Katie Clemson: Printmaker inspired by light


Kay Christine Clemson (Katie Clemson), artist: born Temora, New South Wales 14 November 1949; married 1978 Alex Allan; died London 23 November 2007.

The artist Katie Clemson was a talented printmaker, teacher and sailor. She became fascinated with printmaking while a student at Central School of Art in London, and bought her own press, concentrating on lino-cutting. Her speciality was reduction prints, a technique she had learnt from Blair Hughes Stanton, whereby successive cuts are made to a lino block to build up an image from many layers of transparent ink. In some cases, she also etched the lino block with caustic to create atmospheric effects.

Brought up in Australia, Clemson delighted in the sunlight and colour of the landscape of her birth. She worked from her studio overlooking the Thames at Chiswick and always tried to live as close as possible to water, perhaps a reaction to the dusty countryside she had known as a child. She had an unerring eye for the myriad ways in which water reflects light. Her recent work captured the dream-like illusions of mirages and inland salt lakes through linocut prints. "I find the misty mood of that English half-light quite depressing. I am more interested in the in-your-face brightness of Australian light; I want the full-on colours and light".

She was born Kay Clemson in 1949 near West Wyalong, New South Wales, but later changed her name to Katie. A dynamic and vibrant woman, she explored Europe before settling in the UK in 1972. After a foundation course at Croydon College of Art, she studied fine art at the Central School from 1973 to 1978, where she was taught by Blair Hughes Stanton and Ian Mortimer. Her first show was in 1976, in London. From then on, she exhibited regularly in solo and group shows all over the world. Her work is held in public and private collections in the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Canada and the United States.

Clemson took a teacher-training course in 1978-79 and taught as a visiting lecturer at a variety of art colleges, including Canterbury, Maidstone, Glasgow and Winchester. In 1988 she was co-author with Rosemary Simmons of the Dorling Kindersley publication The Complete Manual of Relief Printmaking.

In 1987 Clemson set up White Gum Press, a print workshop in the New Forest, and in 1992 she was elected to the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. In 2005 she conceived and curated an exhibition at Bankside Gallery in London called "The Artist and Radio 4". She was struck by the fact that her own work would trigger flashbacks to afternoon plays she had listened to when inking a particular colour, to a cricketer scoring a century in a Test match while cutting a particular patch of lino. Clemson discovered that lots of other artists listened to BBC Radio 4, rather than music, when working in their studios. She was invited to sketch live during The Material World radio programme as Quentin Cooper and guests discussed the nature of creativity.

Her last exhibition was "In a Different Light", at the Bankside Gallery, London, in November/December 2007. A joint show with her fellow Australians Karyn White and Edwina Ellis, it examined the artists' feelings of displacement and reflected on how their nationality inspires their work. Earlier in the year Clemson had returned to New South Wales; in preparation for the exhibition, she sketched the landscape she knew and loved and creating prints in her studio in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Aside from printmaking, Clemson was also an active sailor, rower and tennis player. She began sailing by chance while visiting friends on the Isle of Wight, and went on to compete in the Round Britain and Ireland Race twice, the second time in 1982 with her husband Alex Allan, a civil servant and diplomat. Clemson returned to Australia with Allan for seven years from 1997 when he became British High Commissioner in Canberra. This followed several years as Principal Private Secretary to prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair. Allan was recently appointed Chairman of the Cabinet Office Joint Intelligence Committee.

Clemson successfully combined diplomatic life with her artistic career. She had a healthily sceptical attitude towards politics and strong views on some issues. During the time of the French nuclear testing in the Pacific, Allan declined an invitation to a grand dinner at Hampton Court in honour of President Jacques Chirac because Clemson insisted she would only go if she could wear her "no nukes" T-shirt.

She got on well with the politicians Allan worked for but was not afraid to speak her mind, once phoning Nigel Lawson when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask him not to call about the Sunday papers until after 9am to give them a chance to sleep in. At Allan's farewell party at Number 10, she charmed the audience with her guitar and a song she had written about the trials and tribulations of her husband's working life at Downing Street.

Hannah Hawksworth

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes