The Phoenix biennial exhibiting schedule affords us the luxury of being able to do in-depth research on our chosen theme. This takes various forms: observational drawing, experimenting with materials, online research, following news reporting in depth, visiting museums and galleries, travel, or studying the work of other artists. But in this instance, we are focussing on books that have inspired our current body of work, or that influence our practice in general.

The book that inspires Marie-Ghislaine Beaucé’s work at the moment is “The Earth Viewed from the Sky” by world-renowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Some of the aerial shots taken from quite close to the ground represent man-made constructions, or structures of repairs on roads, or planning of agricultural plantations. These patterns are an inspiration for the bases of her current work.

Kate Davis found this book by chance in a charity shop and was attracted by the image on the cover, which is a painting by Giorgio de Chirico called ‘The Enigma of Arrival’, and which the book’s author also chose for his title. The book resonated with Kate’s ideas because the author rented a secluded cottage in the countryside for twelve years. He relates how the area and the inhabitants changed through the time and seasons.

Kate’s current work is based on the sense of place of a village she has been visiting for fifty years. Looking at a map from five centuries ago, it is interesting to see how the roads, the main boundaries and the names have not changed. Today more new houses are being built to be inhabited by residents from diverse places, the character of the village is changing, but the ancient landscape still exists.

Kate has a large library which she refers to continuously, but the ‘Enigma of Arrival’ reinforced her experience of a place in the country.

Lynne Butt finds this a lovely book to dip into. It looks beautiful and is extremely helpful for creating abstract art.

Lynne’s current work is inspired by abstract artists, in particular Barbara Rae.

Maria Walker finds that these are the four books she returns to again and again for inspiration and grounding.

Mrs Tinne was a well-to-do Liverpudlian lady who considered it her duty to support local drapers and seamstresses when sourcing her extensive wardrobe, most of which is in the archives at Liverpool Museum. Maria actually thinks she bought one of Mrs Tinne’s linen tablecloths from an antique centre in Cheshire as it has her laundry mark on it!

This is a children’s book about the human body.  Maria really likes the clear illustrations which she finds useful for an ongoing project to do with the human body.

For Joan Bingley, this book is both an inspiration to alter her base cloth to the mood of her artistic work and a useful manual on how to do so.

When Joan is getting bogged down by technique and forgetting why she wants to say something as the how dominates her thoughts, she gets this book out to remind herself that even a format as rigid as counted stitching on canvas can be free and tell a story.

This is an old book, but Joan finds it to be full of useful ideas and helpful design hints.

For her current body of work, Joan is using some vey old atlases dating from her school days!

Linda Walsh has so many books that it is hard to choose, but this is a beautiful one, a present to Linda’s husband. He studies the architecture, and she enjoys the photography. It inspired a holiday in 2010: seven weeks driving in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, discovering 23 abbeys along the way! Linda always takes her sketchbook along on her travels, to record the elements that interest and inspire her.

A constant influence for Robertta McPherson is history and nature. Her current inspiration is a sense of place in the landscape and the traces left by our ancestors.

Another book that Robertta often references is The National Trust’s Countryside. This image is an illustration of how stones have been used through the centuries to build settlements and cairns and to enclose land.

Robertta’s current work examines the apparently precarious but nevertheless enduring way that stones have been piled into these structures over the centuries.

Joan Glasgow has many books that she constantly refers to, but this is her current favourite. Her work has always been figurative but abstract expressionism has recently captured her focus, as it is forcing her to think in a more conceptual way.

Rosaline Darby attempts to capture movement, gestures, interactions and fleeting glimpses in her work. She has found these books encouraging and helpful.

Rosaline’s current work is concerned with the poor quality of public debate and the apparent increasing polarisation of a society where single issues are advocated for passionately whilst disregarding other, equally important considerations. This book has helped her to clarify her own thoughts.

Jo Coombes always starts an exhibition theme with a copious amount of research. This is from both the internet, and from books gathered over the years that have piqued her particular interests. Often a news story will prompt her to update or revisit an issue, drawing on as many sources and viewpoints as possible.

For ‘(Un)Balanced’ she is keen to join the debate of how much our old and heritage buildings should be fully restored, compared with conserving them to display their original and aesthetic beauty in their declining state. This is a complex issue which faces all those charities charged with the care and financial upkeep of historical buildings.


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