About Clive Hicks-Jenkins

I am a painter, born and living in Wales. I show with Martin Tinney in Cardiff and my work can always be found at his gallery. (Click on second link)

Forthcoming Exhibition

12957282_1710058492606720_1336778656_n

Gawain and the Green Knight: Clive Hicks-Jenkins and the Penfold Press

The Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff

Thursday 8th Sept – Saturday 1st Oct, 2016

In collaboration with Dan Bugg of Penfold Press, Clive Hicks-Jenkins is devising a series of fourteen prints based on the medieval verse drama, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – a classic vividly translated for the 21st century by Simon Armitage. The exhibition will present the first seven prints, marking the half-way stage in this major project, together with paintings and drawings on the theme.

Art commentator James Russell writes of the series:

“The story is the kind you might find in The Mabinogion. Sir Gawain is more human than your average legendary hero. Having taken up the challenge offered at the Camelot Christmas feast by the terrifying Green Knight, he embarks on a quest to find this ogre, only to be tested – and found wanting – in unexpected ways. Sir Gawain is both a glittering knight and a fallible young man, and it is this flawed human character that intrigues Clive. Each print is inspired by the text and rooted stylistically in its world, but beyond that Clive and Dan have allowed their imagination free rein.”

Evolution (or how stuff happens)

In 2012 I made a single, collage image of a design for a glove-puppet Witch. I’d been thinking about the glove-puppet of a Witch I’d made as a child. (That’s a whole other story, that you can read about HERE!) Not sure now whether I’d intended to recreate the lost Witch of my childhood, but I certainly never made this second puppet. The design is still Blu-tacked to the wall of my studio.

DSCF6100.jpg

With the idea of a Witch rattling around my head, I began to work on further witchy images. By now I’d settled on the Brothers Grimm tale of Hansel & Gretel as my vehicle for exploration, and in no time at all I was playing around with the idea in the form of a Hansel & Gretel alphabet primer made in collage.

DSCF5892.jpg

DSCF5889.jpg

Because the original tale was steeped in the spirit of the Black Forest, the primer was in German. I really liked what I was producing, though I never completed it.

DSCF8408.jpg

DSCF8407.jpg

With the Hansel & Gretel theme now firmly rooted, for no reason that I can think of I made a set of hand-painted enamelware plates. I told everyone they were ‘nursery’ plates for the amusement of any children who came to stay with us, but really they were for me. The cold-enamel paint used for the images proved not to be knife and fork proof.  Moreover the paint turned soluble in hot soapy water, and so the plates were relegated to being used only for serving cupcakes!

DSCF5763.jpg

DSCF5765.jpg

Out of the blue in 2012, Simon Lewin of St. Jude’s asked me to contribute to the second edition of his Random Spectacular magazine, an enterprise he was he using to raise funds for a hospice. I’m not sure how he found me and I was surprised and pleased to be asked. For the magazine I wrote a short, tart tale based on Hansel & Gretel, though with a decidedly different outcome to the original. I illustrated it with black and white collage/drawings of my enamelware plate designs that Simon tinted into muted colours for the magazine. Random Spectacular 2 was published in 2013.

DSCF8405.jpg

DSCF8404.jpg

DSCF8400.jpg

DSCF8396.jpg

DSCF1410.jpg

It had a beautiful cover made by Jonny Hannah

DSCF1418.jpg

At some point during the conversations Simon and I had about the magazine illustrations, I said that I’d now really like to make a whole book of Hansel & Gretel. He replied that he was interested in the idea as he intended to expand and diversify the Random Spectacular imprint beyond the ‘magazine’ format. That was the ‘beginning’ of the Hansel & Gretel picture-book project. I made a single, fully-rendered image to describe to him what I was thinking, and then we were off!

DSCF1769.jpg

I eschewed the ‘twist’ to the story that I’d come up with for the Random Spectacular magazine, and with the notion that any text would be minimal… and hand-lettered… I began to make storyboards, spreadsheets and dummy copies of the tale, boiling it down where necessary to simplify the narrative, and expanding ideas where illustrations could effectively take the story further.

DSCF2411.jpg

Simon and I agreed that the book would be square, and that a number of spreads would have fold-out pages to extend the compositions and the potential for surprises.

DSCF2416.jpg

DSCF1820.jpg

There were substantial explorations of character and changes of presentation. The children’s parents in particular evolved from fairly conventional depictions, to something far darker and psychologically complex. Ultimately the ‘Weak Father’ became a hollow man, built of empty shells, while the ‘Bad Mother’, who had been rather soigné, descended into neglect and malice.

DSCF4460.jpg

DSCF4461.jpg

DSCF4376.jpg

DSCF4370

DSCF4375.jpg

DSCF4419.jpg

DSCF4457.jpg

DSCF4403

Maquettes were built…

DSCF4724.jpg

DSCF4442.jpg

… and built again.

