During my visit to a Mill at Rix, in the Burgundy region of France it didn’t take long for me to find myself immersed in a unique part of that country, and a place that would later have such a great impact on my work. I was there on a holiday visit with friends that turned out to be a memorable week of relaxation, long lunches outdoors and sampling plenty of tasty local rose wine! While going for daily walks throughout the region and rowing in the nearby river I began to see around me what the Impressionists and post Impressionists sought when they left Paris for the countryside. Outside the city and its chaos laid a paradise, a place to contemplate and to re-connect with nature. I am not an Impressionist, but what always fascinated me about that movement was the dedicated ambition to capture nature in art, and the ability to establish that sensibility within society again. I found in this region a rawness that was complimented by a beautiful silence that allowed one to feel at one with one’s surroundings. Such experiences are rarely had and to such extent to stay with me for months later.
The serenity of the Rix region and the unspoilt landscape inspired me to play with the concept of landscape art, or to be more precice nature art. My take on landscape and nature art was to be as truthful to the idea of nature in my art, and so I began to compose pictures with natural elements in them that celebrated the majesty of nature. The first study and print of Rix, shows the view of the Mill from the far side of the lake. Bursting from the lake is a geyser, like the famous ‘Old Faithful’ in Yellow Stone National park. Of course there is no such explosion from the lake in Rix. The image can be interpreted in various ways and as such I have intentionally kept the landscape abstract, the explosion at the centre of the piece blends in with the background foliage and its reflection in the water. My placing of the explosion in this scene is a continuing study of the traditional concept of what constitutes a landscape painting if not to depict acts of nature. For me acts of nature are beautiful and monumental occurrences that remind us of our mortality and our significance on earth. The explosion here is caught frozen in space and takes on a sculptural quality, almost like a monument to nature itself.
Soon after my return to Ireland, I was back in the print studio experimenting with a new etching process, etching with aluminium in a non-toxic formula. The first print I made using this process was the image above, titled ‘Rix’. I wanted to create as much tonal texture as possible using only line, so I went about composing this image of the Mill at Rix taken from a photograph from across the lake. The reflections in the water provided me with plenty of tonal studies and a chance to create a densely abstract piece.
There is an Asian influence in these works particularly the woodblock prints from Japan. It is these woodblocks that would later make me think of using the printing plate as the final piece of work and not just a means to make a print.
In the summer of 2011 had begun a six month residency in e Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin. It was during this time that I began to think about making a large woodblock print of the “Rix” etching. I knew I wanted to work in a different medium to what I was used to and try out a different format so to make a large carved wooden piece made perfect sense.
The first stage was to format the Rix image to project onto the plywood plates (as seen in the image above). After marking out the print onto the wood I could take one of the 20 plates at a time and work on them individually. Carving each section with and across the grain of plywood to reveal a lighter wood underneath. is was the simple way to achieve a two toned image with the wood. Traditionally a wood block plate would have the image to be printed in relief, I carved my image into the wood as I had no intention to print o this plate.
When I finally had finished the piece I decided to title it ‘Plate 1, Rix’ after the Mill at Rix, and the etching of the same name. Plate 1, because it is the first time I had considered the plate of a print to be the artwork itself. At around the same time
that I was completing this work I was involved in a group show at Monster Truck Gallery in Dublin. The title of the exhibition was called ‘Production’. During one exhibition meeting a curatorial decision was made to include ‘Plate 1, Rix’ in the show as it embodied the theme of the show. ‘Plate 1, Rix’ is in many ways a product of production, the work in a state of process.
In January 2013, ‘Plate 1, Rix’ was bought by the Office of Public Works to become part of the Irish State Art Collection. It was on show in Dublin Castle during Ireland’s presidency of the European Union. The benefit of having work in this collection is its exposure, I am thrilled to know that Rix is now on a very public stage, and that a place that has inspired me so much has an oportunity to be shared with so many people.
Charbonnel ink on Fabriano Rosaspina 285 gm
Limited edition of 50
500mm x 635mm
ink on paper
500mm x 650mm
The centre piece sculpture from The show Production, an exhibition in collaborative exhibition making.
lengths of wood