Sunday, December 2, 2012

14 November 2012 Debbie Lyddon -
"Combining the Senses - Sight, Sound and Touch"

Debbie Lyddon trained at The University of Hertfordshire and has an MA in Contemporary Textiles. She enjoys experimenting with cloth and using other materials such as salt and wax to change its natural qualities. Many of her pieces use cloths that appear hard and firm and she generally likes them to be unframed and available to touch.

© Debbie Lyddon
She originally trained as a musician and developed a heightened sense of hearing which she still possesses. Whilst finding many pieces of music very inspiring, she finds sounds in general also catch her ear and she always carries some sort of recording device with her. For Debbie, there is a difference and yet similarity between what you can hear and see both in colour, tone and rhythm – all words that are used in both music and textile art. But it is her "ability" to visualise a sound (for her A-flat is always olive green!), seeing the colours as she played music, and how she turns this into a textile piece that formed the basis of her talk to us.

Like many textile artists, Debbie is inspired by lots of different things and we could see different combinations of these in her work. The North Norfolk coast with its network of little creeks, wide open beaches, and a flat horizon that stretches to meet the sky, can be seen as both bleak and beautiful. Her family also own boats and the shapes of these also make their way into her work – from the tall, straight, vertical masts to the sails and curves of the actual boat itself. Then there were the interpretations of sounds – from orchestral pieces to the ringing of wires against the mast or bubbling lug-worms on the beach.

To help explain her approach, Debbie showed a picture of an early piece – a textile work of undulating white organza shapes, which (sewn onto wires) was then draped and wound across the garden. This was based on a piece of music written by Debussy for the flute - a sinuous lyrical piece which tells the story of a Syrinx, a water sprite pursued by Pan. To escape him she jumped into a lake and turned herself into a hollow water reed, but he saw her, cut the reed down and fashioned them into Pan pipes.

Debbie then displayed one of her Windsor pieces. I had actually seen this in the Graduate Show some years ago, wall mounted in a softly undulating stretch around a corner. Whilst I had felt there was something in it that spoke of water and perhaps boats, it was only after hearing her describe to us how and why it was also based on a musical piece by Benjamin Britten entitled Sea Interludes, that I could really appreciate it. Made of firm linen and softer linen scrim it moved from a solid, flat plain white (painted with gesso and emulsion paint) through blues to an almost black at the other end, where a top layer of large scale drawn-threads hung down over the background. She used drawn threads because they reminded her of moving water and rhythms and therefore fitted with the interpretation of the music.

© Debbie Lyddon
Debbie passed around lots of sample pieces for us to look at, and played parts of the music which had inspired her – it certainly added to the talk to be able to listen to this and view the finished piece at the same time.

First interludeDawn – bare, chilling and desolate with the sound of seagulls in the cold air. (This was the flat, cold and pale part of the work)
Second interludeSunday Morning - bells and rhythms of boats rocking on water were echoed in the semi circles and strong vertical lines
Third interludeMoonlight – with small surges in the music above a slow throbbing background. Whilst her initial drawings tried to translate this, they did not evolve into the final piece and she chose instead her love of the slow tides of Norfolk.
Fourth interludeStorm – thunderous and raging with spray blowing high, but a faint ray of sunshine comes through to challenge and defeat the storm.

We were then introduced to other artists who used music as inspiration. Wassily Kandinsky, who was fascinated and stimulated by colour and its symbolism. He was actually diagnosed as a synesthete. This is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory pathway (ie sound) leads to an involuntary experience in a second sensory pathway (ie seeing colours). In Kandinsky’s art the juxtaposition of colours was very important – the way they were placed and combined, he believed, said different things. He likened painting to composing music writing, "Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul". If you imagine high sounds translated into light colours and deep sounds into stronger colours you get the idea.

Paul Klee, who thought not so much about the colours but about the rhythm and movement of music as he painted. He worked in many different media (oils, watercolour, ink) and often combined them into one work. He used canvas, burlap, muslin, linen, gauze, cardboard, metal foils, fabric, wallpaper, and newsprint. Many of his works allude to poetry, music and dreams and sometimes they include words or musical notations – a violinist, his drawings often look like transcriptions of music, with little hieroglyphics and squiggles.

Debbie explained the composer, Chiyoko Szlavnics, has a way of visualising sounds – instead of using the traditional five lines and notes she uses a graphic score – a way of using a drawing to indicate the sound and which is then open to interpretation by the viewer/musician. Just think what sound you would interpret from a jagged, hard line; or a series of little dots across the page and you get the idea. This idea had led Debbie to make line drawings and paintings, all interpretations of different sounds, and these were then made into folded and pleated books. Other pages were made of strong canvas with large eyelets and these were reminiscent of boats and sails.

© Debbie Lyddon
Whilst all of the above may make you wonder where Debbie fits into the world of textiles, this was a fascinating evening and a very interesting talk. Her work is strong and, knowing more of the background, you can better appreciate the design and marks shown within it. She does not over-stitch or embellish but relies on the simplicity of the piece to speak for itself.

© Debbie Lyddon
Read lots more about what Debbie is currently doing on her blog or see her work on her website

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