November 18, 2011

Julius Griffith's Lino-cuts

        Julius Griffith (1912-1997) was a Canadian artist, who also spent a chunk of his life in England.  He has a very distinctive style in his linoleum block prints where all his lines are wiggly, which he did by rocking the blade as he cut.  I have no idea of the reasons behind this unusual method, and I think in some of his pieces it's more effective than others.  But sometimes it's really quite amazing how well it works in situations where I would never think to try that sort of line.
        Here's an example where you can see just how homogenous Griffith's cuts are.  There are just a few thin, non-wiggly lines, as in the edges of some of the tree's branches and the supports of the front porch roof, so you know he can do straight lines when he wants to.  And yet for many other places where I'd expect a straight line, like the bottom edges of the roofs or the right side of the tree trunk, he's chosen to use dashed gouges.  I like the way it looks on the side of the middle house and the very edge of the left house, but I don't like that I can't quite tell what's going on with the broom(?) and something(?) on the porch of the middle house.  I feel like my eyes aren't quite in focus!
        This one I think is a lot of fun.  I love the way the wiggly lines work on the stripes of the boy's shirt and the pages of music.  I think it even works well on the piano teacher's arm that supports her on the bench - I love how the gaps in the wiggles mark her elbow so well.  I've used the technique of rocking my cutter to get wiggly lines in some of my blocks when I specifically wanted a zig-zaggy texture, but I've certainly never used it as a method of shading, or simply filling in a large area that's smooth in real life.  It's so much fun to see how differently different people conceive things.
        One final example.  I think the rough gouges work very well on this cathedral, lending it a real feel of monumental stone.  I especially like the black, shadowed walls and the places where edges are defined by a wider space between white wiggles.  I'd like the piece even better without the small, indistinct people at the bottom, but that's probably just me.
        Griffith is an artist whose work I had not encountered before I saw an example in George A. Walker's Woodcut Artist's Handbook.  I'm so pleased to have discovered these unique, interesting examples of block printing.  (I notice that the earliest example here was done when Griffith was already 70 years old.  I don't have any examples of his earlier work, but I'd be curious to see some!)

[Pictures: Three Houses, lino-cut by Julius Griffith, 1993;
Piano Lesson, lino-cut by Griffith, 1993;
St. James [Cathedral, Toronto], lino-cut by Griffith, 1982.
(Images from D&E Lake Ltd.)]


Anonymous said...

ou have a great collection of relief printers that you've written about. I found your blog googling Antonio Frasconi. I've been making a children's book for a while now--writing, printing, carving the wood blocks, setting the type, printing the type and blocks, stitching, binding the edition of 100. Please check it out! I'm sort of thrilled to release it in my first show ever. I see that you worked at the Cleveland Museum of Art. So maybe you're familiar with William Busta Gallery, which will show my book. Anyway, here's my blog, and It's nice running into you in cyberspace.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Wow, congratulations on finishing a tremendous project! What fun to make the entire book by hand - and what a lot of work. I wish I could go to your launch party, but I'm not living in Cleveland any more. I hope it's a huge success, though.
Thanks for stopping by and saying hello, and keep up the good work on your blog!