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Exhibition Review: 2020 Society of Wood Engravers (82nd, Bankside Gallery, London)

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Fri 21st Feb 2020
Category: Exhibition Reviews | Society of Wood Engravers | Wood Engraving Printmaking | All / Filter

This year is the Society of Wood Engravers Centenary, having been founded on 27th March 1920 by various artist-wood engravers, and as a subscriber to the Society, I enjoyed visiting their exhibition once again this year at the Bankside Gallery, London.

Society of Wood Engravers Centenary Exhibition, Bankside, London
Society of Wood Engravers Centenary Exhibition, Bankside, London

There was a wide range of excellent prints on view once again at Bankside this year, showing a wide variety of techniques and subjects. The labelling of the prints is excellent too, showing what the prints have been engraved on - Wood, Resingrave etc. A small detail maybe, but an important one. Framing and mounting of all items was good too - in particular the consistent framing of the prints in the 'Seasons' project, which was well presented on the walls in well laid out grids of same sized frames.

Family Visit

We made this visit as a family, and our 6 and 9 year old sat on the floor and sketched some of the prints. They enjoy doing this; I have recently bought them both some new sketch books and pens which they are enjoying using.

Children sketching at the exhibition
Our children sketching at the Exhibition


It is hard to pick out favourite prints from the exhibition because there were so many excellent prints, from a wide range of styles and subjects. For example there were the excellent prints from Howard Phipps of 'Eggardon Hill Fort' and 'Old Wardour Castle', both well thought out and executed in a more traditional manor. Then there is the destinctive style of Harry Brockway, whose 'Printing 'Severn Bore'' print appears on the poster outside Bankside. Then there are the more modern prints from Leonie Bradley, one of which was a one off large scaled work entitled 'Input', and also showing 'Loss 1' which has appeared in the Society's magazine recently.

There was another in Rebecca Coleman's series on the Tube, a well thought out & executed composition of a mirror on the tube, showing a train, and person on the stairs. And Andrew Davidson's 'Penguin Books' was particularly well excuted I felt - a composition of 2 penguins in the foreground, with many lined up behind.

I could list so many more, including some really interesting smaller sized prints.

My Personal Favourites

But for me, the ones that stand out are the more abstract ones by Garrick Palmer with his 'Circular Forms 3', 3 from Peter Lawernce and Jonathan Gibbs (although I'm think one of his prints is missing from the website). I chose these simply because I prefer this style.

Garrick Palmer has engraved some prints over many years, and 'Circular Forms 3' is an equal credit to him. The photographic web sized photos could never do justice to the amazing amount of detail and varrying textures within his print; looking at it 'in the flesh' was a joy. There is so much packed carefully in there, with so many varried shapes, tones and textures to created a masterful whole. Looks great from a distance, and close up.

I note in Albert Garret's 'A History of Wood Engraving' (written 1978, mine 1986 edition) that on page 304 Garrick Palmer has 'Circular Forms' of 1969, is this exhibited print 'Circular Forms 3' a continuation of this series? Emma Mason's website (see link below) says 'Circular Forms 3' is a 2019 print - as other prints on that site are marked if they are reprints of older blocks, is this a 50 year series of prints? But Emma Mason's site names this 1969 print as being called 'Broken Links'. But either way it is a long history of great printmaking.

I could say the the same for Peter Lawernce's 3 prints too - seeing them close up is just a different experience. I could have looked at 'Two of a Kind' for ages, there is so much going on in there, and once again the photos could never do it justice. I liked 'Duo Yellow' too - with just a little yellow thrown in bringing to life an already interesting well executed design and engraved print.

Jonathan Gibbs prints were amazing too - well executed designs - his style is for perhaps less texture, but that by no means lessens the prints, this is just his style. I'm sure there was at least one more print in the exhibition than is on the site, which was my preferred favourite printed in black.

Tools & Unframed Prints

An interesting presentation of tools & materials was visible behind a glass case, along with some of the private press books, some private press books were on display & for sale at £95 each.

Severals browsers were around the room, allowing purchase of unframed prints at various prices.

Getting There

The Bankside gallery is easily accessible by public transport, if you are near to, or can get to London. As we live at the end of the Met line in Chesham, it is a fairly simple trip for us via the Met line to Farringdon Station, then the well served ThamesLink service to Blackfriars Bridge, then a short walk along the Thames Embankment to Bankside.

Some useful links:
The Society of Wood Engravers 82nd Exhibition
Emma Mason's list of Garrick Palmer Prints

Tags: wood engraving,wood engravers,printmaking,print making,printmaker,print maker,bankside gallery,london,uk,the society of wood engravers

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