preparing artwork for a print

Dan Bugg at Penfold Press and I are collaborating on an editioned series of screenprints on the theme of the medieval poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. But because I’ve never before done work of this type, I’m taking a tilt at the process by making artwork for a trial print unrelated to Gawain, using a drawing of a Staffordshire group of a man being slain by a tiger. The original postcard-sized drawing was made as a birthday present for my friend Ben Koppel.  I’m re-working it as a print at a much larger scale, which means I can include the ornate pedestal that I had no room for in the postcard version.

The original, postcard-sized pencil drawing

Pencil on paper enlargement, made as a guide

Working in greasy lithographic crayon on a sheet of True Grain

Adding Tusche Waterproof to define the negative space of the composition.

The True Grain is secured with registration pins over the guide drawing. What is painted red here, will be black in the final print.

Rendering the detail

I’ll be posting about this project as it progresses.

Dear Jordan

Dear Jordan

This letter is by way of a thank you. Last night in the cinema auditorium of Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Mary-Ann Constantine and I had a ‘conversation’ about Dark Movements in front of an audience. We sat on the stage in comfortable armchairs, a table between us laid with glasses and water-jug and a multi-directional microphone that allowed us to speak conversationally, and yet be heard by everyone. Peter and I know Mary-Ann and her family quite well now. We live about a twenty-minute drive from each other, and we have all become friends, spending time in each others company. She is insightful, eloquent, sometimes enigmatic, and occasionally challenging. It is her way. Mary-Ann has the capacity to come at you with a razor-sharp intellect that takes no hostages, and when she casts those blue eyes questioningly in your direction, you’d better have a good answer. But she’s also very funny, and has a way with a put-down that can make me bark out loud with shock and pleasure. Mary-Ann has had much to do with this exhibition. She wrote the preview of it for Planet Magazine, and she was one of the readers in the gallery poetry event on June 13th. So it was her I asked to be my interrogator in the cinema auditorium, and she agreed. Moreover, I advised her not to tell me anything of what she planned by way of questions in advance, so that my answers would be fresh.

She was brilliant last night. She set the context of my work so cleverly… and so thoroughly… that for a while there I though I might not have to say anything, but just smile benignly and nod. But when her questions came, I was off like a rocket, because she’d so cleverly opened the door for me to pass through. Moreover she handled the audience skilfully, and when the time came for questions toward the end, there were none of those embarrassingly long silences that can make such occasions rather unnerving. (I’ve attended many a question-and-answer where the participants on-stage have been reduced to begging their audience for questions!) Mary-Ann coaxed them masterfully, and the hands began to go up.

She spoke of you, as did I. I tried to describe the way we started working together on the later-to-be-cancelled Barcelona exhibition. How I sent you a script that I suggested you ‘enact’ for the camera, and how you’d returned photographs, not just of your responses to the script, but unexpected images posed as ‘twisters’, re-workings of shapes you’d seen in the Mari Lwyd drawings in the book I’d sent you.

Last night, as giant images of you from the completed Dark Movements paintings were projected onto the cinema-screen behind us, they combined in memory with my recollections of how we originally responded to each other (when was that now? I can’t recall) leading to friendship, trust and creativity. I realised that in some way this version of you… blue, naked, armoured, tulip-emblazoned and comet-tailed with hair, floating spectre-like over the event, intriguing all onlookers, simultaneously geographically distant and yet dynamically present… this ‘gallery’ Jordan is less the version that is significant to me, than the man behind it, who’s funny, mischievous, practical, supportive and emotionally generous.

Jordan, I wish you could have been there. I imagined you, sitting in the front row with John, your faces alight with the spectacle of what was unfolding on the screen:

Jordan as disarticulating maquette…

Jordan as silver-armoured centaur/knight…

Jordan as horseman of the apocalypse…

Mari-wrangler…

 revenant…

 and Muse!

Sending love to you and John from Wales,

Clive xxx

Gawain at Penfold

Centre: Dan Bugg of Penfold Press at the opening of Dark Movements on June 10th.

I’m pleased to announce that I’m about to embark on a long-term project to produce a series of twelve, editioned prints on the theme of Gawain and the Green Knight, a narrative that I’ve been exploring ever since I first read the Simon Armitage translation of the poem published in 2007.

Below: Gawain and the Green Knight, explored at my easel over the past seven years.

Dan recently spent time at Ty Isaf attending the opening of my exhibition, Dark Movements at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Around that event we walked my dog Jack along the banks of the River Ystwyth, and thumbed-through Gawain-themed sketches in my attic studio while discussing the way forward for the series, which we envisage as telling the story from start to finish in pictures. Although I’ve occasionally made lino-prints, silk-screen will be new territory for me. But with Dan to guide me through the processes, it looks fair-set for some creative play at the Penfold Press.

Gawain and the Green Knight sketches have long been tacked to my studio walls.

In addition to the Gawain series, Dan will be producing silk-screen prints of tattooed fishermen for my Skin/Skôra exhibition next year.

My thanks to Dan for his enthusiastic embracing of these projects, and to to my friend Sarah Parvin of The Curious One for initiating them.

Johann Rohl at ‘Dark Movements’

Johann Rohl, the graduate in illustration who I wrote about here a while ago, has travelled to west Wales to stay with us at Ty Isaf, and to see Dark Movements at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. After four days of intense conversations, leisurely meals and attic-studio visits during which we shared ideas about our various, independent projects, he’s heading back to Yorkshire this afternoon.

DSCF4147

I shall miss him. It has been a great pleasure meeting for the first time, and getting to know him better. There have been long walks around the garden and in the surrounding countryside, and last night we went to a Midsummer Celebration Party held by my friend Mary-Ann Constantine. Throughout all these activities, Johann and Jack have been forging a firm friendship. Jack thinks Johann came here expressly to cuddle and play with him. (And maybe he did!)

