SPRING ISSUE 2017
BANKSIDE GALLERY ROYAL WATERCOLOUR SOCIETY ROYAL SOCIETY OF PAINTER-PRINTMAKERS
WATER PAPE Water, Paper, Paint, the Royal Watercolour Society’s Spring Exhibition, is a celebration of the three fundamental elements that are brought together by an artist to create a watercolour painting. From these essential ingredients come a vast range of outcomes as will be seen in the variations in style, technique and genre in this exhibition.
The simplicity of the tools of a watercolorist have allowed it to be one of the few mediums that frees the artist from the ties of the studio; they can venture into the landscape, the seascape, the city and make works that are immediate and responsive to their surroundings. We see this in the works of Richard Pikesley who says of his practice, ‘Painting starts with an immediate response. Seeing, perhaps, an effect of light which really grabs my attention, the first step will usually be a painting - made fast enough to get the moment down’. This urgency in paint is something unique to watercolour and is both a challenge and a inspiration for the artist who choses to work in this way. Although water, paper and paint are all essential for a water-based media work, they are not always used in equal measure and the changing balance of the materials is what allows for the range of works to be produced. Sophie Knight works using the ‘wet on wet’ technique where the paint is laid onto already dampened paper. This allows for the colour to bleed, diffusing and escaping the full control of the artist. Her watercolours are worked in an energetic and vigorous manner, squeezing paint straight onto the paper, scratching in marks and drawing directly with a brush. She aims to retain the freshness and vitality of her visual excitement and record the physical experience of working within the landscape. It is the use of water and its unpredictability which maintains the painting’s movement and vitality once framed and hanging in an exhibition.
David Cass ARWS, Untitled Ocean I, gouache on antique postcard
For other artists, the paint is the focus. Bill Henderson’s practice involves the gradual build up of acrylic colour over many sessions; sometimes weeks, months and even years. This gradual application of colour is essential to the aesthetic outcome of the finished piece. As a viewer, we almost look through the painted surface to the layer below and the one below that enabling us to see depth and space one would never have thought possible on a flat surface. Paper can also come to the forefront of a piece in watercolour, for example in the works of Lisa Traxler who uses the painted surface to build form, line and texture in her ‘sculptural paintings’. Cutting shapes from the painted surface and reforming them, Lisa allows the paper’s flat surface to be reexamined. She says, ‘The works transfer between abstract paintings and sculptural objects. The gesture is in the shape and form of the assembled pieces. Working with two-and three-dimensional elements - the painting is the activity on the surface, the construction is excavating that through space and the ‘sculptural paintings’ the reinvented and re-assembled outcome. One informing the other, a relay of collaboration.’ These simple ingredients – so portable, accessible, adaptable, are both the materials that are given to children in their first experiments with paint and the tools of established fine artists, illustrators and designers. Our Member-led Family Workshops that will take place during this exhibition illustrates just that; children of all ages come to Bankside Gallery for one day and are given reams of paper, a little plastic cup of water and a watercolour paint box which, when combined together, enable their imagination to flourish and their creativity to thrive - ideas come to life and dreams (and sometimes nightmares) appear on the paper. Although these events are targeted at children, their parents become equally engrossed, sitting for hours at a time, deep in concentration having picked up a brush for the first time in years, or ever. And of course, alongside them sit our Members, gently guiding their students but also working themselves using these most uncomplicated tools on which their careers are dependent and from which a fantastic exhibition such as Water, Paper, Paint, can be brought to life. Hatty Davidson
The RWS Spring Exhibition, Water, Paper, Paint, will be open from 24 March - 22 April 2017.
The Royal Watercolour Society is delighted to be partnering with Winsor & Newton for this exhibition. A watercolour event will be held at Bankside Gallery on 30 March 2017 from 6pm.
Charlotte Halliday RWS
From her first studio near Leighton House in the early days, and more recently working from her current home and studio in St Johns Wood, Charlotte Halliday RWS has drawn the face of London for more than half a century. Elected ARWS in 1971 she has been a full member of the RWS for over 40 years and has also been Keeper of the New English Art Club since 1989.
How did you come to start documenting London? I went to the Royal Academy Schools and found that while all the
of that style are so intricate and varied that they were very rewarding to do. I later found that some of the Georgian buildings that I admired could be a bit boring drawn with line alone. I gradually began to work on toned paper and can remember the excitement of the extra dimension of using colour on a toned ground, and using white. The toned paper lets me start in the middle and work outwards to the lights and darks.
