Bits and Bobs

I am trying to create a space that gives the viewer the same feeling I have when sitting in my house amongst all my possessions. Feelings of claustrophobia, anger, frustration, immobility amongst others. Bella-Leonard-Embroidered-Tile-detail-2013 

I really like the three dimensional quality of some of these pieces. They could offer possibilities for a practical approach to what I am trying to convey. I love textiles and working with them. Craft materials and fabric form a very large part of my hoard and are the things I am least likely to part with.  For me they represent my future as well as being a nod to my past.  

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 21.25.59Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 21.23.23


Terry Frost’s abstractions could also offer me a practical way of representing the objects in my hoard in a less personal, figurative way.

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These abstract 3D constructions by Victor Pasmore show how a space can be filled. The shapes are all regular and far too well organised to represent a hoarded room though.


But where it might seem, at first, like the “material” being worked with is more tactile (concrete, trees, gravel, benches), what Placemaking itself really creates is social, not physical. MIT’srecently-released white paper Places in the Making explained this well:

While the place is important, the “making” builds connections, creates civic engagement, and empowers citizens—in short, it builds social capital. As architect Mark Lakeman of Portland’s City Repair organization puts it, “the physical projects are just an excuse for people to meet their neighbors.” … The relationships that grow out of the “making” are equal to, if not more important than, the places that result.

Urban design, planning, and architecture are tools for creating a physical environment, but Placemaking is the process that creates the crucial, ephemeral quality—the sense of place—that ultimately animates any physical space and transforms design into destination. Below, we’ve borrowed the list of the 7 psychological functions of art in order to explain how  think the Placemaking process helps people to create community and connection, the most valuable function of all great neighborhoods.


String could represent the barriers in my mind that others can’t see, the reasons why I find it so impossible to throw away objects to create physical space in my home. These were very popular in the 70s, the decade in which I grew up. Also, I love mushrooms! They remind me of my Nan’s polka dot beakers and are also a huge feature of the fairytale worlds I used to avidly read about as a child. Thinking back I guess I have always valued my privacy and solitude, I read a lot and hated being told to go outside and play with the children I was forced to live with. It’s not that I didn’t make friends or enjoy their company but I guess then, just as now, I needed to be in control of those interactions. 

Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita, is a mushroom and psychoactive basidiomycete fungus, one of many in the genus Amanita.
Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita, is a mushroom and psychoactive basidiomycete fungus, one of many in the genus Amanita.
Vintage Polka Dot Beakers
Vintage Polka Dot Beakers
Illustration by Katherine Wigglesworth from Alison Uttley's 'Snug and Serena count to Twelve' pub Heineman 1959
Illustration by Katherine Wigglesworth from Alison Uttley’s ‘Snug and Serena count to Twelve’ pub Heineman 1959

Which leads me to……..

Interior design psychology is a field within environmental psychology, which concerns the environmental conditions of the interior. It is a direct study of the relationship between an environment and how that environment affects the behaviour of its inhabitants, with the aim of maximising the positive affects of this relationship.


Proxemics study the amount of space people feel necessary to have between themselves and others. Crowding and Personal Space In this field of study the phenomenon of territoriality is demonstrated continuously through unwritten indices and behaviours, which communicate, the conscious or subconscious notions of personal space and territoriality. 

Carrington, Self-Portrait aka The Inn of the Dawn Horse, ca. 1937-38

Leonora Carrington was a prolific artist and writer, and one of the few women in the surrealist movement. Until recently, she was perhaps more famous for her personal life than her work (besides the riotous novella The Hearing Trumpet): after running off with Max Ernst, she suffered a breakdown and ended up in a Spanish asylum, from which she was rescued by her nanny in a submarine. 

She suppressed her despair and loneliness with hard work and drink. She stopped eating, and began to practice self-induced vomiting. The emission, she said, symbolised “Max, whom I had to eliminate if I wanted to live.” Though successful in repressing her failure to rescue Ernst, she became increasingly delusional, feeling an intimate connection to the earth, as though any of her actions could have terrible consequences for the world and its inhabitants. “My stomach was society.” She was twenty-three years old. 

