Monday, 30 June 2014

Quotes: Susan Sontag

"What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more ... In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art."Susan Sontag, American author (1933-2004) "Against Interpretation," 1966 

Friday, 27 June 2014


Zinnia; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
For the past month I have been in the studio preparing hundreds of surfaces for my two new series: (Re)Collection and Poetic Memory. Now it's time to play with colour, collage, and stitching and see where and how they guide the work. Since I was a child, the zinnia has been my favourite summer annual. At this point, Poetic Memory will likely include this colour combination of magenta and yellow. I am curious to discover how the series will unfold and how to get what's in my head into the visual realm, and to see how my ideas will change.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Quotes: Paterson Ewen

"I don't believe too much in originality... you learn art from other art and then looking into somebody's face or landscape is the point of departure to do your work of art." – Paterson Ewen, (1925- 2002) Canadian painter

Friday, 20 June 2014

Dorothy Caldwell Silent Ice Deep Patience @ Art Gallery of Peterborough 1

Dorothy Caldwell Silent Ice Deep Patience Ochre dyed textiles; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Last week I trekked out to Peterborough to photograph (with permissions from Dorothy Caldwell and the fine staff at the Art Gallery of Peterborough) Dorothy Caldwell's solo exhibition Silent Ice Deep Patience, on until June 22, 2014. I spent more than two hours in the gallery looking, taking pictures, jotting down notes about the work and my responses to it. By the end of the day, I had written fourteen pages. This is an exhibition that calls me to take my time to think and write about it. I'll share more in other blog posts. This exhibition is travelling to the Cambridge Galleries in January 2015 and then on to St. Mary's University Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia in March 2015. A publication is in the works.
Dorothy Caldwell Absorbing Place, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Absorbing Place is one of my favourite pieces in the show. It is 18" X 24" and mounted on industrial felt. Dorothy dyed/stained the cotton fabric with earth ochre in Australia and then stitched and appliqu├ęd the surface.
Dorothy Caldwell Absorbing Place detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Celeste Scopelites, Director of the Art Gallery of Peterborough, told me that India Flint was Dorothy Caldwell's guide in Australia and they were given access to a protected ochre pit on a sheep ranch. The five textiles in the top picture: Lake, Absorbing Place, Flying Over Salt Lakes, Human Trace, and Pink Hill were all coloured with earth ochres. The range of colour is astonishing.
Dorothy Caldwell Absorbing Place detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
I've long been interested in colouring fabrics with natural substances, and ochre is new to me. Inspired by this substance, I'm now reading about it in Victoria Finlay's Colour: Travels Through the Paint Box, a book I highly recommend.
Dorothy Caldwell Absorbing Place detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
I'll write more about this exhibition in a series of posts. I'll likely write more about Absorbing Place as well.

I highly recommend reading Judy Martin's post about this show. It was her photographs and writing that compelled me to make the long drive to see the work.

All photos were taken with permission from Dorothy Caldwell and the fine staff of the Art Gallery of Peterborough.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Intuitive mark-making: Tracing shadows

PussyWillow shadows © Karen Thiessen, 2014
I've now surpassed 100 days in a row of intuitive mark-making. Some days I am tired and would rather skip the drawing, but I persist. It's on the days that I lack motivation that I make new discoveries. My parents came for a weekend visit and I wanted to visit while fulfilling my intuitive mark-making commitment. I balanced a pussywillow branch on a mug at the dining room table and proceeded to trace its shadow over and over again. I love the lines.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Quotes: Rainn Wilson

"The making of art is no different than prayer." Rainn Wilson, American actor (found via Art Propelled)

Friday, 13 June 2014

Studio Series: Sanctuary/Exile 3 in pieces

Sanctuary/Exile III in pieces © Karen Thiessen, 2014
For the past few years I've meant to cut up one of my textile failures. Last week I finally grabbed a pair of scissors and went to town with it and found the act to be satisfying. Now it's ready to become something else.
Sanctuary 3a © Karen Thiessen, 2003
Here is Sanctuary 3a in its original state. The stitching and dyed fabrics are gorgeous, the proportion and beads are a disaster.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Intuitive mark-making practice update

Intuitive mark-making practice update © Karen Thiessen, 2014
By next week I'll reach 100 days in a row of intuitive mark-making. Soon I'll incorporate the drawings into my collage and textile work. It's a busy, exciting time.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Studio Series: Nebula 3: back & front

Nebula 3 (back) © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Many moons ago I rust-stained, naturally dyed, and stitched this rectangular textile. Nebula I and Nebula II are in private collections. Nebula III was an experiment in odd proportions and it didn't really work. The other day, as I was organizing my studio, I decided to cut Nebula III up into tags. Then, I turned it over to see the back and I was smitten with the lines.
Nebula 3 (front detail) © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Nebula III will yield two tags. Initially, I was going use the red side for the fronts of both tags, but now I think I'll use one red and one gold.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Studio Series: Poetic Memory visual research II

Poetic Memory visual research © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The new body of work, tentatively called Poetic Memory, is finally dropping hints about how it wants to look. My colour palette is about to change in a big way.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The path to new work: it's a spiral

Spiral Staircase; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
"The path isn't a straight line; it's a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths." – Barry H. Gillespie

Days after I started feeling more like my pre-accident self I celebrated by pulling an all-nighter to do a big clear out of my studio. I filled two recycle bins and moved out the clutter. The space now has breathing and thinking room. My work requires use of materials and tools (fabric, paper, acrylics, thread, brushes, needles...) that in certain quantities or arrangements look like clutter. Just the right amount of clutter stimulates creativity and too much or too little will stifle it. 

Along with decluttering my studio, I have swept the porch and I've been preparing surfaces for collage. These actions are harbingers of new work about to be made. I can feel the energy building.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Scanner collage

Collage with my scanner © Karen Thiessen, 2014
I like how the objects in this scanner collage seem to float. 

The annual New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale was on Saturday and I have a few pictures of quilts in the process of being auctioned to share. This year I was too busy visiting with friends and family to get a good look at the quilts before they were auctioned, so I have no detail pictures. The day was sunny and warm, perfect for a good turnout and a sunburn.