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Wiping the Three Brighdes etching plate

The Crowded Room in question is a hay barn at Shatwell Farm in Somerset, and is the latest unusual venture by Matchett & Page. Here is what they say about their inspiration for this exhibition:

“Matchett & Page’s first exhibition A Crowded Room responds to the new status of the crowd in the time of COVID-19. Nationwide and local lockdowns, social isolation and physical distancing have all contributed to the transformation of crowds into uneasy bodies. The desired coming together that these gatherings represent is tempered by the risk that too much too soon will force us back into isolation.

A Crowded Room brings together the work of four artists: Bronwen Bradshaw, Nell Brookfield, Sophie Willoughby and Maddalena Zadra. Scenes recalled from memory and intimately observed touch portraits sit alongside carnivalesque chimeras and bird-head masks. Together this odd company of real and imagined figures creates a surrogate crowd in the space of the gallery.”

The etchings which were chosen for this exhibition stem from a time in my life when theatre was a huge inspiration. All the etchings have a story behind them, which the viewer is invited to imagine; however, I’ll give a few clues here.

The Three Brighdes

The Three Brighdes may not be a theatre piece, but the manner of their making was. A group of women gathered in a small chapel in Glastonbury on St Bridget’s Day, February 1st, to make that year’s Brighde, or Bridget doll (it was the middle one, with a cork for a nose). This ritual was accompanied by wine – hence the cork – and much laughter, as well as serious intent to celebrate Imbolc, the Celtic first day of Spring, and thereby to honour the Irish Saint Bridget, whose chapel it was, and who spent many years at Glastonbury. I drew these three dolls as they later lolled together in Diana Griffith’s caravan at the Dove. This is an etching on copper, and incorporates lift ground, soft ground, open bite and aquatint.

The Wedding Party

This little etching, or drypoint, was scratched, sandpapered and scraped onto an acrylic sheet, inked up and printed through an etching press. The wedding party was one of many winding up a steep road to a monastery in the Caucasus mountains. The bride and groom were given a rapid blessing, and then the next party would arrive. Georgia has a strong religious tradition, but during the Soviet era weddings were only performed in civic ceremonies. This is how the Georgians got round this.

Remembered

‘Remembered’ is just that: an image that came from memory. I don’t know who she is or was, but she was very definite, and I enjoyed making the print out of cardboard and various textures stuck together and printed as an etching plate. This technique is known as Collograph.

Tamburlaine

Tamburlaine the Great was played by Antony Sher at the Globe Theatre in Stratford on Avon some time in the ‘nineties. My daughter Robin and I had queued all night in bitter January weather to get two of the best 100 seats in the house for just £5 each. We were rewarded with middle of the front row seats, and the prowling figure of the tyrant at the front of the apron stage threatened to land in our laps. I dreamed of this image all the following night and quickly jotted it down in the morning. The resulting etching is on zinc, and is a combination of lift ground, aquatint and open bite. A year or two after completing this etching, I saw Antony Sher in a radically different character in an Alan Ayckbourn play at the Savoy, and afterwards went backstage to give him number one of the edition. He is an artist as well as an actor, and his thankyou card said he liked it very much. That pleased me, not because I was flattered (though I was), but because in it he had recognised something of the character he created.

The Messenger

Last, but not least, The Messenger. This was made from a rapid sketch of a lovely carved stone head in the Glastonbury Abbey Museum. It played a leading role in a solo exhibition I had at the Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury, based on a 6 month residency at the Abbey. It is a monoprint, which means each print, though similar, has differences, as it is redrawn each time I print it. This is a fast and often powerful technique that I will be teaching this weekend at a workshop organised by the curators of the exhibition, Kendra Matchett and Matt Page. My huge thanks to them for inviting me to exhibit, and for finding works of mine that I had long forgotten about, and which might well set me off in a new direction.

The exhibition continues this weekend 26/27 September, and the following weekend 3/4 October, or by appointment with the organisers. Please see their website for further details at http://www.matchett.page

Mok 4

This year we are running two studio-based courses and one mainly outdoor-based course: details as follows:

Landscape into Etching

July 18, 19, 20

Tutor: Jenny Graham

Fee: £175

Times: 10 – 4

Further details to be announced: briefly, this course is a marriage between getting out in the landscape to draw, and coming back into the studio to make prints, so it is designed for both painters and printmakers, or people wanting to develop either of those and the links between them. Suitable for all levels of ability.

