Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Carrie Ann Plank's Battleground Between Minimalism vs. Content

Carrie An Plank has been exhibiting her re-contexted images for a a few years now. She has amassed an impressive resume, has exhibited her work nationally and internationally, and is included in some notable public collections. Plank's creative forays into multiple-layered images extends into several media as well. For our discussion, I have selected some of her prints that deal with shapes,  figures, diagrams, mathematical references, measuring, x-rays and microbial cells. Finding Plank's actual content/context in these deeply-layered images will be the goal of our search.

Plank presents compositions that are balanced, and her colors are pleasing to one's eyes; her lines are sharp and clear. They are initially inviting on several levels, but they also call upon the viewer to ponder their many-imaged layers to see if there is something of stronger substance behind the forms and colors. Once the viewer allows him or herself to delve into the actual objects Plank uses in her images, then the sparks start to fly. You see, the viewer is confronted with a battle, and it is one of changing definitions vs. absolutes.  In her statement at, she often refers to her  prints as being 'based on re-contextualizing information'.   The battleground being fought over here is whether the deliberate density of Plank's images succeeds in negating the content that is so buried within, and whether she succeeds in reformulating a new context for the images. If so, what can the artist be saying about  these works? Is there anything the viewer can glean from these over-saturated images other than formal relationships, and if formalism is a key factor, then do we make a leap of faith into a kind of neo-minimalism?  So you understand my(our) quandry.... 

The answer may not be reached in this article, but Plank is one of many artists who have grown up in an age of  media overload. Rather than present her work in the ever-popular but nearly always abysmal media defined as performance and installations (except for Nam June Paik)  Plank works in printmaking, book arts and painting. Thank goodness. For me, her subliminal images are more visually successful in painting, but her prints have their own tactile qualities. The truth of  Paik's  early sound and contemporary event installations is certainly an ancestor of Plank's work, but she softens it a bit with images that refer to women and children, mathematical measurements of normalcy, and systematic scientific charts to predict and record one's findings in a world so full of information we can't hope to achieve a Renaissance Man stature. Those days are long gone, and we have much more information to process than they did 500 years ago. The velocity with which information and images propel themselves at us everyday is almost too much for our heavily-challenged  retinas and brain synapses to store into our now pre-ahlzheimers'-disposed brains. We're burning ourselves out, literally and visually.

Plank's work also refers to earlier artists who have explored the saturation age - artists like Robert Rauschenberg, and the deeply-veiled (exasperatingly so) imagery of Jasper Johns. Where Rauschenberg worked through a steady stream of application and intuitive response, Plank's works are more measured in their compositions, her colors are well-selected and balanced,  and one sees evidence of careful consideration for her seemingly random subject selection. The underlying conflicts and skirmishes that Plank creates (maybe unknowingly) present a conundrum for the viewer and the  works' lasting impressions in that we want to find the connections between the seeming randomness of her process. 

What may the most challenging process of making and our understanding of Plank's images is her eternal searching through disparate subject matter. This can be a dizzying process and to get to the point of such inundation that the subject's meaning is no longer remembered but one only 'processes' the subject according to form and line, maybe that is Plank's success(?) I don't know if one could call it that, but surely Plank won't be the only artist who 'achieves' this level of cognitive disconnect. It is a development of the mind to disassociate from content and the history of a form's context. Is this the path to a new form of Neo-minimalism or Neo-Contexturalism? It's clearly not the kind of minimalism we saw in the 1970s, but it is a minimizing of visual reference and a de-emphasis on meaning that we have held as a truth for centuries. Have we (in this case Plank) evolved to  some new level of cognition?
I will confess that I am an artist that appreciates knowing the artist' intent, their content and their visual message. We as artists reflect what is in our society and we can be a mirror, or we can shift through the muck and speak a truth that needs to be said.  There is enough confusion in the world to go around, and we as artists have a visual compass and a moral responsibility to lead the the world through the quagmire of life toward understanding. When we merely reflect (either as a document or record) what happens, we do not lead the uninitiated toward enlightenment. I find no crumbs or clues as to the direction of Plank' s images, no series apparent except through some repeated images. No matter, (for that's my crux to bear.) The man vs. science I previously mentioned is the clearest visible path toward understanding her work, and finding the marriage between those two realms may be the key to our understanding. While this is hardly a new theme,  it is one without end - as long as there is information to gather and process, and there is a curious mind to disseminate the morass. 

