Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A new start, and amazing artist of the day: Mike Lythgo

  Diving Gannet and Wee Fish by Mike Lythgoe

I've been trying to read Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit for a while now, but was a bit put off by feeling vuagely embarassed or unworthy.  I'm glad I picked it up again yesterday though - something in it really made me reconsider what I want to be doing with my art, what my inspirations are, what I'm good at, where I come from.  Me, me me, it sounds so self-centered!  However, I think trying to work it out is a worthwhile exercise, especially if I can become less frustrated and miserable with my art.  Hopefully I'll be able to puzzle out where I should be directing and focussing my urgent, constant and sometimes overwhelming need to create.

I covet images and inspirations, hoarding them like Smaug, which isn't particularly healthy.  I can't print and pin all of them to my wall, but perhaps presenting and analysing them here will allow my thoughts to crystalise and I'll find some peace.  If I can introduce people to some of the stunning work that finds its way through my eyeballs every day, that further validates the exercise.  I'll try and avoid making this too heavy, but it's primarily an exercise in untangling my thoughts - edited and audited, but still thinking out loud.  It might not be the best reading, but pretty pictures are guaranteed.

Five Sanderlings Resting by Mike Lythgoe

Searching for the Mike Lythgoe (who presented the Radio 4 programme I'm writing about at the moment), I came across his namesake's incredible bird sculptures.  Something in them really speaks to me, and has shaken the dust off some sculptures I've had kicking around in my head for quite a while now.

I think it's the purity and simplicity of form, not sacrificing the beauty of the curves for the sake of realism, but capturing the motion and character of the subject.   He compliments the creatures using the matt, rugged, quiet forms of driftwood as incredibly unobtrusive stands and backdrops, be it for individual figures or for his utterly delightful tableau of predatory bird and bright, fleeing fish.

A year or so ago I spent a fascinating afternoon in the library, devouring a book on carving accurate and realistic life-size replicas of various birds, right down to individual feather-barbs.  I found the artist's work beautiful and incredible, but though stunning in its execution of carving, paint and pose, it didn't move me the way that Lythgoe's work does. 

Five Sanderlings Resting makes me homesick for the Essex marshes, long for the sea, and feel utterly at home.  Thinking about it along with Tharp's comments on artistic scope and scale is making me reconsider why I've been having such trouble with the carving I've been working on for the past two years.  Existing halfway between the extreme detail I can't seem to avoid in painting or drawing, and the extreme abstraction I long to sculpt in stone, it's fallen in a hinterland, a morass of conflicting desires and designs.  I'll persevere with it, but I think this revalation is going to be helpful not just in finishing it but in recognising and discarding or redeveloping dead-end ideas in future.

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