Summer Flight JG

Drawing in the landscape 3

 

Mokuhanga – Japanese Water-based Woodcut and Monoprint

August 15, 16, 17

Tutor: Robin Frood

Fee: £175

Times: 10 – 4

Further details to be announced; briefly, you will learn a technique that uses the free flowing water-based inks of Mokuhanga to create work that either has structure and can be repeated, using woodcut, or the one-off approach of monoprint, or a combination of both. Suitable for both beginners and more advanced students.

Mok 6

Woodwork and Tree House Design

May 6 & 27

June 17, 18

July 8 & 22

August 12, 13 & 26, 27

September 2 & 16, 17

Tutor: Jim Blackburn

Fee: £30 per day,  or by donation, of skills, materials, money…

Times: 9 – 6

Taking part in designing and building the Dove Tree Hide will be a very broad and project-specific activity. Participants will learn basic carpentry, joinery and green woodworking skills, ie splitting and cleaving oak, as well as how to use more modern materials and connections. Tree species will be considered and discussed, as will wood science, and building biology (why wood rots etc). We will explore how structures work, designing with the materials at hand as we make and build.

Jim writes: ‘The last thing I want is for people to feel any pressure on them as regards ability or experience as we will be a mixed group of people; young and old, male and female, skilled or unskilled. I will be filling in the blanks (of the tree house build) as necessary so as not to lean  heavily on the group, rather I am looking for an exciting voyage of discovery, design and making!’

Jim with ladder

Please contact Bron Bradshaw at bronbradshaw@yahoo.com, or phone 01458 850682 or text 07905644015, to register your interest in any of the above courses, and I’ll send you the booking form and further details.

 

Regular etching classes start again in October: please contact Bron if you are interested (Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday mornings)

Grand Canyon

Etching

850 x 600 mm

It was only just over 4 months ago that I sat on the edge of the Grand Canyon and made the sketch for this etching; more a process of attempting to make sense of what I was looking at than creating an instant artwork.

grand-canyon-drawing-for-blog

And now here is the (very much not instant!) artwork, half of which I published on Facebook a few weeks ago. Since my trip to the US, the main instigator of our road trip, my dear friend Jaki Whitren, who INSISTED I came along when I almost baled out, has died, as has her partner, or rather, soul mate, John Cartwright, another of my dearest friends.

grand-canyon-patchwork-1-for-blog

So I dedicate this etching to the memory of John and Jaki with much love. And as, since my trip to the South West, America has been plunged into crisis and I want to express my support for the struggle ahead, I also dedicate this work to my American friends and friends in America; to all the people who smoothed our way for us on the road trip, both indigenous and immigrant (that’s all the rest); and to the Parks Department people, who protect this extraordinary canyon and who were the first to stand up to tyranny. I just hope we can all follow their lead.

saw-flyer-for-email

My studio is going to be open for Somerset Open Studios later this month (new name for Somerset Art Weeks), and I’m sharing it with Pennie Elfick and Tony Martin. Just as well, as I’m off to America for a couple of weeks on Thursday, and will be back for the last weekend: 29th, 30th Sept and 1st and 2nd October. But the work will be there when I’m not, and Pennie and Tony will be looking after the show and answering any questions about the work. They are also giving an informal talk about their work on Saturday 24th Sept (see flyer). The show in the Print Room studio is already up; since we are not having a preview evening, here is a sneak preview.sos-preview-1

sos-preview-2sos-preview-3sos-preview-5We didn’t set out to colour code it, but that is what has happened! That’s what comes of working together. Tony’s work will be hung in the upstairs studio. Opening day: Saturday 17th September.

Today

Winter Solstice 2015

Winter Solstice 2015

1979 – my first etching at the Dove, same trees that are in the photo above, added to a plate made 3 years before while learning to etch in Salzburg

Winter Sun etching 21.12.79

Winter Sun etching 21.12.79

Butleigh meets Austria – under the same sun.

 

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