Dimensions: 210 x 210
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Imagine yourself outside, on a crisp spring or autumn night, the breeze rustling the drooping boughs of the trees above you, the country pond nearby glistening silver with the light of the moon. And the moon – it dominates the sky with its otherworldly luminescence, which touches each tip of every leaf, each textured dip and dive of the trees’ bark, and each shimmering blade of grass. This scene, which both comforts and unsettles the viewer, like something out of a Victorian fairy tale, is what Edward Twohig portrays in his Super Moon series. These ethereal tableaux of moon, sky, and foliage were Edward’s artistic focus for the better part of 2020, when supermoons materialised three times in the spring and three times in the autumn – with April’s and October’s moons being the most spectacular.
A supermoon (technical name perigee-syzygy) is a full moon that appears when the celestial body is at its closest point to the earth, still over 220,000 miles from our planet. To the human eye, a supermoon appears approximately 14% bigger in diameter and 30% brighter than a full moon further away from the earth. It is an extraordinary, somewhat supernatural condition of gravity and atmosphere and it is the perfect subject for Edward Twohig’s drypoint prints. Edward uses both oil- and water-based printing ink to achieve a variety of textured lines to best evoke the exquisitely intangible feeling of a spring or autumn night flooded with atmospheric light. During the occurrences of these supermoons, Edward found that the moon’s “luminosity was silhouetted against the trees and spindly branches … as if they were electrically charged”. It was this magnetic vibrancy, which Edward describes as having “tingled the spine and optic nerves” during his nightly vigils, that made the artist feel that he had to commit these scenes to paper.
In this Super Moon suite of prints, and across Edward’s oeuvre in general, an expressive abstracted style meets the techniques of the Old Masters. Edward is an artist attuned not only to what he is making in the present, but how it speaks to the past – as shown by his 2018 labour of love, the touring exhibition and the publication Print REbels: Haden – Palmer – Whistler and the Origins of the RE (Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers). He is always conscious of how his practice “stands on the shoulders of giants”. First and foremost, there is Rembrandt van Rijn, the most eminent titan of printmaking. Edward calls him the “king-emperor of etching with drypoint” who commanded a “Beethovenesque presence and pathos” in his work. There are similarities between the ways in which Rembrandt and Edward deploy the drypoint technique, and both artists make full use of the velvety burr so characteristic of the etched drypoint line. In Rembrandt’s etchings, this texture nimbly suggests in printed form the dramatic light for which his paintings were renowned. In Edward’s Super Moon pieces, the drypoint mark lends the moonscapes the “electrically charged” feeling that Edward describes them as having – as if the leaves are standing to attention, the energy of the moon’s light coursing through them.
The large-looming nineteenth-century critic and polymath John Ruskin is a historical figure who sits just below Rembrandt in Edward’s artistic pantheon. Ruskin’s drawings and writings – particularly those espousing the importance and beauty of truth to nature’s “distilled essence” – influenced Francis Seymour Haden, Samuel Palmer, Frank Short, and Malcolm Osborne, all artists who have then fuelled and inspired Edward’s fervour for printmaking tradition and technique. Not only does Edward admire their work, but he is an avid collector himself.
He does not simply possess prints by these masters, but he asserts that they “possess” him, providing what he calls “visual nourishment”. He began collecting prints when he was only 17, and his collection has grown to incorporate many more artists, including printmakers represented by Eames Fine Art. His accumulated artistic nourishment has become a feast, and Edward is never short of inspiration around him.
But throughout 2020, the moon – diffusing its reflected light onto scenes surrounding Marlborough and Little Bedwyn in Wiltshire – was Edward’s primary visual stimulus. His symphonic Super Moon suite of prints is evocative of place, space and hushed silence in moonlight. These works also awaken us to the timeless beauty and intricacy of drypoint printmaking and remind us of the fleeting conditions that allow for the breath-taking elegance and beauty of our natural surroundings. Edward’s Super Moon suite will hopefully prompt art lovers to look up at the sky more often, and with added appreciation. As Galileo wrote in The Starry Messenger (1610), “It is a beautiful and delightful sight to behold the body of the moon”. To end this introduction to Edward Twohig’s newest exhibition, it’s best to conclude with the artist’s own thoughts on the atmospheric, societal, theoretical, and theological importance of creating a suite of drypoint monoprints depicting the moon and its effects:
“It has been fifty-two years since we landed on the Moon. Beyond its physical power over our oceans’ tides, and its influence on life on Earth, the Moon carries a wealth of connotations. What do we project onto this celestial body? The Moon can be portrayed as a witness to earthly events, as a companion, as a world or as a territory to be colonised and conquered. Moonlight reveals the environment at night, familiar shapes taking on a new character. The Moon is captivating, and a comfort spiritually, emotionally, visually, and intellectually. The whispering of moonlight, especially when it is more sharply defined and illuminated, appears to be animated; surrounded by the tangible and intangible of shadows and half shadows. It reminds me of the lightness of a Japanese screen-painting added to something approaching the many-textured richness of Rembrandt’s etchings. In essence, it is this glimmering whisper of the poetic soul that I aim to capture within each composition in my Super Moon 2020 suite of drypoint monoprints”.
Christine Slobogin, January 2021