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Meet the artist - Vicky Oldfield

Meet the artist, exhibitions, Printmakingcambridge contemporary artComment
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We have started 2018 with a wonderful exhibition of Vicky Oldfield's collagraphs at the front of the gallery.

Her prints are taken from plates which have been collaged with a variety of materials, card, fabric, paper, string, sand and anything else that may come to hand; it's recycling at it's most creative! The plates are then sealed and then inked up and printed in intaglio or relief on damp paper using an etching press. The embossed textural quality of the print is unique to this method.

Thanks to the process itself, she is able to make small editions of the image, the editions are variable due to the process and her desire to experiment, which means each print is unique.

We asked Vicky some questions to find out more about her unique prints.

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How did you get started with your art career?

I went to art college back in the eighties and studied design, I got my first job as a wallpaper designer for crown wallpapers and then worked for a design studio in Paris creating patterns for wallpapers, fabrics and ceramics.  After a return to the UK I freelanced as a designer working on  a variety of design projects from textiles, wallpaper and illustration to creating makes for  craft magazines.  During this time I began printmaking for pleasure, within a few years the printmaking became my main profession.

What inspires you?

I find inspiration everywhere, it's mainly from daily moments, I try to find time to slow down and really look. I start with a drawing and as soon as I am working I find the ideas flow, it's the starting that can sometimes be a problem, if I am stuck, I get in my studio look through my piles of ideas and sketches, try not to think too much and just start and then the ideas flow.

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How do you go about making a new piece?

After starting with drawing and getting lots of ideas and sketches together, the final composition is put together in the same way that I used to design wallpaper, it's all about the textures, pattern, colours and space.

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What are the qualities you enjoy about the medium you work in?

I love printmaking, it's a very versatile medium, so many opportunities for mark making! and when you have the plate made there are a lot of different ways you can print a picture from the same plate,which makes it fun and exciting.  This does mean however that although my work is printed in editions there are huge variations within the editions, in some ways this is lovely as people get a unique piece, in other ways its complicated as my work is not a print in the traditional sense as an identical reproduction.

Which other artists do you admire?

 I have huge admiration for Mary Fedden, Elizabeth Blackadder, Angie Lewin, John Piper, Barbra Rae, Stephen Chambers,  Just to name a few!
 

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Can you describe a typical working day?

 Getting outside is good for the soul, I start the day with an hour long walk in the countryside with my dog, I live just where London hits the green belt, so after a short walk along the railway track I am in the countryside, I think my walks are my main source of inspiration.  I tend to be working in my studio by 9.30, I will work all day if I am printing, with the process I use it's important to print as many as you can in one day as the prints get richer with each pull, but the actual plates start to change and can disintegrate, leaving me with only a portion of the intended edition printed.

If I am not printing, I am either preparing plates, planning artworks,  painting up the pictures , all this mixed with the admin, gallery deliveries and visits to my framer

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How do you see your work evolving in the future? 

Through my artwork, I want to celebrate nature in all it’s beauty, I am planning on my walks to look to see where nature has reclaimed human spaces if only in a small way and to make works related to this. 

Come and visit the gallery to see Vicky's prints on show at cambridge contemporary art, 6 Trinity Street, CB2 1SU from 2nd - 14th January 2018. The gallery is free to enter.

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Photos of the gallery by Zuza Grubecka

 

Meet the Artist - Richard Spare

exhibitions, Meet the artist, Printmakingcambridge contemporary artComment

Richard Spare's wonderful prints are now on show at Cambridge Contemporary Art in an exhibition with printmaker Robert Greenhalf that runs until 5th March. His pared down images, depicting scenes of wildlife, coastal scenes and still life, are inspired by his studio garden, and time spent travelling in America and Japan.

To learn more about the way Richard works we asked him a few questions.

When did you first know you wanted to be an artist? 
I don’t remember as a child making a sudden decision to be an artist, but from an early age I was drawn to making and designing.  It was a natural progression to go to art college and work with other artists. 

