Jane Blackman and Kate Blee

Jane Blackman and Kate Blee

Participating makers:
Jane Blackman
Kate Blee

Jane Blackman

Painters in the eighteenth century sometimes used a 'landscape glass' to help them with their work. It was a smallish concave mirror which would reflect the scene before them and, by distorting it, reveal its underlying structure. The artist might then reassemble the image onto canvas making a picture at once true, yet fresh.

Jane Blackman seems to use her vessels like a landscape glass, sucking into them the natural world, earth and sky and water, until these simple elements achieve a concentration that makes them startling and strange. As in a landscape glass we see the world reversed. Our sense of 'up' and 'down' is throw into sudden doubt, clouds and streams, paths and branches change places and the horizon becomes elusive. Looking inside these calm white forms the interiors seem to shift and shimmer. We might be watching reflections in a pond, or gazing through the sun-filled tunnel made by trees along a road in summer, where colour and shadow, substance and void, are constantly interwoven.

Each of these whole but fragile worlds is contained in a sheer and solid outer shell. The hand-built surfaces are chalky smooth and crisply cut at the edges. They are symmetrical, sometimes round one axis and sometimes round two. They speak of our desire for order in the changing, shape-shifting world. They evoke the scientific landscape features of our more recent past. The pale domes and saucers of Jodrell Bank and Fylingdales, carefully placed to watch, and listen, for the natural or the unnatural, approaching.
Blackman's forms have the same mysterious poise. They seem to contemplate the worlds that they contain. Writing about the radio telescope in 1971, Nikolaus Pevsner commented that in modern astronomy 'bowls or dishes replaces lenses'. So, perhaps, in landscape art as well.

Rosemary Hill 2004

 

Kate Blee

The placing of colour on cloth: after the moulding of clay it must be the most fundamental, the most ancient form of human creativity. There is scarcely a society without it and in our own, at every social and aesthetic level, from a carpet slipper to a vast Renaissance canvas, we see colour on cloth. We read it more instinctively than words, but less consistently. Black, in Britain, is the colour of mourning. In some places it is white. Yellow for sanctity, purple for royalty, pink for a girl. It all depends where you are.

Goethe thought that blue was the quintessence of all colour, the true opposite of white. He wrote a whole essay, 'On Blue', in which he tried to wrest his own experience of the visible world from the grip of Newtonian physics. The intersection of the personal and the physical in our experience of colour, the crafted and the random, is at the heart of Kate Blee's textile pieces. Her dye stuffs seep into the cloth, guided but not quite controlled.

In an age of hyper-realism, digital photography and video, our need for images in art has not diminished, but has changed. Artists have learned what craftsmen - and women - always knew, that we read coloured cloth as pattern, as abstraction. The line of the horizon, a lowering sky or a rising sun cast shadows on the memory that the textile can awaken. The syncopated beat of woven grid and fluid line tap out a rhythm on the eye. The softer textures of unwoven cloth push the pattern into three dimensions.
These are domestic objects, full of home and wide at the same time, like the sky.

Rosemary Hill 2004

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