So when you’re faced with a nice fresh sheet of toned paper on your drawing board, where do you start?
other students couldn’t wait to start I hope that what I’m looking at will begin painting, I discovered that I just wanted to compose itself. There’s usually to draw, and didn’t want to paint; bad something that excites me, shadows moment. The Keeper of the Academy cast on stucco, start with line, then was Henry Rushbury, who was a great colour, then more line; never just a line topographical draughtsman and he drawing coloured. In the winter I can see said ‘just go outside and draw what you so much more, looking through the trees see’, which was buildings. I wanted the to the buildings beyond. precision of a pen rather than lovely sweeps of the brush. There was still a Does bad weather stop you? strong tradition of teaching drawing at the Academy Schools, from antique I can’t do anything if it’s raining, but I do casts and from life, but most of my quite a lot from the car, even in freezing fellow students were eager to move weather I can work for about an hour and on to paint. I began to get the odd a half but then find, when I stop drawing, commission to draw country houses I’m so cold I can hardly drive home. and public buildings. One contact was an engineer who was working on Cars make quite good hides, people tend the Shell building on the South Bank to ignore you if you’re sitting in a car. I and he saw a drawing of mine with know you still cycle all over London to scaffolding in it and he invited me to go reach your painting locations. to see the site. That did open a door and Charlotte Halliday RWS, St Paul’s from Peter’s Hill, watercolour over the next three years I did sixteen The bicycle is useful for getting into big pen drawings starting with the places where I can’t park a car. In the foundations and staying throughout the project. There were coffer past, I often worked leaning a drawing board on the handlebars. dams and cranes and above all scaffolding, I love scaffolding! These That’s getting harder, but a little camping stool fits in the bicycle drawings gave me something to exhibit, which led on to further, basket. similar commissions. This exhibition will be something of a retrospective and represents What about now, I have a feeling that there are particular aspects of the intricate subjects I have recorded over the years as well as London that excite you. We were looking at your paintings earlier my ongoing obsession with classical and domestic London. with the plane trees and white stucco behind. Yes its sun on stucco or sun on brick. In the 1970s I illustrated a wonderful encyclopaedia of Edwardian architecture, and the details
Interview by Richard Pikesley RWS
Denis Ryan was elected as an Associate Member of the Royal Watercolour Society in 2008 and became a full Member in 2011. His work explores the urban environment, particularly cities such as New York, Berlin and London. His photorealist paintings require a high level of expertise and focus. Here he discusses his influences and working practice.
What was your early art education like? My father was a commercial artist and then mostly a scenic artist in the theatre. He always encouraged us to paint and draw and as a teenager he arranged for me to go up to the scenic studio in Soho and work there in the summer holidays. I would be cleaning brushes, mixing paint, just generally helping out and eventually I did get to do some painting, i.e. rocks and tree trunks - props! But it was great fun. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to go to art school in the late sixties and early seventies, a time when there was an explosion of creativity in all the arts: painting, photography, music, fashion, architecture and design. I was immediately introduced to Warhol, Rosenquist, Hendrix, Coleman, Coltrane, Fellini, Altman, Buckminster Fuller and Neil Armstrong still found time walk on the moon! It was a really exciting time to be an art student. My course was a five year MA in fine art studying painting, printmaking and photography. I think we had a great selection of terrific tutors: Peter Schmidt, a very clever and generous man who regularly took groups of us into London to see what the latest art galleries were showing, then entertain us at his London flat listening to his incredible record collection (Terry Riley and Ornette Coleman). Mark Boyle, a leading light in the avant garde, a performance artist involved in happenings, would take us up to the UFO club to see his pioneering light shows at the height of the psychedelic revolution. Alan Green, a highly regarded abstract painter and David Spiller, a pop artist. The sheer generosity of these guys and the variety of ideas that came from them just knocked us out. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude, they really did open our eyes to all sorts of possibilities.
DENIS RYAN RWS /// INTERVIEW
Your work is described as ‘photorealist’, tell me about this art movement and the way in which it has influenced you…
Denis Ryan RWS, 2 Rs Lisbon , acrylic
The term ‘photorealist’ or ‘photorealism’ is credited to Louis K Meisel, a New York gallery owner. He said in 1970 a ‘photorealist’ was an artist who used a camera instead of a sketch book, and transferred images to the painting surface by means of a grid or a projector and had the technical skills to make the painting look photographic.
