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Wiping the Three Brighdes etching plate

The Crowded Room in question is a hay barn at Shatwell Farm in Somerset, and is the latest unusual venture by Matchett & Page. Here is what they say about their inspiration for this exhibition:

“Matchett & Page’s first exhibition A Crowded Room responds to the new status of the crowd in the time of COVID-19. Nationwide and local lockdowns, social isolation and physical distancing have all contributed to the transformation of crowds into uneasy bodies. The desired coming together that these gatherings represent is tempered by the risk that too much too soon will force us back into isolation.

A Crowded Room brings together the work of four artists: Bronwen Bradshaw, Nell Brookfield, Sophie Willoughby and Maddalena Zadra. Scenes recalled from memory and intimately observed touch portraits sit alongside carnivalesque chimeras and bird-head masks. Together this odd company of real and imagined figures creates a surrogate crowd in the space of the gallery.”

The etchings which were chosen for this exhibition stem from a time in my life when theatre was a huge inspiration. All the etchings have a story behind them, which the viewer is invited to imagine; however, I’ll give a few clues here.

The Three Brighdes

The Three Brighdes may not be a theatre piece, but the manner of their making was. A group of women gathered in a small chapel in Glastonbury on St Bridget’s Day, February 1st, to make that year’s Brighde, or Bridget doll (it was the middle one, with a cork for a nose). This ritual was accompanied by wine – hence the cork – and much laughter, as well as serious intent to celebrate Imbolc, the Celtic first day of Spring, and thereby to honour the Irish Saint Bridget, whose chapel it was, and who spent many years at Glastonbury. I drew these three dolls as they later lolled together in Diana Griffith’s caravan at the Dove. This is an etching on copper, and incorporates lift ground, soft ground, open bite and aquatint.

The Wedding Party

This little etching, or drypoint, was scratched, sandpapered and scraped onto an acrylic sheet, inked up and printed through an etching press. The wedding party was one of many winding up a steep road to a monastery in the Caucasus mountains. The bride and groom were given a rapid blessing, and then the next party would arrive. Georgia has a strong religious tradition, but during the Soviet era weddings were only performed in civic ceremonies. This is how the Georgians got round this.

Remembered

‘Remembered’ is just that: an image that came from memory. I don’t know who she is or was, but she was very definite, and I enjoyed making the print out of cardboard and various textures stuck together and printed as an etching plate. This technique is known as Collograph.

Tamburlaine

Tamburlaine the Great was played by Antony Sher at the Globe Theatre in Stratford on Avon some time in the ‘nineties. My daughter Robin and I had queued all night in bitter January weather to get two of the best 100 seats in the house for just £5 each. We were rewarded with middle of the front row seats, and the prowling figure of the tyrant at the front of the apron stage threatened to land in our laps. I dreamed of this image all the following night and quickly jotted it down in the morning. The resulting etching is on zinc, and is a combination of lift ground, aquatint and open bite. A year or two after completing this etching, I saw Antony Sher in a radically different character in an Alan Ayckbourn play at the Savoy, and afterwards went backstage to give him number one of the edition. He is an artist as well as an actor, and his thankyou card said he liked it very much. That pleased me, not because I was flattered (though I was), but because in it he had recognised something of the character he created.

The Messenger

Last, but not least, The Messenger. This was made from a rapid sketch of a lovely carved stone head in the Glastonbury Abbey Museum. It played a leading role in a solo exhibition I had at the Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury, based on a 6 month residency at the Abbey. It is a monoprint, which means each print, though similar, has differences, as it is redrawn each time I print it. This is a fast and often powerful technique that I will be teaching this weekend at a workshop organised by the curators of the exhibition, Kendra Matchett and Matt Page. My huge thanks to them for inviting me to exhibit, and for finding works of mine that I had long forgotten about, and which might well set me off in a new direction.

The exhibition continues this weekend 26/27 September, and the following weekend 3/4 October, or by appointment with the organisers. Please see their website for further details at http://www.matchett.page

Bride's cross

A topic we are currently tossing around on our ABCD book group page is ‘Magical Thinking’, which originated in a post made by Judith Staines, of Taleos: talismans that ward off danger, in particular plague and illness.

Taleo from Laos

Taleo in a Lao village

So I started looking around for home grown talismans (-men?), and came across the St Bridget’s cross. “Making a St Bridget’s Cross is a custom in Ireland. The St Bridget’s Cross is made out of plants called rushes for hanging above the entrances to dwellings to invoke the saint’s help in warding off disease.”