Plank may well have achieved a level of  mindful disconnect to re-invent context. It may well be that a generation of artists are on the verge of seeing the world differently than anyone has previously understood. I, for one, hope we do not lose visual sight with our history, any more than we have already struggled to decipher ancient symbols and languages that have helped us to understand our evolution. I will, however, cautiously watch this new re-contexturalizing as a possible step toward a new enlightenment.


Education: MFA - Pennsylvania State University, BFA - East Carolina University

Teaching: Assistant Director of Fine Arts at the Academy of Art University, formerly taught at Pennsylvania State University, Xavier University, and University of New Orleans
Residencies: Vermont Studio, Monte Azul in Costa Rica
Exhibitions: United States, England, China, Japan, Croatia

Selected Collections:
The Library of Congress
City of Venice, Italy
SGC International Archives, U. of Mississippi, Washington University Special Collections
University of Virginia
East Carolina University
Honolulu Academy of Art

Friday, December 21, 2012

Printmaking's Day-Dreamer - Marc Chagall

Marc Zaharovich Chagall , 1887-1985, (whose given name was  Moishe Shagal), was born in Liozna, near the largely Jewish city of Vitebsk  in Belarus, (then part of the Russian Empire) . He lived a good portion of his life in France and has been considered one of the most successful artists of the 20th century. He worked in painting, stained glass, tapestries and fine art prints. 

Marc Chagall spent an enormous amount of time making prints and they are highly sought in the markets. Their wistfulness and sweetness is like candy to a child, but they do describe a magical existence where people can often daydream.  He was not concerned about people’s perceptions of his work. He made images that were personally up-lifting, and the pure saturation of his colors crank up the volume on emotion. I, for one, do not care for his continued use of unmodified colors, or a lot of his child-like rendering of figures, but I can appreciate his effort to bring a sense of wonder about the world to each of his works. In doing this article I selected images that I felt had something ‘fresh’ about them. Honestly, his more starkly black and white prints are quite appealing. A lot of Chagall’s work reflects his contacts and exposure to the Parisian artistic hub working before and during the world wars. There are clear references to Picasso and Leger, while some works relate more clearly with his work in stained glass. In any case, I hope you will enjoy this assortment for your holiday viewing pleasure.

Chagall was the eldest of nine children. His family’s name, Shagal is a variation of the name Segal, which is a Levitic group within a Jewish community. His was a deeply religious Hasidic family and he credited the Hasidic culture with having a major impact upon his work. He developed a style that dealt with Jewish folk culture and his childhood memories of life in Vitebsk. Throughout his career "he remained true to his Jewish roots.”

As a child, Chagall studied Hebrew and the Bible at the local Jewish religious school. When he saw a fellow student drawing one day, he claimed it was a revelation and he told his mother that he would become an artist. 

Chagall moved to St. Petersburg in 1906  to study art.  He studied under  Léon Bakst at the Zvantseva School of Drawing and Painting and he stayed in St. Petersburg until 1910.  Then he moved to Paris to develop his artistic style,  enrolling at the  La Palette art academy.  His sensibility for color was pure,  unabashed and he was soon recognized by poets, writers and artists like Guillaume Apollinaire, Robert Delaunay and Fernand Léger. In Paris, he became aware of the latest art movements Cubism, Fauvism and eventually Surrealism, but the subject of his work in Paris remained his homeland. He painted Jewish subjects from his memories of Vitebsk, and "… they were  his dreams". Although some of his imagery influenced other surrealist artists,  Chagall did not want his work to be associated with any movement.  He considered his work unique and the symbols associated with it deeply personal.

His goal during this period was to become a successful artist to provide for his family, and as opportunity would have it, he became the Commissar of Arts for Vitebsk, establishing a distinguished art school in the Soviet Union. In 1915, Chagall began exhibiting his work in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Famine had spread after the war ended in 1918 and Chagall found work as an art teacher to war orphans. After struggling for two years, he moved back to France to develop his art. 

