Work from the Ceramic Collection inspired by natural forms. The exhibition includes artists such as Alan & Ruth Barrett Danes, Richard Slee, Geoffey Swindell, Mary White, Mollie Winterburn and others.
Sea Change is a student-curated exhibition of prints, paintings, photographs and ceramics from the School of Art collection. The exhibition borrows for its title a phrase from Shakespeare’s Tempest to explore its metaphorical potential.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, sisters Gwendoline and Margaret Davies of Plas Dinam, Montgomeryshire, endowed Aberystwyth University with funds to establish an Arts and Crafts Museum.
‘To hell with nature!’ – A Reappraisal of Charles Tunnicliffe Prints
Painter-printmaker Charles Tunnicliffe (1901–1979) grew up on a farm near Macclesfield in Cheshire. A scholarship enabled him to study at the Royal College of Art in London. Soon after his studies, Tunnicliffe gained a reputation as an etcher of farming subjects. Today, he is widely regarded as Britain’s foremost twentieth-century wildlife artist.
Towards the end of a career spanning six decades, Tunnicliffe was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. In an interview published in the Society’s magazine, Tunnicliffe stated:
‘I have shocked quite a lot of people by saying ‘To hell with nature!’ Nature is made to be used, not to be dictator, as far as the dyed-in-the-wool artist is concerned.’
Tunnicliffe’s exclamation expresses the frustration of an artist whose pictures are often judged on the strength of their fidelity to nature. Instead, Tunnicliffe’s prints show us nature transformed by culture and outdone by art. They demonstrate their maker’s knowledge of art history, his love of design, and the need to tell his own story.
Printmaking earned Tunnicliffe his Royal Academy of Arts membership in 1954. By then, he rarely produced fine art prints. For decades, Tunnicliffe’s work in various media appeared in magazines, on calendars and biscuit tins.
The stock market crash of 1929 had made it necessary for Tunnicliffe to rethink his career. Turning from etching to wood engraving, he became a prolific illustrator. His first project was Tarka the Otter.
Anglesey was no retreat for Tunnicliffe. Working on commission, he created colourful paintings he described as ‘decorations for modern rooms.’ He also continued to turn out mass-reproduced designs that promoted anything from pesticides to the Midland Bank.
Since the mid-1930s, Tunnicliffe’s work has been appreciated mainly second-hand. Until last year, when Robert Meyrick and I put together a catalogue raisonné of his etchings and wood engravings, Tunnicliffe never had a printmaking exhibition at the Royal Academy.
For some of his early prints, no contemporary impressions are known to exist. The plates were proofed by School of Art printmaker Andrew Baldwin.
Tunnicliffe’s career does not fit into the narrative of Modernism. It is a product of modernity. In his work, at least, he never said ‘to hell’ with culture. Pragmatic yet passionate, he made images to make a living.
Harry Heuser, exhibition curator
Curatorial team: Phil Garratt, Neil Holland, Robert Meyrick, Karen Westendorf
Ceramist Billy Adams’ work is held in numerous private collections around the world. He is a Fellow of the Craft Potters Association. His work deals with exploring and experimenting with aspects of landscape: “The rock-like surfaces of my ceramic forms are alive with the vivid colours and nature and textured to appear weathered and eroded. My main inspiration is the countryside and the standing stones of my native Ireland and West Wales. I would like to think that my work forms a material link to /with our elusive mystical ancestry.” Billy Adams will give a talk and demonstration during the exhibition period. Please check the Arts Centre diary or www.ceramics-aberystwyth.com for notifications.
(Click on images to enlarge them.)
The School of Art Gallery is open Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm. Admission is free.
An exhibition of Jane Joseph’s suites of etchings for Primo Levi’s ‘If This is a Man’ and ‘The Truce’ shown alongside her own personal collection of works by artists including Paul Cezanne, Prunella Clough, Edgar Degas, Robert Medley and Anthony Stevens. She writes “My interest is in what artists make and in what they look at. I believe it is through sharing the latter that one is brought closest to the work that they make. Having the work around me of artists that I admire is an encouragement to my own endeavours.”