This should almost be posted on the Complicities blog because it is through cutting text for my artists’ book that I’m documenting on that site that I came to these other links, but it has all reminded me of a childhood fascination. When I was little and living in High Wycombe in the UK, my parents would sometimes take me to a place of wonder: a litle book shop in a house that was, I think, called The Red Barn. I remember finding shelves of books tucked away under the stairs, down corridors and in small rooms and I remember the excitement of being allowed to browse for one special paperback that my parents would buy for me… or which might be the fruits of a christmas or birthday book voucher – my favourite kind of present! I still remember some of the evocative titles: Casilda of the Rising Moon, The Wierdstone of Brisingamen and The Red Towers of Granada. But a favourite author was Joan Aiken and although I loved the stories of her Wolves of Willoughby Chase series, I adored her books of strange fairy tales illustrated by Jan Pienkowski. His style in the early 1970s was of silhouettes on beautifully marbled backgrounds, and for years those swirling, magical drawings heavily influenced my love of patterns and of black against white.
I was reminded of all that when I stumbled upon a website through a devious route that I cannot now retrace. It’s Cindy’s Scherenschnitte blog, which is great. Pienkowski doesn’t use papercutting, as far as I’m aware, drawing his illustrations in pen and ink, but the overall effect is similar. I wonder what attracts me to the style. Simplicity is one key, which opens up the possibilities of imagination. Although the castles, undersea worlds or dark forests are presented in black, they become coloured in my imagination with visual references from all the medieval stories I’ve ever read, Pre-Raphaelite paintings, William Morris, Russian folk art, persian carpets… the list is a long one. What fun!
Through the Scherenschnitte blog I was also directed towards Su Blackwell’s amazing sculptural paper, as well as to Peter Callesen, whom I already reference in this blog, and to Tord Boontje, whose lacy paper cutouts have garlanded my walls and my lights ever since he was ‘discovered’ in the UK interior design market a few years ago.
This meandering path through different blogs and different websites is one of the great pleasures of blogging! Not only do you put your own thoughts and vision and work out there for other people to look at, you’re able to take small peeks into other people’s worlds and see what they do, and also what interests and influences them. I find it endlessly interesting, not in a voyeuristic way but sometimes just as a reassurance that there are ‘others like me’ out there, or that in some way there are ‘benchmarks’ against which I can measure my own work. It isn’t competitive, but how else does an artist see what’s going on in someone else’s mind and/or studio, unless they’re lucky enough to be working in a creative environment (group studio, perhaps, or at an art institution) or have an enormous circle of generous and creative friends? Blogging has opened up the inner life of artists in a way that hasn’t seemed possible before, and I for one am enjoying it.