A Guiding Mentor and Great Artist

Celebrating John Hoyland

Tuesday 30th November 2021

I was asked to write a few words for the catalogue to celebrate Relentless Rhythm: Printmaking by John Hoyland RA, RE at Eames Fine Art in November this year. I would like to share with the reader what I wrote regarding learning from a great teacher:

If there was one word to sum up John, his creativity and visions, I’d say it is ENERGY!

My association with John Hoyland began when I was a postgraduate student at Chelsea College of Art, in November 1990, and I was asked by the course leader of MA Printmaking to assist with completing some of John’s editions by printing up four plates he had originally created in Italy. I was handed his steel etching plates and was immediately entranced by the many seemingly organic layers of gorged and pitted surfaces on the plate.

After I had proof-printed each plate, I met with John to discuss the nuances of creating multiples for an edition. I had already detected my tutors’ reverence and esteem for John, and it was clear to see why: he was very serious but also approachable and generous with his explanations about the mechanics of printmaking.

I relished this exchange as John marvelled in each of the processes involved in making the print. I remember we talked at length about all aspects of preparation including the viscosity of the coloured inks used, especially saturation and combinations, wiping the ‘skin’ left on the surface of the metal, the starched gauzes employed in the wiping, the level of dampness of the paper, the pressure of the rollers on the press and even the thickness of the blankets. All this so that the visceral power of the image is liberated and celebrated to its best possible outcome.

Two months after completing our first edition, John arranged for the Print Studio at Manresa Road to be opened for us at the weekend so that we could work together on what he described as a ‘very tricky plate’. We were delighted that we got it right on the third go of printing it. I remember it was then that John quoted to me the words of an earlier visionary printmaker, Samuel Palmer, ‘The excitement of gambling without the gilt of its ruin’ to describe that moment when a plate has gone through the press and the impression has been transferred onto paper. On another occasion John offered this maxim: Don’t let modern life swamp you, make the time to create every day. It’s easier said.’

Little did I know then that this exchange and these experiences would be intrinsic to my own printmaking career both as a catalyst and a pillar. John’s life’s work is a sustained, regenerative creation where passion and precision, head and heart, go hand-in-hand. I believe Hoyland is on par with Victor Pasmore and David Hockney, as the trio of master printmakers who forged and extended intaglio chapters across the latter half of 20th century British visual creativity.

An informed panel discussion about John Hoyland’s printmaking can be found here.

Edward Twohig RE
Head of Art

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