26 August 2016 by Felicity
Helena Markson: A Sense of Place is a new display of prints at the Walker Art Gallery. The display coincides with the launch of a new book about Helena’s work, written by Emma Mason. In this blog, Emma tells us how she came across Helena’s work:
“Back in 2013 I received a phone call about printmaker Helena Markson (1934-2012). Irene, Helena’s sister was calling to say that Helena had died unexpectedly the year before and Irene was sorting out her studio and wanted our advice. I knew a little about Helena and we had some of her etchings in our gallery. As with many post war printmakers, Helena’s work had been overlooked in recent years and I was keen to find out more about her.
I drove up to Helena’s home in Essex to meet Irene. I could only just find space to sit with the room full with over fifty years of printmaking; bold, colourful, beautifully made prints.
Irene asked me to take on Helena’s work for the gallery and the next week I drove back to Essex returning with the car full of Helena’s archive. In it I was delighted to see not only her prints but also meticulous notes. It was like looking through a history of printmaking in post war Britain. Helena’s notes became the basis for my book: A Sense of Place: The Art of Helena Markson.
Some of Helena’s best-known prints are of Liverpool so I contacted the Walker Art Gallery. It was great to discover they hold a number of Helena’s prints in their collection.
The Liverpool prints were made in the 1960s when the city was going through great change. Architect, Graeme Shankland was City Planner of Liverpool at the time overseeing the renewal of the city (this led to many of the old buildings, wharfs and factories being pulled down). Shankland asked Helena to make a series of etchings to document Liverpool’s changing urban landscape. Here’s what she said:
“Liverpool is a unique city with its great contrasts of activities and array of architecture. The historical context was both enlightening and stimulating where for me the buildings became the persona in human terms as expressed in the images – ‘dramatis personae’.”
Helena not only made beautiful work but was also part of a printmaking renewal in Britain in the 1950s and 60s. She worked alongside Birgit Skiold at the first open-access print workshop in London and was one of only a few women to show prints in exhibitions at the time.
I feel that Helena’s story is an important one, and hope that you enjoy seeing her beautiful prints in the gallery.”
A Sense of Place: The Art of Helena Markson by Emma Mason is published by Bread and Butter Press. Available from bookshops or online.
Emma Mason opened Emma Mason Prints in 2004.The gallery specialises in original prints by artists working in Britain from the post-war years to the present day. Emma Mason Prints hold Helena Markson’s archive of prints, including work for sale.
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