Over a period of three years the artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins worked with Daniel Bugg of the Penfold Press to produce a sequence of original screen prints inspired by Simon Armitage's acclaimed translation of the medieval verse drama Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
The artist Ed Klutz had given Daniel Bugg his own copy of 'Clive Hicks-Jenkins’, the 2011 artist’s monograph published by Lund Humphries, because he believed that the two might be a good match in terms of working together. Hicks-Jenkins was not a printmaker, but Dan recognised something in the artist’s vision that he believed would translate well to the medium of screen printing. It was via the art-writer and online curator Sarah Parvin, who knew both the printmaker and the artist, that a meeting was eventually arranged. In 2015 Daniel and Clive met at the artist’s home in west Wales. The initial plan had been to discuss the possibility of making a single print, Man Slain by a Tiger, and that was swiftly agreed. But during a riverside walk the two began discussing the possibility of something more ambitious beyond the first print, and by the time Dan headed back to Yorkshire, they'd agreed in principle to a series based on a literary work they both greatly admired, Simon Armitage’s 2007 translation from Middle English of the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Written in the 14th century by the mysterious Pearl Poet and then lost for hundreds of years, Gawain is a medieval classic that feels as fresh and dramatic today as it would have done to its original readers. Armitage’s acclaimed translation played with the medieval liking for alliteration, but brought a modern sensibility and use of language to the poem that had found huge popular appeal with readers.
Since acquiring a copy of Armitage’s translation at the time of its publication, Clive had been randomly exploring the Gawain/Green Knight theme in paintings and drawings. But now he worked with fierce focus, finding his way to relating the entire narrative in a series of fourteen selected episodes/moments. Each image would draw directly on the poem and be rooted stylistically in its medieval world, but beyond that the artist would allow his imagination free reign. However before work could begin in earnest on the ambitious series, and while all the necessary preparatory work for the fourteen images was underway, Dan taught Clive how to produce the multiple layers of artwork required to generate a screen print, so Man Slain by a Tiger might be said to be the artist’s ‘apprenticeship’ piece.
Working at a distance from each other, artist and printer used smartphone cameras to communicate ideas and progress, images flying back and forth daily between them with notes, observations and questions followed up by phone calls. This continued into the first stages of proofing the print, at which point Royal Mail took over. Proofs rolled into stout cardboard tubes sped from Yorkshire to Wales and back as artist and printer annotated and finessed the image to their satisfaction. By the time Man Slain by a Tiger had been signed off and editioned, the two had established methods of collaboration that well suited them. Everything was in place to begin the work of the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight series.
Clive Hicks-Jenkins was born in Newport, south Wales, in 1951. The early part of his career was as a choreographer and stage director. In the 1990s he turned away from theatre to concentrate on painting. He has been praised by critics in The Independent, Modern Painters and Art Review. Simon Callow has called him ‘one of the most individual and complete artists of our time' and Nicholas Usherwood in Galleries has described his work as ‘reflective, expressive painting of the highest order.’
He shows regularly with the Martin Tinney Gallery in Cardiff. His paintings, prints and private press books are in numerous public collections, including the National Museum of Wales, Pallant House Gallery, as well as private collections and libraries around the world. He is a Royal Cambrian Academician and an Honorary Fellow of Aberystwyth University School of Art. In 2017 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by Southampton Solent University.
In 2018 Faber & Faber published Simon Armitage’s revision of his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, illustrated throughout with the fourteen screenprints Hicks-Jenkins made in collaboration with Penfold Press. Simon Armitage's Hansel & Gretel: a nightmare in eight scenes, was published in the Spring of 2019 by Design for Today, with illustrations by Hicks-Jenkins.
The monograph Clive Hicks-Jenkins was published by Lund Humphries in 2011.
The Penfold Press
Daniel Bugg launched the Penfold Press in 2005 as a printmaking studio and publisher of Original Prints. With an emphasis placed on collaboration Dan has since worked regularly with a select group of artists to create beautifully editioned prints that are sought-after by collectors and art lovers alike.