Dimensions: 210 x 210
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Followers of Gail Brodholt’s career will know that the titles of her exhibitions and linocuts are often gleaned from pieces of writing: song lyrics, poems or books. A legendary London songwriter, Amy Winehouse, has provided the title of this exhibition - Back to Black. This wonderful new collection focuses on Gail’s monochrome linocuts, which are re-workings of some of her earlier, favourite colour prints. Viewing these bold, graphic works in the Eames Fine Art Print Room gives us a chance to appreciate London through Gail’s eye, and a chance to delight in a new monochromatic perspective that highlights the incredible detail and patterns of the architecture of our city. Gail herself states that: “We see the world in colour, and sometimes seeing an image in black and white makes us view the world differently – it makes us pause and look again.”
Gail’s linocut Nowhere Fast illustrates this well. This piece representing Liverpool Street station powerfully prioritises the rhythm, intricacy and pattern of the architecture. By paring familiar buildings like this down to a single colour, we can perceive what we might not have noticed otherwise: the way that the fan vaults splay out like fingers from supporting columns, and the symmetry of the skeletal glass roof. The people in the foreground become part of this pattern themselves, adding to the cadenced beauty of the station. While Gail’s colourful interpretations of Liverpool Street station bring attention to its buzzing energy, the monochrome work slows down the commotion of the commute, allowing the viewer to home in on the elements of the station – its graceful structure and the strength of its lines – that stay unchanged day after day as streams of people filter in and out of its doors. A similarly bustling station in New Day Dawning II appears in greyscale instead of colour or pure black and white. In the colour version of New Day Dawning, the light and shadow streaming through the space in yellows and reds suggest the bright, warm sunshine of a summer day. In the greyscale interpretation of this scene, the moment is recast as a winter morning. Once again, the simplified palette reveals moods and patterns distinct from the colour version of the same composition.
Part of Gail’s re-evaluation of and re-emphasis on monochrome work relates to the events of the last year and a half. Gail states: “I use colour to provide emotion and atmosphere and since the pandemic began, being away from my usual haunts has allowed me to focus much more on the structural qualities of the city.” The people in these works become less of a focus, and the buildings and their lines are permitted to take up more space as the emotive loci of the compositions. Gail’s work in black, white and grey has to it an element of meditation that fosters appreciation of the forms that contribute to the function, the beauty and the experiences of our city.
Christine Slobogin, August 2021