I went off to this exhibition not expecting to be so interested, but not knowing a great deal either. But it was rich and ornate and elaborate in the ways I had anticipated but also much more absorbing. A huge show – too big for one visit but I picked and mixed, and enjoyed the caned chairs early on, with their tall backs and close mesh caning. I have recently repaired some seats and backs of chairs of either 1690’s or, it now seems more likely, about 1706, for a large Sussex estate but brought in from the Netherlands by earlier family members with the advent of caned furniture in this country. So details of joins and pattern were of interest. I was particularly looking for joins in the centre of the mesh, very rare later but to be seen in a chair of 1690 in Dover Museum, indicating, I think, the high value of the material. I had never thought of these high backed chairs with their barley twists as being right at the forefront of the baroque.
It was also new to me that baroque was a global style, flourishing in Europe and then spreading through a colonial world. I should have guessed, as I know something of the widespread trade in medieval times, but my art education is patchy, mostly picked up by buying Medici postcards at school, flimsy things but ten a week being displayed every week at 1d each. These were reinforced by a five minute art history session one morning a week, starting with Giotto and being a three year course. I saw and heard it twice. Enlightened and enlightening.
Back to the exhibition: the other piece that absorbed me particularly was a large plump Madonna, wooden with a painted dress of flowers and sprigs, which has also stayed in my head. I came back, ten days into the residency and with the first Open Studio looming and with an almost empty Studio to play with some of the plastics, wires and strings I had there to make something that people could handle and investigate. Nothing like being able to touch. Barley sugar spirals were the start, seen in abundance on altars and sculptural work, elaboration on the already elaborate, rich gold. Brilliant yellow washing line, magic useful stuff at the moment , became a spiraled curly piece with some humour which can be arranged in a number of ways. Open Studio visitors had many variations but my OPA (Outside professional assistant) who was with me through the afternoon came up with my favourite and I have now fixed it more or less her way. I am better pleased with it than I expected. I also had a ‘go’ at the Madonna embroidery with a different washing line (I will write just about this material sometime) sewn with fine dark purple wire. It took forever and I am not sure it is going anywhere but these ideas sometimes sit for months and then develop. That is what continues to make making interesting for me.