Carol H.

Really Big or Really Obsessive

Some Random Thoughts…

The playwright Samuel Beckett was known for plays of differing lengths, some were even one act monologues.   When he was asked before a performance of one of his plays “Is this a full length play?” He responded“All my plays are full length”.

Charles Dickens wrote some very long novels, but he also wrote short pieces.   One that springs to mind is an essay of only 5½ pages entitled “Early Coaches” which is so evocative and satisfying.

The Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky said that a short film is more difficult to make than a long film because it has to be perfect in form.

? The length is what it needs to be….. 

I remember being blown away by turning the corner at the Tate Modern museum in London and seeing an enormous painting by Lichtenstein.   Was this so amazing because it was of a character from a comic which you normally think of as small scale.

Monet - the effect of the vast paintings of the lily pond at Giverny where you are drawn in and absorbed into the scene;  the environment of changing light; the colours.   You are put in the position of being a leaf on an overhanging branch above the pond.

The Mesdag Panorama in The Haag in Holland.   The cylindrical painting of more than 14 meters in height and 120 meters in circumference gives you a 360 degree view of the sea, the dunes and the fishing village of Scheveningen as it was in 1881.   It’s as if you have been drawn right there into the past - Virtual Reality almost.   Spectacular.   

I agree that Chuck Close’s work is really big and really obsessive.   One astonishing piece I remember was a gigantic face that when you got up close to it you realised was woven using various different Jacquard weaves that created the shading etc.    Chuck Close obviously didn’t weave this himself, it was woven by a company in Belgium…

David Hockney said when talking about painting:  “I’d say you need three things:  the hand, the eye and the heart, as the Chinese say.  Two won’t do”.

The French textile artist Annie Bascou makes very big lace installations.   She made one for the exhibition “Lost in Lace” where there was a life-sized suspended lace bed behind an enormous ‘Moucharabieh’ and the effect was astonishing.


Van Gogh - by some standards most of his paintings are really quite small - but his work is sublime.   The first time I saw one of his actual paintings, it was like a vision.

The Australian sculptor Ron Mueck makes the most amazing life-like figures but they are more powerful because they are only half life size.

Kurt Schwitters collages are small but exquisite, often using things like tram tickets, things that normally get thrown away, put together in an evocative way of memory etc.

Joseph Cornell’s boxes are obsessive, but small.   The pleasure of looking into them in detail…

Big can have an immediate impact and you can obviously look into the work in detail but are small things sometimes more interesting when you’ve had a chance to look into them?   

Nancy Crow’s large quilts are extremely powerful, but her small quilts are equally superb.

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, but no conclusions.   Except, perhaps things are the size they need to be.

At college we were always encouraged to work big - but I found that overwhelming as a starting point. I’m a small person, is this partly why?

No because my friend Jaya was small like me and she always worked big!   

For my current work as a weaver, I think scale is more important than size.   Size is often dictated by what I’m making.   I started out making woven wall hangings and made one that was 2 meters in length but at the moment I’m often working on practical things like scarves for example.   For these it’s vitally important that the scale is right.

Taking Time

I think it’s very important to take time and this is something I need to address.   I’m constantly fighting for time around all the other things that have to be done.   This is something that this course is forcing me to examine and deal with.   But at the same time I think some work needs slow time to examine the ideas, the materials etc. but other times a piece of work can be done quite quickly and be the better for it…


I played this weekend with 100 or more shells, arranging them and then rearranging them again.   I enjoyed the impermanence of this.   While I was playing I kept looking at each shell in detail and seeing again how beautiful they are.   The photos show a couple of pieces I did.   They weren’t big but they were quite large for me - about a meter by just over half a meter - the size of the piece of workspace I had managed to clear off by throwing things out!   Five more bags have gone to a good cause this week and two enormous sacks of rubbish have gone out.   I’ll continue with this each week but so far I’ve been a bit obsessed and I need to slow down with it so there’s time in the studio as well.  By nature I’m quite organised and committed and I know I will see this through and my head is already feeling clearer.