Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fortezza di Basso

A drawing made with red ink and a dip pen, of the monumental Fortezza di Basso in Florence, Italy. I sat outside the walls and let myself get lost in their detail. The effect was a bit overwhelming, much like the fortress itself.

The name, di Basso, signifies simply the lower fortress, to distinguish it from the Belvedere fortress atop the hill to the south of the city. If you draw a line between the two, you cover most of Florence's downtown, significant sites, and public spaces. This is not a co-incidence; the Lower Fortress was built less to keep out enemies than to overawe the citizens of a city that had, already, exiled its ruling family multiple times.

When Cosimo di Medici built the Fortezza di Basso, he wanted to be sure that never happened again. He was successful, but in the process saw the reduction of the great Renaissance city to a police state. It never recovered its old effervescence.

The fortress's walls are unusual; they are faced with solid stone, but every second block is carved into an extruding bulge or hemisphere. This has no military function, but instead evokes the six balls on the coat of arms of the Medici family. They didn't want anyone to forget who was boss.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

Rough sketch of the Regent's Canal

Tarragon sometimes uses the iPad to rough out concepts for new work: this is a small digital version of what will be a woodblock print about 18" high.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Young Curator

I started carving this back in October and I all but gave up on it as it dawned on me just how long it would take to completely clear it.  Luckily I started with the hardest part, so when a light router with a quarter inch shank and a sorry excuse for a height adjustment wolly sprocket, which had a broken flim flam almost immediately, came my way, (I bought it actually) I started the tedious and now rather loud and dusty process of finishing the carving.

To start to finish something is a fine feeling and I felt feeling fine for a good three months until lo; recently, this is the final result, more or less.

It is carved on a two by four sheet of a very nice birch ply.  Birch ply is what gets used when times are tough, but it is a tough timber to tackle and does not do fine detail very well.  Also, one needs to be more aware of carving direction when using it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sake cups, part two...

What do we want from ceramics? "A degree of dimness, absolute cleanliness, and quiet so complete one can hear the hum of a mosquito."
So said Junichiro Tanizaki. Of course, he was talking about toilets - but then, porcelain is a kind of ceramic itself.
I think the dimness is important. Things that are shiny do not encourage contemplation, which is the opposite of hypnotism. You need a bit of grain or spot to concentrate the attention. A bit of patina to make it look serious.
Of course, as Tanizaki says, the sheen of patina is only the glow of grime. All those oils left by fingers and more fingers. It's how cups should look maybe, until eventually the grime is indistinguishable from a lustrous polish.

Junichiro Tanizaki took a break in 1933 from writing about sexual obsessions to give us a short essay on aesthetics, In Praise of Shadows. The title sums up the contents.

Tarragon made these sake cups in a studio in London, England. You can see others here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Clissold Park

We ended up at the park since the train to Kew Gardens was not running.  A very fine warm day which I don't appear to have caught in the slightest.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014