Sugar Rush

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Above, the Witch meets a bad end, shoved into a cauldron of molten Foam Shrimps, Jelly Beans, Glacier Mints and Liquorice Allsorts!

My task of illustrating Simon Armitage’s poem Hansel & Gretel: a nightmare in eight scenes, has been completed. It has been the most exciting work, especially coming at the conclusion of rehearsals for the stage production of Hansel & Gretel that I directed for its six month tour with the Goldfield Ensemble..

One of the things about any text presented on a stage, is that there never seems quite enough room within the short duration of a performance – especially one in which the words are set to music – to explore it as thoroughly as can be managed in a book. So the Design for Today edition of the text is my opportunity to really foreground Simon’s magnificent wordplay. A couple of weeks ago I carried all the original artwork in portfolios to London to deliver to Joe Pearson at Design for Today, and everything is currently being scanned, cleaned, layered and coloured by Joe and his assistant, Laurence.

I’m cock-a-hoop with the design for the book, which is just perfect. It’ll be out in the Spring. Stay tuned for updates re. pre-ordering, plus news of the special edition. (Which will come with two additional images printed by Dan Bugg at Penfold Press.)

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight at MoMA Mach

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The Temptations. 2017. Screenprint. Edition of 75.

Please join us for the official opening by

Simon Armitage

of

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: 14 prints on the theme of a poem

at MoMA Machynlleth 

Saturday 24th March at 12.00

Celebrating the collaboration between Clive Hicks-Jenkins and The Penfold Press to make a series of 14 prints inspired by the Faber & Faber 2007 edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by Simon Armitage, who will be opening the exhibition and reading from the poem.

Included in the exhibition will be sketches, maquettes, proofs and studies for the series, alongside the 14 prints. An illustrated catalogue with a text by the art historian and curator, James Russell, has been published to celebrate the completion of the project.

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Farewell to 2017

2017 was jam-packed with work and events from start to finish. In the Spring the Música en Segura festival took me to Andalusia for Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time concert, for which I’d made images to be screened during the performance.

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Back in the UK at the Lotte Inch Gallery in York, there was a two-person exhibition with my friend Sarah Raphael-Balme, and in Wales an exhibition at Oriel Tegfryn of all the drawings I’d made for the Random Spectacular Hansel & Gretel Picture Book published in 2016.

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Below: specially-bound cover of Hansel & Gretel made for me by Christopher Shaw

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The Hansel & Gretel Toy Theatre I’d designed for Benjamin Pollock‘s Toyshop in Covent Garden was launched, alongside a beautiful pop-up card based on the theatre and a handsomely packaged game of Hansel & Gretel ‘Pelmanism’.

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I was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by Southampton Solent University. I lectured and/or taught at Southampton, Hereford and Cambridge, and these were wonderful interludes in an otherwise gruelling schedule of project deadlines. I guest curated an exhibition, Imagined Realms, at the Royal Cambrian in Conwy, and was able to invite a spectacular array of artists I both admire and love, to take part.

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By far the lion’s share of effort went into completing the fourteen screenprint series in collaboration with Penfold Press, based on Simon Armitage’s 2007 translation of  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in time for the forthcoming exhibition opening on Jan 10th at the Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illuminating text from curator and art writer James Russell.

 

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Below: separations on lithography film for The Exchange, and the completed print.

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Below: Gouache, ink and pencil work on board  – The Stain of Sin.

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More news about what’s planned for the Gawain series to be announced shortly. News too of Hansel & Gretel, who are about to embark on a thrilling journey in the company of a whole bunch of old and new friends with whom to enjoy the adventure!

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I’ll be making a visual accompaniment for Daniel Broncano’s Música en Segura 2018, this time to the music of Stravinsky –

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– and there’s to be a sweetly pretty new Pollock’s Toy Theatre project.

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In the US Marly Youmans has produced a scintillating new collection of poems that I’ll be making a book cover and decorations for, and there’s to be an edition of Jeffery Beam’s Spectral Pegasus poems, illustrated with my series of paintings from the Dark Movements series.

2018 is set to be a year of seeing long term projects developing in ways unanticipated at the times of starting them. Plenty of challenges ahead, then. And deadlines, of course. Always there are the deadlines.

 

 

 

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The Making of Gawain

The first maquette for the  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight project that I’m working on with Daniel Bugg of the Penfold Press, is finished. Articulated, two-dimensional maquettes… rather like painted versions of the shadow-puppets used by the great animator Lotte Reiniger… have evolved as my compositional aids in the studio. They also serve at the outset of any project as the ‘playtime’ that gets me exploring and into the spirit of things. Decisions get made in them that would be difficult to reach a conclusion on were I to face the choices head on. They simplify my ideas and prevent them from becoming too complicated by concentrating on shape and form. They help me find the subject.

For this series of fourteen editioned prints, I’ve set myself the task of using images to tell the story. The poetry is is glorious. I could make a hundred images for it and not do justice to the beauty of the words. The translation/re-working of the poem I’m using as my reference/inspiration for the series, is the 2007 one by Simon Armitage. But here’s a snippet describing King Arthur’s attiring of Gawain, from a translation by Paul Deane made in 1999.

Then he held up his helm and kissed it in haste:
It was stiffened with staples, padded with stuffing,
Sat high on his head, and buckled behind
where the neck-guard was graced with gleaming silk
bedecked and embroidered with the best gems.
There were birds on the seams of the broad silk bands:
painted parrots on a field of periwinkles,
turtledoves entwined with truelove blooms too thick
to be sewn by many women in seven winters’
care.

Yet nothing half so dear
brought color anywhere
as the circlet’s bright and clear
diamonds in his hair.

It’s heady stuff, all that description. And it works wonderfully in the context of a poem. But it’s the death-of-a-hundred-cuts to the artist, because it’s too detailed. There is too much description. It weighs the illustrator down with information in a way that it doesn’t weigh down the reader. And so for the most part, I eschew the detail of the description, and put myself into the role of ‘illuminator’. My goal is not to illustrate what the poet has conjured, but to help illuminate it with images that aren’t repetitions. I have to build with different blocks.

The maquettes help me in this editing process. They get me away from the descriptions, and into a different space.

But most of all, they immerse me in a world where colour, shape and form become intensified.

Pattern-cutting Gringolet, Gawain’s horse.

The Penfold Press ‘Gawain’ edition of prints.

The collaboration between me and Dan Bugg at Penfold Press to produce a series of editioned screen-prints  on the theme of the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, is underway.

The prints are to be produced and made available for purchase sequentially. I spent some weeks working in detail through Simon Armitage’s 2007 translation/re-working of the poem, making notes and finding the passages that spoke to me in visual terms. While I could happily have made a series of forty images, on the principle that less-is-more, I whittled it down to fourteen.

Developmental sketches of the decapitated Green Knight holding aloft his own severed head

I’ll hold back from sharing with you the aspects I’ll be illustrating because Dan and I want there to be the element of surprise as each new print is editioned and launched. I recently showed the completed list of fourteen titles to Dan and to Sarah Parvin. (Sarah was the moving force behind this project, coming up with the idea and then teaming Dan and me.) With the ‘list’ agreed and signed off by all concerned, I’ve started a workbook to begin building the images.

Dan and I will shortly be producing  Man Slain by a Tiger, a print inspired by Tipu’s Tiger/ The Death of Munrow that we’re using as a dry-run for the Gawain series. After that, the great work will begin.

Preparatory colour sketch for Man Slain by a Tiger

Rendering in lithographic crayon on True-Grain

Below: study for Gawain from my notebook for the fourteen prints.

Watch this space.