubbed his chin, “Archaeology! You must be one of if not, the first person to ever have said that to me. I like it. Normally people use that computer game little boys play, Minecraft, I don’t like that comparison, this isn’t a game to me. But Archaeology…” he paused to think about it. “It s a very personal kind of archaeology, I use collage in my panels, old family photographs, personal things to me.” He pointed at a dark panel behind him, “This one has in it a drawing my son did when he was only little. I also ask other artists sometimes to contribute a print to work into the map. It gradually gets covered up with things but that’s just how it works.” The affection Jerry has for his work, the emotional reward he gets from creating his map is obvious as his eyes light up recalling what lies beneath the layers on each panel. It gives another depth to the map, a beautiful reminder that this is not ordinary 2D artwork, its dimensions are more metaphysical, they encapsulate memories, and life experiences, it is a true labour of love.
“You know its funny you should use the term archaeology, I actually worked as an architect on an archaeological dig in the late 60s early 70s.” he told me.
I asked him if his architectural background played a part in the making of the map, did he get excited by advancement in new building techniques, designs and new technology?
“Not the buildings, I don’t really think too much about that, but the advancement in technology has had a massive impact on my art. I mean back in the 80’s the results from photocopying were…” he pauses to screw up his face in disgust before sighing, “…not great.” He laughs. “I keep a log of all my work, scanners have helped me a great deal.” He showed me a piece of A1 poster sized paper, which has scanned colour images of every single panel shrunk down and put in to order, so it’s the whole map on one handy sheet of paper, which without today’s technology would’ve been impossible to see before.
Jerry gave up architecture in 1973, when he moved to a loft in New York, “I wasn’t enjoying my work, I just wanted to make things, so I moved to New York to be a maker, y’know, I wanted to make things and sell them. At the time the only way you could get one of these lofts was if you were an artist. The way to prove you were an artist was to submit your portfolio, or photographs of your work to the Culture Council and they judged whether or not you were creative enough to stay there. So I got the map out and laid it on the floor, there were 800 panels at the time. I got up on a ladder and took photographs and sent them in. At the time I didn’t think of myself as an artist” The Council obviously recognised what he hadn’t realised yet! “I just thought I was getting one over on the council and getting in a loft!” he laughed and a bright glint of mischief sparked in his eyes.
He started his first creation by putting some pieces of material together to make a bag. “I was interested in fabrics. My friends came over and took a look at it, they said, you need to refine it a little, so I did and I made a couple and gave it to a friend of mine who had a shop in Soho, Broadway. Well they just went immediately! So I ended up making bags and selling them for 10 years. The next thing I made was architectural clothing but it was a disaster, you couldn’t wear them! It was like a shirt for a small building.” he laughed, recalling. “But then I started reworking second hand clothes, I gave them to a friend of mine at the time, now my wife, Meg Staley to sell. They sold really well. It was only around 10 years ago I started thinking about the map as art.”
With over 3050 panels, choosing which one to work on would take a day in itself. This is where Jerry’s special stack of playing cards comes in handy. “I first started the map in 1963, just a way of passing the time, doodling with it. I actually put it away in the attic for 20 years before I started working on it again and when I pulled it out there were 800 panels. I would work on one, then put it to the bottom of the pile, work on another, and so forth.” He paused looking suddenly really tired before saying, “It took a long time!”
“So I worked out this system with a deck of playing cards, to help me choose which panel to work on and then gradually I added other directions to the cards, whether to add a river, farm, roads and the number of the suit, say 9 of diamonds, would determine how many of the ½ inch squares the new work would take up, which direction it should go in, clockwise or anticlockwise, what shape and all of these are done from the central point in the panel, the red circles like this one.” He tapped the Perspex to where a tiny red circle on a panel is beneath his finger. “The red circles make it easier to see, because my eyesight isn’t getting any better!” he laughs.
Jerry will shuffle the cards, get his directions and then spend 5 or 6 hours made up of 30 minute intervals broken up by chores and the bits and pieces of everyday normal life, working on the map, “I go back and forth like that all day. I’ve always wondered if maybe I have ADHD or something!” He laughs.
I asked him about emotional reward for creating the panels, he said it brings him great joy and it’s a real blessing. “Sometimes its frustrating because I like to see the towns and cities grown and evolve, I never like to see something get destroyed.” He was talking about the voids.
The void is an instruction for the cards to wipe a space in a panel out, these can and have happened over some of his best loved panels. “I had a hard time recently when a town he had named for a friend of mine, Penfold, had been chosen by the cards to have a void. I called her up and said, I’m so sorry I have to destroy your town!” He started a new town nearby and named it after her instead. “I never cheat though, it has to be organic. The moment you start worrying or preconceiving ideas about what to make is when it gets lost. I sometimes feel like maybe I should do something specific but I stay true to the cards.” Looking around the room I found it so hard to imagine being able to paint over any of it. He assures me that when a void does come up he copies and then archives the original so as not to lose it entirely.
Jerry told me he enjoys the painting aspect of the work the most these days, from mixing the paint to putting it onto the panel. It was hard for him to be away from his studio for the two weeks he spent in Edinburgh setting up the exhibition. “I do feel a little frustrated to be away from my studio. The last exhibition at MASS MoCA they moved my studio to beside that gallery, the idea being that people could see me working. Of course people wanted to talk to me and I loved that but it meant I didn’t get a lot of work done, I got some done but not a lot.”
As I got up to leave Jerry talked about the change in colours over the years, from quite bright to garish palette, to now more these roses, mauves, more muted tones.” Another part of the layers of personal history encased within his map. I took his photograph beside his then current favourite part of the map and as I’m pulling my boots back on I ask him, so does he now feel like he’s an artist? He answers in his dry American accent, “I think of myself as more of a designer.”
Hidden Door Festival, 22nd - 30th May, Edinburgh
Coming soon to Edinburgh's catacombs, the alternative art festival, Hidden Door. The festival that began as a one off maverick art festival is now just about to celebrate its 5th birthday. It will feature performance art, installations and there will be a giant illustration mural being created during the festival by the Too Much Fun Club. And that's not the only reason to go, its worth checking it out for the innovative use of the city's underground catacombs and tunnels. Redbird will be interviewing, Michele Marcoux, one of the installation artists featured at Hidden Door and this will be posted here soon. In the meantime, for more information on Hidden Door, please check out their blog: http://hiddendoorblog.org/
We catch up with Michele Marcoux, one of the featured artists at the Hidden Door Festival
We talk to the Morton Award 2014 winner Alicia Bruce about her solo show at the RSA in April