In 1923, Chagall left Moscow to return to France. He formed a business partnership with French art dealer Ambroise Vollard. It was then he began to make etchings and other prints for a series of illustrated books, including Gogol's Dead Souls, the Bible, and the Fables of La Fontaine. During this period he also traveled throughout France,  Holland, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Palestine. Chagall felt at home in Palestine amongst the Yiddish and Russian population. He later told a friend that Palestine gave him "the most vivid impression he had ever received", and as a result, he immersed himself in "the history of the Jews”.

When Hitler gained power in Germany, anti-Semitism laws were being introduced and Dachau had been established. The Nazis had begun their campaign against anything abstract, expressionist or surreal, intellectual, Jewish, foreign, socialist-inspired, or difficult to understand.  The new German authorities made a mockery of Chagall's art, and he and his work was pronounced degenerate.  It had a profound effect upon the artist.

After Germany invaded and occupied France, Chagall had been so involved with his art, that it was not until 1940 that he began to understand the Vichy government began approving anti-Semitic laws and that Jews were being systematically removed from public and academic positions. Many Russian and Jewish artists sought escape to the United States,  including Chaim SoutineMax ErnstMax Beckmann,  author Victor Serge and prize-winning author Vladimir Nabokov. It was  Alfred Barr of the New York Museum of Modern Art and Chagall’s daughter Ida, who helped Chagall and his wife come to the United States in 1941. Chagall was one of over 2,000 who were rescued by Varian Fry, the American journalist, and Hiram Bingham IV, the American Vice-Consul in Marseilles, who ran a rescue operation to smuggle artists and intellectuals out of Europe to the US by providing them with forged visas. 

Once in the US, Chagall befriended other European artists like Piet Mondrian and André Breton, but he found himself out of favor with American tastes regarding contemporary art. Americans“had little in common with a folkloristic storyteller of Russo-Jewish extraction with a propensity for mysticism." Those attitudes changed in 1941 when  Henri Matisse’s son Pierre became his representative and manager. He caught the attention of critics and collectors throughout Europe, and for the rest of his life enjoyed enormous, prolific success. 

Chagall's colors attracted and captured the viewer's attention. During his earlier period his work was limited by an emphasis on form but his colors were a living part of the picture and suggested movement and rhythm.  Lovers, musicians and acrobats were often a part of his subject matter.  They represented, "a sort of grace, delicacy, precariousness, and a fragility of love and life.

Chagall once said of his work 'I don't understand them at all. They are not literature. They are only pictorial arrangements of images that obsess me...”I painted pictures upside down, decapitated people and dissected them, scattering the pieces in the air, all in the name of another perspective, another kind of picture composition and another formalism”.

In 1960, Chagall began creating stained glass windows,  which I will admit feel the most truly spontaneous creations of his long career. They are pure joy and he enjoyed seeing natural light pass through their many-colored panes. The ephemeral experience of seeing people stop in jaw-gaping awe at the windows at the Art Institute of Chicago was always an amazing sight. They transcended the everyman’s artistic experience and brought beauty to their existence.
On a personal note, Chagall married his first love Bella. A year later, they had a daughter, Ida. In 1944, Bella died and Chagall didn’t make any art for many months. He later was associated with Virginia Haggard, great-niece of the author Henry Rider Haggard. They had a son, David McNeil.  In the 1950s, he was introduced to Valentina (Vava) Brodsky, a woman from a similar Russian Jewish background and they remained companions for many years. The gravestone of Marc Chagall and his wife can be found in Saint Paul de Vence, France.

The famed 20thc. art critic Robert Hughes said Chagall w as "the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century".  Pablo Picasso even once rdeclared that "Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is". Although he was personally caught up in the horrors of European history between 1914 and 1945: world wars, revolution, ethnic persecution, the murder and exile of millions, he chose to put his experiences into images to which everyone could immediately respond. He was also referred to as a "poet, dreamer, and exotic apparition."

From his vivid imagination and memories Chagall was able to use scenes of peasant life, and intimate views of a Jewish village. There was much to support a child-like view of innocence and love of the world which Chagall never really lost, but the realities of his long life saw tragedy and loss like everyone else’s. What is amazing about his work is that it retains an outward ‘joie de vivre’ into the 21st century, and that it will most likely endure throughout the ages. 

1939, Carnegie Prize, Pittsburgh, PA
1960, Brandeis University, honorary degree in Laws, at its 9th Commencement
1967, "Message Biblique", the Louvre,  Paris, France
1969, Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall. 
1969 to 1970, "Hommage a Marc Chagall",  the Grand Palais,  Paris, France
1973, The Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow, Russia
1977, the city of JerusalemYakir Yerushalayim (Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem) award.
1982,  Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden
1985, the Royal Academy in London , England
2003, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris,  a major retrospective in conjunction with the Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall, Nice, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Public collections:
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Biblical Message Museum,  Nice, France
Fraumünster abbey,Zurich, Switzerland
Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem , Jerusalem, Israel
Lincoln Center, New York, NY
Marc Chagall Museum,Vitebsk, Belarus. It was the family home on Pokrovskaya Street.
The Marc Chagall Yufuin Kinrin-ko Museum , Yufuin, Kyushu, Japan
Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, Texas
'Palais Garnier' (the Opera de Paris), France
The only church in the world with a complete set of Chagall window-glass is in Tudeley,  Kent, England
Union Church of Pocantico Hills. Commissioned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
United Nations Headquarters, NY

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Lithuanian Story-teller: Viktoras Petravicius

Viktoras A. Petravicius (1906-1989) was born in the country of Lithuania. After winning a scholarship from the Lithuanian government in 1938, he attended the L'Ecole Nationals des Arts et Metier and L'Ecole Nationals Superieurdes Beaux Arts, in Paris. Petravicius taught at the Kaunas Applied Arts Institute, 1940-1941; and the Vilnius Fine Arts Academy, 1941-1944. He also was a member of  the "Forms" artist collective. 

Petravicius married in 1940, and four years later, because of World War II, he and his family fled to Austria and eventually settled in Germany. In 1949, he and his family emigrated once more, this time to the United States. They settled in the suburbs of Chicago where Petravičius worked in a steel manufacturing plant. It was nearly ten years before he could start making his art. "He had a hard time earning a living during this period, and he didn't do much creative work, " said his best friend, and noted photographer Algimantas Kezys.

Petravičius had four children, two girls and two boys. Tragedy struck the family when one daughter died at the age of four, and his youngest son was killed in a train accident. After his son's death, his prints became very dark. "The accident affected him greatly and he expressed his feelings in his art. He was man who could never lie. He was very true to himself, no matter what others said about him".

Petravicius’ first creative style was lyrical and romantic, revolving around Lithuanian folktales and mythological stories. His style changed when he lived in Germany and he became more affected by the atrocities of war. Later, nude figures became an important component of Petravičius' work. "He said you have to be nude as an artist; let your talent show completely. Don't imitate. Otherwise you're just a monkey," said his friend Dalia Kučėnas, a musician and writer. 

By 1961, Petravičius had his first one-person show in Chicago. "He exhibited newly created work in black-and-white woodcuts, …" said Kezys. "The woodcuts were full of symbols and images, such as the king, a girl, human figures, animals, deer, and bulls, which he used over and over throughout the years. "The idea was to take the black-and-white image from the woodcuts and then hand-color part of the image.” It was during this period that Petravicius was able to support his family from his artwork, and from teaching art. 

In 1979, Petravičius and his wife moved to Union Pier, Michigan. He had several exhibitions, including shows at the Museum of Art in Vilnius in 1983, and the Midwest Museum of American Art in Elkhart, Indiana, in 1984. When Petravicius’ wife Aldona died in 1985, he fell into a deep, depressive state. "He went back to just black-and-white prints again, but they were not as stark or clearly defined as his earlier work. He stopped cutting woodblocks and went to making monotype transferred images. "The last prints he produced in his life were a series in which the black is almost transparent and the figures were barely visible, as if they were in a mist. It was very symbolic of his feelings, as if he knew the end was near and his health had deteriorated, "said Kezys.

Personally, Petravicius was an eccentric and had an intense and dynamic personality. "It seemed you could only be his friend if you weren't afraid of him," said Kučėnas. He made a name for himself by refusing to share wall space with other artists. He was prolific, exhibiting his work in France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Brussels, New York, Canada, Lithuania, Florida, Nevada and the United States. 

His style brings with it a naivete closely aligned with Marc Chagall, but the stark quality of his work was clear and refreshing. His forays into abstraction, burgeon on the Modernist traditions of the early 20th century and the subtleties of his monotype transfers show a personal, spiritual growth of an artist that broke away from the buoyant lyricism of his early years to a sophisticated, quiet dimension that foretold the works of Richard Diebenkorn and the Field painters.

Awards & Exhibitions:
Grand Prix & the Diplom membre du jury of the International Art Exhibition, Paris, France
10th Annual Exhibit, Sarasota Art Association at Ringling Museum of Art, FL
55th Annual Exhibition, the Art Institute of Chicago, IL
"69" Art Gallery, Chicago, IL
Gallery International, Cleveland, OH
Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL
International Institute, Milwaukee, WI
Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart, IN
Museum of Art, Vilnius, Lithuania
Riverside Museum, New York, NY
Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, NY
University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
Wilistead Gallery, Windsor, Canada

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Master of his Universe: The Prints of Guntars Sietins

It would be hard for anyone not already indoctrinated to the mysteries of printmaking to imagine why or how one makes work like that of Latvia's Guntars Sietins. Yet, his work doesn’t require we know the inside scoop how he conjures up these luscious  prints with their velvety black shadows and precise, meticulous detail. We simply shouldn’t care for they are spectacular prints and no matter how he makes them, we are picking our jaws up off the floor in awe. They are incredible images that have found a bridge between the rational and the insanely obsessed. 

The netherworld of Sietins prints is one where we identify ourselves with the shiny metal ball. The universe it courses through is filled with a sort of timelessness, and an endless spectrum of letters, words and digits. We become the ball as it rolls around this pinball machine world, like a pendulum between reason and the precipice of our demise.

The cavernous places Sietins lets us roll around in are filled with letters and numbers and niches for all minutia of time. Some places look  like ouija boards, and some torture us with color wheels labeled only in black and white. There is no need for him to bring these images to color or the optical illusions as created with Victor Vasarely's eye-popping prints. These pieces function in the purest of range of black and white and they require nothing else. The ball represents us as a sort of universal core – a sun perhaps – where it flows through space and time. We can easily traverse the spaces Sietins creates, but the logic of our placement on his compositions is measured and we feel uncomfortable moving outside the place he’s made for us.

 Sietins' subjects tend to defy gravity and he creates this deeply meditative atmosphere where we want to stay and take our time examining every inch of that seductive blackness. His mastery of the process is exceptional and he capably uses imagery seen in the east which revolves around math and order. We are intrigued and enjoy our 'roll around' in the depth of his surreal landscapes which seem to swing between the earth and the heavens.
Born in 1962, in Latvia, Sietins comes from the city of Kuldiga. He later moved to Riga where he studied art at the Applied Arts College and the Academy of Arts. Currently he is professor of Graphic Art at the prestigious Latvian Academy of Art, in Riga. Sietins has widely exhibited his prints throughout Europe, Japan and the United States and his works are included numerous museum collections throughout Europe.

Recent awards:
International Print Biennale in Maastricht, the Netherlands

Felicien Rops International Print Triennial
International Print Triennial, Poland

15th Space International Print Biennial, Seoul, Korea
1st Printmaking Triennial, Thesaloniki, Greece
Aomori Print Triennial, Aomori, Japan

right: picture of Guntars Sietins

Art Academy of Latvia

13 Kalpaka boulevard, Riga, LV-1867, Latvia
Phone: +371 67332202; + 371 67336200
Fax: +371 6722863

Phone: + 371 26440595

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Fun and Funk Printmaker: Estonia's Tarrvi Laamann