In fact anyone using recognisable imagery at this time, pop or not, was considered New Realists simply because it was the post-abstract period.
Denis Ryan RWS, Greenwich Village Cinema, NY, acrylic
When I first saw a show of photorealist work, 1974, I couldn’t believe my eyes - it was like a light had been switched on. It was a Ben Schonzeit show in the Fulham Road. Schonzeit was one of the originals of the American movement, producing paintings from his own photographs. His imagery was not a million miles away from the kind of photographs I liked to take. I carried my camera everywhere, I just loved taking photographs and still do. I now saw an opportunity to use my own photographs to create my own paintings but obviously stamp my own personality on them. I now work in a very similar way to the original photorealists. I will take several source shots of the subject I want to paint, the camera providing me with all the accurate information I require - only a photograph can do that. I then collage the photos together and decide what to take out or add, stretch or squeeze, in order to get the composition exactly as I want it. I think of the camera as an extension of my eyes, as a tool it enables me to paint things I couldn’t paint otherwise. I couldn’t really set my easel up and paint under a sign in the city for two months, it’s not practical. I will trace my final collage of photographs using a lightbox for accuracy, then trace it down on to paper mounted on board. Then I draw the whole image again and make any last minute adjustments. I’ll shade some areas if they are very complicated (it helps me when I paint). I guess it’s a long, painstaking process but it gives me a chance to know where every nut and bolt is. When I’ve finished tracing and drawing, which I find very therapeutic, I’m satisfied that I’m familiar with every inch of the painting.
Cities, cosmopolitan life and themes of commercialism often feature in your work. Why have you been so drawn to these themes?
‘I consider myself very lucky to have been able to go to art school in the late sixties and early seventies, a time when there was an explosion of creativity in all the arts’
I was born in London and lived most of my adult life in it. I have a strong emotional attachment to the city and all it entails. As I mentioned, I love taking photographs and love walking around the city, any city, looking for a good picture or reference shot. When I started painting for myself I referred back to all my old photographs and decided to work on a series of urban landscapes. As the series developed, I was painting a picture called ‘2 Rs Neon, Lisbon’, an old neon sign and I realised how much I was enjoying the experience, as it provided me with all the surfaces I love to paint - steel, metal and glass with all its reflections, all of which suited my style of painting. So I then started to look for and focus in on old signs, which I find more interesting as they have more attention to details and the use of materials is more exciting. In fact I realised what works of art they were in their own right. Unfortunately, since I’ve begun the current series of neon signs, I’ve seen how quickly they are disappearing which I think is criminal. New York for example is losing three a day! Wandering around all cities photographing buildings and shop fronts isn’t as easy as it was. You do encounter problems; I’ve had angry New Yorkers asking for my camera or the film if they think they’re in the shot, security guards rush out of shops and demand ID, shop assistants tell you that you can’t photograph their windows etc. It’s getting worse - I now take some examples of my work with me to show suspicious people what I do and why I need to take a photograph.
Has your background in film animation and illustration impacted your painting today?
Denis Ryan RWS, Speedboat, acrylic
Yes, definitely. All those years working in that field have given me the skills and techniques I now require for my paintings. For example the colours required for working in animation must have really influenced me. I got so used to using it that it has become second nature to me now, I love working with colour. I was painting almost every day in those years.
You had to be a quick learner, work fast and produce excellent work. The standard of work here in the UK was phenomenal. These years were a massive learning curve and the help and advice I got from experienced artists was invaluable. The way I was working, particularly in illustration, using the camera for reference shots, using models and locations, turned out to be an excellent grounding for the way I’m working now, it’s very similar.
What is it about water-based media that suits your practice? At college we used mainly household paints - emulsion and gloss (they were big paintings!). Watercolour was a scary medium that we thought was difficult to use so we didn’t! So it was a bit of a shock to discover when I started work in animation that all the paints were water-based. Inks, gouache, watercolour and acrylic. It was back to school for me, I had to get my head down and practice. I gradually got the hang of it even though we had to change mediums with each film or commercial depending on the director’s choice. Over the years I developed the skills required but my preferred medium was acrylic. I had started doing some paintings in acrylic at home in the evening and was now beginning to use an airbrush that I had taught myself to use working on some films. This also meant that I could pick up extra work retouching. I still use an airbrush today as an extra tool. In illustration all my work was in acrylic on paper mounted on board exactly as my paintings are now. I use the acrylic watered down a lot, it’s very liquid, building up the paintings with dozens of washes. As the painting develops I switch to smaller brushes and begin to work on the details, the paint still very thin. This is my way of painting, it’s developed organically over the years and is second nature to me now. I can’t imagine painting in any other way.
