In my research so far, I’m finding a mixture of artists using linework in lino and those creating pictures from block tones. Ann Lewis’ work rarely uses a graphic, white outline; instead her images are made up of areas and shapes, and depth is built up through the multiple reductions.
Ann Lewis’ prints are inspired by the rural North Wales landscape. I think the medium is well-suited to the rocks and cliff faces, and that the prints of rocks, beaches and mountains are her best. Although the waterfalls are skillful, I don’t like them as much. They don’t capture my eyes like the mountain prints. I think this is because the whole draw and focus of a waterfall is its movement, and the print has frozen it. So I’m not sure where’s the centre I’m drawn to in the image.
I wonder if this is a kind of ‘freeze’ particular to linocut because it makes up an image out of flat planes. In the waterfall prints, I think this flatness works against her. But in the mountain and rock prints, the subjects are rocks, which are all stillness. That is their thing, being still. So the flat, still planes of the reduction method work well with the concept, because they enhance the quality of the subject being represented.
I love the simplicity of this print of cups (Cwpanau bach (small cups)). The pure background. Evening sort of colours. Shadows. Almost seeing the cups as creatures.
Ann Lewis has a very informative website with quite a lot about her inspiration, working methods and the linocut process: www.annlewis.co.uk.
I really like the fact that she writes about her creative process, why she made each picture, why she chose a particular colour scheme, what the place means to her. I think it adds loads to the prints, giving them context, and stories, as well as standing alone as great prints.
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.”
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.
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.
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).