DSCF4741.jpg

DSCF4783.jpg

DSCF4789.jpg

The ‘natural history’ of the Witch had to be worked out in detail. She would turn out to be other than what she at first appears.

DSC07989.jpg

Fitting the work between other projects, I delivered the dummy-copy, illustrated with detailed though not yet final renderings of the images, into Simon’s hands at Jonny Hannah’s 2015 exhibition opening at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Thereafter the work of final rendering began in earnest, and was completed this month. After scanning, colour will be added as ‘separations’. The book is due to be launched this Autumn. Watch the Artlog and the Saint Jude’s Homepage for details.

DSC07768.jpg

 

 

 

The Allure of Layering

I am in thrall to the processes of making the separations that Dan Bugg at Penfold Press  transforms into the screens he uses to produce our Gawain prints. Drawn and painted onto layers of transparent film, the limited palette of greys, black and red oxide are substituted in the printing process for the rich colours I favour for the project. But there is a sobriety in the layers of artwork that appeals to me.

The light works in so many interesting ways on the films, that I find myself photographing them at every stage of the work. Luckily they survive the process of transference to the screens, and afterwards Dan stores them in his plan-chest. It might be interesting to exhibit them one day, together with the prints that were made from them. The screens themselves get cleaned and used again, and so the transparencies alone are the record of how the prints were made.

The following images are of transparencies for the third print in the series, The Green Knight Bows to Gawain’s Blow.

DSC07550.jpg

DSC07554.jpg

DSC07557.jpg

DSC07575.jpg

DSC07574.jpg

DSC07566.jpg

The Green Knight Arrives

12957282_1710058492606720_1336778656_n.jpg

The Green Knight Arrives.

Edition size: 75, image size: 55.5 x 55.5cm, paper size: 70.5 x 69cm

Now available for purchase.

It begins at that darkest, mid-winter point of the turning year, when communities of the northern hemisphere celebrate in order to get through the hard times still ahead. In the poem Arthur and Guinevere are at the heart of the Christmas Court festivities when there’s an unexpected arrival at the door. Chatter ceases, all eyes turn to the spectre stepping uninvited into the warmth and light, bringing with it the chill of snow and ‘otherness’. For me it’s the most thrilling account of an ‘entry’ in the history of English literature.

Here are the stages that went into the making of this image, from sketches to compositional studies and a scale guide made in gouache and pencil, though the processes of building the stencils in layers to the final print. It’s an almost alchemical conjuring for me, new as I am to the mysteries of screen printing. But in the company of Dan Bugg I’m being led through them by a master. He has facilitated this adventure. We are now two prints into a series of fourteen, and number three is already well on its way.

 

DSC06710.jpg

DSC06711.jpg

DSC06713.jpg

DSC06714.jpg

As I explore my options for images to represent the magnificent narrative of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the task is all about finding the spaces between the words. The Pearl Poet garnishes his poem throughout with lengthy and alluring descriptive passages. All action stops as pages of verse are devoted to detailed accounts of the Green Knight’s appearance, the appearance and caparisoning of his horse, Gringolet, the armour Gawain is formally arrayed in to begin his quest and the garments gifted to him when he stays at the the Castle of Lord Bertilak.

Gouache and pencil study

DSC06772.jpg

DSC06947.jpg

The descriptions of how the Green Knight looks at the moment he rides his horse into the Christmas celebrations, are not what move me to make images. I’m driven more by what underlies the arrival, and by the way everything has changed by the time he leaves.

For this first encounter with the Green Knight we spy on him outside the court, eyes closed as he prepares for what lies ahead. It’s essentially a portrait, an intimate close-up to draw the viewer into what’s about to be unleashed. Sorcery of the winter variety is afoot, and as though in anticipation of what will one day unfold at Camelot… the seeds of its destruction having been present at its inception… the tower beyond is crowned with flame. Everything must end, everything must fail eventually, and here the Green Knight is the herald and catalyst of what will one day bring about Camelot’s fall.

The stencils

DSC06809.jpg

DSC06813.jpg

DSC06860.jpg

DSC06861.jpg

DSC06877.jpg

Printing and proofing

12047660_1695578570721379_1223339652_n.jpg

12910634_1706017716344131_1939073623_n.jpg

DSC07270.jpg

Proof overworked with coloured pencils.

DSC07067.jpg

Curator and art historian, James Russell, on the print.

‘Arthurian legend is full of warriors, but the Green Knight is unique – unearthly, even monstrous, yet still a knight. His unexpected arrival during the Christmas feast is one of the most famous entrances in the canon of British literature, accompanied in the poem by what Clive calls a ‘forensic’ description of his outlandish appearance.

Clive looks beyond the poetry to explore the character and cultural implications of Gawain’s nemesis, in an intense portrait of mingled power and vulnerability. The upper body of the Green Knight fills the frame, his statuesque head and massive arm suggesting the might of an ancient god – but in a sensitive pose reminiscent of Rodin. That flowing beard hints at the graphic gravitas of a playing card king; look again and it is a river flowing through a tattooed forest. Our 21st century Green Knight is a modern primitive, whose identity is etched into his skin.

