RO RO YAL YA W L S AT OC ERC IET OL Y O OU FP RS AIN OC TE IET R- Y PR IN TM
In conversation with Gerry Baptist RE Gerry Baptist has been a Member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers since 2008, becoming a full Member in 2011. His work bridges the gap between tradition and popular culture, commenting on societal contradictions, political instability, historical and mythological allegory and the fundamental nature of what it means to be human. One could say that Gerry’s life and career are made up of opposing elements, seemingly disconnected but brought together with confidence and ease. Born in India in 1935 to Portuguese/British parents, Gerry was educated both in India (Calcutta and Lucknow) and in England.
He says of this unconventional upbringing: ‘Our home was always a chaos of books, magazines, comics, music, and paints. I was able to lose myself in a world of fantasy, from American comic book heroes to Treasure Island and The Jungle Book. - the illustrations moved you from one exotic dream to another. Just outside our home was the vibrant and colourful world of India.’ His academic education was supplemented by a rich and varied cultural education from his parents. His father in particular had a significant influence; a man of many interests himself, he pushed Gerry to discover his personal passions, ‘He always said that the most important thing was to do something you enjoy, to keep an open mind and to work hard at whatever it is that you choose. He showed by example, working endlessly, just doing what he wanted to do; editing a magazine at one time, a dance band at another, writing, illustrating, but always enjoying life.’
from the London School of Printing in 1955. Here, he discovered the diverse and pioneering artists of the 20th Century,
Gerry’s father introduced him to both Bach and the blues, classical literature and P.G. Wodehouse, the high art of the Renaissance and the political cartoons that he drew himself – there was no discrimination between ‘highbrow’ and ‘lowbrow’ creative outlets, all had their place. This merging of popular culture and academic ideas would go on to define Gerry’s creative career. After completing a Foundation year at the Walthamstow School of Art, he was awarded a Diploma
‘One of the teachers at art school came from the Bauhaus and introduced us to the world of form and function but he also showed us examples of Dada with its loose riotous ideas including artists such as George Grosz and Jean Arp and the collages of Schwitters, Hausmann and Hoch. I also became aware of American Abstract Expressionism and everything changed for me. All the hours of learning how to draw in life classes were thrown out and I thought everything was possible with painting.’
Gerry Baptist RE, Doing What Comes Naturally, digital archival gloss print with glitter
A talent for graphics, illustration and typography then led him to the bold and uncompromising world of advertising. As an Art Director in London, Gerry’s work became necessarily client focussed: ‘I needed to earn a living and the world of Mad Men called. It was an exciting, brash world and I had a huge learning curve to go through from the freedom of art school to the creative but very competitive world of commerce. I worked alongside some talented writers, photographers and filmmakers who put in long hours but enjoyed life to the full. To get away from all that madness I used to spend free evenings in front of huge canvasses painting abstracts. They all came out of nowhere and went to the same place as I burnt the lot about ten years later.’ Gerry was head-hunted by an American agency in Frankfurt, Germany and worked as a freelance Art Director there for a short time. Later, in London, he and some colleagues founded the advertising agency Yellowhammer and went into working in new product development. It was during this period that he and a colleague created the concept for a leisure facility called WonderWorld, which would merge popular culture, education and entertainment on a grand scale. It was described by others as a Crystal Palace for the 21st century. They drew in some of the best talents of the time, university professors such as Professor Laithwaite, Professor Gregory and Professor David Bellamy, writers such as Arthur C Clarke of the film 2001 fame, Terry Gilliam from Monty Python and theatre director Dr Jonathan Miller. After years of creative design, architectural design and planning feasibility studies demonstrated the commercial viability of the project and it was launched in the City. However, the stock market collapse of 1987 denied the prospect of funding and the build never went ahead. While working on the project they received a written accolade from Disney Management which said, ‘It takes a very special talent to create something as wonderful as WonderWorld’. Gerry says of the experience, ‘What I learned was that however creative your work was and however hard you laboured, you always need some luck!’ Gerry, who had been painting and drawing throughout
