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Thursday, 27 January 2011

I am a cover girl!

This is the cover of the current issue of the German magazine Patchwork Professional, which features an article about my work, and a step-by-step project by me on how to make a small ColourScape.  I am delighted to be in it, and on the cover!

It is a superb magazine - this issue features several other amazing quilters, European and American, and I am honoured to be in such good company!

Thanks for visiting!


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Colour and contrast

In his seminal book The Elements of Colour, Johannes Itten talks about The Seven Colour Contrasts, and emphasizes that "each one is unique in character and artistic value; in visual, expressive and symbolic effect; and together they constitute the fundamental resource of colour design".

Quite big words to express something that when explained, much of it will look familiar;  but some of it less so.  Itten lists the seven colour contrasts as follows:

1.  Contrast of hue: for example, yellow, red and blue.
2.  Light-dark contrast: most clearly expressed with black and white.
3.  Cold-warm contrast:  a way of express something we are quite familiar with:  the cool feeling given by greens and blues, the warm emanations given by reds and oranges.
4.  Complementary contrast:  it refers to opposite colours in the colour wheel, which when mixed together as pigments, will yield a neutral gray-black.  They are opposite, but they are necessary to each other.
5.  Simultaneous contrast: the most difficult to understand, and the one I will talk about below.
6.  Contrast of saturation:  the contrast between fully saturated colours and their diluted versions (diluted either with white, with black, or with grey).
7.  Contrast of extension:  this refers to the relative areas of two different colours - the proportions of colours used in an area.  For example, an area of violet with a few touches of yellow will look very different to an area of yellow with some small dots of violet.

Now to SIMULTANEOUS CONTRAST.  Itten says:  "Simultaneous contrast results from the fact that for any given colour the eye simultaneously requires the complementary colour, and generates it spontaneously if it is not already present".

It is not something which is objectively present.  It is in the eye of the beholder - it is generated by the eye and brain of the viewer.  It can be explained by doing an experiment that many of us would have done as children. 

Here are two squares:  a red one on the left, and whitish one on the right.  Both have a black dot in the middle.  Look at the red square on the left, fixing your eyes in the black dot in the centre.  Keep your eyes fixed on that dot for about 20 seconds.  Not easy to stop your eyes from wandering?  Do try!

Immediately after look at the right hand white square.  You will see a pale green or blue-green square.  That is your eye and brain generating the opposite colour to red.  We call it an afterimage.
Now, if the right hand square was green or blue-green, rather than white, and you did the same experiment, you will be very unlikely to notice the green afterimage.  But the fact that you don’t see it doesn’t mean that it is not there – it is.  When the eye moves across the colours in a piece of work, or fabrics, or anything else for that matters, it sees not only what it is viewing, but also the afterimage of the colour previously seen.  All the colours you are seeing are tinged by their complementary colour, generated by your eye and brain.
This effect, called simultaneous contrast, affects everybody’s colour viewing, and can be used for all sorts of effects by artists – whether in paint or fabric – to emphasize the intensity of the colours (as I do) or to tone them down.  Robert Delaunay is particularly well known for consciously and expressly experiment with simultaneous contrast in his paintings.  But he wasn't the first:  Leonardo da Vinci noted that adjacent colours seem to influence each other;  and the French chemist Michel EugĂ©ne Chevreul studied it thoroughly and published a book about it.
There is a lot more to it, but that’s enough for today!
Thanks for visiting!  See you soon!


Sunday, 23 January 2011

Matthew Harris exhibition in Bath

Just a bit of information, while I prepare my next post on colour...

Matthew Harris, textile artist, is having an exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath, together with mosaicist Cleo Mussi, from 12 February to 3 April.


Friday, 21 January 2011

Michael Brennand-Wood's and Matthew Harris's work at Colston Hall, Bristol

In the current issue of the Surface Design Journal there is an article - "A Dialogue between Music and Art" - about the site-specific work by Michael Brennand Wood and Matthew Harris at Colston Hall, Bristol.

Colston Hall is a very old and renown music venue in Bristol, which has in the last few years undertaken a complete redevelopment, and the two artists were commissioned to create art which would be structurally integrated into the building.  Bristol is less than an hour's drive away for me, and I have been in Colston Hall a couple of times - once to a concert, and once simply to visit the wonderful building.  I spent quite some time in front of Brennand-Wood's work, which is on a wall in the terrace bar.  I took some photos, at different distances, so one can see the overall design as well as close-up details.

