I thought it would be funny to make very purely digital images in Japanese woodblock technique. The contrast in time couldn’t be greater: one tap of a button for the computer, translated to a long time to carve some wood, then get paper dampened, then patient printing by hand, involving a gradual building up of colour over a few hours to days…

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It was entertaining, and laborious, and then just a little bit overwhelming.

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After a while I wanted to record the actual process rather than the final images, and then I started to worry about why I was trying to make perfectly registered images each time, when really the process of making the prints would naturally generate interesting frames.

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So the eyeballs swivel around and then bounce out of the head, and I made some dark lashes and a kind of fluttery blink…

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All in all I made 51 prints, but there are many more photos as they also record the build up of colour on each piece of paper.

Smiley Rock on the bedIt’s still very rough round the edges, but if you’d like to see the first trial animation, here it is:

https://vimeo.com/221670482

The sound is work in progress as well. More refined version coming soon…!

 

 

Orchis Seven is in the Royal Academy Summer show this year!

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This print is one of my favourites in the series. It shows a hyacinth, drawn from many angles, in front of three sleeping figures. The fleshy flowers revolve in space and time across the page. The prints are linocuts made with a single horizontal line. The resulting mesh of black and white creates a shimmering effect that both defines and blurs the image. Objects appear and disappear from view.

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Installation view

The nine Orchis prints were originally conceived as a series of nine books. Encased within modest book-cloth covers, each book contains one print, folded to fill the accordion pages and framed by gold leaf titles. The nature of the folded image means that non-adjacent parts of the image can be seen together, giving the work a more sculptural and temporal volume.

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Orchis Seven is bound in a pale lilac colour book cloth. A full set of nine books is in the collection of the British Museum.

The flat print is an edition of 30 hand-printed linocuts, printed with Sakura oil-based ink on Lambeth cartridge.

Royal Academy Summer Show, Piccadilly, London, 13 June – 20 August

https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/summer-exhibition-2017

Back in January I was asked to give a demo of Japanese Woodblock printing at the British museum for the Hokusai show, “Beyond the Great Wave” (which celebrates the artist in the last three decades of his life). Hokusai Prep 7It was a great excuse to spend a lot of time poring over Hokusai’s huge output. I began to admire his unerring brushstroke, and radical, often humorous compositions. Hokusai Prep 8

I’d promised to make a Hokusai-inspired work for the demo, but how I could even start to make a comparable rendition of modern day London? I thought briefly about depicting Whitechapel with cycle couriers: let’s face it, this is probably the closest equivalent to the Tokkaido, or a distant view of St Paul’s in the rain instead of Mount Fuji. Hmmm… I was stuck.

Hokusai Prep 11So I decided I’d look closer at the place where he is now being shown, the British Museum. This place is a veritable temple to the arts, with ionic columns lining the walkway up to the main central hall, and the most beautiful shimmering glass dome that brings a soft brightness to the courtyard inside.

Hokusai Prep 12We look at iconic images, like Monet’s Haystacks, Chagall’s Flying Lovers and Hokusai’s Wave, and the world is subsequently and irretrievably coloured by having seen them. These images are unforgettable, inspiring, desired and thus overused and parodied. At the same time, we like to place ourselves in the picture. Is it selfiegenic? Where do I exist in relation to this?

Hokusai Prep 6The prints I designed are about Hokusai becoming part of my identity: I can hide behind him, and he represents some of what I aspire to be (not caring about much apart from making paintings every day, with a factory of workers transforming them to prints, and hoping to live to 110…)

Hokusai Prep 3Hokusai Prep 4Hokusai Prep 5The demo on 5th June was a very exciting event. We set up in a hall full of of Greek marble sculptures, surrounded by sinuous sea lions and against a backdrop of three headless female dancers in revealing dresses.

Hokusai 01It was really echoey and a bit dark, so they put in some spotlights.

Hokusai 1I was incredibly lucky that my students from the last Japanese woodblock class (in East London Printmakers in May) were very keen to come help out for the evening, as there were loads of customers!

Hokusai 3I talked about the fundamentals of Japanese woodblock printing, showed how to print a three colour print, and then the public had a go at printing a mystery five colour print. Hokusai 2There was one colour and block per table and they had to take a piece of damp paper and print it, then move around the room. Students helped supervise and guide how much water, glue and ink to put on the blocks. Hokusai 4It was busy and chaotic but thrilling to see the results.

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The British Museum show is highly recommended. It’s on til 13 Aug, with a change over of prints in early July (3–6). For more information please see

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/hokusai.aspx

I’m running a course in Japanese woodblock printing in East London Printmakers this Autumn, For more information please see https://www.eastlondonprintmakers.co.uk/course/japanese-woodblock-2/

Hokusai Prep 13Finally, if you’d like to buy one of the prints, please get in touch!

HKK, a gourmet Chinese restaurant based in East London, contacted me late last year to see if I would make them eight huge prints for their Chinese New Year celebrations. As I love a challenge, I said yes.

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The storyline was about an Emperor who threw a birthday feast: here he is writing his invitations.

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The ingredients for the feast were gathered from far and wide: here they are aiming at the hawk in the sky, while people (and an enormous chicken) look for fish in the river.

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Chefs created new and beautiful dishes from the fruits of the land and sea.

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The banquet hall was decorated with splendid finery: I imagined these strange silver flagons shaped like rooster heads.

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The emperor arrived to the feast carried on a palanquin by four women (why not?) over a lavish staircase, inspired by the one that goes up to the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City.

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The Emperor was offered wine from a jade goblet (modelled with oak leaves taken from the design on a Dutch lamppost from Amsterdam) with gold dragons as handles.

