Wednesday, 14 February 2018


My last weekly art project was an exploration of the  brick ceiling of one of the underground cisterns of Istanbul.

This week I have been inspired by another one, this time the Basilica Cistern, which had a starring role in the Tom Hanks film version of Dan Brown's book 'Inferno'. This was the place where a deadly virus was hidden before activation! Scary stuff!

Unlike our first cistern experience where we were the only ones there....THIS cistern attracts the tourist population in DROVES.   Therefore we visited this spectacular Byzantine underground sanctuary alongside hundreds of other people.  Even with so many footsteps clattering along the wooden walkways, the utter beauty of the place was not lost, nor was the fact that this truly is a marvel of engineering.

There were three specific areas of beauty for me & I hope to explore each of those in the coming weeks.  The one I have been engrossed in this week, is the peacock feather column.

Earlier ...above ground, we had wandered around the streets near our hotel &  come across random pieces of antiquity just scattered on the side of the road.  Among them was this fragment of a marble pillar, decorated in a stylised peacock feather pattern.

Peacocks are symbolic symbols in both Christian & Muslim traditions, so it made sense to find the pattern on a column that no doubt graced a Byzantine building.

Imagine how excited we were to then find one UNDERground in amidst numerous plain cylindrical columns.  This time though, water was dripping from it, as if the peacock was crying about the fact that it was wet & slimy &  hidden away in the dark!

Why was it there? Possibly through the practice of plundering...or recycling!  Regardless of the reason, I found the column beautiful &  worth spending some time thinking about in an artistic way!

 I started by drawing what I saw.  Although it involved only fairly simple lines, the act of drawing requires that I look with a more analytical eye, & in turn I made discoveries I hadn't noticed before.

What was I going to do with this pattern?  There wasn't much point just copying it as a fabric representation.  What did I want to say about these columns?  What story did I want to tell? What did I need to do to create a design that respected the original, but told my story?

Art making involves a lot of asking & then answering questions.

I kept my design simple.  On one side I referenced the peacock feather design as I saw it, on the other side I turned them upside down to represent tears of water droplets.

After assembling my fabric choices, I decided I was going to use a variety of threads as well, so I gathered the possibilities.

Then it was time for the cutting back to begin...

Wow!  Get the sunglasses out, that lime green is BRIGHT!
Do you see the watery patterned turquoise fabric that is forming the central background?  That section was supposed to be the pale blue that fills the background of the lefthand side background, however, I had a little brain-warp when I was placing it in the layer & ...ahem...didn't put it all the way across.  Consequently when I cut back to that layer there were half moon shaped patches of the backing fabric showing.  GRRRR!

I remedied it by putting this new fabric BEHIND the backing fabric, stitching it in place, then cutting the backing fabric back to reveal this.  In hindsight it may have looked better to cut away the pale blue altogether & just have the water fabric, but as you can tell...I didn't think of that at the time!!

That bright lime green was really bothering me!  How could I tone it down a little.  I took a photo & using my computer editing programme started drawing on possible quilting lines as a means of softening the impact.  The lines are wiggly because I only have a mouse & not a stylus!  This idea had potential, but the green took the focus away from the peacock feathers.  How about if I...

Oooo, I LIKE that!
What if I adapted both to create more interest...

It is very hard to see in this image, but there are paler green lines coursing their way through that lime green background!

This was the final outcome and I am pleased with it.  It captures the essence of peacock feathers, the green of the underground pillar, and the water dripping like tears because the pillar was not where it was initially designed to be seen and admired!

I could have incorporated this inspiration in with one of the others from the Basilica Cistern, but I'm glad I haven't.  It has been a good exercise to not over complicate the design by putting too much information & intent into it.  Although this design couldn't be considered a stand alone 'real-piece-of-art' design, it certainly has potential as a border or feature in a bigger piece.  A worthwhile effort.

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