Clare Woods' giant lithographs find fitting temporary home at Kent's Mascalls Gallery

By Richard Moss | 11 April 2014

British painter Clare Woods has produced a series of large-scale, one-off lithographs made with the help of a road roller and a keen sense of history at Mascalls Gallery

a lithographic print of an alabaster figure
Clare Woods, Shirley, 2013© Clare Woods
Anyone familiar with the work of Clare Woods will know her as an artist with a strong sense of history and tradition.

Her recent landscapes, exhibited at the Hepworth in Wakefield in 2011 and Southampton Art Gallery in 2012, seem to have emerged from the dark, glossy undergrowth of her earlier works to become imbued with a tradition that harks back to British modernism and the neo-Romantics Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Henry Moore.

But Woods is not an artist in thrall to the past, and despite an intense interest in history and a background as a sculptor, her journey into the beauty and dark magic of landscape seems to be constantly evolving.

For this series of unique prints, originally produced for Harewood House in Yorkshire in 2013, she chose the medium of lithography and, with the help of a diesel-powered road roller, managed to produce something bigger than any others previously made.

This journey towards unorthodox printmaking began with an exploration of the House's estate, where she was drawn to the tombs of Sybil and Elizabeth de Aldeburgh in the 15th century church.

The resulting quartet of prints which although focusing on weathered alabaster faces, could be described as figurative landscapes. Like Sutherland, Woods creates her work in the studio - objectively removed from the site of her initial inspiration.

Fascinated by what she calls “the horror of the human head” and continuing her interest in exploring the human and animal qualities found in landscapes and rock formations, she disarmingly renamed her four studies Suzanne, Sylvia, Shirley and Sheila – after songs by Leonard Cohen, Pulp, The Smiths and Billy Bragg.

But the spirit of Moore, Hepworth, Nash and Sutherland looms large in these commanding prints. Visitors may find many parallels with artists of the 1940s and 1950s in the preparatory drawings, but with their traces of ecclesiastical and funerary art and sense of rustic ruin they are perhaps most indebted to John Piper.

It is unlikely the lithography boom of the 1930s, of which Piper and Sutherland were key exponents, would have countenanced prints on such a scale, but at the Mascalls Gallery, whose impressive programme of exhibitions has included Cedric Morris and Christopher Wood, Roland Collins and a highly regarded exhibition of works by Piper, they have found a fitting temporary home.

  • Monument: Large Lithographs from Harewood House continues at Mascalls Gallery until May 31. Open 10am-5pm (11am-4pm Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter@MascallsGallery‎.

Click on the picture to launch a slide show of images from the exhibition.

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