Oh my, there's somethin'  happenin' in Tarrvi Laamann's work. On first glance, Laamann's bold colors appear not too carefully printed, maybe leaving the purists of this medium a little cold, but really folks, there is something in the way his 'doesn't care' about the limitations that sometimes come with tradition that is engaging. There's an absolute respect for the medium he's chosen to work with, but also a break with tradition which is a welcome breath of fresh air. He may or may not be aware of the visual lineage with German Expressionist prints, but he doesn't mind overlapping blocks to create a more complete final impression. This print above with the classic stare of a sensual woman inter-spliced between erotic fronds is arresting. The viewer's eye glances over the colors, but clearly returns to the woman's gaze. Simply done, the vertical lines which break up the space open the space surrounding her to dimensions of time. 
Laamann's latest images juxtapose a sort of rendered portrait of a familiar figure with loud, linear over-printings that jar the senses. The vibrations created with these off-set printed backgrounds throw off any sensibility for order. The portraits are the only anchor in this work of fun and funk. They are brash and evocatively remind us of music  - in Laamann's case it is reggae, but I also hear and see the evocations of a distant Arthur Dove painting interspersed. 

The raw and sensual rhythms pulsating throughout Laamann's work make me interested to see what's happening beyond these shimmering 'glimpses' he's provided us. There's more to the story, as one would find Asian art. We know there's more around the corner of the composition he's given us, but he's chosen to show us only a snippet of the main event - as Chinese and Japanese paintings and woodblock prints allude to. The image below shows us a catwalker with the music blaring in the background. Surely there is more for us to see, but he's given us the prime target for our viewing pleasure. What more could one want?
The following two images are  nicely composed and we get a nice dose of divinely endowed religious homage (with God's blessings via sun rays)and tropical gaming chance via sunny palm trees and dominoes. 
Lastly, Laamann's interest in music and DJ-ing are a part of his personal interests, and so the wonderfully simplified image of records and vinyl ensues and we are transplanted to the era of Jamaican Bob Marley & the Wailers' tunes and sunny shores. 
These images seem out of character for an artist living and working in Estonia. We western artists think mostly of Estonia as being one of the former eastern block republics that were once a part of the dismantled USSR, but in truth Estonia has always been culturally and artistically a little on the rebellious side. It may have something to do with the location of Estonia having access to several western countries. They have been a much-maligned and fought over territory between the east and west for centuries, but in 1991 Estonia re-gained its independence and joined the EU in 2004. Artists like Laamann have enjoyed a fair amount of celebrity within the region and Scandinavian territories, but their visibility to the outside artistic community is still a far cry from where it should be. I am encouraged by the bravado of Laamann's work, and look forward to seeing its migration to the global artistic arena. 

1994-1998 Estonian Art Academy (graphics)
1998-2000 Estonian Art Academy (MFA)
2001-2001 ”Professional Skills for Instructors” IATA (Geneva)

2000- 2006 Tartu Art College (department of General Subjects teacher)
2007- 2008 Estonian Art Academy (Teacher of composition)
2010-xxxx Estonian Art Academy (Teacher of woodcut printing)
2011-xxxx Tartu Art College (Teacher of woodcut printing)

Exhibitions (selected):
1995 ”Etching” Olavi Gallery, Tallinn, Estonia
1996 ”Kümme Härga” Raatuse Gallery, Tallinn, Estonia
1997 Art Academy Gallery, Helsinki, Finland
1997 ”Tarrvi Laamann-s Revelation” Estonian National Library, Estonia
1998 ”Young Estonian Paintings” Nõmme Cinema, Tallinn, Estonia
1998 Porvoo Art Hall, Finland
1998 Sammas Gallery, Tallinn, Estonia
1998 ”International Midigraphics”, Pärnu
1999 Estonian Art Museum ”Pühamu”, Tallinn, Estonia
1999 Bolivar Art Gallery, Jamaika
2000 ”Dream of The Provincial Girl”, Sopot, Poland
2004 ”Laamann-s Juju” Tallinn City Gallery & Pärnu Art Gallery, Estonia
2009 ”Laamann-s Caribbean Juju”, Viimsi Sea Museum, Tallinn, Estonia
2009 ”Inernational Portraits”, IBL Art Gallery, Mauritius
2010 The 5th International Rokycanske Biennial in Graphic Arts, Czech Rep
2011 ”Laamann-s Abstrakt Juju”, Genialists club gallery, Tartu, Estonia
2011 ”Estonian Contemporary Printmaking, Eduard Wiiralt 2011” Tallinn, Estonia
2011 ”Ketju-Chain” Joellan gallery, Turku, Finland
2011 “Xylographie” Viljandi, Estonia
2011 “Juju” Helsinki, Finland
2011 ”Loovala Küllus” Estonia
2012 ”Ksülograafia & Tarrvism” Narva Muuseumi Kunstigalerii, Estonia
2012 ”Graphica Creativa 2012” Jyväskylä, Finland
2012 ”Muster” Von Krahli Galerii, Tallinn, Estonia