Yesterday we pored over the beautiful project-work Johann has been making on the theme of Pomona, and I was blown away by the confetti-shower of tiny, beautifully wrought drawings scattered like blown flower petals all over the  kitchen table. Like me, Johann explores his themes with great intensity, in sketch-books, maquettes and loose drawings. Examining them is to take a fascinating stroll around a map of the artist’s mind.

Today we’ll take a last spin around the gallery at the Arts Centre, and then he’ll be whisked away by train and back to his own world. It’s been fantastic to have him here. I want him to come and live in my studio!

You can read my two-part post about Johann and his portfolio illustrations for Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber stories, HERE and HERE.

The Sesquicentennial ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’

The one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from Inky Parrot Press, in which every chapter was allocated its own artist/illustrator, is now out. It’s a beautiful volume. I now have a niggling itch to design a whole edition of the book.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ chapter

Cover by Janet Woolley

Jonny Hannah’s chapter

Robi Dwi Antono’s chapter

Mini Grey’s chapter

Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ chapter

Ian Whadcock’s chapter

Giovanni Robustelli’s chapter

My thanks to Dennis Hall, who invited me to be a part of this lovely project.

‘Dark Movements’

Moving toward Dark Movements

 …

In 2002, when I completed the drawing On the Mountain in the series The Mare’s Tale, I believed it marked the end of my work on the theme of the Mari Lwyd. The series had absorbed me for two years. There had been, in short order, two big exhibitions of the work in Wales, and some of the drawings had thereafter travelled with a mixed exhibition, titled Dreaming Awake, to the Terezín Memorial Gallery in the Czech Republic. The poet Catriona Urquhart and I had collaborated throughout the process of making the drawings, and she wrote a series of poems about my father that became the text of The Mare’s Tale at Newport Museum & Art Gallery in 2001 and an edition for The Old Stile Press which I illustrated.

On the Mountain, 2002

On the Mountain, 2002

While The Mare’s Tale was an exploration I needed to undertake, its underlying themes were based on distressing events. A point of emotional weariness came at which I realized it was time to bring the series to an end. Catriona Urquhart’s early death in 2005 seemed to me to draw a line under it.

In 2013, the composer Mark Bowden and poet Damian Walford Davies brought new insights to the subject with a chamber-work for ensemble and performer that was inspired by my drawings and by the poems and biographical events. The libretto was conjured as a new fiction to make a dark and glittering psychological ghost story. I designed and directed the production, also titled The Mare’s Tale. It was extraordinary to watch what had started with my drawings, evolve into a performance for an orchestra and a singer/actor. Eric Roberts played the role of Morgan Seyes, drenched in my late father’s terror of the Mari Lwyd.

That same year a plan evolved for an exhibition of my Mari Lwyd work at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, borrowing from public and private collections and adding the stage-designs, puppets and maquettes I’d made for the performance. I had no plans at that time to make new artworks. The exhibition would be a retrospective.

I’d been drawing an American dancer, Jordan Morley, intending a small series of paintings of him for a group ‘portrait’ exhibition I’d been asked to participate in at a gallery in Barcelona. Jordan and I were evolving processes of working together – in New York he acted out scenarios I suggested to him in e-mails from Wales, capturing them in series of photographs that he downloaded and sent to me. At some point we talked about the forthcoming Arts Centre Mari Lwyd exhibition and he began to steep himself in all the work that had gone before. Unexpectedly he produced a set of photographs of himself playing on the shapes and forms of the drawings I’d made fifteen years ago. Using those I built maquettes of him and arranged them into compositions. Ideas stirred. A title evolved, Dark Movements. For me, once there is a title, the art follows.

From North Carolina the poet Jeffery Beam watched what was developing. We were already working together on another project, but something in Dark Movements spoke to him, and new poems came as a result of what he saw emerging from my studio. Those poems inspired further paintings from me. Collaborations, when they work well, fly back and forth between the participants with increasing energy.

Interested parties watched and contributed to the process through social media. Maria Maestre in Spain left illuminating comments at my blog that carried painter and poet in some unexpected directions. Composer Peter Byrom-Smith in Yorkshire prepared his score for Jane’s Dream – a ‘visual poem’ edited by Pete Telfer and me from footage of puppets we’d filmed in 2013 – by watching animated segments posted at Facebook. (Jane’s Dream is being screened in the gallery throughout Dark Movements.) Sarah Parvin (aka ‘The Curious One’) curated a Dark Movements board at Pinterest, that presents her own take on how the project has drawn together many threads from my past themes.

In 2000, my collaboration with Catriona Urquhart took place around kitchen tables, on long walks in the countryside, and occasionally in phone calls when she would read drafts to me. Today the collaborations of Dark Movements have been conducted with social media, e-mails and selfies. I’d set out with no goal other than to visit the grave where I’d left the Mari in that last drawing fifteen years ago, but the habits of ‘making’ can’t be stilled. New collaborations emerge. New words, fresh paints, dancers, puppets and toy theatres kindle a phoenix-flame under the bones, and suddenly the old girl is up and off again, and at a fair old lick. It seems you can’t keep a good horse down, not even after it’s been buried.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins

May 2015

Ten

Dark Movements: ten new works, fifteen years on from The Mare’s Tale

Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 11th June – 25th July 2015

One: The Quickening

Two: Yarden

Three: Flowering Skin

Four: Drift

Five: Veil

Six: Pegasus

Seven: Pale Horse

Eight: The Citadel

Nine: Horse/Man

Ten: Birth

“The searching is my dynamic. I don’t believe in the gold at the end of the rainbow, but I do believe in the rainbow.”

Derek Jarman