Liminal Space, the Prepared Piano and Indeterminacy – a Quick Note to Myself and Anybody Reading

The subject of this blog was inspired in part by the Liminal States & Thresholds for Change series of artworks by Turtle Moon Impressions blogger Janis Doucette.

Liminal space is that threshold space which is between one state of being and another. It is a necessary aspect of rites of passage. Emotions in the liminal space probably range from curious but anxious to terrified. Artists are regularly in liminal space. They are regularly between one state of being and another. I can’t imagine being happy to be in liminal space.

Or can I? The image on the left is one from a recent set of eco prints from a process I’m trying to develop. It is nothing but a few leaves and stalks, in reality.

There is however another reality that compels me to this image. It is an image of a past landscape yet to be reached. Yes, I know that’s contradictory. It is about a future place that is a return to a certain past. More contradiction. So as my own onlooker I’m standing in liminal space looking across at a place that is familiar to me that I’ve never been before. Contradiction three.

I’m reminded of Schumann’s (1810-1856) Leiderkreis (which I’ve had a go at singing). Here’s a bit of a translation of the lyrics to the opening song of the cycle. The cycle is set to a poem by Joseph von Eichendorff.

In der Fremde (In a Foreign Land)*
Joseph von Eichendorff  (1788-1857)

From my homeland, …,
The clouds come drifting in,
But …,
Now no one knows me there.

My favourite song from the Leiderkreis cycle is the fifth: Mondnacht. Expressed in both poem and musical composition is a liminal state. (It’s also the most difficult in the cycle to sing, in my not-so-humble opinion). Here’s a translation of the last verse of Mondnacht:

Mondnacht (Moonlit Night)*

And my soul spread
Her wings out wide,
Flew across the silent land,
As though flying home.

These sentiments echo the sentiments expressed in my third paragraph above. About how I feel when looking out over, from my liminal space, a new landscape that is yet strangely home. And know this landscape can only be mapped poetically, which prospect makes me, yes, happy. Because I know that the only true map of a place is the poetic one.

I’m reminded also of the work of the 19th century German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). He advised the painter, ” … close your bodily eye so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye.”

What has all this to do with …”the Prepared Piano and Indeterminacy”?”

The prepared piano is generally considered to have been the development of John Cage. It is a piano which has had objects (preparations) placed on or between the piano’s strings. This results in these strings, when the key is struck, producing a sound that is unexpected. In some cases, a sound will not repeat when the same key is struck again, depending on whether the pedal is used. (Bit woolly on that, look it up for yourself).

Is it that the listener (not having prepared ears?) will not hear what he/she is expecting? Will it therefore be indeterminate, holding our listener forever in liminal space? Maybe unresolved would be a better word to use. Whether indeterminate and unresolved can be termed parallels in Indeterminacy is a different argument.

Please feel free to argue with me. I know very little about music composition. I’ve just moved from that particular liminal space to begin studying it. Is there a Music Composition for Dummies?  Yes, there is and it’s too advanced for me. And so I’m starting here: The Art of Composing. While reading Music Theory for Dummies, which is not too advanced for me.

And I want to study these things in part because the principles of music theory and music composition are the same as those of visual art. For instance, silence in music becomes space in the visual arts.

Is your artwork inspired by music theory and composition?  I’d like to know.

Not a very quick note, then. That’ll teach me a lesson for hanging out with German Romantics.

* Translations by Richard Stokes, co-author with Dr Ian Bostridge of The Book of Lieder

Posted in Aesthetics, Art, Creativity, Inspiration, Liede, Music, Music Composition, Music Theory, Romanticism, Singing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Indeterminacy, Some Project Notes

John Cage’s Sonata and Interludes for Prepared Piano

Visual Sound (Pink Sedum) for Prepared Pasta Maker

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Cecil Collins: Fools and Angels

From: Cecil Collins: A Retrospective Exhibition:

Artists can do something more: they can vanquish the lie.”
(Alexander Solzhenitsyn)

Some Books:

The Quest for the Great Happiness: Cecil Collins: William Anderson and Cecil Collins: 1988
Cecil Collins: A Retrospective Exhibition: Judith Collins: Tate Gallery 1989
The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings: Ed: Brian Keeble: Golgonooza Press 1994;
Meditations, Poems, Pages from a Sketchbook: Cecil Collins: Ed: Brian Keeble: 1998
In Celebration of Cecil Collins: Visionary Artist and Educator: Nomi Rowe: 2008

If you haven’t time to watch the whole video, try from 16:00 onwards, or 20:00 onwards.