Interview by Hatty Davidson
JIM DUNBAR RWS
Jim Dunbar studied Drawing and Painting at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in the late 60s and early 70s. Drawing regularly from plaster casts, and painted from life, this rigorous early training gave him a thorough grounding in drawing and a firm understanding of tone. Students were encouraged to use oil paint and the smell of turpentine in the studios became quite intoxicating. However, as with other Art Colleges in Scotland, watercolour was not a medium that students were made aware of. Sadly, this is still the case. At that stage of my career, American Abstract Expressionists were a great influence. However by the end of my course I was inspired by the works of artists such as William Harnett (famed for his trompe-lâ€™Ĺ“il still lifes) and Andrew Wyeth (American Regionalism) to take up the challenge of realism. The Glasgow Boys and Scottish landscape painting was also developing as an interest.
Over the next twenty years I taught Art and Design in secondary schools. During this time, I succeeded in continuing to paint and exhibit regularly and was painting mainly in oil colour, with studio based works. A breakthrough came when I left teaching to paint full-time and I decided to learn how to use watercolour properly. My previous attempts were by and large failures, but once I invested in good quality paper, pigments and brushes, my results improved quite dramatically. I was also free to leave the studio and paint outdoors and respond to the local landscape.
Jim Dunbar RWS, Winter Panbride [detail], watercolour
My paper of choice is Saunders High White 200 – 300lb which I stretch on board as I often carry my materials over fields and fences. The paints are tubed artists Winsor & Newton and I have a range of Kolinsky sables, hakes and some home-made brushes. I enjoy using the transparency of watercolour and so I use opaque white sparingly. I usually make a fairly accurate drawing in pencil and often start with blocking in the sky while the water is sparkling clean. This establishes how the subject is lit. Subsequent construction of the painting through strong brushwork – laying down washes, creating textures - is key and tone is carefully considered. From experience, four hours is about the maximum time I can spend on a work on site before the light changes beyond recognition. I sometimes take a couple of photographs for reference. However, I dislike working from them or the laptop. I much prefer working with the actual subject. On site one has to work briskly and make bold decisions generally resulting in spontaneous and more expressive mark-making.
Jim Dunbar RWS, Elephant Rock, Boddin, watercolour
I was very fortunate to win an RSW residency on the Isle of Lewis a couple of summers ago. The landscape there is bleak, barren and very rocky. After using watercolour for a few days, I realised that pen and ink might be a better medium. This is a technique I had not used for a good number of years. I soon discovered that ink drawing suited the subject extremely well and adding some watercolour washes led to some pleasing results. On my return to the North-east of Scotland, where I live, I was particularly keen to develop and learn more about this method of recording. We have some outstanding rugged coastline only a few miles from my studio and this has opened up numerous possibilities for future work. I am currently using a combination of sepia, peat brown and Indian ink along with diluted washes worked over strong dip-pen drawing. The usual range of nibs, home-made cane and bamboo pens and quills provide a wide range of drawing tools. I rely on standard methods of cross-hatching and brushwork to achieve satisfactory results. I have found exploring these new techniques and materials a stimulating challenge that has helped develop and extend my watercolour skills and enabled me to see a familiar landscape with fresh eyes – an unforeseen bonus of that Lewis residency. Jim Dunbar RWS
Jim Dunbar RWS, Towards Angus Glens [detail], watercolour
RWS SPRING 2017 EDUCATION PROGRAMME The Spring Exhibition will as usual be accompanied by a comprehensive education programme. This will include practical workshops at the Heatherley School of Fine Art. A family workshop will also take place at the Gallery on Friday 7 April. The programme also includes two fascinating talks: On Wednesday 12th April, Christopher Le Brun PRA will discuss his working practice, recent exhibitions and his role as President of the most prestigious art academy in the world.