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He joined his family and guests for a toast to health, happiness, abundance, peace and prosperity. The VIPs wore pearl necklaces and women had fresh flowers in their hair.

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After the meal, they were entertained by acrobats and ribbon dancers, harp players and singers, roosters and jugglers.

img_7391These prints were designed in four days and carved in japanese vinyl (gomuban) over 11 days: a record time for me. I made use of the Royal Academy Schools’ library where I found lots of books on Qing dynasty clothing and customs, and admired paintings of ancient landscapes, throne-rooms and interiors. I was buoyed along at this crazy pace by adrenaline and the looming Christmas deadline for approval of the images.

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Once approved, I scanned them and enlarged them to 133 x 76 cm each, and started phase two of the project: screenprinting them onto delicate shoji paper to hang in the restaurant interior. Luckily my studio, East London Printmakers, was quiet over the Christmas break, so I had enough space to work…!

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This stack of paper took over 100 hours to print… done in only 6 days.

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Finally some of the work was picked out with gold leaf. It’s not that obvious on a backlit image, but the gold shimmers in the light.

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Here are some installation shots of the work in the restaurant HKK Shoreditch, London.


The work is up until 4 March (extended an extra three weeks!) 2017. Let me know if you go along!

http://hkklondon.com/ 88 Worship Street, Broadgate Quarter, London EC2A 2BE

http://www.eastlondonprintmakers.co.uk 42 Copperfield Road, London E3 4RR

Normally I don’t write about the studio where I make most of my work, but I should. It’s been my favourite place to retreat to and ponder on life, and allows my prints to develop and grow of their own accord. This year I have had the privilege to be the chair of this organisation, East London Printmakers, which is a group of around 200 artists (and 40 keyholders) who all love making prints. The studio has been based in Hackney for over 14 years, a grimy part of London (remember those riots in 2011? they happened outside our front door) until it became a hip, bespoke playground for the rich and bored. And inevitably, the rents shot up and we were forced to think about moving, or folding. So we moved.

elp-studio-warmer_eeeMoving house is like throwing everything up in the air and then trying to relax when you can’t find it any more because it landed somewhere unexpected. Anyway we’ve done it. Thousands, literally thousands of hours of plotting, planning, constructing, sanding, polishing, painting, packing, moving, organising happened. Mainly all of it was done by members and studio keyholders for free… Of course the presses were moved professionally by the very excellent Giles of AMR and Mike Kirby of Linecasting Machinery, and new walls and floor and heating and lighting had to be installed as well… And the new landlords, Acme studios, have been incredibly welcoming: contributing practically and financially to helping us move in.

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East London Printmakers is now based in a beautiful studio (42 Copperfield Road) sandwiched between the canal and the park, close to Mile End station. We reopened 1st October and are planning a party on 22nd October. This is a studio warming party, to invite people over to come see us, and find out more about printmaking, to thank everyone who has supported us, and to invite continued support for the future.

img_5441The press release is below. Please come!!

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PS> One of the rewards will be this print in pink, or the one above in blue, which you can come and print yourself and take away for a fiver!! If you can’t make it, let me know and I’ll save one for you… elp-studio-warmer_pink_e

I’ve finally got round to photographing the Orchis prints (which make up the images in the Orchis books) on their own. Each print is 20 cm high and 91 cm long; on a webpage they tend to look like a smallish black squiggle. So I’ve added in close-ups in a section below each main image, which allows you to see more of the detailed carving and printing.

Orchis One

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Orchis Two

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Orchis Three

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Orchis Four

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Orchis Five

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Orchis Six

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Orchis Seven

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Orchis Eight

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Orchis Nine

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The prints are linocuts carved on three panels of Japanese vinyl, printed with black sakura ink on lambeth cartridge paper with a French American tool press, which has exerted enough pressure to stretch the print by 1-2 cm longer than the original blocks. Some prints (Orchis 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9) have been wiped and re-inked to achieve the different depth of greys. Some prints (not photographed here) have had a small bit of red colour pencil drawn on top to add highlights.

Orchis Four as a flat print has been accepted to the Society of Wood Engravers’ annual touring show, and will start off by being displayed in Bath.

79th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers, 44AD Art Gallery, 4 Abbey St, Bath BA1 1NN  44AD Gallery 11 Oct – 5 Nov. Private View: Saturday 15 October 2016, 2.30 – 5.30pm.  http://www.woodengravers.co.uk/79th-at-44ad-gallery-bath/

When the prints are folded into a book format they become a very different object: the long panorama is collapsed into a set of shapes that bring separate parts of the image close to each other. For me, books are portable, secretive and tactile. The images are read individually, rather than remaining in constant comparison.

A complete set of Orchis books will be displayed in the University of the West of England in Bristol in February 2017.

A complete set of Orchis books has also entered the collection of the British Museum (Nov 2016)

The Orchis prints were awarded the Atelier Presse Papier Prize, Trois Rivières, Canada in June 2017.

 

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Around November 2014 I started to make this series of works about bodies

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dancing

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intertwined

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tumbling, blurring, merging

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colliding

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diagonal lines signifying cuts in time

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faces hidden in the forest.

My works are often stories told from the heart; I think the colour makes them more emotional. In the above prints I used colour blends and irregular shifts of the paper to make playful variations: each one is totally unique. They are screen prints 112 x 76 cm large, so each was the absolute limit of my arm span.

The studio is shut at the moment, so this is a strange time: thinking rather than making, reflecting rather than doing, planning over running. It’s probably good for me!!!