Posted in Art, Artist Review, Christian writing, Creativity, Inspiration, Romanticism | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Indeterminacy – Picking up A Project Where I Left Off

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Eve Fumes at that Snake – and on Paying Attention

I did something very silly. Shocking.

Earlier in the year, I decided I was only going to post blogs to which I could attach the completed artworks that arose from the ideas expressed in the blog.

And in so doing, brought my creativity to a grinding halt.

Because my blog has always been my out-loud diary. It’s been a place to ruminate, to cogitate, to fulminate – and all sorts of other -ates. To lay down ideas, to pursue these ideas (or not).

There will always be a far greater number of ideas than artworks. Ideas come in tidal waves. And only a few of these will precipitate an artwork. Not only that, but artworks don’t ever arise from a single determinator. They are multi-determined. They are palimpsests of ideas garnered from many sources – what I like to call, poetic walks.

Sometimes, a single idea might be a progenitor of an artwork, but in itself will never determine the end result. An idea is a speed-of-light thing. It is pure energy. An artwork has to materialise that energy that the idea flung into the physical universe.

An artwork is slow in coming, because the material world is slow. An artwork is about finding a form or forms which stand in for energy. And I can tell you, I have found only one such form so far in all my poetic walking.

And so, in effect, the silly thing I did was decide not to record any ideas, not to ruminate, not to cogitate; not, in effect, to have any ideas to pursue. I won’t go into the minutiae of the negative thinking process that led to that decision (for indeed it was negative thinking and that’s one poetic walk I needn’t have taken). I’ll just say that it was done unconsciously and when, only a short while ago, this dawned on me, I was shocked to the bone. I mean, I’m so aware, aren’t I? So spiritually and psychologically on-the-ball?  Evidently, and to my chagrin, not. I’m embarrassed, angry. I’m Eve and fuming with anger at that snake.

And yet. All this time, I’ve been bombarded with signs and signals telling me to pay attention. Pay attention. Pay attention. Pay attention. (I’ll write about these signs in another blog)I’ve been driven half mad. Pay attention to what? I’ve argued, with no-one in particular. And at least, I seem to have somehow scraped together enough consciousness to have noticed these signs.

Nevertheless, 2019 has gone off at a tangent  and scattered far and wide my artistic plans. An opportunity came about for my husband to cast himself loose on the high seas of self-employment; of going into business as a marine consultant (please excuse the pun) and my role in this can be described by the title of Director of Administration. While he was working out his obligatory three months’ notice, I was beavering away at designing business cards, letterheads, setting up a website and the sundry other background activities that help him into the water and once there, to keep him afloat (more puns).  (So, if you feel the need coming on to hire a marine consultant, you can contact him through Crena).

On the artistic front, outside of the design work I’ve been doing for Crena, I’ve been setting-up structures to underpin my artistic progress. These have included the renovation of the garden with a focus on preparing spaces for dye plants; and sourcing and buying the plants.

The garden renovation has resulted also in two plots for growing veggies, one with two raised beds (separable into four beds each, the other, four (also separable into four beds each). That’s 24 veggie beds, to feed two people. Guess who’s having a glut of courgettes and beans right now?

I have blogged already about my participation in How Far Does The Hand Reach?  My contribution for which was recently exhibited at Studio20 in Norwich (England) and is set to tour to venues around Britain and the wider world.

And I’ve blogged about my participation in The Tiny Sketchbook Project  which toured from New York to London, to Paris and is now back in New York.