Education leaflet featuring Bits and Pieces by John Crossley ARWS
On Wednesday 19 April, RE and RWS Member, Angie Lewin will give the audience an in-depth insight into her working methods and inspirations. Supported by Fabriano www.royalwatercoloursociety.co.uk/events
ELECTION 2017 Artists working in water-based media (including watercolour, pen & ink, gouache and acrylic) may apply for Associate Membership of the RWS. Closing date: Monday 13 March 2017, 12 noon For more information and to apply: www.royalwatercoloursociety.co.uk/election
CONTEMPORARY WATERCOLOUR COMPETITION 2017 3- 15 March
Come and see the successful entries to this yearâ€™s RWS Competition, which aims to encourage innovation and experimentation in water-based media on paper. We were pleased to have art critic & curator Sasha Craddock and gallerist Piers Feetham on the judging panel. Lead Sponsor Cass Art
Jane Lewis ARWS, Blue Surrounds, watercolour & graphite
NA TIO N
CALL FOR ENTRIES The National Original Print Exhibition is open for entries from the 13th of March 2017. All national and international artists are welcome to enter. The judges this year will be: the President and Vice President of the RE; Leonie Bradley (Printmaking Today Editor), Dr Caroline Campbell (National Gallery), Zavier Ellis (Charlie Smith London Gallery), Nicholas Usherwood (Art Critic)
LONDON ORIGINAL PRINT FAIR The RE is proud once again to be exhibiting at the prestigious London Original Print Fair at the Royal Academy from 4 - 7 May. With work from our newest Student Associates to some of our longest-standing Fellows, our stand promises to be a diverse and impressive representation.
Deadline: 20 June 2017 Supported by Jackson’s www.nationalprint.org
AN TH ON MA INT PR D NG AR OU AW NY Y SO MA AW EN Y D & GW KE RS
The RE selected winners from very strong submissions for the Gwen May Award and the Anthony Dawson Young Printmaker Award. Hammer Chen and Helen Hayward became Associate Members for two years and will receive £1000 each. Dan Howard was awarded a prize of £2000 and Raphael Appignanesi £500.
Hammer Chen ARE, Seeping, etching
When next in the Gallery why not pop into the bookshop to see our unrivalled selection of books on watercolour and printmaking and a full range of art related publications? We also stock an ever changing selection of stylish and unusual greetings cards. Just in is a range from Archivist who make fabulous cards using letterpress, a process whereby inked blocks are physically pressed to paper. As a technique invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-1400s, it remains labour-intensive and something requiring a craftsman to get it right. New In
An Italian Journey - Anne Desmet RA RE £9.95 Thames and Hudson Anne won a scholarship to the British School at Rome in 1989 and has returned regularly to Rome ever since. Her beautifully packaged book is packed, cover to cover, with a seductive grand tour of Italian cityscapes and landscapes. Anne’s colourful and atmospheric sketches in pen, wash and watercolour grant a unique insight into the perspectives and preoccupations of the artist roaming abroad and transports the viewer from Rome and Venice to the landscapes of Sicily and Umbria.
A History of Pictures - David Hockney and Martin Gayford £29.95 Thames and Hudson Informed and energised by a lifetime of drawing, painting, and making images with cameras, Hockney explores how and why pictures have been made across the millennia. Juxtaposing a rich variety of images, the authors cross the normal boundaries between high culture and popular entertainment, and make unexpected connections across time and media. A History of Pictures is an important contribution to our appreciation of how we represent our reality.
The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships Betrayals & Breakthroughs in Modern Art Sebastian Smee £16.99 Profile Books A fascinating story about rivalry between artists that emerges from admiration, friendship and love. This kind of rivalry that existed between Degas and Manet, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, and Freud and Bacon is examined here. A magnificent book on the relationships at the roots of artistic genius.
IN THE BOOKSHOP Bestseller
Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained - Susie Hodge Thames and Hudson £9.99 With illustrations of 100 artworks that have attracted critical and public hostility, the author argues persuasively and passionately against the most common disparaging remarks levelled at modern art, demonstrating conclusively that contemporary art is not – and never has been – child’s play.
Lars Nyberg was elected as an Associate Member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers in 2013 and granted full Membership in 2015. Based in his native Sweden, he works in drypoint, creating infinitely delicate etchings of those scenes, objects and plants that most of us might not take the time to look at nor appreciate.
