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ShareMondays2020 – Chinoiserie

Laquered

ShareMondays2020 – Chinoiserie

The term Chinoiserie refers to western-made arts and crafts, particularly of the 18th century, that were characterised by motifs seen in oriental artwork on wood, porcelain, silk and metal. I’ve not included any of the fantastical beasts that appear in many of those pieces, as I have always been drawn to the art form for the beautiful shaping of the natural elements. Whenever I see seed-heads lit up by the late sun against a dark backdrop, I can’t help but be reminded of the shapes of cherry trees and bonsai on dark lacquered wood, or inlaid on metal.

Chinoiserie

The elegant structures of late summer seed-heads, pods and grasses, really appeal to me. Isolated, they can be amazing minimalist subjects. Layering up an image with multiple exposures, either in-camera or using digital software, can be used to emphasise the cluttered nature of wildflower meadows or areas of scrub land. These are really important habitats for many wildlife species. The primary layer of a vibrant ecosystem.

Vetch

Of course many of the metals and chemical compounds that were used in these old techniques are also used in various forms of photographic print making. We often refer to these techniques as Camera-less Photography. The most well known techniques are photograms and cyanotypes. Both involve using chemically treated paper, laying objects on, or above, the paper and exposing it to light. A process that I was very interested in at Art College was solarisation, first popularised by Lee Miller and Man Ray in the 1920’s and 30’s. It can be used when developing from negatives or when using objects for photograms. The exposed paper is treated with developing chemicals and then another exposure is made. This can either be pure light exposure or a double exposure using a negative, or more objects, in slightly different positions on the paper. It’s very experimental and hugely satisfying!

Echo

Not all of us can get access to darkrooms, space for cyanotypes or digital cameras that allow for multiple exposures! All these images in this post have actually been created in Photoshop using multiple layers and blending modes to recreate the styles and results that you would expect to get from analogue printmaking. Nik Software also has tools for recreating these effects, called Analog Efex Pro. I took the separate photos to create these images in a brief moment of sunshine at Heron Lake, where I have been going open-water swimming. The lake is surrounded by reed-banks, scrub and woodland.

Teasing Light

It’s a great habitat for wildlife, although much of it was still in hiding from the thunderstorms that hit us on Wednesday! Our swim sessions had to be delayed for an hour to ensure that the thunder and lightening had cleared. I did find a slightly bedraggled wren, hiding in an elder bush, while I was looking for suitable plants to photograph for this project. If only it had braved the light! Still, it was great to see it scampering around the branches and staying sheltered.

Young Wren

I hope everyone has a great week, and if the weather doesn’t allow for your usual photographic styles and subjects, try something experimental!

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Wex Mondays: Watts Gallery

Watts Chapel Ceiling Fresco

Wex Mondays: Watts Gallery

I’ve been visiting the Watt’s Gallery and Artists Village in Compton since my college days in nearby Godalming. Twenty five years on I am still overwhelmed by the beauty and tranquility of the gallery, house and the memorial chapel. The vision of the Pre-Raphaelite artists in Victorian Britain has provided me with so much inspiration throughout my artistic life. It’s not just the paintings and sculptures at the gallery that inspire me. The buildings and landscaping make The Artists Village a truly unique gallery and experience.

My chosen image for this week’s Wex Mondays challenge is of the fresco on the ceiling of the Watts Memorial Chapel. It was designed and created by Mary Watts with her student artists from the village. I love to lie on the floor and just gaze up at this incredible work of art. It is dimly lit inside to preserve the art so I had to place the camera on the floor, beside me, and shoot a long exposure to reveal the intricate details and rich colours. I did get a few odd looks!

Here are some excerpts from the Watts Gallery website to give you further insight into this amazing place and the people behind it:

George Frederic Watts OM, RA (1817 – 1904) was widely considered to be the greatest painter of the Victorian era. A portraitist, sculptor, landscape painter and symbolist, Watts’s work embodied the most pressing themes and ideas of the time, earning him the title England’s Michelangelo.

In the 1880s Watts had the benefits of a reputation that was secure, and he was able to explore grand themes in his allegorical paintings or, as he described them, ‘poems painted on canvas.’. Watts built a gallery extension onto his studio home at Little Holland House, Kensington, and opened it to the public from 2 to 6pm every weekend. His belief that art should be accessible to all was reflected in this project and in his support of schemes that took art into the poor areas of London through exhibitions and the creation of new galleries

In 1886, at the age of 69, Watts second marriage to Scottish potter and designer Mary Seton Fraser-Tytler took place in Epsom Surrey. A few years later they leased land at Compton and commissioned Arts & Crafts architect Sir Ernest George to build their house and studios, Limnerslease, which proved to be a tranquil haven for them both in their last years. Their marriage was very much a creative partnership melded by the shared ethos that art should reach all, transforming the lives that it touched.

In 1903 Watts created a purpose-built gallery and moved all his paintings from Little Holland House Gallery to the Compton Gallery (now known as Watts Gallery), which opened to the public on 1 April 1904.

Shortly before his death in 1904, Watts Gallery was opened to the public, by which time G F Watts was a household name, both nationally and internationally. Mary had designed the nearby Watts Chapel, funded by Watts, who also painted a version of The All-Pervading for the altar only three months before he died.

During his last years Watts also turned to sculpture, completing his most famous work, Physical Energy, in 1902. The original cast remains in the gallery today. Bronze casts are also replicated in Cape Town and in London’s Kensington Gardens.

Mary Watts was the artistic force behind the creation of Watts Chapel, and she dedicated it to ‘the loving memory of all who find rest near its walls, and for the comfort and help of those to whom the sorrow of separation remains.

In 1895 Mary began to run evening Terracotta Classes at Limnerslease, the Wattses’ nearby residence and studio. At these classes Mary would teach local villagers how to model tiles from local terracotta clay with the beautiful and symbolic patterns that she had designed to decorate the walls of the Chapel.

G F Watts financed the building of the Chapel through painting commissioned portraits, and the Wattses presented it as their gift to the village of Compton. Watts Chapel remains a working village parish chapel to this day.

Watts Chapel - vintage style processing

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Picturesque Pyli

Bougainvillea

This is picturesque Pyli with its traditional town square, iconography on the church, Old Pyli Caste, art galleries, cats and flowers, views to die for, it really is just perfect!