Eden Barrena

“Drawing is a language like writing or talking, but instead of words, you use graphic elements. At the end you have an image built by codes, and this image describes a situation as any other ways of fiction do.” – Eden Barrena

Eden Barrena is a Spanish artist and recent graduate of MA Printmaking at the Royal College of Art. Drawing is central to her work and practice. In one of her pieces, 400 ways of looking at a magnolio fruit, she drew the same fruit 400 times, quickly and on tiny pieces of paper, before scanning them and creating a gif which she projected in the garden in the night.

Eden Barrena, from 400 ways of looking at a magnolio fruit. Drawing and stop motion animation, 2015. Image from http://edenbarrena.com/400waysoflookingat.html

She says about drawing: “My strategy is to draw the same thing many times in order to know it well. I keep the speed in order to preserve certain mystery too: the fascination the image provokes me never gets to disappear completely.” (Interview with 1Granary Magazine)

I find Barrena’s drawings full of life and energy – her bold shading and line-making gives out a sense of confidence in her approach. Seeing – seeing – seeing – seeing…

Her drawing style builds up layers upon layers of coloured pencil lines, and these layers work well in printmaking to give her backgrounds a dizzying sense of depth. They also communicate something about process, reminding us that the image is made out of drawings. This is a lithograph from the series Colonia, one of nine prints based on photographs of 20th century colonial Africa.

Eden Barrena, from Colonia. Stone lithography (3 layers), 42 x 59.4 cm. Image from http://edenbarrena.com/coloniaingles.html

What I really like about Barrena’s work is the way she has built an entire artistic practice around playfulness and the pursuit of visual pleasure. This is something that I think of as particular to artists who call themselves illustrators, but Barrena doesn’t categorise herself. “In my opinion, art is made from pleasure,” she says, “… and finding pleasure (not only in art, but in life in general) is something we shouldn’t feel guilty about.”

Link to interview with Eden Barrena at 1Granary magazine here.

Paul Catherall

Paul Catherall‘s work is very clean. His subjects are mainly buildings in London – Battersea Power Station, the Tate Modern, the London Eye. Catherall’s prints are linocuts but they don’t have the signature streaky backdrops usually associated with lino. By choosing to keep his block areas clean and solid, Catherall makes sure that nothing distracts us from the picture’s bold, pared-down shapes.

Paul Catherall, Battersea Slate II. Linocut. Image from http://www.re-printmakers.com/Members/256

In these prints, form emerges through layers (reductions), which sketch the outline of the building by showing where it is in shade. There are no fine outlines, no white outline. Instead the image is made up of balanced shapes.

Paul Catherall, Telecom Yellow. Linocut. Image from http://www.re-printmakers.com/Members/256

I think that these images work because they break a familiar sight down into the basic forms and building-blocks that make it up. As viewers, we’re searching for the centrepiece of the image, something figurative – and then recognise the familiar shape of Tate Modern, a tower, a particular series of angles. I think it is this very tiny moment that Catherall makes us wait before recognition kicks in that makes his prints visually satisfying.

I also like his striking colours: bright pastels, greys and black.

Paul Catherall is based in London, and is a member of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers (RE). His work has been commissioned by Transport for London, the Royal Shakespeare Company and British Airways among others.

Ursula Leach

Ursula Leach paints and makes prints responding to the countryside around her: the chalk landscape of Cranborne Chase in southern England. She is interested in the farmed landscape and the changes made to the landscape by farming. She writes, “Living in a mostly arable landscape, I necessarily engage with current farming techniques as well as the natural changes that occur.”

Ursula Leach, Leaf Tree. Carborundum print with hand colouring. Image from http://www.re-printmakers.com/Members/154

Two things stand out in Leach’s work for me: feelings of isolation, and pureness of colour. Though many of the prints lean towards abstraction, many of them feature the mid blues and darks of night skies in the fields. There is a glowing quality to her colours which captures the feeling of being able to see in the dark once your eyes adjust, and the way that shapes are made strange and unrecognisable.

Ursula Leach, Silhouette. Carborundum print. Image from http://www.re-printmakers.com/Members/154

In some of her prints (Isolated Barn) the time of day is uncertain; it could be an over-exposed midnight or a white cloudy day. This makes it seem like a dream landscape. The red barn is not just isolated by being the picture’s only subject, but we see a zoomed-in view of it, which isolates it from its surroundings. Manmade barn versus pure, empty sky – this theme seems to run through many of Leach’s prints.

Ursula Leach, Isolated Barn. Carborundum print. Image from http://www.re-printmakers.com/Members/154

Leach uses the carborundum printmaking technique. This is a type of collograph printmaking in which a gritty substance called carborundum is mixed with glue and painted onto an aluminium plate. The plate is inked up and printed on an etching press; the carborundum areas trap the ink in their grainy surface, creating painterly marks and varied tones.

It’s interesting that Leach sees her work as “a document as well as an expression”. I wonder whether she feels a sense of duty to record the happenings of the countryside around her, whether she sees herself as a visual storyteller.

Ursula Leach is a member of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers (RE).