Inspired @ Watts Contemporary Gallery (Part 4)

In the final week of our Greenwich Printmakers at 40 exhibition, more of our artists reveal how and why they made their new prints for the show.


Jennie Ing – "Box Hill View"


"Box Hill View" is a reduction linocut. Box Hill has always been a great destination for day trippers wanting to escape the city for a while, and an attraction for locals too with its scenic walks and stunning views. And the Olympics in 2012 probably made its name known to many more people. For me, it’s an area I often saw while visiting relations as a child, and the very name Box Hill is one that conjures up many a happy time. Whenever I’m passing now, this is the view that sums it up for me: the very distinctive outline of the hill, with now the Denbie’s wine estate in front of it. When considering new work to create for the show at the Watts Contemporary Gallery, this is one of the first Surrey scenes to come to my mind. I had to do it!


Maureen Sweeney - "Riders on the Beach"


Two of my series of monoprints of historical horse images – "Venetian Bronze Horse Heads" and "Horse's head, Parthenon" – had already been chosen to be exhibited in the Greenwich Printmakers 40th anniversary exhibition at Watts Contemporary Gallery, so I decided to stay with that theme.

When I was making new work for the show, I was originally printing two images. One was a monoprint of "Energy", inspired by GF Watts' magnificent sculpture, "Physical Energy", which I had seen in the Royal Academy forecourt last year. The other was "Riders on the Beach", a screenprint with monoprint, a memory of horsemen on the beach. In the end, I only submitted "Riders on the Beach".

"Riders on the Beach" is quiet and contemplative compared to the explosive energy of Watts' sculpture, but it's still partly inspired by "Physical Energy".


Sandra Miller - "Dawn Racer"


I was inspired by GF Watts’ horse sculpture, “Physical Energy” initially – it was so huge and powerful and bold. When I was working on drawings, mine became more of a race horse. “Dawn Racer” is about a journey alone with a horse and flying along in wild, empty countryside and needing to arrive before morning breaks – so a bit witchy – and I was thinking of Burns’ poem, Tam o’ Shanter, although he’s being chased by a witch.

When I’d done the actual image, it needed more in it, so I made a monoprint on another plate the same size and printed them one after another on the press – a new technique for me.


Lucy Ward - "Chapel Door"


The Grade 1-listed Watts Chapel was designed by Mary Watts. She taught craft skills to people from the local community and worked with them to create a building that is beautiful on the outside, with its intricate terracotta decorations, and just as amazing on the inside. Walking into the tiny chapel for the first time feels like entering a secret world, full of colour and symbolism, with angels and the tree of life arching overhead.

In this print, I brought in trees from outside to echo the nature-inspired patterns and my own landscape work. I wanted to hint at the jewel-like colours and decoration inside the chapel, leaving it a mystery to be discovered, so I decided to use a two-plate technique of black drypoint over colour monoprint, so the interior would be muted by shadow. This means that each print is slightly different, as the colours are painted by hand each time, reflecting the many different people who worked on the building. The open door represents Mary Watts’ ethos of ‘art for all’ – anyone can visit the chapel, and the Artists’ Village is still working with the local community today.


Aimee Birnbaum – "Darwin's Animals"


In Galapagos, Darwin was like Adam in the Garden of Eden. In the Bible, God asks Adam to name the animals, and thus made him the first scientist, the first evolutionary biologist. He shares with Darwin the process of deciding how to organise the animals, a discipline that leads to questioning how biological diversity came into the world. How did the different species we observe come to exist? How did life begin?

It strikes me that in our present world, we are not respecting Genesis, not caretaking the beautiful Creation that is our inherited treasure, this planet. This painting is a tribute to Darwin and to Adam.


"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/.