The Beginning of a Friendship
Man Slain by a Tiger Screen print by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
I've long had a wish to make screen-prints, but exhibition schedules keep me pretty much tied down to the studio and my work as a painter, and I've never been able to quarry the time to give the matter the concentration it needed. However, when Dan Bugg and I met up earlier in 2015 to discuss the possibility of working together, there was an immediate rapport between us.
In preparation for what was planned to be a long-term project, Dan and I produced a test print titled Man Slain by a Tiger. Based on a rather jaunty Staffordshire pottery group titled The Death of Munrow, which in turn borrowed from the automaton in the V & A known as Tipu's Tiger, the gruesome event portrayed in both is based on fact, though rather fancifully reinvented.
Equipped with drafting-films and an assortment of specialised drawing and painting materials supplied by Dan, I made an image. For a week, I drew and painted on the various layers of film held on registration pins to correctly align them, regularly photographing and sending images to Dan for his comments and suggestions. When things became complicated, we spoke on the phone. By these means, the artwork was completed in Wales and dispatched to Yorkshire for transferring to screens ready for printing. The first proofs were returned to me, and a bit of tweaking went on.
Clive was first introduced to me through a series of slightly random meetings and connections. The serendipity of this reflects the way some of my best projects have begun, with often a chance encounter or mutual friendship leading to a new collaboration.
It started one afternoon with a conversation with the artist Ed Kluz. The two of us were working on Ed's new screenprint, and while we worked, we chatted. One of the joys when collaborating with an artist (with whom you share a particularly close working relationship) is the ongoing conversation. It's often a mix of ideas and problem solving alongside insights into working practices and broader influences. It was during one of these moments that Ed first mentioned Clive.
Ed is a great admirer of Clive's work, and the overlaps between the two artists were evident from the start, particularly regarding their influences and shared love for Pollock's Toy Theatres. Our discussion turned to the variety of projects Clive had worked on and how we both thought he would make beautiful prints given the opportunity.
Some years later, and quite unexpectedly, the chance to contact Clive arose through a meeting with Sarah Parvin in her guise as The Curious One. The Curious One has developed a substantial following through Pinterest, where her meticulously curated boards offer an excellent insight into British Art and beyond. Sarah thought that it would be interesting to put Clive and myself in touch with the idea of exploring printmaking together.
So, it was with a sense of excitement that I set off to Wales to meet Clive at the opening of his 'Dark Movements' exhibition. We met, talked as we walked through Clive's garden and within a few short hours had hatched a plan to work on our first screen print together. 'Man Slain by a Tiger' turned out to be the first print by Clive Hicks-Jenkins to be made in collaboration with the Penfold Press. The five colour screen print marked the beginning of an ongoing partnership that continued later that year with the first print in the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight series.
Since that point, we've never looked back. Clive became a close friend as well as collaborator, whilst the Gawain series took on a life of its own and led first to a series of exhibitions and then ultimately to the images appearing as illustrations in Simon Armitage's revised edition of his text.