Friday, 5 November 2010

Ian Cheyne: six more woodcuts



Gerrie Caspers has been on the look-out for Ian Cheyne woodcuts for us all to enjoy so I am combining the last short post on Cheyne with his latest finds. The first print here is the glorious 'Beeches at Glen Lyon' from 1937. It finds Cheyne in art deco mood, celebrating Scotland's longest glen. (It's in Perth and Kinross). A bold, masterly, wonderfully disciplined piece, it would convert almost anyone from Englebert Lap.


Although I have never seen this next print before, I know it is called 'The wave' (rather than Tsunami as the auction house unfortunately described it). It's exactly the kind of dramatic scene that colour woodcut does so well. Virtuoso is the other term that comes to mind. 'Helmsdale' from 1933 below finds him back in more conventional, Hokusai mode. The fishing village is on the eastern coast of Sutherland and I've included Hokusai's 'The moon above Yodo River and Osaka Castle' by way of comparison. Very interesting the way Cheyne takes aspects of the Japanese print - the great bend of the river, the rusty-roofed houses, the fringing greenery to help define his own work.

Remarkable, too, the way he adapts another artist to depict the Scottish landscape he obviously loves so much. His own aerial viewpoint shifts the perspective to enhance the drama of the scene. The range of greens here are particularly wonderful.


I believe the print below is called 'St Monans'. The size was the best Gerrie could do but the subtlety is distinctively Cheyne. The bold cutting of the mountainside avoids the rather featureless effect you get in some later prints by John Platt. Also notice the way he picks up on the apricot colour in Hokusai and re-uses the little tent shape. This really is one artist responding to another.


A rather Mediterranean version of Scotland comes next. I mean I could swear those were olive trees. About as close as he gets to expressionism as well. And this one an almost entirely green woodcut. Always interesting, wonderfully planned, with the little road leading you into the picture. It's a typically Cheyne touch. He sweeps you up in his pattern-making but never loses sight of the real landscape he wants to describe. When will we see such flair again?



And lastly we have the narrow road to the far north transposed to Spain in 'Spanish hill road'. An effortless, elegant mis-match of blues and greens, detail and plain shapes. I think this is where the emotion rises in Ian Cheyne's work, he understand the fact that we see or notice some things less well than we do others. And his combining of cool and warm colours engages the viewer in a way no other British printmaker does. This is diversification at its print-best. I also want to add that no reproduction does a Cheyne colour woodcut justice. They are very memorable and utterly compelling. Thank you Gerbrand. You are now an honorary Scot.










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