RCA print exhibition is a radical take on Shakespeare

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

In 1964, the Royal College of Art gave a group of printmakers du jour the loosest of briefs: to design work based around the theme of Shakespeare, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s birth. Judging from the farrago of images they got back, pictured here, from abstract and expressionist lithographs to one ‘pop art’ image which combined a Shakespearean sonnet with clippings of the Apollo space mission, they better reflected the tastes and trends of 1964 than 1564.

The 26 prints, which were part of a joint project between the RCA’s print department and the Royal Shakespeare Company, were originally exhibited at the RSC’s Mermaid Theatre in London, as part of a countrywide celebration ranging across venues in Stratford, Edinburhg and London.

Since then, they have since remained in the college’s archive, but now almost five decades later, the original work will be shown to the public in an exhibition entitled Folio, alongside a second set of contemporary images commissioned by the RCA this year with exactly the same brief.

The original set offer a slice of 1960s printmaking, with works by the likes of Norman Ackroyd and Joe Tilson, as well as Elizabeth Frink and Sandra Blow, at a stage in their careers when they were either still art students, fresh graduates or RCA teachers.

Tilson took Shakespeare’s XV Sonnet and incorporated its 16th century verse with cut-out images of lunar space flights in the ‘pop art’ tradition. Blow produced an abstract lithograph entitled Hamlet, featuring an eye and a tuft of hair alongside the Shakespearean words: “Nymph in my orizons be all my sins remembered.”

Ackroyd’s Richard III reflected an expressionist portrait of the Battle of Bosworth, and drawing inspiration from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the British surrealist Cecil Collins conjured the image of a fairy spirit in black and white. Less reverentially, Colin Haze used Taming of the Shrew to create a cartoon image.

Tilson’s print was inspired by Shakespeare’s XV Sonnet, whose astronomical theme and celestial imagery he found compelling and relevant to the frenzied space missions of the early 1960s.

“The sonnet said quite a lot about the stars,” he explains. “And I was working with the latest technology of the period.”

Professor Jo Stockham, head of printmaking at the RCA, said the original criteria was slim: “It was just to take a play or phrase around Shakespeare that interested the artist.”

The second set of prints have been created by guest artists such as Bob & Roberta Smith, Adam Dant and Christiana Baumgartner, as well as students and staff, which will be for sale. Some have taken his plays as inspiration and others have created more mischievous and witty interpretations, such as a collage of all the actors who have appeared in Shakespeare films or plays, and a work by Bob and Roberta Smith who have brought together images of Lawrence Olivier’s Richard III with The Sex Pistol’s Johnny Rotten.

Dant, meanwhile, decided to use organic material over digital technology to create a chiaroscuro woodcut, entitled The Theatre Shoreditch, in which he depicts ‘The Theatre’ - the Elizabethan home of Shakespeare's acting troupe. The piece captures the spot where archaeologists recently excavated the foundations of The Theatre, in East London.

“My woodcut has been made from a block of wood salvaged from a carpentry workshop which stood directly on the site of The Theatre. The image in my print combines the architecture of The Theatre with that of a similar polygonal, multi-storey car park which now stands close to the site. I discovered that the current car park on Curtain Road often appears in the subconscious reveries of local Shoreditch folk as an Elizabethan theatre.”

The two bodies of work – from 1964 and 2011 – when shown side by side, reflect the radical advances made in print technique and also the differing approaches to subject matter.

Folio, at the RCA, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU, 20-25 October

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit