About the Collection

 Edward Twohig has synthesised an astonishing knowledge and love of predecessors from Rembrandt to Whistler, Samuel Palmer to Seymour Haden and Frank Short to John Ruskin with a deeply felt emotional connection to landscape and the pastoral tradition. This is no slavish adherence to artistic heritage however: Edward’s art is alive with the excitement of experimentation and new possibilities. He is steeped in the long story of print but has the ambition, skill and courage to add his own chapter. His Super Moon 2020 suite is just the latest expression of this. It is a wonderful achievement.’

Vincent Eames, Director, Eames Fine Art, London, February 2021

A few words by way of explanation as to why and how my Super Moon series of original monoprints came to fruition last year and across this year, I thought, would not go amiss. I hope you may find the below helpful and informative. 

The Moon is an astronomical body that orbits the Earth and is the only natural satellite of our planet. It is the second brightest object in the sky after the Sun. The Moon is thought to have formed about 4.51 billion years ago, not long after the Earth. The most widely accepted explanation is that the Moon formed from the debris left over after a giant impact between Earth and a Mars-sized object called Theia.

I find the Moon captivating: spiritually, emotionally, visually and intellectually. The tangible intangibility of the almost inaudible whispering of moonlight, especially on such nights when the intensity of the light from the Moon is more sharply defined and illuminated, indeed appears animated. I am entranced by moonlight especially how slowly it moves across surfaces. It’s the whisper of the poetic soul which I am to capture within each composition in my Super Moon 2020 Suite of drypoint monoprints.

My Super Moon series began - allegro molto maestoso - in the Master’s Garden at Marlborough College during the first lockdown in April and May 2020. Each composition began with me observing and drawing direct from observation, in front, mirroring the initial source. This was quite a challenge in twilight and night moonlight as I delight in precision.  It helped having got to know certain areas that resonate such as Little Bedwyn, Savernake Forest and The Master’s Garden; Marlborough College, so much so, in fact, I feel they have become part of my DNA. These areas became my subject matter during the nights of the Super Moon which appeared in March, April, May and September, October and November, with April’s and October’s being the brightest. The Super Moon I portrayed, diffusing its reflected light onto scenes across my primary visual stimulus surrounding Marlborough and Little Bedwyn, are not only evocative of place, space and the hushed silence in moonlight. Further, they remind us of the fleeting conditions that allow for the breath-taking elegance and beauty of our natural surroundings.

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 colonized and conquered. Moonlight reveals the world at night, familiar shapes taking on a new, almost stage-set character. The Moon and moonlight are unending topics for writing, poetry, music and visual investigation and inspiration, and exploration.

‘The lonely light that Samuel Palmer engraved,
An image of mysterious wisdom won by toil....
 

The Phases of the Moon by W.B. Yeats, 1919


The poets William Butler Yeats and Walter de la Mare were inspired by the Moon. I love the reference to the painter and etcher, Samuel Palmer, who created work in and by moonlight, in Yeats’ poem specifically to his ‘The Lonely Tower’ etching from 1879.  Each have been a gravitational pull on me since my teenage years which has not diminished.

‘Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
With silver claws, and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.’

Silver by Walter de la Mare, 1913

Walter de la Mare’s 'Silver' is notable for its rich visual imagery. The Moon is personified and characterised as female slowly peering into every nook and cranny almost like a slow-moving searchlight. Nothing escapes her beam: the fruit on the trees, the casement lights of the buildings, the dog in the kennel and the doves in the dovecote. Also, this poem is subtly located in time and place; the 'harvest mouse' suggests the season and the implied location is rural, there are fruit trees, a dovecote, and a stream with fish. The ambience of the location is quiet and hushed.

What specific elements of the printmaking drypoint technique do you appreciate and / or love the most? And what’s the most difficult?