this period decided it was time to concentrate on his career as an artist full time. One of his first solo exhibitions was at the Pump Gallery in Dorking in which Gerry exhibited both paintings and prints. The first line of the catalogue text states, ‘Our expectations of the kind of art that usually appears on the local high street may be challenged by this exhibition.’ And this was certainly true. It continues: ‘These are not paintings that seek to share the beauty of landscape or to reassure through a warm and gentle palette. This exhibition isn’t about the simple act of looking at something that we will either like or dislike; the artist would like us to give a little more than that.’ Here, again, Gerry raised questions for his audience, involved them and asked them to participate in his creation. His work commented on modern life, a subject with which we are all familiar and indeed implicated. When looking at these harshly coloured, raw and often awkward works, we see elements of ourselves. In the Group of Ten exhibition at Bankside Gallery in 2013, Gerry drew on his profound art historical knowledge, creating prints inspired by the Masters of the past. The audience was given an insight into Gerry’s influences in abundance: ‘I love the audacity and energy of Picasso and the intelligence and sheer drawing skills of Hockney, both artists constantly re-inventing the work they do and of course Duchamp who re-invented what art can be; Goldsworthy’s delicate placing of leaves in a landscape; Guston’s perplexing work; a video of Hirst, dressed in a blood splat
tered butchers apron cutting up a cow; Craig-Martin’s witty ‘Oak Tree’; and who can forget Parker blowing up her shed. Mike Sims, past editor of Printmaking Today, says of the Group of Ten works: ‘Much of the gusto so clearly in evidence in Gerry Baptist’s images seems to derive from his mocking and satirical bent. The Burgergate series is a wonderfully rumbustious satire on our appetite for what’s bad for us, a lubricious over-indulgent pile-up of high art and poor taste and in the Mysteries of an English Garden series, Baptist went on to show how plants behave in much the same way as humankind, strangling and smothering rivals in the rat race for position and food.’ The Mysteries of an English Garden series, influenced by his wife, Jean’s garden, was not inspired, as many might
expect, by the paradise of a luscious Eden or the traditional well-manicured lawns and neat beds so synonymous with British horticulture. In fact, what drew him to the subject was the cruelty of a plant’s survival, the mysteries and significance of its DNA and as Mike Sims says, ‘all the struggle behind all that beauty.’ This struggle is also very real in the life of an artist, Gerry being no different. When making these works, he was not sure how they might appear but through the struggle of print and paint, created something very beautiful. Gerry Baptist continues to exhibit at Bankside Gallery regularly as well as other galleries around the UK, Europe, the US and Hong Kong and says of his Membership of the RE, ‘It has been excellent as the artists in the Society have such differing attitudes and interests, but you know whoever you meet, you will have something in common to natter about. And you always get a real welcome from everyone at Bankside Gallery!’
Gerry Baptist RE, Doll’s Hospital, etching & aquatint
Gerry Baptist RE, Decline and Fall - After Duchamp, etching & aquatint
NEWLY ELECTED MEMBERS 2015
RODOLFO ACEVEDO RODRIGUEZ ARE Rodolfo Acevedo Rodriguez is motivated by the idea of craft as an artistic agent and his work seeks to establish a relationship between the author and the medium. The artist’s copper etching process combines traditional techniques with contemporary digital technologies, such as 3D scanning and CNC milling. This practice enables each of the tools used to introduce a level of authorship on an aesthetic level, which ultimately contributes towards the expression of the image. In addition, the themes entailed in Rodriguez’s work make reference to literary sources, such as Greek mythology and his architectural depictions attempt to offer reinterpretations of these ancient ideologies. Rodolfo Acevedo Rodriguez ARE, Demeter Turns, copper etching
IAN CHAMBERLAIN ARE Ian Chamberlain’s work aims to reinterpret manmade structures as monuments placed within the landscape. These structures in turn then become monuments of their time. The prints serve as a visual historical document and record of places that he has visited. Locations recorded in the past have included Goonhilly Earth Station, the Lovell Telescope, Cheshire, Maunsell Sea Forts in the Thames Estuary and the Acoustic Sound Mirrors on the South Kent coast. Chamberlain has a longstanding fascination with technology and architectural forms, these have included structures within industry, agriculture, science and the military. Initial charcoal and graphite studies are made to understand the form and surface of the structures. These are then edited to find the most appropriate pieces to be taken into the etching process, which can take between 1-2 months.
Ian Chamberlain ARE, Fort I, etching
SHARON LEE ARE The nature of the origin of life remains one of the most intriguing questions in biology. In 1953 Stanley L. Miller flipped a switch sending electric current through a chamber containing a combination of methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water. The experiment yielded organic compounds including amino acids, the building blocks of life and composed his theory of the origins of life. Sharon Lee is interested in the notion that we have evolved into beings that can now question, experiment and mirror a chance moment that led to our evolution. ‘Recombining and collaging found printed images and textures with my own hand-drawn stone lithographs form the basis for layered and reconstituted images that resemble palimpsests’. Sharon Lee ARE, Starling I, lithograph & chine-collé
FREDERIC MORRIS ARE Frederic Morris’ work is a grotesque social commentary born out of continuous observation and visual documentation of the outside world. Images are dictated not only by this observation but also by the artist’s own personal dialogue. Morris ironically glamourises the darker aspects of society using images as a catalyst for feelings of collective anxiety, depicting a world in a state of mental and physical disrepair as a consequence of over indulgence and consumerism. His work advocates a love of image making and is principally drawing-based using a selection of mediums.