What drew you to printmaking? I have always been drawing, I have early memories of the happiness of starting with an empty sheet of paper. I also remember that I prefer just using a pencil – black and white – no colours. When I was 15 – 17 years old I did not like school at all, it was terrible. We were living in the countryside close to an old manor with old parks, alleys and a lot of fantastic trees. To draw those trees during weekends made me survive in a way. In school we had a wonderful teacher, Karin, teaching drawing on Fridays. In her classroom she had a small etching press that had belonged to Börje Sandelin (1926 – 1970), a very fine artist who had made very sensitive and poetic drypoints. Karin and the press changed my life – or pointed out the direction of it. I made small drypoints on zinc plates and understood that I must continue doing this, I just must. After 3 years of Foundation courses in different art
Lars Nyberg RE, Winter Field, etching
schools I started at the Royal Academy in Stockholm in 1978 and I worked with drypoint continually. I finished in 1983 and have continued making scratches in copperplates since then…
Tell me about the nature of your practice and the way in which you work… I often work with many copper plates at the same time – for me making art involves a lot of waiting and thinking. Looking at a proof for an hour, a day or even months and meanwhile working with other plates and ideas; architecture, trees, plants or maybe a small invisible shadow. I do not think too much; just finding a tree or a bush I like, or a small unimportant plant in a parking space finding me. That is fine – I trust our meeting. Usually I start by making many drawings of the same plant, trying to come closer to its personality, drawing over and over again before starting with the steel needle in the copperplate. I draw / scratch in the copperplate with a steel needle and use the steel burnisher a lot, reducing the lines or moving the lines. There is something unpredictable working with drypoint; the inscribed lines live their own lives in the copper. When starting with a new drypoint,
LARS NYBERG RE /// INTERVIEW
it is like starting a journey without a destination – you never know what will happen or who you will meet – to travel with a line. The happy surprise of printmaking is, besides working with unique media, that I can print extra copies from the copperplate, give away prints, swop with fellow artists or sell the prints not too expensively. I always print my plates myself and mostly use the wonderful Somerset paper.
Your prints typically contain small and delicate etched structures, leaving large areas of unprinted space - what is it about the space that is left, that is so important? Very early I became aware of the traditional Chinese and Japanese prints and ink drawings – it was a kind of ‘coming home’ feeling I had when I saw them, the delicate line and composition built on balance of the line and the ‘empty’ white spaces. This ‘empty space’ creates energy, it also create silence and focus on the object - the tree, the derelict building or the shadow of a small unimportant plant. Empty space is an important part in Chinese traditional ink drawings and woodcuts. Many early RE Members worked with this ‘empty space’ in their compositions. Seymour Haden of course, new ARE Member Edward Twohig is having a very interesting dialogue with him. Look at Frank Short´s etching The Solway at Midday. Also Lumsden, Osborne, of course Dorothy Wollard and I recently have seen a wonderful “winter image” from Sara Sproule. I admire their works very much. My friend Lisa Chang Lee just recently won a one-year Membership of the RE. In the way she is working with silence and contemplation, in printmaking, photo and video, gives me a kind of inspiring relief. In Lisa´s father Li Shaowen, at the same time both traditional and contemporary works, I find my early ‘coming home’ feeling I mentioned before, the concentration, balance, the empty areas are happiness and vitality – these are all very important for me.
Who or what influences and motivates you? As an art student at the Academy in Stockholm I often visited the print room at Nationalmuseum. There they all were waiting: Haden, Whistler, Bone, Brangwyn and many more. Of course also those Swedish artists that have been inspired by the English and also have worked and lived in London: Axel Herman Haig, Tallberg and Fridell just to mention a few.
Lars Nyberg RE, Shadow II, etching
During that time I often went to London and the print room in the V&A Museum to meet many more of those English artists. At that time it was ‘drop in’, just knock at the door and have a seat and wait for the portfolio with wonderful prints… In 1909 the Swedish artist Axel Tallberg (RE 1882) arranged an RE exhibition in the Royal Academy of Arts in Stockholm with
more than 503 prints and 182 were sold. I guess some of the sold prints found their way to the Nationalmuseum’s print room and for me to look at 70 years later.
How has becoming a Member of the RE impacted on your career? I have known about the RE for a long time thanks to Anne Desmet and Printmaking Today. Finally, some years ago I decided to apply. As a new ARE Member I met a warm welcome and generosity from both the RE Members and all those friendly and competent people, working at Bankside Gallery. The English printmaking scene is different to the Swedish scene and every time I come to London for an opening of an RE exhibition at Bankside Gallery it is a happiness to see all the interesting prints, the high artistic level and competence - very inspiring. In the amazing Masters exhibition I could also see wonderful works of artists I did not know about earlier, a new delight.
