Hilary Paynter’s Wood Engravings: major retrospective at RBSA

The work of leading wood engraver Hilary Paynter will be on show soon at the RBSA in a major retrospective.

The exhibition, from April 4 – 21, will include iconic prints from her past catalogue through to her latest groundbreaking work.

Significant prints include the series for the Newcastle Metro and the Arts Council project The Age of Enlightenment. A special feature of the exhibition will be enormous one-off, wood engraving collages constructed from hundreds of fragments of prints.

Drawing is fundamental to wood engraving; every single mark matters yet you cannot cover mistakes with shading. Drawing is evident in all of Paynter’s works, but particularly in her evocative landscapes.


Hirta, St. Kilda ©  Hilary Paynter

She assembles the different perspectives of her sketches of a place to combine the most interesting views in one print. Like Escher’s impossible optical illusions, Paynter’s landscapes are not always physically possible, yet appear natural and familiar.

An interest in rocks and the underlying structure of the landscape is integral to Paynter’s practice. Her main subject at art college was sculpture, principally stone carving, which became too hazardous when she had children, but continues to influence the way in which she works.

Unusually for wood engraving, designs are worked out directly on the block; gradually shaped and evolved. Paynter thrills in the risk in not transferring a finished image to the block and the result is lively, dynamic engravings. A monograph, Full Circle (2010), explores the wide-ranging subjects that have fascinated Paynter and include her biting, political satire, Politics Always Leaks Out.


Age of Enlightenment © Hilary Paynter 

The fact that Paynter now has enough work to publish a further edition demonstrates her prolific output, all the more remarkable when you consider her ongoing commitment to the Society of Wood Engravers and, though now retired, full-time career as a local authority Chartered Educational Psychologist.

Paynter is an artist at the forefront of her chosen medium and her retrospective will be sure to delight, surprise and inspire.

Artist events

L St.Kilda Blue

Saturday 14 April: Don’t miss Hilary Paynter’s free demonstration at the RBSA Gallery,  11am-1pm and 2-4pm.

Hilary Paynter is a Past President of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (PPRE), Honorary Member of the RBSA, Honorary Member of the Royal Watercolour Society (RWS), and a Member of the Society of Wood Engravers (SWE).

A version of this article originally appeared in The Friends of Birmingham Museums’ Artefacts Magazine, April issue. Check out their website for the full line-up of forthcoming events.

#monographs #printmaking #prints #woodengraving

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