The Printmaker’s Garden reinterprets the title of Lucian Freud’s etching The Painter’s Garden (2002-3) which depicts the private landscape of his backyard garden. For Freud, the garden was a welcome retreat when in need of rest and isolation. The title of the exhibition is also a play on the duality highlighted in the volume Lucian Freud: The Painter’s Etchings, juxtaposing the identities of an artist-painter and artist-printmaker.
Similarly, Victor Pasmore also sought inspiration in his most immediate surroundings, turning towards his own garden in Hammersmith, south London in Metamorphosis (Linear Motifs) No. 1 (1976). The etching is a reinterpretation of his 1949 painting, The Gardens of Hammersmith No. 2 which is considered a key work in his transition from figuration to abstraction.
A number of artists included in the exhibition turned to nature to find relief from the human form. One such artist is Allen Jones whose immediately recognizable pop art style draws heavily on the female form. As a printmaker, Jones favoured lithography and screen-printing. Both mediums were emblematic of the 1960s, enabling artists to re-work the photographic images that were dominating popular culture. In Garden (B) from Florida Suite 1968, the artist adopts the medium of lithography to explore the vibrant landscape of Florida through a silkscreen-like lens.
While Louise Bourgeois was an avid printmaker for most of her life, her graphic oeuvre is oftentimes unjustly overshadowed by the level of recognition given to her fabric sculptures and spider-like installations. The deeply introvertive nature of her works is best reflected by prints like Untitled, (Tree with Red Crutch) (1998), which combines the attention to the tactility of the natural world with a profound fragility and vulnerability.
Kiki Smith is known for her both clinical and mystical approach to realism, which encompasses a breadth of themes from the human body and its physiological processes, to the animal and plant kingdoms. Flowers became a poignant signifier in her oeuvre, marrying her long-standing interest in decay with a physical token of her mother’s passing. “Prints mimic what we are as humans: we are all the same and yet everyone is different. I think there's a spiritual power in repetition, a devotional quality, like saying rosaries." – the artist said in 1998. The same analogy can be applied to plants, which exhibit unique characteristics even within the same species.
Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes is well known for her vibrantly colourful, kaleidoscopic collages, prints, paintings and installations which draw on both indigenous Latin American and Modernist European traditions. Her collage-like prints of flowers emphasise the optical dynamism and the innate geometry within the natural kingdom. This approach resonates with that of Polly Apfelbaum: for both artists colour is a guiding principle.
The Printmaker’s Garden celebrates the intimacy of printmaking and the immediacy of one’s natural surroundings, bringing together a number of established artists: Avigdor Arkiha, Polly Apfelbaum, Louise Bourgeois, Lucian Freud, Allen Jones, Oskar Kokoschka, Beatriz Milhazes, Victor Pasmore and Kiki Smith.