When we are tied to an idea, an investigation, it is hard to let this go. I have experience of this as my friends have questioned my need to photograph scaffolding in Egypt, elaborate door knockers in Carta Gena. Colombia, or add to my ‘pregnant stone’ collection every time I go to the beach. It is possibly partly because of this that I felt immediately at home listening to artist Les Bicknell lecture on his practice.
There is something pleasing and reassuring to see an artist so entirely compulsively drawn to a particular type of imagery and thoughts around the subject, that their work on this theme becomes endlessly fruitful. This is because there is always a new way to discover material which is familiar; or a new angle to take. The theme of books and bookness has been central to Bicknell’s work, evolving into dynamic and beautiful works which tackle the exploration of folding, rebinding, collections, storage and all other elements of this sense of being ‘held’ in some form. Bicknell’s description of his investigations was hypnotic; how one fold inspires the next, involves making a discovery, a connection, which in itself becomes a turning point. The theme endlessly evolves, renewed and refreshed by frequent observations, connections and moments of clarity which Bicknell described enthusiastically. In addition to this, his advice about keeping a journal and developing ideas through a variety of stages feels intuitive as it is something which I have always adhered to, for my own personal satisfaction. I am hardly ever without a sketch book. I was inspired by Bicknell’s comment about doing one minute sketches, allowing a subtle sense of form to evolve, without any need for accuracy or detail. This appeals a great deal. I laughed that the sentiment about using a journal was not lost on me as I wrote copious notes during this lecture.
My own book….filled with ideas from Les Bicknell’s lecture.
I am drawn to Bicknell’s style of work; the perfect creases, the angles and structures, the folds and repetition. I am drawn to the patterns in nature, the recording of pleats in all their various forms, the dynamism of the hand-held wire form. I am drawn to it because it is so different from my style of work. And that is so often what this is about – being inspired by other people, not from a place where one wants to copy them or indulge some secret yearning to be like them; but to admire their sophisticated and unique approach to subject matter. This makes me question why these things have never occurred to me. To install a fabric hanging over a ceiling, reminiscent of the furrow in a field; to show in this work the intense beauty of the land art created all around us, on a daily basis, by those who plant and grow and fertilise. One observed subject leading to a stunning fabric installation. His relationship with nature, and with his surroundings, sympathetically recorded and dynamically restructured in his work. As I lived in Norfolk for seven years, I can understand well the variety in exposure to beautiful quiet spaces and huge open skies, alongside agriculture and architecture. I can see how these things have impacted on some of Bicknell’s works. These tender and delicate observations about books, and collections, and folds, and pleats, and hinges, and parallel lines, and weaving, and storage, and selection, and libraries, and………
It was beautiful!