I want to go back now to a poetic walk I began just before I sabotaged myself: Forest of Souls.

But I’m back. Damn that snake; those snakes.




Posted in Art, Blogging, Creativity, Eco/Natural Dyeing and Printing, Inspiration, Printmaking, Stitch, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Walking Covehithe

Walking Covehithe, the village that’s disappearing into the sea


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How Far Does The Hand Reach? Botanical Signatures Textile Art Exhibition, Norwich, England, July 18-20 2019

Invitation to exhibition.

Some of my work is figuring in Botanical Signatures 18-20 July at Studio20, in historic Norwich, England.

The exhibition has been put together by Maria Clarke-Wilson, who is completing an MA in Textile Design at Norwich University of the Arts and this exhibition brings together her textile art, designs and collaborations she has worked on over the last year. Presenting unique textiles created using naturally dyed and printed fabrics from leaves gathered from the plants growing near her home.

How Far Does The Hand Reach is a global collaboration hosted and curated by Maria on Facebook and which brings together a botanical printing community of 103 textile artists from 28 countries. A unique piece of collaborative textile art will be having its first public display in Norwich before it sets off on a world tour.

Alongside the collaboration you will be able to see a diverse selection of botanical prints sent to Maria from around the world. You can follow the story on Instagram  @textile collaborations.

Here’s a video of Maria at work at her studio and gallery Botanical Being :



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Little Maps of Trees is at The Other Art Fair London

The Tiny Sketchbook Project, which includes my tiny book of tiny eco prints Little Maps of Trees, has just been on show at the SLOW Galerie in Paris.

It’s now walked poetically to London, where it’s on show at The Other Art Fair, King’s Cross, from today July 4 through to and including Sunday July 7.

See my previous posts on Little Maps for more information about the work.

I’ve made a slideshow of Little Maps of TreesIt’s on my art web site:

If you’re going to The Other Art Fair in London, do please check out my tiny work and let me know via my Poetic Mapping Facebook page.

It will be heading back to Brooklyn on Monday where you can check it out for viewing at the Brooklyn Art Library, New York, when it’s not out on tour in the Bookmobile.



Posted in Art, Artist Books, Artist Sketchbooks, Eco/Natural Dyeing and Printing, Nature Journal, Printmaking | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Eco Print on Cotton with Silk Appliqués

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Eight Years Blogging – Writing Chaos into order from the Forest of Souls: Part I

Wisdom is the complete willingness to be the plaything of chance circumstances”.

I’ve been blogging for over eight years. The anniversary has come and gone. That’s a long time and a lot of words. I’ve been taking stock: what I’ve been doing all this time is turning – writing – chaos into order.

This realisation tied-in neatly with my one New Year’s Resolution for 2019: to clean up my room. It’s one of the 12 Rules in Jordan B Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. I was already into a physical de-chaosing of my new home when I first heard of Jordan Peterson, professor of psychology at Toronto University, clinical psychologist and, according to The Spectator: One of the most important thinkers to emerge on the world stage for many years. When I saw the subtitle to 12 Rules I nearly dropped my paintbrush (I was de-chaosing the kitchen ceiling).  An Antidote to Chaos, I read. I laughed out loud. 

I should be good at processing chaos. I’ve experienced a lot of chaos. I had an extremely chaotic childhood. By the age of 16 I’d moved schools and homes eight times. I even went to the same school twice. The first time I was taken away I was in a class one above my age group. Not the second time. I have a faint memory of a quarrel between the headmistress and my parents, the first time I was taken out of the school. The chaos didn’t stop in adulthood. I’ve had to do a lot of lock, stock and barreling.

And so there I was, painting the ceiling in the kitchen. And to compensate for the boredom, not to mention the neck pain, I was taking what substitutes for a spoonful of sugar – reading breaks – between brushstrokes. And that’s how I serendipitously came across the newspaper article headed: How dangerous is Jordan B Peterson, … “Who the hell is Jordan B Peterson?” I thought.

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