"Celestial Music" by Michael Brennand-Wood
Medium distance view
Close up

What particularly fascinates me about this double commission is that both artists have trained in textiles and in fact they are mostly known for their textile work.  Although I would prefer to call Brennand-Wood a mixed-media artist, the only work I've ever seen by Matthew Harris is definitely textile - very tactile.  He has exhibited in different places in Somerset, among them Black Swan Arts in Frome.

I have not seen Matthew's work in Colston Hall, because as I understand it is inside one of the concert halls - there are two of them - and the one I've been to for a concert was not the right one!  Although I believe they do let you in to look at the work if there is no concert going on.  I have no pictures of the installation, but there are several in Matthew's website.  It is called "Scorched - A Graphic Score" and it consists of stitch-like marks made with a plasma cutter on thin wooden strips - using the tool as a pen to burn 'music' onto the surface. 

If you live near enough, or happen to be passing through Bristol, I thoroughly recommend a visit to Colston Hall.

Colston Hall interior

Thanks for visiting!  Next time I will continue talking about colour...


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Monday, 17 January 2011

Colour, Light and Rainbows

Trying to write a blog is more difficult than I thought.  Last year, when I used to put up a new photo every day, it was easy - a visual thing.  Having to think what to write, even if not every day, is more involved.

I am working on new quilts for my forthcoming exhibition at the Carrefour du Patchwork in France next September, and is taking over my life entirely.  I think of designs, shapes, lines, and above all colour - how to convey the feeling of the light, using fabric.  And  actually make the quilts, up on my design wall.  Not to mention planning the whole exhibition - how many and what quilts to make, and how they will work together - and also all the paperwork!

The rainbow was my starting point on thinking about colour.  By constructing rainbow or spectrum-based quilts, I got a real feeling for the interaction of colours - the importance of the 'bias' of the colour - whether I chose an orange-bias read or a pink-bias red, and so on.  For the colours to work together, the 'biases', the saturation, the intensity of each colour in relation to the others, have to be just right.  And that works only by what quilters call 'auditioning' fabrics, and Josef Albers calls Interaction of Colour.  A visual thing.

My first ever quilt was based on the rainbow.  Then I made a few more.  The photo below illustrates one of them, "Tales of Tzars and Treasures", where I combined my very first Heide Stoll-Weber rainbow-coloured cotton sateens with black and white fabrics.

There are no cut and dry rules about what colour goes well with which other.  The only way to decide whether a particular colour combination works, is to put the fabrics together and then to consider the specific circumstances and requirements, the light quality, the amount of each fabric involved, the personal preferences... that's to say, the visual effect of the interaction of specific colours, and how that relates to what you are looking for.

My favourite book on colour is the old Bauhaus workhorse, Johannes Itten's The Elements of Colour - still available, mostly second hand, some times at a price... but it is worth every penny.   This book is a short version of his larger treatise "The Art of Colour" - worth several hundred pounds, if you can get hold of it - I used to read it in a college library.

Thank you for visiting and reading my ramblings!


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Monday, 3 January 2011

Colour, Light and Monet

My first encounter with Colour and Light in paintings was at the Jeu de Paume gallery in Paris, in 1964, when I stood in front of Monet's Rouen Cathedral picture series, painted at different times of day, reflecting completely different light conditions.  It was an experience so memorable that I can never forget it.  For Europeans, that may sound like an easy ride - but for me, coming all the way from Argentina to Europe in a boat, it was quite a big thing.

Colour and Light have always been a passion of mine.  It is now reflected in my textiles and in my photography.  Interestingly enough, when I worked in photography, in the seventies, all my images were black and white - Light, but not Colour.  However, that taught me a lot about Value - another very important element of design.

Here are three of my New Year photographs of variations in Colour and Light - and Value.

Thank you for looking and reading!  Happy New Year!  See you soon!  Alicia

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Fireworks at midnight, 2010 - 2011

This is the last image of 2010 and the first one of 2011 - celebrating with fireworks!  And time for a change!

This blog is going to continue but it will change: instead of being just an image a day, it will be less frequent, and it will have text as well as images.  It will follow my textile work throughout the next year, which promises to be an eventful one. It will have useful information for other textile artists, and plenty of images too.

Thank you for staying with me for a whole year of an image a day.  It has been a great experience, and has sharpened my vision.  I now look forward to the new experiment of writing as well as conveying my visual feelings.

Happy New Year!  See you soon!