the collector’s eye

We’ve just enjoyed the company of our friends Dave and Philippa Roberts, here at Ty Isaf for a weekend of walks with Jack, reading in front of the blazing wood-burning stove, good conversation and meals prepared while chatting and quaffing wine in the cosy warmth of our kitchen.

Philippa took the above shot of the small china store-room at the back of our hall, where we keep a collection of ceramics, tin toys, fossils and various curiosities. Among them there’s an alabaster cosmetics jar from a tomb of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a clutch of Meri Wells porcelain beasts, a curious seedpod picked up in a Barcelona park and a tiny, obelisk-shaped throne made for the set model of a stage production of ‘Robin Hood’ I designed decades ago. (You can see it silhouetted against the light plate on the left of the top shelf.) Later Philippa sent me photographs taken on a trip she and Dave had made to Mexico, and I post them here to illustrate the collecting/curatorial aesthetic that fuels mankind’s need to put similar objects together.

10 thoughts on “the collector’s eye

  1. This collection is great. And it is great, because it is personal. And because, the objects are not really similar. Some of the treasures have real money value, others have value only for the collector. Sometimes it is who gave you the object. Sometimes it is the way you found it, or who it belonged to, or it is a memory of a trip…

    Compared to this collection of yours, most collections seem boring. Even if they are very very valuable.

    I can’t abide those museums which are supposed to be personal, but where you feel the paintings have not been gathered because they meant something to the collector but have been bought as investments, or as links from one piece to another. Each painting or object should have its story, and it should be a story of love.

  2. I love looking at artists cabinets of curios, and yours is no exception Clive 🙂
    (I remember trying to ‘power look’ at everything in your curio cupboard on my visit, trying to cram as much of it into my retinas as possible, hoping to commit as much to memory as possible)

    My own collection has grown a lot since this photo was taken:

    it’s all treasure with associated memories and links to themes for me, but to my wife, Sarah, most of it is just ‘plastic tat’ – pah!

  3. Clive, Thanks for sharing these glimpses into the cupboard. I see more than a few silhouettes on that shelf that have lent themselves to your work. We are constantly procuring, gleaning and weeding the objects we surround ourselves with in the home and studio. One would think, once coming across an object similar to one you have, it would be easier to pass up. To the contrary the compulsion to bring these similar things together is even stronger.

    Our older daughter is now eight. She can hardly help herself when on a walk, or even something as mundane as running an errand, to come back with something found and precious in her pocket. There are drawer-fulls. I have been challenging her of late to edit and curate these objects into the printer’s box I hung above her desk. (Similar to THIS one.) It has been satisfying to watch it come into form: a tin bottle cap juxtaposed to a smooth river pebble; a rusted skeleton key swapped for an effigy of a Disney princess. It brings focus to the constant bombardment of images, both beautiful and tragic, that surround us. Unlike images, objects have a cemented presence. They occupy our space with us. Our senses convince us that anything with form must also have a spirit worth preserving.

    • Sean, of late Peter and I have been talking about rationalising how we live, and of seeing how we might slim down the amount of stuff we have. But I find it very difficult to pare out individual objects when the aggregate is where the power lies, rather than in the individual and/or isolated artefacts.

      We make sense of the world through the collating and juxtaposing of objects, or at least, that’s the way it feels to me. And it’s interesting that your eight-year-old daughter has intuitively found her way to a calming of the spirit through the process of ‘curating’.

      Curating has become a massively significant aspect of my painting practice. Even in paintings that are not in any way still-lifes, there is a curating of shape within my compositions. The shapes are important to me both in their positive aspects and by dint of the negative voids between them. I endlessly tinker and rearrange the shapes in paintings, in the same way as I organise groups of objects in my home.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. This is what makes blogging so worth while.

  4. I think I would be happy to set up a camp bed in your china-store Clive!!

    When I see the evidence of your collector’s eye, I also see what informs your work as an artist. I love the emotional resonance the objects featured in your paintings obviously have for you, so it’s wonderful to play ‘spot the object’ in the photo Philippa has taken this weekend.

    I found a wonderful quote from Carl Jung, whilst reading about the creative instinct this weekend, which immediately made me think of you and then your post pops up as evidence:

    “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”

    • Sarah, that’s a good quote. I must remember it.

      I shan’t put a camp-bed for you in the china-store, but perhaps if you disappear at Ty Isaf on your forthcoming… and much anticipated… visit, then I shall know where to find you!

      • I am eagerly anticipating my visit, Clive.

        As well as lingering in the china-store, I am now hoping, from your other post today, that I might just find your maquette of Jordan dancing in his own Ty Isaf Command Performance.

        Is it strange that I have never really stopped hoping that “The Shoemaker & His Elves” might be true?

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