Meet the Artist... Margaret Ashman

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Posted 21st January 2021

Meet the Artist...
Margaret Ashman

While our latest Watts Contemporary exhibition IN PRINT: 20/20 Vision is sadly closed to the public, today we are getting to know one of the exhibiting artists - Margaret Ashman. Ashman's work is often an exploration of the human condition – solitude, inner searching and longing. She is also interested in capturing movement, and enjoys working from video footage of dancers. Her work with dancers and users of sign language has led to ethereal images capturing fleeting moments and spontaneous gesture.

We love your print Mori Woods. What is the story behind it?

This was the first print I made in this series of works. I came across a beautiful Indonesian dancer, Kezia Alyssa Sandy performing a dance to a worship song (in Christ Alone). I was struck by her grace and elegance and thought that the video might be a great starting point to make some new etchings. I made contact with her and she was delighted to give me permission to use stills from the dance video in my work.

She was filmed in a simple studio with venetian blinds drawn across the window. I decided to see if I could transform the blinds into trees, which became a whole woodland setting, drawn digitally from my imagination and memory.

The work seems rather prescient now. Although made many months before the pandemic, it strikes a chord of solitude and reminds us of the restorative powers of being amongst forests and nature.

What has inspired you in recent months?

I have been very lucky to have spent a lot of lockdown in a place of natural beauty. Whilst caring for a relative, I have had access to wonderful riverside walks and paths through farmland. Normally a city dweller, this new environment was a great solace and pleasure amid the turmoil. I set myself the task of identifying the trees in the area, collecting tiny twigs and leaves, which I pressed into a notebook. I also took many photographs of the trees and wild flowers, which are finding their way into new works.

How has lockdown affected your practice?

At this moment of another lockdown I'm been thinking more about the studio where I go to make my etching plates, which is now temporarily closed. I started going to East London Printmakers, a shared space in Mile End, London run by artists. There I have access to a screen drying room which allows my coated plate to dry in a warm and light safe environment, an ultra violet light box needed to fix the image onto my plate, and an aquatint room, where I deposit a fine resin dust onto my plate to give tone to all the dark areas of the image. It's the only stage in my printmaking process where I meet other artists; it's good to see what everyone else is doing and find mutual encouragement.

Now ELP is closed, I'm working on some plates I've already made. I'm spending long hours in my own studio, with the radio for company, trying out different ways of inking and printing. I often don't have a particular idea of the finished print before I start trying inks out. I end up surprising myself by the results which is quite pleasing.

We are delighted that IN PRINT: 20/20 Vision has been extended until 25 April 2021. We can't wait to welcome you back. Limited edition prints from the show are currently available to purchase on our online shop. Click here to browse.