Surrealism, born from the terrible psychological disjunctions of the First World War (Breton, served in the psychiatric wards of military hospitals), has no better home than in conflict.  Surrealism’s interest in madness is not only psychological, but socio-political. In Surrealism and the Treatment of Mental Illness (1930), Breton declares that Surrealist works are designed to reveal the madness within ‘normality’, disturbing our understanding of ‘sanity’. Carrington’s escape from France is a Surrealist nightmare: reluctant to alert her friends’ attention to the coffins lining the roadside, which she believes may be an hallucination, only afterwards does she realise they might have come from Perpignan’s military hospital. In the asylum, she puzzles, “I tried understand where I was and why I was there. Was it a hospital or a concentration camp?”

Obedience and disobedience are the subjects of the stories in The Oval Lady where the flipside of repression is lawlessness, and both are the children of unreason. Carrington’s European paintings draw on fairy tale, nursery objects, and the “lavatory gothic” of her family’s Crookhey Hall. Where male Surrealists often used images of women to allude to the unconscious in their work, Carrington frequently depicted animals. But for every Irish horse goddess in her early paintings, there is a rocking-horse. She later acknowledged, “We women allow ourselves to be devoured by our stuffed teddy bears,” Do You Know My Aunt Eliza? and I Am An Amateur of Velocipedes (both painted in 1941, when Leonora was in France) juxtapose polite titles with images that are both horrific and amusing, testifying to her shocking brand of parlour humour. They are the art of a rebellious occupant of the nursery, but in her Mexican paintings, the figures of women range across the whole house, and landscape, often much larger than life. 

“After the experience of Down Below I changed. Dramatically. It was very much like having been dead,” Carrington told the writer Marina Warner in a 1987 interview. Carrington scholar Gloria Orenstein, who knew the artist, thought that in Down Below, “breakdown might be more accurately viewed as a breakthrough.”

Did Carrington find that her madness offered REVELATION? The Surrealist line holds that it should. In an issue of La Révolution surréaliste (1928), André Breton and Louis Aragon celebrate the “Fiftieth anniversary of hysteria.” Hysteria, they write, ”is a more or less irreducible mental condition, marked by the subversion, quite apart from any delirium-system, of the relations established between the subject and the moral world under whose authority he believes himself practically to be… Hysteria is by no means a pathological symptom and can in every way be considered a supreme form of expression.”  

“I was never a Surrealist,” said Carrington. “I was just with Max.”But, while living with Ernst, besides painting and writing, Carrington became a performance artist of domestic Surrealism indulging in such stunts as serving guests with an omelette made from their own hair, cut while they slept. Like Meret Oppenheim, famous for her sexy fur teacup, Carrington was able to imbue domestic objects and processes with value, and power. Surrealism, with its interest in hasard objectif, and found objects, opened up art to the everyday (think of Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’), taking it out of the closed world of the male-dominated studio. With her friend and fellow-artist Remedios Varo, Carrington continued these experiments in domestic performance Surrealism in Mexico, inviting random strangers to dinner, picked blindly from the phone book in the manner of a proto-Sophie Calle. 

Meret Oppenhelm Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure), 1936, Museum of Modern Art
Meret Oppenhelm
Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure), 1936, Museum of Modern Art

To me it’s all beautiful and useful. En masse it is neither beautiful nor useful. Trying to retrieve one item from the hoard is like searching for a needle in a haystack. I know it’s there, I can see it glinting, but I cannot reach it to see its’ beauty or to let it fulfil its’ purpose. 

To me and others the barrier created is obvious, visible, tactile. But the barriers in my own mind which prevent its’ removal are only apparent to me.


THE WORK OF JON BURGERMAN                                                                                                                                British-born, Brooklyn-based artist Jon Burgerman, often referred to as the “Doodle King,” recently sent us some sketches of his latest illustrations. More than a decade ago, in a brief moment of dismissiveness, the artist referred to his work as ‘doodles.’ While he didn’t anticipate it, the reference has stuck. Still at a loss for a definitive style description, Burgerman considers his work the visual representation of the space between his visions and thoughts.

I like the way the artist is camouflaged in this piece. Is this what I am trying to achieve by having so many possessions?



Apartments So Small They Can Only Be Photographed From Above

In crazy dense Hong Kong, 100,000 of the city’s laborers live in sub-divided apartment units averaging 40 square feet.

An interesting and different way of depicting an overcrowded space, one I had not thought of. 


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