Category Archives: poetry

The strange, poetic world of Catrin Welz-Stein

catrin Whale-watching

Catrin Welz-Stein creates strange, magical images from combining old photo fragments, paintings and illustrations. She originally trained as a graphic designer and illustrator in Germany and then worked in graphic design. During a break from work to bring up children, she began in 2009 to create images based on digital collaging in Photoshop. She has said she felt compromised by professional graphic design, having to make art that is ‘forced to explain itself from the beginning’. In Photoshop she began to produce images with a dreamlike quality instead, an art that comes from ‘inner feeling which we hide in our daily lives’. The time spent with her children also re-introduced her to fairy tales and the fantasy of children’s literature.

Welz-Stein’s work draws on the many photographs, paintings and illustrations that she stores on her computer. She produces the images by cutting, copying, transforming little pieces of images and blending them with others, sewing all the fragments together to create something new. Motifs recur: keys, moons, birds, flowers, leaves, trees, bird cages, fish, words, houses, butterflies, water, balloons. Each image tends to focus around one figure (sometimes a few figures), predominantly women, though there are men, children and birds, too. Around, and sometimes within, the figure, fabulous and odd things take place: a woman stares at a huge fish floating across the sky with a whale roped to its underbelly; a girl walks across a tightrope high above a city, holding the earth as a balloon; a woman’s long hair protrudes almost horizontally behind her, and from it hangs a moon, a cloud, a bird cage; a man in a top hat stands beneath a streetlight, the light inside which is the crescent moon. The costumes worn by the figures are often extravagant: a woman’s dress is made from flowers or leaves or buildings, a girl wears an Edwardian dress with keys dangling from its rear.

Catrin-Welz-Stein_9600_803Catrin Welz-Stein - German Surrealist Graphic Designer - Tutt'Art@ (53)

The images engender a poetic world reminiscent of fairy tales and surrealism; some are unsettling, others more whimsical. Each picture seems to tell a fragment of a story, one based on an unconscious truth. Welz-Stein cites her contemporary influences as artists and illustrators like Kelly Rae Roberts, Okaf Hajek and Natalie Shou; more historical influences include Botticelli, Otto Dix, Rene Magritte, Frida Kahlo and Gustav Klint . Certainly Magritte’s impact is evident, with his depictions of ordinary objects in a strange context to engender poetic realities; and that of Frida Kahlo too, with her women in odd scenarios, dressed in extravagant costumes, closely linked to the earth, vegetation and animals.

catrin imagecartin welz-stein artistcatrin welz stein

Catrin Welz-Stein’s work became well known through social media. She now has 27K likes on Facebook and over 2000 followers on Instagram. More about her can be found from her website http://catrinwelzstein.blogspot.am/

Catrin Welz-Stein 34catrin man

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Evelyn Williams: Revelations of Inner Experience

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Perhaps because of events in my personal life, I find myself drawn to the Welsh artist Evelyn Williams (1929-2012). She pioneered a singular art of visionary and poetic power, albeit one that did not fit neatly into any art-historical box. She was largely neglected in her lifetime by the Art Establishment, although her paintings were admired by other artists and writers, including Angela Carter and Fay Weldon.

In the 1950s, when Evelyn Williams began her career, the art-world was a preserve of men and of male representations of women, many of them erotic. Female figures abound her art, with pale, oval faces, simply dressed or naked, their hair like the twisted skeins of embroidery silks. Even where naked (not nude), though, the figures suggest vulnerability rather than eroticism. Her subject, the most universal one of all, is human experience and human relationships – en masse, in groups, couples, or alone. This focus on human relationships isn’t domestic or cosy; indeed, the atmosphere in her paintings seems to oscillate between calm and disquiet. 

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Williams’ art is centred round deeply felt narratives, which reveal the hidden, interior world of their subjects. The narrative can be suggested by something like the cup of a hand to a face, or by something more substantial – a woman sleeping in a woodland clearing, an almost fairy-tale image. The pictures are often stark, with strong contrasts of light and darkness. Themes of loneliness and alienation recur. 

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Williams wrote that her paintings attempt to make visible an inner anguish and experience: “My work comes from my life…it will always be introspective. This is me and all I know about. I would like to show how people feel about each other, and describe how they deal with their own personal predicament, but this is groping in the dark.” She also said: “Is there a disease that manifests a person taking upon themselves the suffering of the world? What is its name? I believe I have the disease. In my case it is at the very centre of my work”.

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(c) National Museum of Wales / Amgueddfa Cymru; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

As well as paintings, she produced sculpture. In fact, in 1961 she won the John Moore prize for sculpture despite having entered the competition for painting – her masked heads, built out of layers oil paint, resembled clay reliefs.

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Williams’ work combines the vision of a poet and the empathy of someone listening with her heart. The pictures are revelations of inner experience – Keats ‘unheard melodies’ perhaps. Despite the disquiet, the artworks offer consolation and understanding.

