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Emma Stibbon

September 14, 2011



Emma Stibbon’s work is large, monumental in scale and intention, dark and brooding by nature.  If she were a painter or a sculptor this would perhaps not be surprising but she is a printmaker and our default position is to see print as something that is relatively small. Whaling Station Deception Island 2006, is 117 x 238 centimetres. Printed on Japanese tissue which has been subtly almost invisibly pieced, since  Japanese paper large enough for Emma’s purposes is difficult to source, the quality of the mark making in woodcut and the desolation of the image are astounding.  It is printed from two plates in this case large sheets of plywood, they have the typical woodcut marks, the result of chiselling out the wood from the surface of a plywood sheet, and her signature dark, inky tones. The reduction in scale of images seen on screen or in print severely limits the appreciation of the tonal range. The physical work has an entirely different quality. One can see the colour, the subtle changes from dark to light, the delicacy and the marks have space to breathe.

Abandoned Whaling Station, Deception Island, Woodcut, 117 x 238cm, 2006

Duce Duce
Ink on paper
63.2 x 45cm

Stibbon is often regarded as a landscape artist known for rock faces and glaciers yet cityscapes feature strongly in her work.  She combines elements of time, memory and place. Working in monochrome, her media of choice are drawing with chalk on paper and blackboard, black ink and woodcut. Landscape is a central preoccupation but it is engagement with place and its layered histories that drives her. “Through the act of drawing I try to reflect on the temporality, the mutability of place.” Photography is an important tool, which she uses to gather information alongside archive material and drawings. However photography is not just a visual resource, she imports the framing and time based elements of both film and stills into her approach to dealing with her subject matter, particularly in the urban work. She finds that there is something melancholic about trying to “relive that moment” that the shutter clicked. The beauty and seduction of her subjects concern her as well. Her cultural heritage, British Romantic and Neo-Romantic schools, encompasses notions of the sublime and her woodcut Aqueduct part of the Roma series also has hints of German landscape artist Caspar David Friedrich.

Piazza San Pietro
Chalk on board
28.4 x 49cm

Nurtured by earlier studies of German fascist building, her fascination with the overlaying of different ideologies on urban topography crystallised during her Derek Hill Scholarship at the British School at Rome in 2010. She focused on the massive concrete structures built by Mussolini to enhance his world standing and promote his political ideals, setting these alongside the vastness of The Colosseum or The Temple of Vespasian and Titus, equally strong statements of the power of Imperial Rome. The element of reportage in her work is a deliberate choice and often, though not overtly, political. Her images highlight the fact that the descent into dereliction of Roman Architecture was paralleled by the fall of that empire and that this has unsettling implications for the present and the future.

Colesseo II

Ink on paper

Temple of Vespasian and Titus

There is an irony here.  Despite their monumentality Stibbon does not make these massive buildings the subject of grandiose sculpture or great history painting they appear in prints and drawings, media that were once regarded as the least powerful and having the least prestige of all artwork.  Yet these woodcuts and drawings exude power conveying the darkness and heavy threat of totalitarianism.

Palazzo della Civilta del Lavore
Chalk on board 54 x 36cm

©  Fiona Robinson

Emma Stibbon in her studio

Emma Stibbon
An exhibition of woodcuts and drawings

Rabley Drawing Centre
Rabley Barn

17 September  – 30 October 2011
Open Wed & Friday 10.30 – 5pm
Thursdays 10.30 – 3pm
Saturdays and other times by appointment

Artists Talk – Emma Stibbon
Saturday 8 October
Free (pre-booking essential, please contact the gallery)

followed by a screening of

Director: Federico Fellini

Tickets £10
Includes tea, cake and the movie!

Tickets in advance only from the KVAT box office Tel 07771 704 253

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