Artist of the Month

May 2019
Prunella Clough

This month, Collections Assistant, Louise Smith, explores the work of Prunella Clough, whose work features in the latest Arts Council Collection touring exhibition The Printed Line.

Clough was born in London in 1919, she studied at Chelsea School of Art and during the war worked as a cartographer for the Office of War Information, producing charts and maps. In Clough’s early work she painted industrial landscapes, focussing on the labour taking place in these landscapes, describing details such as the drivers in the lorry cabs, and the men climbing cranes on the building sites. Clough didn’t belong to a group of artists and was quite isolated in the way she worked. During the 60s and 70s Clough started to hone in on certain aspects of the urban wasteland - reflecting on everyday discarded objects and mundane vignettes. These objects and scenes became more abstracted later in her career.

Clough is known mainly for her paintings but she also made prints and created assemblages from collected objects. Clough made notes on scenes and colours of a landscape, and always carried a camera which she used not for reproducing but to capture the atmosphere and feel of a landscape, compositions and shapes of unnoticed objects to create her own visual language. During her teaching at Chelsea School of Art in 1954, Clough started to use etchings to create simple images - it was a new medium for her and she drew through the hard ground etching plate to create a series of line drawings. Most of these etchings were unrelated to Clough’s paintings and industrial scenes at the time and she did not edition these prints. She later brought the technique back into her practice.

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Off the Tracks, 1977 (pictured), an etching that features in The Printed Line, is a wonderful example of an incidental object or scene that Clough might have encountered on a walk or journey. Clough worked from memory, rather than sketching on location and as a result her images have a layered quality and a slight distance from reality - suggesting traces and hinting at what was in the landscape.

The composition of the hard and soft lines created by the etching process suggest a sequence in this image, broken train tracks or wire caught up with detritus, possibly even the remains of a tree clinging to a wire fence at the edges of a train track. We see these landscapes, these strange forms, through Clough’s vision and her memory of what she has seen. Clough is suggesting a new beauty and aesthetic in creating art using these objects as inspiration, objects that we might not of noticed had we walked past the same scene moments earlier.

 

Clough has commented:

‘I am essentially an ‘eye’ person, totally affected by visual facts’, ‘I think that having a tonal basis for the work is as much to do with the English wind and weather as anything else. In other words, geography and climate. I work from subject matter, things perceived, and the things that I see tend to be somewhat murky.’

 

 

The Printed Line is currently on show at Torre Abbey, until 2 June 2019.

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The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.