The Spaces in Between
Dan Rickwood, London Views
Frans Masereel, Dan Rickwood, and Leon Sidwell possess an indefinable similarity in the works they create. As artists of varying status and who collectively span the twentieth century, they all seem to possess a tender understanding of a medium that luxuriates in the use of crude imagery to express sophisticated themes.
Carving images into wood or linoleum and transferring the image onto a canvas is known as xylography and is the oldest known method of relief printmaking. The artists of this genre create beauty and meaning using the spaces in between, carving images of strength and vigor, movement and contrast, all by what they leave behind.
Frans Masereel, The City
Flemish born Frans Masereel is considered one of the greatest wood cut artists of the 20th century and the father of the graphic novel. Creating over 20 wordless novels over his career, his most well known contributions were all completed in the 1920s. During that time Masereel made several books that consisted solely of his wood cut prints, such as The City, The Sun, The Idea, Story without Words, and A Passionate Journey.
Many believe Masereel’s work is sociocritical; much of it appeared in left-wing magazines and journals. But his most famous works were the wordless novels. These books of images were simple tales of the human condition exploring love, inspiration, and the struggles and beauty of daily life through images rich in drama, conflict, movement and chaos.
Living through the First World War, Masereel was troubled by the social upheaval of the time and was well known for his pacifism, often drawn to depicting the horrors of war and violence. He didn’t consider his work to be political, but he felt it was sincere. He wrote:
It is a direct enough matter, consequently, which is not at all political. On the contrary, it is humanist.
Dan Rickwood, London Views
Dan Rickwood, AKA Stanley Donwood, is a UK artist, well known for his collaborations with the band Radiohead. Rickwood and Yorke (of Radiohead) went to Exeter together, and consequently have enjoyed a long-term appreciation and contribution to each other’s careers. Rickwood’s London Views was a project he started long before it came to fruition.
During the floods at Bostcastle in Cornwall, Rickwood was reading from the Nuremburg Chronicles. Known as the Liber Chronicum (Book of Chronicles) and published in 1439, this work tells the history of the world from creation to the present (1439) also noting the major natural catastrophes and histories of the Western World.
Rickwood sought to emulate the artists of the late 15th Century for his London Views project. Like early Masters, he would rely on his imagination and local descriptions as opposed to reality and fact. Instead of visiting the locations depicted in London Views he would rely on his powers of visualization and when that failed, Google.
Affected by “the terrifying sight of buildings torn apart, trees ripped from the earth & the endless thundering roar of the flood,” Rickwood began sketching apocalyptic images of fire and floods. These sketches then became the panorama that stretches from the outer reaches of the Thames estuary, upstream as far as Battersea, destroying the Flood Barrier, Canary Wharf, the Tower of London, and the Houses of Parliament.
London Views is a visual exorcism of destruction and chaos, cities being swallowed by fire, floods and plagues of Biblical proportions.
Image comparison by Henning M Lederer
Rickwood’s inspiration, evident in comparing a scene from London Views with a page from the Nuremburg Chronicles
Leon Sidwell is a UK art student and an emerging artist. And while there is no specific or large body of work to speculate upon, there is an insight into how linocut resonates with emerging artists of today and why it still has the power to move us. Sidwell is not driven by politics or philosophical conundrums, rather he is at the point in his creative career where motivation comes from a desire to earn an income from the thing you love to do the most.
With considerable talent and a style he describes as humourous and bold, traditional yet edgy, Sidwell enjoys creating images that capture a scene from a book or poem. He considers himself an illustrator rather than a fine artist mainly because of his preference for direction—the desire to create a solution rather than present a question.
In a reaction to the proliferation of the charmless, mass-produced images of the digital era, Sidwell relishes the medium of linocut. He loves the natural, soft and textured appearance of print and the nostalgia inherent in the scratchy, linearity of the genre. With a desire to see more “illustrations being used in magazines and brochures,” Sidwell feels “everything is bleak and commercially orientated.”
But he thinks this is starting to change and believes we are on the cusp of something. The artist cites catchpenny prints and the rock poster movement as influences on his style. Worried that the physicality of art is getting lost among digital dross, he seeks to return to a state compositional integrity, and sees himself as a keeper of the flame.
Lara Cory recently completed her first novel and she’s starting a food blog. She’s always been interested in music, writing, art, film and books. She studied Communications and Music and lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two small boys.