Anne Desmet

Anne Desmet was born in 1964, in Liverpool. Desmet gained a BA & MA at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford University, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Printmaking at Central School of Art and Design, London, UK. Desmet has furthered her work into education, teaching print making and wood engraving, and is also is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE) and the Society of Wood Engravers (SWE). In contrast to Angela Harding‘s work on wildlife and the natural environment, Desmet is concerned with the built environment and evolution of the urban landscape. Desmet works with a variety of techniques, often combining them, including linocuts, wood engraving and collage, working both on smaller scale pieces as well as larger sweeping panaromas.

To look a little closer at Desmet’s work I focused on a collection of her works depicting the Brooklyn Bridge, in New York. These pieces stood out to me in particular as they seemingly use the same lino cuts, but have been created in different ways resulting in different images.

Brooklyn Bridge: Snow Light By Anne Desmet
2015 – Edition: 15; only 3 available – Linocut on Gampi Vellum paper – 24.6 x 17.3 cm / 9.75 x 6.75 ins – £450

This first print, is the most simplistic, using just one linocut, with blank ink on paper. Here we can see lots of purposeful lines and mark making, resulting in a striking effect. The way that perspective has been depicted of the bridge, places the viewer directly on the bridge itself. With an abundance of white in the frame and the title “Brooklyn Bridge: Snow Light” it does indeed feel quite cold and bracing. There is also strong shadow on the bridge, which to me feels like perhaps it could be a really sunny day with strong light hitting the bridge. Technically it appears as though it might have been quite difficult to really get the lines and angles correct to this end.

Brooklyn Bridge: Snow on Snow By Anne Desmet
2015 – Edition: 35; only 2 proofs available – 3 linocut blocks printed on Gampi Vellum paper – 24.6 x 17.3 cm / 9.75 x 6.75 ins – £450

This second print is quite different to the first. We are still focusing on the Brooklyn bridge but there have been additional lino cut prints used, three on this occasion. This has allowed Desmet to introduce faint colour with mint greens and pale blues. There appears to be this very detailed layer over the top, or behind, I’m not quite sure. Either way this additional detail really contributes to a feel of blustery snow in the air, hitting the Brooklyn bridge, compounded on the original thick layer of snow which is mounded on the sides of the bridge. I can see why this print is aptly named “Brooklyn Bridge: Snow on Snow”. The additional lino cut prints used in this example has really built an energy and atmosphere to the entire image which was not present on the previous example.

Brooklyn Bridge: Afternoon By Anne Desmet
2015 – Edition: 15 – Wood engraving & 2 linocut blocks on Gampi Vellum paper – 24.6 x 17.3 cm / 9.75 x 6.75 ins – SOLD OUT

Lastly here is the final print I chose to look it, to me it feels the most detailed, utilising two lino cut prints and the addition of wood engraving. Desmet has used a small number of striking colours for this piece, black, white, browns and blue to depict the afternoon scene. Desmet is very skilled in portraying the atmosphere and scene in her prints, not just the buildings themselves but the location of the sun, the weather, the air. Using some warmer and lighter browns on the buildings on the backgrounds it does feel like a warm afternoon, with the chunks of snow still sitting atop the bridge waiting to melt. There is significant detail in the railings of the bridge as well as the snow and buildings, and even down to the brickwork on the bridge itself, it’s incredibly impressive.

I didn’t want to attempt something quite so detailed and accomplished as Desmet’s works but I thought it would be good to practice producing strong lines and perspective using lino cut printing. I tried to create this sort of visual effect by using two different sized cutters and a small piece of soft lino.

The perspective I have used, sort of results in this tunnel-like appearance. As I have also used only a small selection of lines, this has meant that the ink has quite a lot of paper to actually adhere to. This is clearly the opposite to Desmet’s where she has cut the thin railings either side of the bridge to create the white lines. This has been a good lesson in really trying to visualise the desired outcome and what is necessary to achieve this. The lines I have cut aren’t very straight though, and one in particular the vertical line to the left looks like it has been hacked at which isn’t great, I wonder how Desmet has been able to achieve such straight lines, if she has used any additional tools or if its just through practice and precision. Overall the black ink on the print appears to be quite consistent, more so than what I found in my response to Adrian Wiszniewski. I think the fine lines over the top have also worked well to add to the overall effect, although I can see that I have been a little heavy handed in applying the ink on the second print and some has seeped into the thinner lines at the bottom of the image causing an inky blur which is unfortunate, although a good reminder to be more careful in future!

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