|From the Nothe, Ruth Ander, 2014|
Who is Ruth Ander?
I'm an artist, printmaker, mother, South Bristolian, Midlander, Romantic, obsessive planner and listmaker, weather watcher.
Although the process is on your website, may you explain a little bit about your technique?
I use a rubber roller to roll out very thin layers of oil paint onto perspex. I can then manipulate the paint however I'd like to- take ink off, add textures to it, draw into it. Then I take tissue or Japanese paper (either way very thin paper) place it over the top of the ink, and press onto the back with a tool called a baren- a round flat plate that creates even pressure. When the paper is peeled off, the ink has made a print onto it. I then repeat this process for each colour in the print, often, in fact usually, over-lapping, to create 'drifts' of colour.
I often then add details afterwards with cardboard cut out shapes, rubber or potato prints, drawing into the print, or making a 'rubbing' (like a brass rubbing). Basically anything which is low-tech and solves the problem.
1. Mixing colours.
2. Putting ink onto the perspex 'plate'.
3. Rolling the ink out evenly with a rubber roller.
4. Taking some ink off to make shapes, form and texture.
5. Placing the paper over the ink.
6. Smoothing the paper out.
7. Applying pressure with a baren.
8. Pulling the paper away to reveal another layer of colour.
When and why did you start focusing on monoprints?
Monoprint means to make an impression on paper from a 'plate' and that it is totally unique- a one-off. This is a pretty broad definition and there are many different ways to make a monoprint, including using screen print and relief techniques.
I evolved my technique of hand-printing thin layers of colour from ink rolled onto glass after I graduated purely because I didn't want to have to go to a print studio to make work and yet I knew it was printing I wanted to do. I had done some printing at University (UWE who have an excellent printing department) but the liberation of having nobody looking over my shoulder and telling me how I should be doing something proved both enjoyable and productive.
It was still many years till I hit my stride though and I do feel that that is what artists desperately need- lots of time to make bad images, fail and fail again but better and out of that comes a unique voice.
|Two Islands, Ruth Ander, 2014|
|Blue Storm, Ruth Ander, 2014|
Italian fresco, English landscape painting, Japanese woodblock print. What do you think about these labels? What role does the Romanticism play in your work? The more I look at it the more it reminds me Turner or Friedrich.
Romanticism and the sublime are big influences on my work. As is the light of Turner. I'm also a big fan of the 'small scale' English Romanticism of Eric Ravilious, John Piper et al. I have realised over time that creating a sense of scale, often by placing people, animals or motifs into the image, I can create a reaction in the viewer. A reaction that I hope is somewhat akin to the feeling when watching a storm approach, or the light catch a shower of rain as it moves across the sea. Essentially I'm trying to re-create an emotion by finding equivalents and techniques to translate it onto paper.
Italian fresco was a phrase I felt best described some of the texture I can achieve in my prints and the overlaying of thin layers, as well as some of the colours I use ( a fairly 'washed-out' palette), and Japanese woodblocks seemed the best way to describe the actual object that I make- i.e flattened, compressed images on fine paper. I am also a huge Japanophile and love the sense of scale and poetry that the masters of the mid-19thC get across in their prints.
What does the Japanese paper offer as advantage over conventional paper?
Lightness and texture. The paper picks up ink in a particular way, sometimes if heavily textured, the ink only adheres to the upper layers on the paper creating a completely different image to the one planned. I find that this creates a beautiful patina which sometimes looks aged. It also changes the colours that you mix as the light can only reflect from certain parts of the paper. It's perfect for printing by hand as very little pressure is needed to print with it.
|Dubrovnik Windows, Ruth Ander|
|Orford Ness 2, Ruth Ander|
When you exhibited at The Grant Bradley Gallery we saw a print dedicated to The Alhambra. When did you visit it? What feelings have you got about those gardens and that Nasrid wonder? What about Japan or Morocco?