Frederic Morris ARE, Reflective Society, etching
DAWSON MURRAY ARE Murray’s work has always been about light, the movement of light or the ambiguities of form created by light and shade in his garden. This has always informed his paintings, whether in acrylic or watercolour and certainly all of Murray’s etchings. ‘Suffering from MS I am now quadriplegic and over the past 10 years the local authority has funded a personal assistant to help me for three or four days a week. Often I have been able to find a Fine Arts graduate to fill the post. This has allowed me to continue making artwork’. Working exclusively in etching his assistants have helped him develop a highly personal use of the sugar-lift process which allows him to create the soft edged effects so typical of his watercolours. ‘Sometimes I borrow forms from earlier works and sometimes my assistant has developed the layout of an etching in collage under my instruction. However in my current work I have created the drawing myself using an eye tracking technology developed at Dundee Print Studio. This exciting development has allowed me to create more precise forms and drawings which my assistant then transfers to the plate and develops with my sugar-lift technique’.
Dawson Murray ARE, Drifting, etching
Vive les Peintres-Graveurs! Yes, long live the Painter-Printmakers indeed, especially since the Society has recently assumed a Gallic aspect. It happened like this. My wife, Norma, and I stumbled across a shabby stone farm building in the Loire area nearly thirty years ago and bought it very cheaply. We restored it bit by bit, made friends with many of our neighbours and, since we both have fluent French, we soon became involved in many of the village events. But it wasn’t until about five years ago that we were introduced to Dominique Chrétien, an artist from an adjacent hamlet. In due course we were invited to visit his ‘studio’ – in effect, a scattering of barns and stables on farm-land that had belonged to his grandparents, all crammed with startlingly expressive paintings and sculptures of his own and with equally striking images by the groups of mentally handicapped young people who crowded regularly to his workshops. We were stunned by the impact of this wonderful creativity, all springing from the sheer dedication of a man with total belief in the healing power of engagement in art. In the spring of 2013 we were invited to Dominique’s house to meet the President of a group of artists to which our friend belongs. The group, we were told, was named ’49 Regards’ which, loosely translated, means ‘49 ways of looking’. ‘49’, incidentally, is the number of the Département of Maine-et-Loire of which Angers (home of our Plantagenet kings) is the chief city and the home of many of the French group. It soon transpired that the President was keen to know more about the RE of which I had spoken many times with Dominique and eventually, armed with a copy of the then recently-published Printmakers’ Secrets which I had lent to Dominique, he began to make admiring comments on the work of many of my colleagues and finally expressed the hope that I and any five other RE members might exhibit with ’49 Regards’ in the forthcoming autumn at their annual salon. This seemed to me to promise an interesting adventure so, with no idea how I would proceed to gather five willing colleagues, I agreed. In the event, assembling the team proved to be gratifyingly easy. In one
instance I bumped into a colleague at an exhibition and blurted out an invitation which was readily accepted. Another lived close and was therefore ready prey! I already had a bagful of framed work in my studio, due to be delivered to a third but six pieces of which were generously left for me to take to France. A couple of ‘phonecalls, two short drives, a rendezvous at Bankside, and the willing five were on board: Gerry Baptist, Jeremy Blighton, Peter Green, Sasa Marinkov and Hilary Paynter were the pioneers! The consignment of framed prints needed to be at Dominique’s by mid-September. The problem, though, was that I was by then undergoing a course of unforeseen hospital treatment every weekday. I couldn’t miss even one day, I was told; so Norma and I, with our precious cargo, took a night boat for Ouistraham on a Friday, arrived at our place by midday on Saturday and took the prints to Dominique that afternoon. Then came the first reward: on peeling back the bubble-wrap from two or three of the prints Dominique – usually the most reserved of men – yelled “Ah, je suis ravi!!”. We knew from his delight that the rushed journey had been worthwhile.
Tony Dyson RE and Dominique Chrétien displaying prints by Hilary Daltry RE (left) and Jim Anderson RE
The next reward, on arriving home, was to be the warm feeling of ‘mission accomplished!’ Since we needed to leave for home early the following morning it was impossible for us to visit the gallery; that had to wait until the following year. After the close of the exhibition we went to France again to collect the unsold work; seven pieces had been bought – four during the show and three later. I could see from photographs that our work had been beautifully hung and was assured that our prints had been enthusiastically admired by many visitors. It transpired that there were very few printmakers in the French group and that our contribution had introduced a new dimension to the salon. There was a second invitation last year. This time there was no impediment to a longer stay. Our envoys were Jim Anderson, Merlyn Chesterman, Hilary Daltry, Roger Harris and Paul Hawdon. We were greeted chez- Dominique by a lady journalist, were pleasantly grilled by her and samples of everyone’s work, prominently one of Hilary’s large woodcuts, were unwrapped and photographed for publication in the press.