‘Very early I became aware of the traditional Chinese and Japanese prints and ink drawings – it was a kind of ‘coming home’ feeling I had when I saw them, the delicate line and composition built on balance of the line and the ‘empty’ white spaces.‘
I think there is a big interest in prints in England but that interest must also be maintained. That is exactly what RE and Bankside Gallery are doing now, the Members, the Council, the staff at Bankside Gallery, Mychael and Trevor. Maintaining, but also building up this interest, thanks to their hard work and enthusiasm. Thanks to this huge interest in printmaking there is a happiness for me knowing that my prints now are finding new English homes.
What are you working on at the moment? And what does the future hold for you and your work? For the moment I am working with portraits of new small plants I recently met in London; Marion’s plant and Roy´s plant. Small convalescent plants in small pots – just a few lines and a few leaves. A month ago I met a very interesting little bush just behind Bankside Gallery! Now the winter has come to our small village Uttersberg. My wife Lina Nordenström and I are working in the print studio Grafikverkstan Godsmagasinet we started almost 8 years ago together with Galleri Astley. On my working table I have some copperplates waiting, winter landscapes from Uttersberg and another village close to us. Since I became an RE Member I am working – from time to time – with an architectural impression of St Paul´s Cathedral. The magnificent building you see when you are leaving Bankside Gallery or resting, contemplating with a pint at Founders Arms. Resting and waiting for a journey with the copperplate. Interview by Hatty Davidson
Lars Nyberg RE, Oak, etching
S E R
U T C U R T S THE APE IN NDSC LA of ARE s g chin erlain t e The hamb d ARE C r Ian Ros Fo and
Ford and Chamberlain are both printmakers who live and work in Bristol and make large-scale prints focusing on often obsolete and degraded man-made structures. Their drawings and etchings capture a moment in time in the life of these edifices. The traditional process of etching predominates in their practices, reflecting their subject matter. Ros Ford: I am inspired by the unordered, overlooked and sideshows of life. My work traces juxtapositions between the ‘living’ landscape and evidence of its past. My subject matter is often local, such as a dilapidated pavilion in a little known park in Bristol, a swimming pool built in the 1960’s and an asphalt production plant. I usually visit and re-visit the site of the structure over several months, drawing in pencil and mixed media, taking photographs and drawing on small grounded plates. I then develop these sketches and notes into a series of larger compositions in the studio. I often take an imaginary birds-eye view emphasising the abstract qualities of the structure. My influences include James MacNeill Whistler, Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson and George Shaw. Ian Chamberlain: The majority of my subjects and locations were considered at the forefront of technology during their lifetime, for example the Maunsell Sea Forts in the Thames Estuary, and old Acoustic Sound Mirrors in Kent. I begin each project with an intense enquiry through on-site observation and drawing. In visiting these locations I can develop my own subjective emotional response; the artist is not seen but my physical intervention is paramount and my factual research and first hand experience evidence a sense of place. I begin by finding my way around the subject, evaluating the form through the use of light and dark in quick charcoal studies. These are then taken into the studio where, if required, more sustained studies incorporating finer lines are made. I am inspired by the etchings of artists such as Rembrandt and Piranesi. Each artist uses scale in a different way; Ian Chamberlain removes the subject from its surroundings and the familiar. The structures are shown devoid of the human figure so that architectural scale cannot be based on the physical measurements of the human body. This ambiguity adds to the sense of the monumental and projects a feeling of the iconic. Ros Ford aims to create the sense of a ‘living’ landscape and incorporates human scale architectural features that place the subject in the context of the surrounding landscape. The etching process is integral to both the making and the content of their work. The process reflects their subject matter with
Ian Chamberlain ARE, Mirror III, etching
Ros Ford ARE, Shelter, etching
techniques that give limitless opportunities to change and manipulate the image alongside the element of chance. Both work mainly on copper - using hard ground, aquatint, sugarlift, drypoint, burnishing and an electric Dremel tool. The physicality of working with the metal plate along with using the chemical action of the mordant to bite the plate reflect the industrial nature of their subjects and their deterioration.
drawing and the print matrix, the mark making and chemical interaction of the etching process stimulating and pushing my work forwards. My prints are not just an architectural study, they are evidence of me seeing and responding to a subject in a meaningful way. This is what etching allows me to do - to investigate place through an organic evolution of recording and insights into location through the interlinking processes of drawing and printmaking.