I was determined to go to the Alhambra as I had heard so much about it and I love gardens. When I had the chance to go while staying in Spain a few summers ago, I jumped at it. Unfortunately, August in Granada is pretty hot, so I resorted to lots of photographs as it was just too hot to form any coherent thoughts about it at the time. So the prints made so far are made a while after the visit from photos and memories. But I loved the water in the gardens, the incredible colours of the tiles and the use of light in the buildings. It was wonderful to see the use of repeat patterns and islamic writing as decoration- something quite alien to the Northern European eye.
I visited Morocco briefly in 2004, but it made a big impression on me. After I got used to the busy-ness and incredible clamour of the place I started to take in the colours, shapes and light. Or rather, I started to understand that Moroccans (and North Africans in general I believe) have created oasis of calm and coolness nestled in amongst the madness of the city and that it was necessary to seek these places out in order to stay a little sane. The Ben Yussef Medersa was one of these places. It spawned a few wonderfully enjoyable prints to make, and allowed me to explore the strong African light spilling into interior spaces. I would love to return one day.
However, if you're talking culture shock, then Japan beats them all. An alien culture, where the European is almost completely illiterate- I love it. The Japanese take an inordinate amount of care over everything it seems, and this combined with their feeling for landscape, water and illumination made me fall in love with the place. In terms of art, the gardens we visited were a massive inspiration, especially the wonderful layers of colour and reflection in water that seem to be an essential part of a Japanese garden.
|Garden Pool, Tokio, Ruth Ander|
You offer workshops to adults. How is their approach?
It really depends on the individual- the thing with monoprint is that it's very unlikely that you'll end up with the image you originally had in mind. So if you're good at going with the flow and making the best of what you've got, seeing things as serendipitous and playing with paint and colour, then you'll probably enjoy it and get a lot out of it. If not, then it might not be for you. Interestingly, may traditional printmakers find monoprint difficult to get on with as it is a very difficult to control process.
“Creative Mums Meet-up”. Could you say something about this event? Artist and mum, How is possible to combine both things?
With difficulty! I set up the group (Bubbahub Creative Parents on facebook) because I wanted to talk to other parents struggling with carving out time to make art – especially after a day cleaning up, cuddling, dealing with tantrums etc. and I had a feeling that there might be some kindred spirits out there. So far, we've tried meeting up in Bubbahub baby cafe in Bedminster and gallery visits, and I'm running some parent-friendly low-tech printing workshops in the run-up to Christmas.
I love my time with my daughter but I'm pretty strict about my time away from the house and child care- I find it's the only way to make anything. It also keeps me sane, and I think a better mother for that. I always hoped that becoming a mother would influence my work, but as yet I've been keeping it fairly separate. One way it has changed me as an artist is that it's made me incredibly grateful for any spare hour I have to make art and therefore probably much more efficient and spontaneous, if the two things aren't mutually exclusive!
|Fleet Sunset, Ruth Ander|
We would like to know something about your next projects.
Well, September was a pretty crazy month, what with having work at the Grant Bradley Gallery, a new gallery taking me on, two art fairs, acceptance to the Royal West of England open exhibition, and an exhibition in Dorset, so I'm trying to take a breather at the moment. But I'll be doing low-tech print workshops towards Christmas and hopefully some monoprint workshops in the new year, as well as promoting and selling my hand-printed lampshades.
I'll be at 105 Oxford Street for the Totterdown Arts Trail- called 'Front Room' on the 14th, 15th and 16th November. It's always an eclectic but beautifully curated house on the trail (Jean Hathaway selects her favourite artists and shows her own work) The house is filled with red oak leaves and has a wonderful atmosphere. I usually create something new for it- I'm not sure what yet. Jean prefers unframed work so it often challenges me to come up with something I wouldn't normally do.
Then it's head down in the new year for my usual 2 or 3 months of intensive printing.
How do you see the art scene here in Bristol?
Pretty good for a 'small' city. It has a confidence that belies it's size. Although it has the traditional avenues of institutions like the Royal West of England Academy, there's also some great work coming out of the more contemporary studios at BV studios in Bedminster, Spike Island and Jamaica Studios as well as more outsider and street art. There's no real pretension and lots of crossover and I think that's a real boon for artists in the city.
|Ruth and her work at The Grant Bradley Gallery|