Drypoint is similar to engraving on a surface though I have learnt - through practice - to make this technique appear lyrical and vivacious in breath and vigour of handling. I have a deep-seated appreciation for the beauty of the incised line. Dr Jennifer Ramkalawon, Curator & Keeper of Western Modern & Contemporary Graphic Art at the British Museum, is of the opinion that I am redefining drypoint when selecting a dozen of my prints for the British Museum’s permanent collection, three weeks before the lockdown. Depending on the type of mark making and heaviness of the lines scored, one can achieve a satisfying keyboard of expression though line. This technique requires no etching. I love most and never have tired of the primacy of line, as well as its infinite variety and beauty, particularly drypoint burr, sometimes appearing calligraphic in look. Parallel to an athlete, practice is paramount and necessary. I draw every day. ‘Nulla Dies Sine Linea’ (No Day Without A Line) is my motto. And I am of the belief that mastery of drawing leads to ever increasing artistic expression and freedom. Each of my Super Moon prints were created this way.

What is especially difficult?

Answer: Three things:

  • Reminding oneself that what will be printed will be in reverse.
  • What is engraved and appears white on the surface will eventually be printed and in black.
  • One can only print up to six impressions before the line on the matrix or surface that is printed from gives way and loses its distinctive sharpness of definition – so the prints have to be printed perfect.

What is REALLY difficult and REALLY rewarding when it goes to plan?

The above, together with employing double or triple plates – no easy task! - to marry my linear drypoint with painterly monoprints in order to create atmosphere and printing all one after another.

Who are your primary art historical inspirations? I know that you’re an adherent to Ruskin’s maxim about the beauty of nature in art, but who else do you look to?

I experience visual expression from an array of epochs and styles daily: within pupil’s individual expression, the wealth of teaching by teachers and in the artists who inspire. Over time, though, I am reminded of what the legendary art historian and critic, ‘BB’ (Bernard Berenson) said to the 22 year old Kenneth Clark in 1925: ‘In essence, is what really matters and this will form: you just maybe lucky enough to rattle eight pennies in your artistic tin.’

Working outdoors and in the alchemy of the print studio I am conscious of the unbroken tradition of printmaking, particularly intaglio printmaking all the way to contemporary Norman Ackroyd’s, Jason Hicklin’s, Ross Loveday’s and Sophie Layton’s brilliant works. In the Twohig world of inspirations, first and foremost, sits Rembrandt, king-emperor of etching with drypoint. I am closest to what I chart as his middle period (1642-1650) in which I marvel at the fluent use of space, light and line. I find his Beethoven-esque presence and pathos is a perpetual source of visual nourishment. Close behind Rembrandt, to his left and right flank are the French 19th century etcher’s Camille Corot’s delicious pastoral etudes and Charles Meryon’s compelling views of Paris. I am happy to possess – or is it they that possess me – impressions by each of these Great Masters. My book Print REbels: Haden - Palmer - Whistler and the Origins of the RE (Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers) published in 2018, is a roll-call of my Etching Revival printmaker-heros. The Trinity, or apex, of which are Francis Seymour Haden for his incisive use of line, Samuel Palmer for the sheer depth of tonality through line. And, Whistler for his admirable economy of line and tone fortified by poetic suggestion. Within Whistler’s drypoints, he expresses the maximum by means of the minimum to achieve the essence of his subject matter. These six ‘pennies’ happily and lovingly rattle in my artistic tin! My seventh and eight pennies would be the work of Frank Short and Malcolm Osborne, second and third Presidents of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. Uniform excellence characterises all their creative output. The writing and drawings of John Ruskin - worth two pennies for me - influenced Haden, Palmer, Whistler, Short and Osborne and a host of other printmakers in my collection. This knowledge distilled, in turn, helps fuel and propel my own technical relish and creativity.

And talk about full-circle: I am delighted and gratified that my Super Moon Suite is on display in this online exhibition and in the Master’s Lodge at College next to the source and muse, the Master’s Garden.

More information can be found here:
https://www.marlboroughcollege.org/2021/02/twohigs-new-collection-receives-international-recognition/ 

Edward Twohig, October 2021