Friday, 12 July 2013

Art & Austerity: Lyons Lithographs at Towner

Barnett Freedman, People
One of the art shows of the summer opens at Towner in Eastbourne tomorrow. I'm going to see it next week, and meanwhile I've been enjoying 'Tea and a Slice of Art', Charlie Batchelor's book about the Lyons Lithographs. A full set of these wonderful pictures, commissioned in the post-war years by J. Lyons & Co. to decorate neglected tearooms, is being exhibited, with work by a host of wonderful artists. There's a fascinating article about in The Guardian, and for the background story about lithography in Britain in the mid-20th century, you might want to look at 'Ravilious: Submarine'. Rav would have been one of the first artists commissioned for this fabulously British project, but he died five years before the first pictures appeared on the walls of Lyons tearooms around the country...

John Nash, Landscape with Bathers

Michael Ayrton, The Spectators

Edward Ardizzone, The Railway Station

Charles Mozley, Henley

John Minton, Apple Orchard, Kent

 L.S. Lowry, Industrial Scene

The Lyons Teashops Lithographs: Art at a Time of Austerity runs at Towner, Eastbourne until September.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Woodcuts & Wedgwood, Shops & Submarines: Eric Ravilious, Designer

Thanks to everyone who came to the Royal West of England Academy on Saturday to hear my talk on Eric Ravilious's design work. It's fascinating to look at the wood engravings, ceramics and lithography together; apparently so different, these disciplines interconnect in all sorts of intriguing ways. A pleasure too to meet illustrator Lucy Auge (should be an acute accent on that e), a collector or two and a wood engraver taught by Peter Reddick, who cited Ravilious as an important influence.

I'll be doing a similar talk at the Fry Art Gallery in November and also for NADFAS groups around the country over the next couple of years - I try to list forthcoming talks on the sidebar when I get a chance to update it.

One thing I've come to realise is that Ravilious referred back to his previous work often and recycled ideas, techniques and themes constantly. I've been exploring this cross-fertilisation in the new Mainstone Press book 'Eric Ravilious: Wood Engravings', which is in production now and should be ready in the early autumn, and it's given me yet another new way of looking at the artist's work.

 & Submarines
I particularly love the way he went back and forth between watercolour and lithography, using his mastery of the former to grasp the principles of the latter, then transferring techniques back from printmaking to painting. At the end of his life he was, as Robert Harling noted, just getting started.

Look out for 'Eric Ravilious: Wood Engravings' in the autumn! I'll post a picture of the cover as soon as it's finished.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Ten Printmakers: St Jude's in Auld Reekie

The Night Sorter, by Jonny Hannah
An unexpected treat came yesterday in the form of a printed catalogue for the latest St Judes exhibition, which is being held at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh. Fittingly the prints each have a Scottish theme, and a particularly nice touch is the inclusion of a brief comment by the artists on how they came up with their particular subject.

So we learn that Jonny Hannah was 'inspired by a little known song of the same name, by an obscure Edinburgh band' he played guitar with, while Michael Kirkman recalled a favourite Edinburgh pub, and that Christopher Brown drew inspiration from the wood engravings made in 1934 by Douglas Percy Bliss for the book 'Devil in Scotland'.

Bliss was a great friend of Bawden and Ravilious and the spirit of their time infuses much of the work of these ten very different printmakers; Bawden would have particularly enjoyed Angie Lewin's print, with its centrepiece of a Staffordshire Highland couple. Visitors to the exhibition will have the chance to see the work of the St Judes artists in relation to their illustrious forebears, as prints by Barbara Jones, John Piper, Edward Wadsworth, Bawden, Ravilious and others are also included. As if Edinburgh people weren't spoiled enough!

Christopher Brown, Weel Done, Cutty-sark!

Ed Kluz, The Dunmore Pineapple

Chloe Cheese, Passing Through Parliament Square, Edinburgh

Mark Hearld, Spey Salmon

Emily Sutton, The Fishing Lodge

Angie Lewin, A Highland Gathering

Michael Kirkman, The Canny Man's

Linda Green, Jencks - Landform, Edinburgh

Peter Green, Gehry - Maggie's Centre, Dundee
Ten Printmakers is at the Scottish Gallery until July 23.

If you'd like to know more about the design work of Eric Ravilious, I'm giving a talk at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol this Saturday, 6 July, at 11am.