Screen Shot 2020-04-11 at 11 Apr 13.47.24

I’ve been aware of St Bridget, or Brigid, or Bridie, or Brighde, for a long time, as she is closely associated with Glastonbury, my home town. On the outskirts of the town is a green hill (not the Tor, much flatter!) known as Bride’s Mound. For several years now it has been owned by a trust of local people who have so far successfully warded off encroachment onto the site by the neighbouring industrial estate, the former Morlands site. Excavations were undertaken in the 19th and 20th centuries, and I believe also recently. These have revealed the foundations of an old chapel, or maybe two, possibly corroborating the legend that St Bridget came here from Ireland and that this place was the entry point for Irish monks visiting Glastonbury, one of whom is said to have been St Patrick himself.

Bride's Mound for blog

‘Bride’s Mound’, an etching, part of my ‘Holy Islands’ series

Brides Mound from the Brue

Bride’s mound during the floods of 2013

My etching was made in 2013 as part of a solo show at Glastonbury Abbey. But my interest stems from earlier than that: in around 1988 I took part in an annual ritual of making a ‘Brighde Doll’, in the Bridget Chapel that leans against the north wall of Glastonbury Abbey. A group of women friends had got together on Brigid’s Day, February 1st, to make a doll out of anything that they had/was lying around. Our Brighde that year is the one in the middle of my etching, with a cork for a nose (lavish wine drinking traditionally accompanied the ritual, or so we imagined). The 3 Brighdes, that one and the two from previous years, took up temporary residence at the Dove in Diana Griffith’s caravan, and there I drew them and made this etching:

The 3 Brighdes

The etching had the distinction of being considered for removal from an exhibition at the Black Swan Gallery, Frome, later that year, following several complaints from the public that it was ‘black magic’ and too ‘witchy’. Plus ça change….Luckily, it was saved by the then curator, who didn’t bow to public pressure.

So….later, in the ’90’s, I made many etchings from imagination, eyes closed at first, and then worked with what emerged. This one became ‘Old Biddy’ and shows Brigid with her cows.

Old Biddy

Brigid, incidentally, can be seen with her cows in a carving on the side of the Tor.

Brigid on the Tor

Brigid milking her cow, bas relief on the outside wall of Glastonbury Tor

Here’s a lovely description of Brigid from the Glastonbury Abbey website: “Most of the miracles attributed to her were concerned with the relief of poverty or illness. She is reputed to have personally ministered to lepers and to have cured many. Legend draws for us vivid pictures of the kind of woman she was: her lavish generosity, tireless energy and irresistible charm, equally at home in the fields tending sheep or bringing in the harvest. She is found milking cows, making butter and cheese, and tubs of home-brewed ale.”

I love her more already.

So, today I set about making a Brigid Cross from reeds I found in the Whitefield. They were a bit brittle – the time for making these is reputedly February 1st, her day; also Celtic Imbolc and New Year, which would, of course, also have been the totally appropriate time to start guarding ourselves again the plague. But I managed, and here it is, the Brigid Cross, adorning the wall by my ‘magical thinking table’ by the door.

Brigid Cross in the Kitchen

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Originally posted on rosalind marchant:
I have just signed  up to show my work at a friend’s studio in Lauzerte during a national “arts and craft” weekend called  “Les Journées Européennes des Métiers d’Art ” (JEMA).   JEMA takes place during the first weekend of April…. well, Friday 31 march until Sunday 2 April….  and…

Grand Canyon

Etching

850 x 600 mm

It was only just over 4 months ago that I sat on the edge of the Grand Canyon and made the sketch for this etching; more a process of attempting to make sense of what I was looking at than creating an instant artwork.

grand-canyon-drawing-for-blog

And now here is the (very much not instant!) artwork, half of which I published on Facebook a few weeks ago. Since my trip to the US, the main instigator of our road trip, my dear friend Jaki Whitren, who INSISTED I came along when I almost baled out, has died, as has her partner, or rather, soul mate, John Cartwright, another of my dearest friends.

grand-canyon-patchwork-1-for-blog

So I dedicate this etching to the memory of John and Jaki with much love. And as, since my trip to the South West, America has been plunged into crisis and I want to express my support for the struggle ahead, I also dedicate this work to my American friends and friends in America; to all the people who smoothed our way for us on the road trip, both indigenous and immigrant (that’s all the rest); and to the Parks Department people, who protect this extraordinary canyon and who were the first to stand up to tyranny. I just hope we can all follow their lead.

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