Making Marks by Hand

An exhibition by Gwilym Hughes
Editions, Cook Street
3rd March - 2nd April 20116

Reviewed by Gayna Rose Madder

This unusual exhibition has a title which is slightly misleading in some ways; the 'marks' made are very precise indeed; the 'by hand' refers to the fact that these are limited edition prints from wood- and lino- cuts.

These arise from his drawings of human characters, the main focus of his work. Despite the fine detail, they give an impression of abstraction - one of feeling and not of technique, yet drawn from direct observation.

The artist says that those he features are 'filtered through history, cliche and projection ' (as experienced in) 'the head of the viewer' (and) 'not necessarily attributes of the subject', and describes them as being 'like the cast of a film' as reflected in the lives of its audience. The images are curiously unimpassioned yet, because of their attention to nuances of facial expression, subtlety of movement and commitment in what each is doing, are involving for the viewer and ultimately satisfying. This is particularly true of the works featuring musicians, which reflect the artist's description of himself as a 'sometime musician'.

It is clear that the precision and graphic nature of the content of the exhibition arise from his work as a designer who has spent time using computers. But this exhibition demonstrates the other end of the spectrum, utilising ancient printmaking techniques such a woodcuts (his preferred method') and lino cuts (he describes these as 'hands-on, low-tech and time consuming'. For the former, he prefers to use wood from dismantled pieces of old furniture, or pieces of plywood from local builders yards; not the easiest materials to work with, but he prefers a challenge! Where possible, he uses old techniques such as copper engraving or Japanese woodblock , finishing his work manually so the whole process remains under his control (rather than using a press, for instance).

Two of the collections shown here, 'Lost Voices' and 'Flamenco Faces', feature works reflecting the artist's interest in music, and sense of preservation of that which was never recorded and may otherwise be lost.

The other, 'Chance meetings', illustrates illusory concepts; who could have connected, what may have happened?

Gwilym Hughes, who lives in Manchester, cites as his influences 'Gustave Dore for his ability to create an intense and dramatic world with just lines, dots and ink' and 'Rembrandt, who could create a world in a human face'. His favourite recent print artist is Leonard Baskin.

Hughes is an award-winning print-maker whose recent work has been exhibited at the Bankside Gallery London, RK Burt Gallery London, Manchester Contemporary Art Fair, Warrington Art Gallery and the Awagami International Print Exhibition in Japan. He is currently artist-in-residence at Hot Bed Press in Salford.

Other artists whose work features in this exhibition include Fred Jones and Sue Mclaren

Editions Ltd, 16 Cook Street, Liverpool L2 9RF Tel: 0151 236 4236.
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