 

 

 

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Taste the Rain: Anna Gillespie’s Sculpture

Taste the Rain, 2007 Bark, mixed media

Taste the Rain, 2007
Bark, mixed media

The British artist Anna Gillespie (1964) makes figurative sculpture based on the human form. The focus of her work is on emotion, simplicity of form and our relationship to and experience of nature. Antony Gormley is a significant influence as is Francis Bacon, whose paintings helped her clarify how emotional injury can be conveyed through figuration. Gillespie’s figures often reflect the fragility and vulnerability of human beings and being human.

Although she works in media like stone, bronze and even duct-tape, an emphasis has been on sculptures made from ephemeral natural materials. Taste the Rain (2007) is a beautiful example. “This is part of an ongoing series of work using material that has fallen from trees: acorns, beechnut casings, leaves, bark, sycamore keys….For this piece, I found the bark in a wood near my home in the south west of England, from a fallen tree.”

“All these works try to express a moment of connection to nature and this particular piece is about trying to draw the viewer into recalling what it feels like to stand out in the rain and engage their senses.”

“Trees have a skin and so do we. Trees stand up tall and so do we. Trees stand in the rain. This piece asks us to reconnect with this experience which we all share, narrowing the gap between the trees experience and our human experience of nature.”

The Gift Acorn cups, mixed media

The Gift
Acorn cups, mixed media

She also places an emphasis on honouring the unconscious processes involved in making artworks. “One of the crucial things about letting the unconscious have its say is that, being a sculptor of the human body, breathing ‘life’ into inert materials is at the heart of my work. I take inert materials, whether it be clay, masking tape, acorns or plaster, and I make something that for a moment people might believe is sentient, has feelings. Whilst actually what is happening is that our own feelings can be projected into an object, just for a minute the reality is different and a magic transformation happens. The object, the figure, contains life.”

Invisible Breeze, 2010 Acorn cups, mixed media

Invisible Breeze, 2010
Acorn cups, mixed media

More information and images can be found on her website http://www.annagillespie.co.uk

Autumn, 2007 Inkjet print

Autumn, 2007
Inkjet print

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Annual Feb 4th Tribute to Writer Russell Hoban

“What most people take to be reality is a load of old nonsense invented by not very inventive minds.”

"What most people take to be reality is a load of old nonsense invented by not very inventive minds.”

“What most people take to be reality is a load of old nonsense invented by not very inventive minds.”

Every 4th February  – the birth date of Russell Hoban (1925-2011) – fans of this brilliant author write their favourite quotations from his books on sheets of yellow A4 paper and leave them in public places, and/or share them online (this is the Slickman A4 Quotation Event or SA4QE, which began in 2002.)

I first became aware of the SA4QE in about 2005 from an article in The Guardian, and have done the event ever since, often leaving quotes on A4 paper around the local village green next to the river. Doing this feels playful and subversive, a fitting tribute to a quixotic writer. I like the quotes to express what I love about Hoban – his mix of poetry, profundity and humour, his ability to veer effortlessly from the sublime to the hilarious.

“It is a strange and frightening thing to be a human being, to partake of the mystery and madness of human consciousness.”

“It is a strange and frightening thing to be a human being, to partake of the mystery and madness of human consciousness.”

I also leave smaller versions of the quotes tucked under baked-bean tins and packets of biscuits in the local village shop. I like the idea, and like to think Hoban would have liked the idea, of someone picking up a can of baked beans and finding underneath a small piece of paper that reads, “What most people take to be reality is a load of old nonsense invented by not very inventive minds.”

As I was finishing up, a woman with a golden Labrador walked past, stopped, read a couple of the quotes and looked at me. “Oh,” she said. “Oh. Oh.”

“Yes, Oh,” I said.

She smiled and walked off. I felt it was a suitably Hobanesque encounter.

'Hear the earth, ponderous with evening, turning to the night.'

‘Hear the earth, ponderous with evening, turning to the night.’

'Rising in the moony ocean night and never, never finding never until now finding the mystery of me so long dreamt of'

‘Rising in the moony ocean night and never, never finding
never until now finding
the mystery of me so long dreamt of’

More information about the event and about Russell Hoban can be found at http://www.russellhoban.org/sa4qe

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Stark, Dark Poetree on the Wintery Road

Open road Poetree

Open road Poetree

“I don’t think I will ever see/ A poem as lovely as a tree,” said Joyce Kilmer, way back in 1913. This quote steers through my head as, on the open winter road, arboreal forms rise up, dark and stark against the burnished* sky, trees like black ideograms, like speaking silhouettes of strength and solitude.

*Okay, so I admit I jiggled with the sky colour in Photoshop. This was the original…

Open Road Poetree

Open Road Poetree

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The Unwieldy Music of Geese…

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“…and then comes – question, is it?

Assertion, prayer, aria – as delivered

by something too compelled in its passage

to sing? A hoarse and unwieldy music

which plays nonetheless down the length

of me until I am involved in their flight,

the unyielding necessity of it, as they literally

rise above…”

Mark Doty – Migratory

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