Debbie Lyddon: Art that inspires
Debbie Lyddon is an artist and maker whose creative practice includes mixed media cloths, sculptures, installations and drawing.
Her interest lies in how we perceive natural phenomena – air, wind, water, light and sound – in the environment. Inspiration comes from walking, noticing and collecting. As an artist and a classically trained musician, her work is not only inspired by things that can be seen but also by things that can be heard and touched. Her practice explores coastal locations and the processes of change that are engendered on the landscape and the objects in it.
Debbie aims to evoke a multi-sensory interpretation of her surroundings and to promote an awareness of the relationship between the visual, aural and tactile landscape.
‘Art that inspires’ is a new series for TextileArtist.org, in which established textile practitioners discuss artists and pieces that have been influential in their own creative journey. Here, Debbie reveals five artists who have had a major impact on her art and creative process.
Debbie Lyddon: The artists below have inspired my looking, noticing and experiencing and my use of materials, processes, shapes and forms.
Terry Frost (1915-2003): The experience of the environment
I love all the St Ives artists, but Terry Frost and his Walk along the Quay series of paintings are particularly special to me. The paintings come from the experience of a walk: hard underfoot, boats tied up and rocking in the water at high tide, rhythmical movements, reflections and colour. This isn’t a visual reproduction of the landscape that Terry Frost saw but instead a presentation of ideas founded on the experience of the environment: its light, space and movement.
An experience of the environment is fundamental to my practice and my aim is to create work that replaces a literal representation of landscape with a sense of its movement and rhythms and the sensation of how it might feel or even sound. What I’m really interested in is the look, feel and sound of natural objects and phenomena, their rhythms and movement and their unpredictable disruptions.
My Soundmark Drawings relate directly to these ideas and are inspired by the sounds I hear as I walk and explore the Norfolk coastline: birdsong, the wind, waves, and footsteps. The format is based on musical graphic scores – a method of writing down sound through drawing rather than musical notation. These drawings connect the repetitive and rhythmic elements that are contained within both the aural and visual landscape – they could also be titled Walk along the Quay.
Chiyoko Tanaka: Process
I am excited by the processes artist and weaver Chiyoko Tanaka uses to represent the passing of time and how the materials she uses from the landscape evoke that place.
In the weaving process the gradual growth of the cloth, as weft threads are drawn backwards and forwards, is in itself a representation of time but it is what Tanaka does to some of her finished pieces that appeals to me. She submits them to a process that she calls ‘grinding’. Brick, earth, clay or charcoal are taken from a specific place and ground and pushed into the woven surface so that they become embedded and change the colour of the threads. The slow, physical process of rubbing in earth or clay literally wears away the wefts to expose the warps and the finished cloths end up with the same surface as the ground they originally came from. These distressed fabrics show time passing in all the processes used: the slow accretion of threads in the weaving process, the physical act of ‘grinding’ and the resulting disintegration and erosion of the cloth.
The North Norfolk coast (my environment) is a landscape in flux: a repeatedly changing horizon, birdsong, wind noise and the sea is continually shifting the sand and mud in a never ending push and pull – nothing is the same from moment to moment.
Like Chiyoko Tanaka I want to evoke a sense of time passing in my work. Salt is intrinsic to my exploration of these ideas. My salt works explore both the processes of change that occur when cloth is exposed to the elements and also the effects of weathering and decomposition on materials left outside. Each object is soaked in salt water which is then left to evaporate naturally. The process takes time, from a few days to several months. The ephemerality of the medium and the resulting salty deposits and encrustations express for me the transformation of matter into time.
Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975): Space and Form
Barbara Hepworth produced incredibly elegant, spare sculpture. Her preoccupations were with the human figure, landscape and the relationship between the two. I am particularly interested in the relationship between the material of her forms – the wood or metal, and the space around (and inside) them – the holes.
Although Barbara Hepworth uses hard materials in her sculptures and as a textile artist I use soft, pliable cloth, the concerns about space and form are the same. Hepworth’s curved forms are tactile; they invite you to reach out, to touch and to explore their surfaces and cavities. Some of her sculptures have strings that disrupt the interior space and on others the disruptions are caused by shadows cast on painted surfaces. Some have many holes that take away the heaviness of the wood to leave an irregular honeycomb and give a different view from every angle. Some only have one hole that directs the eye through to the other side.
But what are these holes? Are they a thing or a nothing? The work I am making at the moment explores all aspects of a hole: holes as marks, how a hole can define or draw attention to a space, holes to connect one side of a sculpture to another by looking through and directing vision. I’m exploring how an immaterial emptiness is surrounded by a physical material that describes its shape and allows us to see a nothing – to make visible the invisible.
Gillian Lowndes (1936-2010): Materials
Gillian Lowndes was a ceramic artist. The processes and materials from which she made her sculptural works were experimental, original and brave and they pushed the boundaries of what ceramic art was. Whilst her contemporaries were making traditional vessels and pots she was exploring the transformational process of putting 3-D mixed media collages into the searing heat of a kiln. Metal of all varieties, including cutlery and wire, bricks, fibreglass and found objects such as loofahs and beads were combined with traditional clay and slip and then fused and misshapen by fire.
What inspires me so much about this work is the way the ambiguous nature of the objects Lowndes made speaks not of things or concepts but purely of the materials and the processes of change used. They are mysterious objects that create connections between many different things. Her work has encouraged me to question, explore and experiment with non-traditional textile techniques and materials and to use the physical properties of materials to evoke a sense of place.
Cloth is found in a coastal environment in the form of tarpaulins, boat covers and sails and I allude to their functional use in my work. These are protective cloths but to do their job they in turn need to be protected from the effects of the weather. The materials with which I coat cloth – wax, varnish, bitumen and salt – are substances that preserve and they play an integral part in relating the cloth objects I make to the coastal landscape.
Joan Livingstone (1948 – ): Utilitarian stitching
Joan Livingstone makes large abstract work out of felt, that reference the body and skin. However, I have included her simply because of the way she stitches cloth together. A simple, utilitarian hand-worked baseball stitch joins shaped felt pieces to create large, pod- or seed- shaped works. Her work was the one of first that I came across where the stitch was not the most important part of the piece. Instead of being decorative the stitch is used simply to join or reinforce.
My cloth pieces are mainly hand-worked using simple back-stitch, running stitch and over-sewing. I make 2-D and 3-D works that reference utilitarian uses in their material, form and construction. They could be old canvas casings, disintegrating coverings or a fragment of a ripped sail; items that are suggestive of a former utilitarian function. As you look closer, clues to their identity are revealed: a stitched line that suggests a horizon or a row of repeated eyelets playing out a rhythmical sound. These invented forms are ambiguous and encourage you to create stories around them: how were they formerly used, how did they get here and what do they mean?
For more information visit: www.debbielyddon.co.uk
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