15 years of Sudbourne Printmakers
PUBLISHED: 12:19 03 April 2017
Patricia Woodward tells the story of Sudbourne Printmakers, this year celebrating 15 years of printmaking at Sudbourne Park
Step into the workshop at 4 Bothy Yard, Sudbourne Park, and you’re in a busy world of art making. There’s the faint aroma of oily inks and white spirit as printmakers go through the stages of etching, inking, wiping and proofing processed metal plates until their imagination becomes real on paper.
The next room, housing Columbian presses, is a hive of activity with wood-cut relief print editioning, and in the third room of this converted Bothy is the design and print-block development, and creation stages.
Artist Michael Flint explains how, 15 years ago, a collection of eight artists moved the gargantuan presses to Sudbourne from Ufford, with master printmaker Gareth Jones had settled, who had returned to his native Suffolk. Gareth brought abundant experience from a career as a print technician and lecturer at prestigious art colleges, including the Slade, where he worked alongside many of the country’s big names in printmaking, and from his beloved Welsh studio. He became the founder and hub of this co-operative of printmakers.
Peter Polaine smiles as he remembers the cameraderie of those first members and their partners working to convert the draughty, barren bothy into a productive studio.
“We built plan chests, cupboards, and work benches, installed new electrics and plumbing, rebuilt parts of walls. It was a united effort.” Initially the group made informal decisions, with Gareth taking the major share of admin work. Today, with 30 members there is a management committee of artists who ensure smooth running of the workshops and the biannual exhibitions staged in December at Bothy Yard, and at Easter in the Peter Pears Gallery, Aldeburgh.
Six of the original group remain. Others have applied individually to join the group, and some progress from weekend workshops, like Marilyn Jackson, currently working on a series of etchings linked to her love of traditional British knitting.
The printmaker’s art
Since the 15th century European artists, such as Picasso, Warhol, Van Gogh, Rubens, Goya and Rembrandt have been known to make prints, and Oriental works date much further back. What makes it exciting, says artist Jennie Golding is the process through five or six stages from initial idea, drawing and developing the image on the plate, before revealing the initial conception.
“Much as I felt when watching an image develop in my previous profession as photographic artist for national magazines and newspapers.”
“I just love drawing,“ Derek Chambers states simply, who has an eye for relevant detail in his etchings. “For me, drawing is an essential requirement to be an artist. It is the basis of all good art.”
“That’s not necessarily so,” chirps Helen Armstrong-Bland. “I often use objects in my work to create the narrative that I wish to convey.” It is evident that Sudbourne printmakers have traditional and innovative attitudes to their work.
But how does printmaking differ from other art works?
“I am a portrait and landscape painter in oils. The techniques are very different,” Peter Polaine explains. “In relief printmaking, edges are sharply defined. I strive to make my images the most simplified that I can. It’s often compelling to put in far too many marks, but I struggle for bare necessities. And art is a process of conflict. There’s never a finish, always something else to explore. I’ll probably still be wood-cutting on the inside lid of my coffin!”
There have been notable successes among the Sudbourne printmakers. Perhaps the most renowned is Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy MBE who won international attention in 2002 as one of only two Nigerian artists to have painted an official portrait of the Queen. Peter Beeson’s award-winning wildlife etchings and relief prints are regularly commissioned for publication, while Chrissy Norman and Tricia Newell are published in Fine Print, a book based on the annual Norwich Print Fair.
Jennie has a diploma in fine art portrait painting from Heatherley’s School of Art, London, where she won the John Dalton, Three Figure Portrait Award. She studied printmaking for a further year and a half there, and a year at Curwen. In 2015 she won the Chelsea Art Society print prize.
“Joining Sudbourne printmakers in January 2016 was a real bonus. It meant I could be part of this wonderful workshop and continue printmaking without commuting into London every week. For me, every print starts with drawings from observation. As the drawings develop into prints so does a sense of place emerge. Recently I’ve been working on a series of gardens, some owned by artists, others just places with a special atmosphere, where nature hasn’t been completely tamed by humans. There is a sense that the plants still rule, often invoking a twilight feeling of mystery and suspense.”
Patricia started printmaking in Ipswich, then took her studio equipment to Equatorial Guinea, where she lived and worked for three years, before moving to Texas, then France and home to Suffolk.
“In each place I was fortunate to have exhibitions and sell my work and to learn from other artists. A big part of how I think in my art is in shape and colour, which I’ve loved since childhood. When I joined Sudbourne it was with the intent of getting colour into etchings. I am an inquisitive person and investigate many printmaking forms to express an initial idea. I use traditional techniques of relief, intaglio or monoprinting, but I also use recycled and unusual materials. One of the great things about Sudbourne is the ability to bounce ideas off one another and gain greater insight into different techniques.”
Born in Ilford in 1937, Derek worked in central London from 1953-1993 as a graphic designer, illustrator and photographer, eventually forming his own graphic design company working mainly with London Transport and the Docklands Light Railway. He moved to Suffolk in 1994, gradually withdrawing from the commercial world to follow his own interests in drawing and painting. He joined Sudbourne in 1999, and is an active member of the Ipswich Art Society.
A collection of work of local scenes emerged from my new studio, followed over the years by a series of etchings.
“I continue to draw on the local area, though other projects have also absorbed me. I have a solid body of work, exhibiting successfully and selling regularly in Suffolk, London and elsewhere. I create images using every available medium, and have a special fondness for all the techniques of printmaking, including lithography, etching, monotype and woodcut.
Michael lives and works in Orford and is a founder member of Sudbourne Printmakers.
His etchings are mainly landscapes of the East Anglian coast, and what he calls the Remakes and Sequels series.
“Having a lifelong interest in archaeology I noticed an image scratched into Orford Castle. I used this abstract image as the basis of an etching to find it was a drawing of the 18th century signal station, which stood nearby. This led me to seek out other mediaeval graffiti in churches which form the Remakes and Sequels series.”
Michael’s work is collected at home and internationally. This summer he has a solo exhibition at Snape Concert Hall Gallery.