1997 ”Revelation Book” from Bible
2010 ”Lauldud sõna”, Veljo Tormis

Public Collections:
Estonian National Library, Estonia
Washington D.C. Congress Library, USA
Jamaican National Library, Jamaica
Estonian Art Academy Library, Estonia
Matti Miilius Collection

Estonian Art Academy
Estonian National Culture Fund
Rokycanske Biennial 

Estonian Artist Association
Estograph - The Association of Estonian Printmakers

address:  ”Raadio 2”, Gonsiori 21, 15020 Tallinn, Eesti
phone: +37 256 210 511

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Clifford Webb: Britain's Master Engraver

As seen in the image to the lower right, Webb's view of the world may deal with the everyday scenery, but he includes for us the occasional vision or miraculous encounter. In this case, the male, whose backside is facing us, is wandering amongst the marshes and reeds. His nakedness is well-hidden in the brush, however with the glorious rise of dawn illuminating all the sun rays touch, he finds himself face to face with the unexpected - an angel. The tall, thin figure with delicate transparent wings beholds the startled man and they look upon one another. The viewer is just as much in awe of seeing the event as the male. He is transfixed to the spot, wondering if his eyes are playing tricks upon him and the angel will evaporate with the ad the mist rises.It is a timeless image and catches our breath as we may or may not have had similar experiences.

British artist Clifford Webb1895 – 1972, apprenticed with a lithographer in his early days. He served in World War I in the Near East. After his service, he studied art at the Westminster School of Art under teachers Walter Bayes and Bernard Meninsky. From 1923-26 he taught part-time at theCentral School of Art, in Birmingham. He received his RBA degree in 1936, and his RE degree  in 1948. 
Webb was recognized as a great wood engraver. This process is often difficult to master, but beautiful and his expertise of it is well-represented here. He falls in line with other British artists that work in the medium, like Claire Leighton. Webb's work had clear structure, engaging compositions and a virtuosity of mark-making. Unfortunately, not much has been written about Webb’s prints, but Studio magazine published an article about his work in August 1949. An exhibition of his prints took place in 1982 at Leicester Polytechnic. Other than that scant bit of information, we have to go to books to see his wood-engraved illustrations. They vary according to subject, of course, but it is his delightful sense of composition and marks that glues us to them. 

The image above of the three graces are again a wonder to behold. They are unaware of being watched from afar, and we would like it to remain so, except that there is a dragon-like creature milling about in the shadows. We want to warn the women, but we don't want to tip off the dragon that we know it is there as well. We are therefore in a quandry as to how to best proceed with due diligence. 
Webb prolifically wrote and illustrated ten children’s books and about 25 books by other authors. He also illustrated eight books for the celebrated Golden Cockerel Press between 1937 and 1954. Specializing in animal drawings, he also produced the illustrations for the first two books of the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome,
This image above is a wonderful composition that speaks about man's balance with Nature, hearing the song of the birds and the rustling of leaves in the tress. Here, the man looks out from his work and is nestled in the bosom of Nature's bounty. Below our subject is almost overwhelmed by the breadth of landscape. He can sow those fields for as long as the eye can see, and his journey will take him far away, indeed. The linear quality of this image reminds us of the curvaceous landscapes of Thomas Hart Benton. The anticipated delights this journeyman will find   are sure to keep our rapt attention.
Other examples of Clifford Webb’s work can also be found at Alphabet of Illustrators by Chris Mullen.