Ros Ford: I draw and paint on proofs at each stage of my work. I often make a second steel plate for limited colour. This adds depth to the image, but also partially obliterate some of the detail to enhance the abstract qualities of the work. I ink and wipe plates to create a painterly quality to my prints.
Ros Ford and Ian Chamberlain are showing alongside other Bristol-based artists: Irena Czapska, Jolanta Grzybowska, Libby Lloyd, Lisa Scantlebury and David Sully in ‘Trace’ at Bankside Gallery 25th April to 1st May 2017.
My work goes beyond the documentary; the structures I portray are imbued with history, not only the architecture but also the human interaction with them, over time. They are part of a living, changing landscape. I’m interested in these changes and juxtapositions of the man-made and natural forms. Ian Chamberlain: I intensely rework my plates to build up the layers of information and detail. Working at a distance from my subject creates a dialogue between the original
‘Trace’ is a collective exposure of process, time, history and place. Dark, forgotten structures, inner and actual landscapes, surreal recreations and deconstructed practices combine to make this a showing of the unexpected. Utilizing print, sculpture, painting and etching, each artist discloses their own separate practice while a wider conversation emerges between them.
Ros Ford ARE
f o t he Ar
G N I V A R G
N E OOD
by John Bryce RE
I was born in 1934 and right from my schooldays I’ve had a consuming interest in the challenging art of wood engraving. The special beauty of the medium, and its ability to create drama by contrasting white against black, has always appealed to me. After retirement from a career in aviation research, I developed my wood engraving skills and achieved membership of the Society of Wood Engravers (SWE) and full membership of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers in 2010. Wood engraving is a relief printmaking process. It involves the skilful use of tools to cut an image onto the smoothed surface of an endgrain hardwood block such as boxwood, which enables very fine detail to be engraved. However, the process of making a block from endgrain wood tends to limit its size. Woodcuts are made on the side grain of a plank of wood, which allows larger works to be created, but the cutting is of a coarser nature. Before starting engraving, I transfer the mirror image of my drawing to a darkened block using tracing and carbon paper. This ensures that the engraved block will print the image the correct way round. If the un-engraved block were printed, it would show a rectangle of black ink. It follows that wood engraving is a white line process, where every cut made will print white. Cuts are made with a variety of tools of different shapes and sizes. Each tool makes its own individual mark and precise cutting enables the finest line or speck to be produced with great clarity. Also, these individual marks can be used creatively when cutting the image. The tool handles are flattened on one side so that they don’t interfere with the surface of the block. Any curved line or change in direction is achieved by rotating the block, keeping the cutting tool still. After the engraving process is complete, the block can be “proofed.” Black printing ink is systematically rolled over the block and paper placed onto it. Printing can be done by hand burnishing over the back of the paper, but I print the block using a Victorian Albion press. After proofing, the print
John Bryce RE working in his studio
is carefully examined to see whether any corrections need to be made on the block. Then a limited edition of artist original prints of uniform quality can be printed. Many of my current engravings are based on the River Thames. I am a member of the Wapping Group of Artists and we meet once a week to paint the river in all its various moods. This has provided me with a rich variety of Thames imagery and I use my watercolour sketches as an inspiration for my wood engravings. A good example is my diploma work Thames Barrier, which shows the view through the barrier to the Dome and Canary Wharf in the distance. The machinery and cabins are in stark relief and I have introduced a slightly surreal atmosphere with dramatic light in the sky and turbulence in the water. Bold and vigorous cutting creates mood and atmosphere. Millennium Bridge, just a stoneâ€™s throw from Bankside Gallery was an interesting subject to draw and engrave. The silhouettes of people crossing the bridge intrigued me while the Shard in the distance crossing through the profile of the bridge made a good composition. Again, I employed vigorous cutting marks in the sky and water. Wood engraving is a slow process and each block takes considerable time to complete. However, the engraving can be done over a number of sessions and the engraver derives great physical and mental enjoyment from the creative process. For me, cutting into wood and seeing the image gradually emerge on the block is a source of great pleasure.
John Bryce RE, Millennium Bridge, wood engraving
IN FOCUS | WOOD ENGRAVING
Bankside Gallery | Thames Riverside | London SE1 9JH | 020 7928 7521 | email@example.com www.banksidegallery.com | www.royalwatercoloursociety.co.uk | www.re-printmakers.com Cover image: Lars Nyberg RE, Winter Fence [detail], drypoint