Sometime in May, Judy Willoughby invited me to post an artwork a day for a week on Facebook, without title or any other explanation. It took me a while to get into this, as I had decided not to accept any challenges of this nature, but one evening I decided to bite the bullet and pulled a random book out of my bookcase, which happened to be of the art of Franco Vecchiet. I know Franco from Venice, as he taught relief print for many years at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, where I ran some etching weekends, and also took part in a residency. You might be forgiven for imagining this installation was in Venice, but in fact it was in Spalato, in 1987.
For the second artwork I did much the same thing: a random book selection, this time ‘The Art of Dove Bradshaw’. I was given this book by Gareth Mills, of Glastonbury bookshops fame: he explained that I was probably the exact person who should have it. My near namesake, Dove Bradshaw, is an American artist who works with ‘nature, change and indeterminacy’. She combines unstable materials with traditional ones, setting off a metamorphic process. Here the materials are copper and acetic acid on paper. She also, incidentally, was friends with, and worked with, John Cage and Merce Cunningham. Someone after my own heart. I want to be her sister.
So far, the work has been by artists who are not well known in the UK. For the third artwork, I resorted to a better known artist, Marino Marini. He is mostly known for his sculpture, but I really love his 2D work. I saw this and other paintings and prints at an exhibition in Chartres, France, in 1993, and they’ve never left the back of my mind.
Artwork number 4. This is from a book in my bookcase that I have haven’t seen there before….honest. It’s a kind of catalogue of book works, and starts with a memorable quotation from Jorge Luis Borges: ‘I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.’ So many images I could have chosen, but this one truly did sum up my feelings the day I posted it; it is the world I would like to inhabit. It’s from a book by Juergen Teller, ‘bringing together images from the Spring Summer 2008 Vivienne Westwood campaign. In his usual style, Juergen Teller photographed the collection by creating a highly theatrical mis-en-scene which involved the collaboration of not only the models but also the designer herself. ‘
Day 5. By now I had a sense that the number of images left was limited. I always intended to include this painting by Leonora Carrington, entitled ‘The Artist Travelling Incognito”. I love her humour (and wisdom). I saw it in an exhibition of her work in Tate Liverpool some years ago, and bought the postcard.
When I first saw this image, I thought that the artist, Yinka Shonibare, had wrapped all the books in African fabrics. But they were bound, not wrapped. An astonishing installation acquired by the Tate for its permanent collection, the books ‘celebrate cultural icons and diversity. Three walls of the gallery are taken up with shelves of 6,328 books. On 2,700 of the books are the names, printed in gold leaf, of first- and second-generation immigrants to Britain who have made significant contributions to the country’s culture and history.’ An artwork for our times.
And so to the last artwork. So many candidates for this! But I decided to go back to my – and everyone’s – artistic roots, and posted this owl from the Chauvet Cave in France. A humble little sgraffito which nevertheless demonstrates the extraordinary skill of the people who decorated the caves. Just a few lines say it all. One of my all time favourite quotations is from ‘On Drawing’ by John Berger, who visited these caves and afterwards wrote: ‘Art, it would seem, is born like a foal who can walk straightaway. Or to put it less vividly… the talent to make art accompanies the need for that art; they arrive together.’
I couldn’t end this project on a better note.