Louise Cattrell

Into The Woods

Interview with Director Anna Wilkinson of Northern Print and artist Louise Cattrell.
'Printmaking Today', Winter edition 2007/8

One of the pleasures of working at Northern Print is seeing artists’ work develop. I’m fascinated to see how they approach print and how it relates to their main working practice. I remember you arrived as a painter intending to make etchings. Why did this process interest you?

One of my aims, when doing the Berwick Gymnasium Fellowship1, was to make etchings.
Drawing had become increasingly important to me and in etching it’s inherent. Etching has always given me control over drawing and clarity of line. The directness of drawing into wax on the plate, combined with its portability, gives it immediacy. Black and white provides for the ultimate manipulation of tone and contrast; carbon black Gutenberg ink on radiant white Somerset paper lends a particular directness to the Arboretum series.

I like the idea that Arboretum is a cumulative series worked on over time. Like an arboretum, it is perhaps better termed a ‘collection’. Do you draw in this way or is this particular to print?

Drawings and prints have a separate timescale to paint. They are made in intense concentrated periods, often with a long gap between. I find sitting to draw very different from standing and walking back and forth when painting. I don’t set out to make series although images often become pairs. Arboretum is an ongoing collection of etchings of trees started on a residency in Switzerland2 in 2003. They chart places I have lived and worked; currently, they number seven with the aim of twelve. The trees are drawn from direct observation and form a distilled memory of Switzerland, France, Wales and England.

Your work develops slowly, both in the making and for the viewer. It reveals itself over time and I feel you never reach the end of getting to know a piece of your work. Does this ‘slowness’ define it?

On an Artists’ Access to Art College scheme at Coventry3, I made a series of monochrome monotypes entitled: Nightsounds. The connection between painting and monotype is close. When painting, I build up the image slowly and with oil paint change is always possible.
What I found with Nightsounds was a natural timescale of between forty-five minutes and an hour to make the image; after that, it failed; there were a lot of failures.

I remember first seeing your black and white monotypes and was struck by the subtlety and quality of space you achieved on a small scale with minimal materials. That seems a contrast to the joyous colour monotypes now. You have a very personal sensibility towards colour. I hear you use oil paints for your monotypes. Is this so that you can continue working with colours that are familiar to you from painting?

Sylvan – the monotypes – is a new departure. In contrast to the monochrome nature and intimate scale of the etchings, the opportunity of using an Admiralty map press at Wolverhampton University, AA2A scheme4, has made me refocus the scale of my work and brought colour into it, the colour being artists’ oil paint, in particular, a mesmerising cobalt turquoise. From observing form from afar in the etchings, the monotypes reflect the experience of looking up into tree, wood and sky. Prior to working on Sylvan, I had begun with black and white. I couldn’t get the qualities I wanted any more in m o n o c h rome, so brought my paints to the workshop.
Everyone has their own colour palette; making monotypes disrupted and freed me from the knowledge I’ve gained from using these colours in paintings.

The digital prints are a completely new departure about which you were initially uneasy. For me, it’s about making sure people know what they are buying. What are your thoughts?

I think many artists are uneasy with the implications of digital printing. I had one of the Sylvan images printed digitally for a personal occasion. It was printed on a heavy Fine Art etch 100% acid free paper using Hewlett Packard’s six-cartridge Vivera inks system. The results were unnervingly accurate, the quality of both paper and colour replication convincing. Therefore the decision was made to reproduce the Sylvan monotypes on a different scale from the originals in a small edition. This is an experiment that will be interesting to monitor. I feel the digital print works very well within the show and it’s made me aware of the potential for manipulation of scale.

We’re looking forward to having you back at Northern Print to deliver monotype masterclasses. You clearly enjoy the dynamics of an open-access print studio. Is it a welcome change from your painting studio?

Working in a studio is solitary, so I enjoy working with other artists. I’ve had many opportunities to explore print. During my time at Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee5, printmaking was important. Since then, I’ve worked in print facilities in London, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Ireland, Switzerland and, in particular, at Northern Print and Leicester Print Workshop. They have always aided and supported me with rare generosity in developing an image.

Exhibitions are always a good marker for artists, a moment in time to reflect on recent work and to look forward to whatever this leads on to. What’s next for you?

Seeing the work together for the first time in the new, beautifully lit, Northern Print gallery has given me a different context and sequence in which to view the work.
What it has made me think of is new possibilities in paint, which no doubt will in turn feed back into print. I’m looking forward to working on the monotype masterclass and will be working in Switzerland this autumn.

Sylvan was shown at Northern Print from 13 July to 2 September. Cattrell’s digital print Sylvan 2 is included in Northern Print’s exhibition, A Year in Printmaking, on show now until 12 January 2008,which features new prints made since the studio relocated to Newcastle in November 2006. Other prints by Cattrell can be viewed on request at Northern Print.
She also has work in various public and private collections including Reuters; the Scottish Arts Council; and the Ministry of Defence, Whitehall, London.

Northern Print, Stepney Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2NP, UK
Tel:+44 (0)191 261 7000
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