The Clever Girl Painter

Tintype, London.

Solo Exhibition

1st May - 1st June 2019

Joan Ellis was Laura White's grandmother, a young artist working in the 1920's and 30's alongside artist Gertrude Hermes. She was taught at the School of Leon Underwood in West London who also tutored artist such as Henry Moore. Laura recently acquired the entire collection of Joan's wood blocks - in total 25, the majority of which were produced over a period of 8 years (1924-32) before she married. After which she never returned to this intense level of production.

Laura has a collection of her grandmothers prints, and grew up with many of them hanging up in her parents' home, but it was only when she recently handled the original woodcuts that she found a more meaningful connection. The small woodcut blocks are made from box wood and are intricately hand crafted. Areas of precision where detailed patterns are cut into the hard material, barely understood without a magnifying glass, and other areas that are much looser and roughly carved, where no contact with ink and paper has occurred. (These would be the areas left white on the paper print). The shapes and spaces between Joan's Ellis's representations of objects, people and landscape in their negative execution stand out more prominently than the intentional narrative of which the final prints so clearly reveal.

Each time the blocks had been inked up a layer of compressed black remained stuck fast to the wooden surface. The different surfaces with their ink application creating a range of blackness. The light reflecting off these varying tonal planes creating a patchwork of monochrome shapes, which are then interrupted by shapes of exposed natural wood, where deep cuts have been made into the wood grain, partly or never coming into contact with the inked roller, standing out almost incoherent with the rest of the blocks fine surface.

The physical marks, textures, colours, tones, shapes, and forms of the wood blocks, seem to resist their inevitable printed subject matter (fishing trips, market places and café culture.) Within their fragmented appearance, we are drawn more to their materiality, the process and labour of their making, than the specific narratives intended for the final prints. It is these qualities that Laura is focused on.

Using a range of materials - ceramics, jesmonite, fabric, steel, wood, expanding foam and dried dough..... Laura has built up layers, staked uprights of multiple facades, but with depth and material mass. These sculptures sit somewhere between object and material sampling, with every potential to realign into new combinations. These unfixed fragments have their own intuitive logic that bring a different perspective to this collection of intimate family heirlooms.

'The Clever Girl Painter' Press Release