Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A taste of what I've been doing

Here's a little taste of my latest collaborative project. I'm doing book pages with the Fibrecircle group and this is the very first page I did. Of course, I forgot to photograph it, so I've had to wait until it was being swapped to grab a photo. It's for Helen's book, which has the theme "Faraway Places". She supplied poems as inspiration and I chose this one by Oscar Wilde:

The almond groves of Samarkand
Bokhara, where red lilies blow
And Oxus, by whose yellow sands
The grave white turbaned merchants go.

And from there to Ispahan
The golden garden of the sun
When the lone dusty caravan
Brings cedar and vermilion.

I know where Samarkand is, but where is Ispahan? I discovered that the name refers to the modern city of Isfahan or Esfahan, in Iran. It looks like a fascinating place to visit. It was originally the capital of the Elamite Empire, of the Medes (612-549BC). Then, after some time in obscurity, it was the capital of the 10th century Seljuk dynasty, a Turkish empire that was fascinated by Persian culture and spread from Anatolia to Spain. The third golden period for the city was the Safavid Empire, in the 16th century, under Shah Abbas the Great. The modern city still contains many beautiful buildings reflecting this diverse history.

I looked at lots of photos of the city, and then made a sort of compilation sketch, using shapes from the bridges and an image of one of the mosques. For my colours, I was mostly inspired by a description from a traveller of the 1920s, Robert Byron, who wrote, "under avenues of white tree trunks and canopies of shining twigs, past domes of turquoise and spring yellow, in a sky of liquid violet blue… across bridges of pale toffee brick, tier on tier of arches breaking into piled pavilions; overlooked by lilac mountains… Isfahan has become indelible." Helen supplied the beautiful hand-painted background fabric, and I painted the mountains and buildings, and suggestion of road.

It was a hard work to photograph. The image has lost most of the detail of tiles on the mosque and the river on the right. But it does give a bit of an idea.