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
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits