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92 Suitcases

September 2004

The stately Compton Verney has an exhibition of Peter Greenaway suitcases and I went to see them. To explain: Peter Greenaway is a film maker who has embarked upon a multi media project to describe the life history of his alter ego Tulse Luper. The suitcases are a means of grouping objects of various significance to Luper's multifaceted life. Why there are 92 suitcases is a branch of the Luper story which has not yet (after the first two films) become clear, but it is something to do with uranium and its atomic number being 92. Compton Verney is exhibiting all 92 suitcases that will appear in the film series. The cases that stick out in my mind are: one filled with fresh green apples, one filled with honey (honey poured into a suitcase), one contained the Knockawellis Phenological Book, one filled with pencils and a collection of pencils hung from string above it, one with a brick of ice melting on a metal grid, one filled with a mist of water and dancing naked bodies projected on to the roof of the case, one with disturbing porn in it and one with a Prospero's Books script in it. The cases themselves had silky pockets, bottle holders, mirror pouches and some had drawers and hangers. The cases were placed on display tables throughout the gallery and three rooms were dedicated just to the suitcases. The dedicated rooms had epilepsy-inducing coloured lighting -- which was fun.

It is probably obvious by now that I am a Greenaway admirer: I like his groupings of objects into suitcases in the Tulse Luper series and into books in the water-specked Prospero's books. I have a grouping project of my own which, if it works out as planned, I will reveal over the next few months. Finally, I would like to thank my brilliant auntie and uncle, the most energetic people I know, for taking me to Compton Verney and for not minding that I sketched and took ages to get around, and for buying my ticket and a lovely lunch with a pansy on it.

Drawings of a subset of Peter Greenaway Suitcases.

Drawings of a subset of Peter Greenaway Suitcases. The contents of the suitcases moving clockwise from the left: 92 atomic elements, a child's clothes, pine cones, broken Roman pottery, uniforms, a dead pig and toy animals.

Earlier this summer I paid a visit to The National Gallery. At the time there was a Dürer Exhibition showing. I watched the visitor information video like a good gallery-goer and overall I thought about how good Dürer's 'Great Piece of Turf' is. How can I make my drawing even a fraction as tangled but clear as this? For a start I tried layering drawings of the same scene but from different levels of focus. However, building up layers in ink (my chosen medium for drawing) leads to a smudgy confusion. The difficulty with ink is to obtain variation in line tone. Alternatively soft-leaded pencil has a mass of line widths and, more importantly, line tones: from inky black to wispy grey. I attempted to use the range of my pencil in these drawings of my neighbour's garden (complete with heavy-headed sun flowers) and a patch of wild grass. To draw the wild grass I placed my paper on the ground next to my subject and traced the grassy shadows. It was natural to draw a stronger line when tracing the sharply defined shadows, whilst the out of focus shadows were drawn with a softer caution.

complex grasses and garden illustrating new pencil technique.

Some more portraiture, this time in pencil for the same reasons as above. I basically traced the images from the photographs I took in June, but during this tracing my aim was to determine the components of my likeness. The portraiture this month is not much to look at, but hopefully it will help me in the long run.

A collection of self portraits in pencil.

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