Several papers subsequently featured the welcome invasion of ‘les peintres-graveurs’ and our French friends began to propose a more formal link with the RE. At last we were able to spend the best part of a day at the gallery when we returned towards the end of the exhibition to collect unsold work (our load being again seven prints lighter). We were amazed by the huge space – at least six times bigger than our home at Bankside –a grand setting for the many large sculptures, paintings and constructions of our French colleagues. We realized then that our prints really did provide the perfect foil. The gallery, being in a slate-quarrying area, had at one time provided stabling for work-horses and its slate walls had been preserved to admirable effect. The invitation to the RE to exhibit there at the annual salon did indeed follow and, accordingly, our President and Vice-President, Mychael Barratt and Trevor Price, together with past President Anita Klein, Sumi Perera, Neil Bousfield and myself are to be this year’s contingent in sending work to the salon of ’49 Regards’. Vive les Peintres-Graveurs! Dr Tony Dyson RE
NEWS THE MASTERS | RELIEF PRINTS
NATIONAL ORIGINAL PRINT EXHIBITION
Angie Lewin RE, Spey Path I, linocut
The Masters is a series of annual exhibitions established by the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers focusing on a particular branch of printmaking. This year’s exhibition will be curated by Angie Lewin RE and will be devoted to works that employ any relief printmaking techniques. A selection of external artists will be exhibiting along with Members of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers at Bankside Gallery from 3 - 15 November. Private View: Tuesday 3 November, 6 - 8pm www.re-printmakers.com
ANTONY DAWSON YOUNG PRINTMAKERS AWARDS This award is open to any printmaker under the age of 30 and awarded solely on the merit of their work. First prize: £2000, Second prize: £500. To apply: entrants need to send six high resolution jpegs of their printmaking (300dpi), with details of technique and dimensions of each piece, and a brief CV to firstname.lastname@example.org DEADLINE: Friday 20 November 2015
Liz Miller, A Classic on Vinyl: Debussy - Clair De Lune - Part II etching & printed vinyl record
The National Original Print Exhibition is an open show established by the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers with the aim of promoting the best of printmaking to a wider audience. The judging panel was composed of Stanley Jones, Deborah Orr, Ciara Phillips, Gill Saunders, Michael Barratt PRE and Trevor Price VPRE. Nearly 2000 entries were received and the quality of the works was very high. After much deliberation, the judges have chosen around 150 works that will be displayed at Bankside Gallery from 15 - 27 September. The exhibition singles out and promotes printmaking as a distinctive art form, by presenting a remarkable variety of printmaking techniques. Private View: Tuesday 15 September, 6 - 8pm www.nationalprint.org
EDUCATION PROGRAMME Autumn 2015 | Spring 2016
ROYAL WATERCOLOUR SOCIETY WORKSHOPS, TALKS & EVENTS AUTUMN 2015 & SPRING 2016
RWS CONTEMPORARY WATERCOLOUR COMPETITION 2016 CALL FOR ENTRIES The Royal Watercolour Society’s annual open competition aims to encourage innovation and experimentation in all water-based media and provides a prestigious platform for both established and emerging artists. Works are selected by a distinguished panel of judges who work in diverse areas of the contemporary art world who are seeking pieces which represent the most accomplished works in this field. Successful entries are exhibited from 4 – 16 March 2016 at the Gallery,
WATERCOLOUR COMPETITION 2016
Mark Raggett VPRWS, Ogof Cadno [detail], mixed media
The RWS Education Programme for 2015/16 has been designed to inspire and encourage both those who are longstanding enthusiasts of water-based media and those who are new to it. Practical courses will be held at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, Chelsea, in a large studio with excellent natural light. A varied and exciting programme of talks and family events will take place at Bankside Gallery during the Society’s Autumn Exhibition, Watercolour Journeys - a show celebrating the portability of watercolour - as well as during the Spring Exhibition, Made in Colour.
Booking is essential for all workshops and events unless otherwise stated. To book your place and to see a full list of materials for practical courses please visit: www.royalwatercoloursociety.co.uk
All entries must be submitted online at www.royalwatercoloursociety. co.uk where a maximum of 6 works can be uploaded.
NEW ASSOCIATE MEMBERS 2015 The Royal Watercolour Society Elections are held in March every year and 2015 saw six new artists welcomed into the Society. The number of applications increases annually and with a maximum of six candidates able to be awarded ARWS honorifics, competition is high. This year, Julie D. Cooper, Iain Nicholls, Emma Haworth, Patricia Cain, John Crossley and Lisa Traxler have been granted Associate Membership. Coming from all over the UK, this group of artists is diverse and their work illustrates the multifaceted nature of water-based media. You can see their work, along with other Members of the Society, in the RWS Autumn Exhibition: Watercolour Journeys.
UPCOMING ELECTIONS 2016 Artists working in water-based media (including watercolour, pen & ink, gouache and acrylic) may apply for Associate Membership of the RWS. Closing date: Monday 7 March 2016. For more information: www.royalwatercoloursociety.co.uk
Watercolour Journeys Watercolours have traditionally been used for centuries by artists wanting to capture the fleeting moment in nature, wanting to set down a few notes for reference to be used later in the studio and expanded either into another medium such as oil or developed further into a finished work. They have been used for delicate portraits and figure compositions (Gwen John) and on a very large scale as in Edward Burra's complex narrative and landscape paintings. Kandinsky and Klee played with watercolour to create their visually ambiguous almost-abstract worlds, treating the medium with respect and not as an adjunct or throw-away exercise. I only start by making this point as a way of crushing from the word go, the notion that watercolour is the medium of the amateur. In its purest form it is an extremely difficult medium to control and utterly unforgiving if a mistake is made. Of course mistakes can be happy accidents that lead you down unexpected avenues and in this watercolour on its own or combined with other media can be a wonderful playground for experiment too. In this sense the 'journeys' of our exhibition title can be journeys of the mind, far from any literal reading of a landscape or representational intention. The ultimate portable 'tool' for an artist has to be the pencil. But for travelling proper, whether it is about recording a particular place or as a means of injecting something new into the artist’s visual vocabulary, it is watercolour (together with the indispensable pencil) that is the perfect companion. You only need to add water and if desperate, even spit will do. I never confuse holiday travel with 'painter's eye' travel. I will take a pencil and a sketch pad “just in case” on a holiday but probably never unpack them. But, when I decide to travel with my painter's eye, then I plan carefully. Not only what I will take (I'll come to that) but where I will go and why. I first started to use travel in the ‘90’s and would take myself off on road trips making my way up to Scotland through the borders and then from Edinburgh on up along the coast, right the way round the perimeter of the Highlands.
Gradually I fed the Islands into my itinerary: Harris and Lewis, Skye, the Uists, Shetland. I did my homework and read copiously about the landscape, its history, the Clearances, Rob Roy McGregor (a distant ancestor) the geology and I already knew how the Shipping Forecast worked. I looked across from Harris to where St Kilda lay and tried to get there more than once... and I still have not, the weather having beaten me every time. Norman Ackroyd who will be Guest Artist in the autumn exhibition has, and has made of circumnavigating the British Isles in his watercolours and etchings something that is unique and compelling. A modern take on William Daniell's magnificent 'A Voyage round Great Britain' consisting of over 300 aquatints made from watercolours of his journeys around coastal Britain in the early 1800's. Hungry for new challenges over the years I have set off to more exotic places always with a mind to returning with a consistent body of work. India entranced me with its colour, though in some ways there was almost too much bustle to give me exactly what I wanted. Mali and particularly the Bandiagara plateau and escarpment which separates Mali from Burkina Faso gave me a whole exhibition worth of work. It had everything I wanted: colour unfamiliar to me, extraordinary geology, almost treeless apart from the baobab trees, and above all a sense of endless space. Space stretching away out of reach. I also found that some of the Dogon (this was Dogon tribal country) myths and symbols crept into my swag bag and re emerged later in the paintings. All the while I was there -and it was no more than ten days - I was so engaged in absorbing all that I was seeing and experiencing that I can still feel the hot sun on the back of my neck; I did not waste a moment. I filled sketch books with drawings, thumbnail sketches and watercolours. Looking through the sketchbooks now I am transported back to the place, and to the time I was there. Memories more vivid than reading the entries in a diary come back and can still be recycled into current work.
More recently I have made two long road trips across Arizona from California and into New Mexico where again I had done my homework and learnt what I could about the country, the geology, and traced my likely route by Google Earth to get a feel of what I might find. The key to getting the most out of such working trips I've found, is going well-prepared intellectually. In the event I was not disappointed and found enough to keep me nourished for years to come. New colour, new space, new myths and symbols and patterns in the Navaho and Native Indian cultures. All noted and explored in the pages of my sketchbooks. What do I take on these trips? I usually spend days beforehand packing and unpacking two little tin boxes which will contain all that I hope to need. A small set of good quality pans, two or three sable brushes, a bristle brush, a tube of white body colour or gouache, some Conte’ pencils, water soluble pencils of varying thicknesses and a few key pastels (oil and pigment) that can see me through an entire trip. I want to be able to stash my kit into my pockets or a very small backpack, along with my camera. I used to take a proper camera, now I just use my mobile camera as any pictures I take are simply aide-memoires. In fact I often do not even look at them for ages if at all but they provide me with a kind of security blanket, knowing that whatever happens I have at least got them. So I take a very small sketchbook for quick pencil notes and thumbnail drawings; I take a medium sized probably double width landscape sketchpad with decent enough paper to take watercolour. And I tear out as many pieces of bigger watercolour paper as I think I might need from a pad which I fit into the bottom of my suitcase to work on in the evenings wherever I'm staying. On my first visit to the States, I travelled back from LA to New York on an Amtrak train and set up my little 'roomette' as a mini studio for the three days it took to cross America. I worked up several of my watercolours and added to them with gouache and pastel while I gazed out of the window absorbing yet more imagery and ideas. Royal Watercolour Society Artists have travelled across the world in search of material and come back with an enormous variety of approaches and interpretations of their trips. The RWS archive has some remarkable examples of past masters. Today some, like Francis Bowyer, have braved the dangers faced by the army in Afghanistan returning with memorable images, others take off to China and Nepal. I shall be heading off into the Arctic circle next, confident that I shall find imagery to spur me into interesting creative riffs, returning to the greys and whites perhaps of my Scottish journeys, but with added Nordic zing. Who knows? And that is the whole point, even I don’t know. Image: Caroline McAdam Clark RWS, Across Kaibito Plateau II,, watercolour & collage
Caroline McAdam Clark RWS
Notes on Painting The Pembrokeshire coastline is a constant source of inspiration in my work. Living and working in London, as I do, it is refreshing and rejuvenating to return to the county from the claustrophobic urban environment to the vast expanse of sea and sky. I tend to go for long walks along the coastal path, soaking up the atmosphere, especially in early spring and late summer when the sun is casting long shadows. There is such a wealth of visual stimulation in the rock formations, the dramatic contours of the land and the varied textures and colour of the vegetation. I record my experiences in small sketch books, of which I now have many spanning the years, using mainly pen and ink and graphite. I return to this ‘visual diary’ often, sometimes after many years, as inspiration for a new work. I try to keep the sketch as simple and immediate as possible – I don’t dwell overlong on the sketches as they are merely a record, a germ of the idea, and not seen as finished pieces. Many photographs are taken which are used as an ‘aide memoire’ – but not as images to be reproduced on canvas. On returning to the studio I transfer the gathered information to the canvas. Applying the paint in a gestural way and using varied brushstrokes to evoke a feeling of place; moving elements around the canvas and exaggerating and varying the colour palette. I also use evocative patterns and textures which I cut out from magazines. The aim is to create a more substantial ‘whole’. Quite often the work will appear totally abstract but there is always a figurative element somewhere to be found. Something to latch on to. Hopefully the work will trigger a similar emotional response in the viewer as I had in creating the image.
Mark Raggett VPRWS
Norman Ackroyd: The Waters and the Wild from ‘The Secret Painter’ Norman Ackroyd is the Guest Artist in the upcoming RWS Autumn Exhibition, Watercolour Journeys. When he was a student at the Royal College of Art in the mid-1960s, Norman Ackroyd was given a dressing-down by the painter Cecil Collins for ‘going with the fashionable thing’. Ackroyd had been busy making Pop Art collages from printers’ ornaments and butterflies, and incorporating them into urban landscapes. With a little help from Julian Trevelyan, another of his tutors at the RCA – who gave the apprentice printmaker his first exposure in group shows – Norman Ackroyd steadily began to gain the confidence to be both single-minded and a poet. Single-minded in being an artist of the landscape, when it was far from ‘the fashionable thing’ to be, and a visual poet in the romantic tradition who has never surrendered to sentimentality or idealization, but who has relied on first-hand observation and personal experience. A disciple of Turner who remains a man of plain words, impatient with metaphor, fascinated with the structure of the land and the material evidence of early attempts to cultivate and civilise it. A paradoxical poet: a painter who has managed to achieve his most painterly effects – like monochrome watercolour washes – by becoming one of the foremost printmakers of his generation. I was fortunate to have a close-up view of Norman Ackroyd at work among the remote islands of the west of Ireland, in the summers of 2002 and 2003, doing for etching what Turner once did for watercolour painting, by freeing it – and in style – from the confines of the studio. Was he – like Turner, at least in legend – lashed to the mast of the ship, the better to observe and experience the effect of a storm at sea? Well almost. In July 2002, we took a motorboat from Rossaveal in Connemara to the Atlantic side of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay to take a close look at the waves crashing against the limestone slabs and the almost unbroken cliff-face of the three islands; to see from the far side the dramatically sited iron age forts, early Christian ruins and the webbing of dry-stone walls which still separate barren small-holdings where most of the soil has had to come from somewhere else.
To cut through the strata of myth, to blink away the veil of tears which has for so long clouded perception of this part of the world, requires close observation, reliable technique and – as Ackroyd has said – ‘jumping in at the deep end, working like mad and trusting your instincts’. I will never forget Norman doing just that, perched on the side of the boat with a roll-up cigarette in his mouth and a brush in his hand, little bottles laid out along the narrow deck, drawing – very quickly and with the skill of a lifetime – tonal effects in his pad with washes of ink, to capture what he felt about the exact moment when the Atlantic swell hit the coast: drawing and looking intently at the landscape, both at the same time. Then, after sailing across the North Sound off Bungowla and through Gregory’s Sound between Inishmore the greater island and Inishmaan the middle island, via Foul Sound to Inisheer the eastern island, we landed at the recently constructed harbour and explored the stone remains of Teampall Chaomhain – dating from what we used to call ‘ the dark ages’ and Norman had his etching plates on his back. As William Packer has written, of the way in which Ackroyd has followed Turner out into landscape – only this time round with his painting gear, so he can paint while directly confronting his subject: ‘Turner would surely have seen the point of it, and jumped to exploit it given the chance...’ The comparison is not as far-fetched as it might appear. Cecil Collins was right when he advised Norman Ackroyd to be single-minded and allow himself to be a poet. Single-minded but open to experience. As Robert Louis Stevenson – another inveterate traveller, prolific artist and aficionado of roll-ups – once wrote, of a much warmer and dryer place: ‘To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour…’ Christopher Frayling
Norman Ackroyd, Esha Ness, watercolour
William Bowyer RA RWS, Towards Dunwich, watercolour
Charles Bartlett PPRWS Hon RE, Low Tide, Walton Backwaters, watercolour
Bob Bartlett PPRWS Hon RE & William Bowyer RA RWS East Anglian Inspiration This year, the RWS was very sad to lose two of its longest-standing Members, Bob Bartlett and William Bowyer. In the Autumn exhibition, Watercolour Journeys, the Society looks to the travels that its artists have made for inspiration. For some, those travels have been to far flung lands in search of the unfamiliar and exotic. For others, like Bob and William however, it was the English landscape that continued to inspire them, particularly the East Anglian coast. This stretch of coast is one of the most unspoilt in the country and its low lying land, flecked with marshes, tributaries, sand dunes and woodland make it an ever-changing and evolving landscape. Bob Bartlettâ€™s relationship with this part of the UK had been lifelong but his exploration of it began in earnest when he bought a small boat straight after the end of the Second World War. This enabled Bob to reach places that were otherwise inaccessible on foot, journeying up tributaries and to deserted marshland. Taking only the basic materials with him and making quick sketches and paintings, he would finish his work in his studio using his inbuilt knowledge and familiarity with the land and sea. Through his paintings and prints, Bob captured the unique light and colour that so defines East Anglia; often painting when the sun was low in
the sky, his works depict scenes of intense colour, silhouettes and long shadows where human life is all but absent. William Bowyer was influenced by this area somewhat later in life, in 1993 he bought a cottage in Walberswick - a place that has a history of attracting artists and creatives such as the English Impressionists and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and would go on not only to inspire William, but also his sons Jason and Francis Bowyer. Here, he spent six months of every year and, similarly to Bob, would use an unusual form of transport - a scooter - to reach the places that he wanted to paint. Williamâ€™s vibrant hues and careful compositions were consistent and his work captured not only the land and seascapes of the east coast but the lives of those who live there. One can see from the bodies of work of these two artists that endless inspiration can be found not only with long journeys but also in the familiarity of the world that is on your doorstep. Both Bob Bartlett and William Bowyer have defined this way of working and in turn their work has formed a picture of East Anglia for us all. Hatty Davidson
NEWLY ELECTED MEMBERS 2015 PATRICIA CAIN ARWS Patricia Cain is involved with the idea that you can make something terribly complex and through making it, it becomes nothing. She often seeks this absence though a process that involves intense scrutiny. Invariably, Cainâ€™s work is on the cusp of both abstraction and figuration-a place where observation turns inwards. For her, energy is fundamental. The dominant energy resides in empty space: it is the absence or negative space that activates the artwork, yet also makes it unstable. Resonating with concerns in science, Cain connects with the idea that the artist operates as a self - referencing system of processes, where thinking occurs through the body, and the exchange of process and energy leads to continual transformation.
Patricia Cain ARWS, Tynron Doon III [detail], mixed media
JULIE D. COOPER ARWS Cooperâ€™s abstract paintings are derived from the external triggers in the Cornish landscape. With the counterpoints of land and ever-changing sea and light, works have evolved from various starting points. The incidental, the in-between, high viewpoints and junctions, adjusting the painting continually, assembling the rhythmic forms in a personal response to the landscape. Beginnings are isolated whilst sketching the dramatic coastline of West Cornwall, developing form and colour relationships back in the studio. Her preferred medium is gouache, sometimes with the addition of chalk pastel. Julie D. Cooper ARWS, On the Edge, gouache pastel
JOHN CROSSLEY ARWS True to the roots of the artist - he originally studied sculpture in the 70s at St. Martins School of Art under Anthony Caro, Philip King and William Tucker - John Crossley’s works marry colour with form and space. Unlike many of his contemporaries he is attracted to the resonance of colour as a language of emotional experience. Crossley’s paintings are bright clear notes ringing out amid the cacophony of contemporary art, characterised by their exuberant, gleaming colours, his paintings transcend our assumptions about ‘Englishness’ and beguile us instead with an exotic vibrancy. John Crossley ARWS, How It Is, watercolour & gouache
EMMA HAWORTH ARWS Haworth’s paintings are narratives, usually based in a park or scrubland set within an urban enviroment. These areas are havens for people and wildlife, places of sanctuary and refuge from the city. Such spaces are a constantly changing back drop with the seasons, weather and passage of time affecting all that passes through them. Although built upon observation, the paintings become fictional scenes. The stories in her pictures draw from fairy tales, proverbs or biblical tales that have a relationship with contemporary society. The places she paints are magical, full of secrets and hints of stories.
Emma Haworth ARWS, Lake in Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn, watercolour
IAIN NICHOLLS ARWS ‘Subject needs meaning and depth and so for the last few years I have been drawn to my day-today life and surroundings in Yorkshire. This is OK because it’s as good a starting point as any as my paintings are also about me being able to use my imagination, enjoying the freedom to see where a painting can take me. I see making a painting as bit like doing an experiment, and my ideal state to be in when painting is one of playing – whether it’s with form, colour, the initial subject, the medium, or how all these things might relate to each other.’ Iain Nicholls ARWS, Cat Hill Field and Tucson, watercolour
LISA TRAXLER ARWS
Frederic Morris ARWS, Castles in the Sky, mixed media
Lisa Traxler was born in London. She studied at Croydon Art College and then at Birmingham, where she graduated with a BA Hons degree in Fashion & Textiles. For many years she worked in London as a fashion editor and costume designer before moving to the Isle of Wight several years ago. Lisa’s work includes abstract paintings of acrylic, water based mediums on canvas and paper, stitched collages and installations, sculptures of vitreous enamel and steel.
Elsie Magazine: The Bankside Gallery Edition An Unexpected Journey
Sign for Bankside Gallery near Blackfriars Bridge | photo by Les Jones
Yes, it’s a small world! Everything started just over a year ago, when the designer and photographer Les Jones took a photograph of a sign for Bankside Gallery near Blackfriars Bridge. Les is based in North Shropshire, and runs Elsie Magazine, a creative independent magazine about photography, design and art. It was fun to discover that Les’ inspiration for the third issue of the magazine was precisely that photograph of Bankside Gallery’s sign which was then covered in stickers. Les decided to begin a narrative and track down the people, organisations and collectives behind those stickers and create an edition of Elsie Magazine based on the results. What he initially assumed to be a journey to find people in and around London, turned out to be a twelve month trip around the world. The stickers had collectively travelled over 36,000 miles and ended up on the sign for Bankside Gallery from locations scattered across the globe, from New York to Rome, and Berlin to Buenos Aires. During this very peculiar journey, Les met many interesting people and made unexpected connections, collecting stories about musicians, fashion brands, art collectives, tattoo artists and graffiti culture, to name a few.
He embarked on this project without knowing what sort of people he would meet along the way and at the end of his journey he says: ‘Believe me, creativity is alive and kicking and it’s been refreshing to meet so many people engaged in creative pursuits regardless of whether they are able to generate income from them’. As he finished compiling the ‘Bankside Gallery’ edition of the magazine, which includes features on the RWS and RE, Les decided to visit the sign once more. To his surprise he found that it had been cleaned, and all that remained were a few sticker-shaped traces of adhesive: ‘At first I was disappointed, but after a few minutes I thought it was a fitting end to the project. The stickers had arrived on that small sheet of metal from across the world and had been connected for a short time by their proximity. The sign is now clean, but the connections live on through Elsie Magazine’. To find out more about Elsie Magazine and to order a copy please visit www.elsiemagazine.com
BANKSIDE GALLERY | 48 Hopton Street London SE1 9JH | 020 7928 7521 email@example.com | www.banksidegallery.com www.royalwatercoloursociety.co.uk | www.re-printmakers.com Cover image: Gerry Baptist RE,The Old Conifers, woodcut