What inspires you? 
Nature must be an inspiration to everyone!  The garden at my studio is a constant source of inspiration, as is travel - on arrival in a new part of the world, I am usually weighed down with copper plates! 

What are the qualities you enjoy about the medium you work in? 
I always draw directly onto the plate from my chosen subject.  I love working straight onto the copper, the act of drawing on the resistant copper dictates the way I draw, and the way the image turns out.  I am not transposing from another medium, so each print is an original interpretation, individually printed by hand, and hand painted.  Each print is thus slightly different. I enjoy the rich velvet blacks of the drypoint line against the pure pigment of the watercolour and find the vibrancy of the pigment against the strength of the black a beautiful combination. 
 
How long does the process take and what is involved? 
Each single print takes considerable time to produce.  Aside from the time taken drawing the image (which takes many hours and some strength!) - the plate must be re-inked and hand-wiped for each print made.  The plates are printed on my antique etching presses - the technique having changed very little since Rembrandt’s day. 
The press is turned by hand and the damp paper is peeled off the plate to reveal an image which is thus unique - no mass production here!  The print is then dried for eight hours under weights and is hand-coloured, the application of watercolour painting on the printed drypoint line and gives another dimension of uniqueness. Use of precise colour is extremely important; my wife Kay and I spend a lot of time proofing the colours, until the right balance is achieved. 
 
Do your floral titles come from a knowledge of plants/botany/horticulture
Unfortunately I don’t have green fingers myself, or know many Latin names, but I adore flowers and get a real buzz when something wonderful blooms in the studio garden! 
 
How do you arrive at your pared-down images? 
By a process of elimination, over the years I’ve tried to express the essence of what I see. I attempt to evoke the fragility of life and my respect for its existence. Each animal, bird or flower has its own character, often engagingly quirky or even humorous, I enjoy bringing these charictoristics out in my work. 

How did your time in America and Japan influence you? 
Whilst in New York I spent a great amount of time in the museums.  It was during one such visit to MOMA that I was struck by Matisse’s sublime simplicity of line and shape.  On return to London I went on to produce Blue Bird, which was, I suppose, the start of my current work. 
Since then I have traveled extensively in Japan which I was fortunate enough to visit annually for eleven years for a series of solo shows. After a five year break, I am excited to be going back this November for 25 shows right across Japan. I adore the rich culture and artistic traditions, the beauty of the landscape, and the people, all of which has an influence on my work.  
 
Which other artists do you admire? 
Rembrandt, Goya, Van Gogh, Picasso, David Hockney, Hokusai, Utamaro, Hiroshige and many, many more. 
 
What are your favourite museums and galleries? 
 MOMA, NY,  Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam,  Royal Academy, London, Ukiyo-E Ota Memorial Museum of Art, Tokyo. 
 
Can you describe a typical working day
I am not a morning person! I usually work at home in the morning, going through the diary, signing prints or discussing ideas or licensing requests with Kay. I arrive at my studio, which is a few miles away, in the late morning and open up the shutters at the back so I can see the garden while I work. I may be printing, or steelfacing my plates (an electroplating process which strengthens the drawn plate, so the image is maintained throughout the punishing pressures on the copper as the edition is printed on the antique etching presses). If I am travelling then of course I am out drawing! 
 
How do you see your work evolving in the future? 
My work will always be informed by travel and nature and I seek inspiration in these. My interpretations have evolved gradually over the years and I’m sure will continue to do so. The printmaking process is constantly surprising and inspiring in itself, and I like to use found textures and marks in some of my works. 
 
What are your general interests? 
My work and leisure cannot really be separated, - but my family, travel, film, meeting up with old friends come top of the list. 

Meet Richard Spare in the gallery on 19th February at 2pm. Richard will be at cambridge contemporary art (6 Trinity Street, Cambridge) to chat to visitors about his work.