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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A long-established, technology rich ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable