I’ve been unable to do any printing for quite a while because I have been plagued with problems with my foot, putting me on crutches since mid-November. I used my down time looking at a lot of pictures, but also thinking about subjects and themes. I’ve been interested in neolithic rock art for some time now and living near Avebury and Stonehenge it’s impossible to avoid standing stones. Scattered also across the landscape of Wessex are hundreds, if not thousands of barrows and burial mounds and of course the White Horses like Pewsey, Cherhill, Westbury etc in Wiltshire or Uffington in Oxfordshire. In addition we have the famous Cerne Abbas Giant, the Long Man of Wilmington and assorted other hill figures, many now lost completely.
It isn’t just Britain with these features. The stone alignments of Carnac in Brittany are well known, but there are a multitude of standing stone circles, alignments and dolmens across France and Ireland and much further afield.
Putting all this together made me wonder about the sort of landscape we might have seen in that era – and now if more had survived. Out of that has evolved the print series I’m putting together, which will take landscapes, more or less stylised and incorporate into them other figures, drawn from Celtic and Saxon myths or from cave paintings as well as the sort of abstract shapes found in rock art.
Technically these prints will incorporate collagraph and dry point plus perhaps solar etching and ultimately hand embellishments. I expect also to use monoprinting or hand painting as the ground on which the prints will be made. I’m also going to try and incorporate some of the techniques used by Australian artist, Kim Westcott (see http://www.kimwestcott.com although the site did not load properly for me) who resuses old plates in combination with new, mixing in shadow prints and rotation of the plates to create her drypoints.
I have no prints as yet, but here are some rough sketches and photos of some plates in preparation.
With luck I’ll have more over the next few weeks.
I’m not the only one finding inspiration in these themes. See the web pages for Irish artist Tommy Barr.
I’ve been looking at the Ocean Park series of paintings and prints by Richard Diebenkorn (via this book.) There is something about them that keeps drawing me back. They are deceptively simple with subdued colours, apparently just variations on geometric subdivisions of a rectangle. This makes them seem akin to Mondrian, but they have much more depth to them. They clearly owe much to Klee, but also to de Kooning, at least in terms of colour values. In the end though they are themselves and stand on their own merits.
When I was at school, studying maths we were always told to ‘show your workings’. In many ways that’s what is going on with the Ocean Park paintings. Variations, second thoughts have been painted over, but their ghosts remain.
I think this is part of their appeal to me. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of palimpsest, even before I became an artist. Both the urban and rural landscapes of Britain can be viewed as archaeological palimpsests. Take the time to look around any British town or city, and you will find signs of previous activities. The street pattern in many Northern industrial towns can often be mapped against ancient field boundaries. Alignments going back into pre-history may still be seen.
Beneath the streets archaeological investigations and civil engineering projects alike reveal layer after layer of activity. (for example Crossrail). The same applies in the wider landscape. Anyone familiar with Britain, will read into these paintings the pattern of fields, woods and lakes which almost define the English landscape. That landscape is almost entirely man made, even in the supposed wild areas like Dartmoor or the Scottish Highlands. It is not ‘natural’ but has developed out of complex and cumulative processes of human intervention.
So just as imperfections and variations disturb the surface of the modern world, revealing its past to those who look, so the Ocean Park paintings reflect the process of their creation, revealing the changes made, and to my mind, humanising their geometrical abstraction.
I’ll come back to this another time with images from prints inspired to a degree by Klee and Diebenkorn. I’m also planning some new work which will attempt to marry the geometry of this work to another interest of mine, the rock carvings and standing stones of the Neolithic era. Here are some tasters with a couple of trial proofs.