A fascination for the decorated body has long been a feature of Clive’s work, and here there is a powerful pictorial contrast between the blood-red towers and battlements of Camelot and the organic forms inked into the Green Knight’s skin. As he prepares to bang on the door of King Arthur’s great hall, we can’t help but notice the lopped oak tree on his raised arm. Is this a record of violence done to nature? Nothing is explicit, but much is implied in this luminous vision of contrasting cultures: medieval Christian civilisation on the one hand, and, on the other, the timeless wild.’

James Russell

 

The China-Room

At the back of the hallway at Ty Isaf, a low, half-glazed door leads to the china-room. It’s little more than a cupboard really, made out of a section of what was once a servants’ passageway running the width of the house. Decorated in a glowing pinky-red chalk emulsion and fitted with a dresser-rack of black-painted shelves, it’s a combination cabinet-of-curiosities and china repository. There are clockwork tin toys, artists’ ceramics, toy farm animals made of painted lead, fossils and tacky souvenirs. Bits of model sets from my years as a stage designer, hand-crafted gifts from talented friends, a fine bone-china ‘blue dragon’ tea-service, found objects, plastic toys and family heirlooms.

Small children love it, as do I.

DSC07578.jpg

DSC07579.jpg

DSC07580.jpg

DSC07582.jpg

DSC07584.jpg

DSC07586.jpg

DSC07587.jpg

DSC07589.jpg

DSC07588.jpg

DSC07591.jpg

DSC07592.jpg

DSC07594.jpg

DSC07595.jpg

DSC07596.jpg

DSC07597.jpg

DSC07598.jpg

DSC07599.jpg

DSC07600.jpg

The Things That Made Me: part 2

Here’s my second list. All the things on it have been significant to my development. They were the accompaniments to my finding myself.

The castle and farmyard are not ones I own, but are the doubles of those I had as a child. I remember the flimsiness of the castle, and my anxiety that the thin plastic might break as I snapped the pieces together. But the farm,… oh that farm… was my pride and joy. One day it was gone. My parents quickly got rid of things they thought I’d grown out of. But I hadn’t grown out of the farm, and haven’t still. The one pictured was sold on e-bay before I spotted it. It’s listed as having been ‘Made in Sweden’. I didn’t know that, though as an adult I’d figured it was unlikely to have been British, on account of the windmill.

Just in case anyone was wondering, my big sister used to get me into X-rated films. I wore my dad’s flat-cap and car-coat, but I doubt the disguise fooled anyone!

No more words or explanations. Just the pictures. I leave it to you to put titles to the films represented by photographs.

hightoby (1)

out5921

il_340x270.884781154_2ju0

TIMPO_54mm_MEDIEVAL_CASTLE_MODEL_TOYS_LIMITED_CLIP_FIT_FORM_PLASTIC_1802_CONTENTS

henryDM0402_468x345

TombOfLigea_Quad_SMALL.jpg

Nightofthedemonposter

dscf2348-1

jack

vintage-britains-tradition-lead-toy-soldier-medieval-knight-army-figures-3-pc-d617dab744660d056449db9fbc79b945

The Things That Made Me: part 1

Here’s my list. It may appear random, but all the things on it have been significant to me. They were the accompaniments to my finding myself, the books, films, TV programmes and objects that had profound effects on me when I was a child. (And in some cases, the allure of what I yearned for but never got, like a Topstone latex rubber mask!) Some of what’s here you might expect to see, and much of it, probably not. It’s also my ‘coming out’ list, inasmuch as there are items here that my parents didn’t approve of. The horror magazines and the Mars Attacks collector-cards were frowned on by my mother, and I quickly learned to put them away where she wouldn’t see them. This made me uncomfortable. Conflicted. They were pleasures tarnished with guilt.

I’ve been conflicted most of my life about the things I’ve loved that might be considered lowbrow. Next month I’ll be six-five. A nicely rounded figure, though inconceivably high. It’s time I got over being troubled about what made me who I am. There’s nothing wrong with any of the things that thrilled me in those formative years. Time to celebrate them. Time to own up!

No words and no explanations. Just the pictures. I leave it to you to put titles to the films represented by photographs.

The+Weirdstone+of+Brisingamen.jpg

L_ISBN_5052849613489

dscf2166.jpg

il_214x170.856347575_rhm0

dscf1994

Michael+Holliday+Four+Feather+Falls+EP+595805

mars-991.jpg

dscf2025

The_Night_of_the_Hunter_house

il_570xN.813504376_i68r.jpg

176266aA

maxresdefault.jpg

the-third-pan-book-of-horror-stories2.jpg

dscf4089.jpg

Film_431w_ThiefOfBagdad_original

Topstone_Shock_Monster_Mask_Ad.jpg

18825963