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Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.

The Ice Woman Cometh

Emma Stibbon

[ Artist Interview )

Bristol-based artist and Royal Academician, Emma Stibbon explains in her own words, some of the techniques and ideas behind her works and the mysterious allure of glacial landscapes.

In 2007/08 I set out on an extensive trip to the Alps to look at what remains of Summer Alpine glaciers. The awesome spectacle of glacial features inspired me to want to look further at the impact of ice on the landscape. My interest was also provoked by reading new glacier monitoring research that showed by 2050 about 75 per cent of the glaciers in the Swiss Alps are likely to have disappeared – what we now see as white peaks now may soon be a much darker horizon.

A recurring interest in my work is in the forces of nature; how it can geologically change or glacially erode landscape.

I am interested in glaciers both as dynamic features and as places of psychological imagining. There is something mysterious about such a large gleaming mass on the move.

I made the ‘Firn’ edition of woodcuts as part of a larger body of work looking at glaciated landscapes. Firn is the glaciological term for old snow, which has survived one summer melt season, but is not yet glacial ice. The series of four images show various sites that I visited, including two hanging glaciers.

I often make my work in response to places that are in some kind of flux or change. A recurring interest in my work is in the forces of nature; how it can geologically change or glacially erode landscape.

Glacier woodcut print by Emma Stibbon

Emma Stibbon, Firn (2008), Woodcut on paper, The Golder – Thompson Gift (2009), (c) Emma Stibbon

I have been working in woodcut for some time now, usually on a much larger scale than the ‘Firn’ edition.

I am attracted to the distinct graphic immediacy of the process; cutting light out of a dark plane lends a tonal drama to the printed image. I enjoy the physicality of chiseling wood, which perhaps equates with the erosion of rock.   I also enjoy wood as a material; the grain direction can determine the type of mark you cut and gives a texture to the image.

A black and white woodcut by Emma Stibbons showing a glaciated mountain landscape with sheer cliffs and snow.

Emma Stibbon, Firn (2008), Woodcut on paper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (The Golder – Thompson Gift) (2009), (c) Emma Stibbon

I made the edition of woodcuts ‘Firn’ in response to an invitation from Xylon, an international relief printmaking group based in Switzerland. Xylon was founded in 1953, and previous editions include artists such as Michael Rothenstein.

The suite of prints ‘Firn’ are from the artists’ epreuve, mounted as a portfolio in an edition of 50. I cut the blocks and supplied printed proofs (BATs) for the edition, which was printed in Switzerland by letterpress.

You can see Stibbon’s prints ‘Firn’ (2008) and ‘Eldfell Heimaey, White House’
(2013) in our current exhibition Hockney to Himid: 60 Years of British Printmaking until April 2022.

This article was written by Stibbon in 2009 for our Garden Gallery exhibition of her Alpine landscape woodcuts and published in the Gallery Magazine.

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