Natural Force

Few contemporary printmakers are in the same class as Angie Lewin. As the exhibition she has curated of printmaking influences continues its tour, Lewin gives us a personal insight to the inspiring practitioners who have shaped her as an artist.

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Angie Lewin in her studio, photograph by Alun Callender

A Printmaker’s Journey: an exhibition curated by Angie Lewin sets out a very personal map of creative inspiration – the touchstones that have moved and shaped the artist throughout her career, from college years to present day.

There are 60 pieces in the collection, spanning a range of media from ceramics to wood engravings; it supplies not only a fascinating collection of work, historical and contemporary, but also a narrative about Lewin’s own creative development. Especially for Grafik readers, Lewin has picked out her five favourite pieces from the collection and described her encounters with the work and the way it inspired her.

As Lewin says "it's a revelation to discover the sometimes surprising relationships between these varied artworks and their makers".

1. Edward Bawden, The Road to Thaxted, 1956, linocut

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Bawden was the master of the linocut. With spontaneously cut, strong graphic imagery and areas of ink that have been free-rolled over the lino block, he exploited the infinite possibilities of the process. ‘The Road to Thaxted’ is one of my favourite Bawden linocuts, displaying his characteristic humorous observation and mastery of printmaking. As a printmaker, I enjoy spending time working out how he creates his images, looking at how many blocks and colours he has used. This print normally hangs above the fireplace in my studio to encourage me to greater things.

2. Angie Lewin, The 1937 Coronation Mug, 2005, linocut

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I’ve collected the artist-designer Eric Ravilious’s ceramics for many years and as he is such a significant influence, I like to incorporate them into my still life compositions as in this linocut, ‘The 1937 Coronation Mug’. It was his understanding of the printmaking process both as a ‘fine’ and commercial artist that enabled him to create artwork which reproduced so beautifully. In the exhibition I’ve also included the Coronation Mug itself plus some original pencil drawings, loaned by Towner Art Gallery, which were used by Wedgwood to create the copper plate engraved transfers for his ceramics.

3. Lizzie Farey, Almost Spring, 2017, woven willow (Photograph © Shannon Tofts)

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The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh invited Lizzie and me to exhibit together in 2012, and since then the links between our work have developed. Lizzie grows her own willow near her studio in Dumfries and Galloway and also gathers ash, birch, heather and other native plants from the hedgerows. I always get a sense that Lizzie is 'drawing' with these natural materials, creating woven forms that reflect the landscape where she lives and works. This large pussy willow bowl is tactile and timeless, sitting as well with a contemporary Paul Morrison linocut as it does with a Graham Sutherland landscape painting.

4. Paul Scott Scott’s Cumbrian Blue(s), The Garden Series, Willow Cuttings, 2015, cut transferware details and gold lustre on Royal Worcester bone china plate

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Scott’s ceramics often illustrate political and social issues by combining traditional designs with transfer printed elements of his own. However, his encyclopedic knowledge of transferware coupled with his interest in gardening and nature come together in this piece. Taking elements from the iconic Willow Pattern, he has made ceramic cuttings from individual elements in the pattern’s design. Standing on the white ground of a gold and blue-rimmed plate, these botanical cut-outs are instantly recognisable. The work also reflects the way he gardens: weeding, pruning, and taking cuttings from the living plants demonstrating how intrinsic artistic practice can be to daily life.

5. Herry Perry, Central School of Arts and Crafts, c1930s, wood engraving.

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I remember seeing the block for this large wood engraving when I was a printmaking student at Central School of Art and Design in the 1980s. It was re-editioned at this time by the print department's Shelley Rose who had also worked with Michael Rothenstein. I enjoyed my time at Central and as many students did, loved the building too. In those days, the printmaking studios were on the very top floor and Herry Perry has perfectly illustrated the exhausted students struggling up the handsome but seemingly endless staircase. This print is a joyful reminder of the old Southampton Row building now that the art school has moved to its King’s Cross home.

Angie Lewin: A Printmaker's Journey is at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington 30 September – 25 November 2017

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