As part of our “GREENWICH PRINTMAKERS AT 40” exhibition at Watts Contemporary Gallery, many of our artists made work inspired by the Watts collection or the local environment. Here are some of the personal responses created by our artists, written in their own words.
Ann Burnham - "Chapel on the Hill"
I was inspired to make this print after visiting Watts Chapel. It was such an unusual and magical place. I wanted to know more about its history and the village of Compton. As I read more, it conjured an image of an idyllic country village, with Compton Potters, Limnerslease house and the Chapel on the hill at the centre. My work is influenced by the woodcuts of Eric Ravilious, my prints explore the marks and patterns in the English countryside, made over thousands of years by farming and ancient settlements. I wanted to translate this rural idyll into a story set amongst the rolling hills of Surrey, depicting tucked away villages around the Chapel on the hill with its surrounding cemetery.
I love the precise mark making that lino cutting affords, and after many sketches began the intricate cutting of the lino, depicting the fields and hills of the countryside with patterns.
Lucy Ward - “Lanterns”
When I was deciding what to make for the exhibition, I stopped for a coffee in the gallery’s café and ended up sitting in a room filled with pieces made by participants in the Artists’ Village’s work with the local community, based on its ethos that art should be for everyone and a creative passion can transform people’s lives. I was really struck by the image of brightly decorated lanterns hanging near the window, with the branches of a tree stretching out behind it. Seeing the juxtaposition of the lanterns and the natural world outside, which I also believe can have a positive effect, I felt really moved and decided to make a print inspired by it.
The result is a drypoint and monoprint, which is made by working on two copper plates to create a layered print. The colours are painted on one plate, which is rolled with damp paper through a printing press, and then the drypoint plate, which has been scratched into with a special tool, is inked up in black and printed over the top of the colours on the same paper to create shadows and texture. This means that each print is slightly different, as the colours are painted by hand each time, representing the ongoing work of the Artists’ Village in the community and the different people who take part in it.
Kit Boyd - “The Wise Owl”
Coming to the Watts' collection, I was surprised how many of Watts paintings I knew from books on symbolism which had influenced me in my twenties. However, it was his painting A Dedication – to all those who love the beautiful and mourn over the senseless and cruel destruction of birdlife and beauty, that resonated with me. My work explores our relationship with nature, with landscapes filled with birds and animals. Our careless attitude to the planet and ecosystems is also a theme in my work.
With this in mind, I decided to place Watts in the centre of an imaginary landscape populated by birds. I like that he insisted Lilly Langtry removed her feathered hat when he painted her portrait, refusing to advocate the use of plumage in fashion through his painting. In a way, this is a thank you and a dedication to his empathy and vision as a campaigner for nature and birdlife.
Inspired by G F Watts' love of birdlife, my linocut places the artist from “Self-portrait in a Red Robe” at the centre of a metaphysical landscape surrounded by birds, both indigenous and tropical, such as those whose feathers would be used in fashion in the 19thC. As a protector and vocal advocate for the protection of birds, I wanted to dedicate my piece for this exhibition to his vision and empathy for the natural world. In the background the winged angel from “A Dedication” walks tall and Watts' dead heron is brought back to life in the foreground.
"Greenwich Printmakers at 40" is a celebration of Greenwich Printmakers' 40th anniversary and runs at Watts Contemporary Gallery in Compton, Surrey, until September 1. For more information, visit https://www.wattsgallery.org.uk/whats-on/greenwich-printmakers-40/.