Enriching the Everyday: Betty Woodman's Prints

Alexandra Olczak

8 Apr 2016
Alexandra Olczak explores the creation of Betty Woodman's limited edition prints.

Although best known for her innovative work in ceramics, Betty Woodman has also been producing prints for many years. Here, ICA Sales Advisor - Editions Alexandra Olczak explores the creation of special print editions for the ICA.

“…there’s a lot of art around that seems really intent on making you feel bad; perhaps aiming to raise your consciousness of all evil in the world…I don’t think that’s what I’m doing.” Betty Woodman, Feel More, Frieze, 2016

The ICA’s Lower Gallery is dappled with strips of spring sunlight, illuminating a congregation of freestanding ceramic figures, both amorphous and vibrantly coloured. A sense of serenity fills the space.

In the Upper Galleries large expanses of canvas cling to the muted green walls, incorporating 3D ceramic objects, revealing rooms and windows seemingly in another dimension. Their play on spatial perspective and mixture of 2D and 3D elements invite the viewer to inspect them more closely, while denying entry into Woodman’s gloriously alluring and vivid world of domestic interiors.

It’s difficult not to feel uplifted as you meander through Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic; the sheer exuberance of Woodman’s ‘Matissian’ colour palette, fluid forms and deliciously expressive brushstrokes is enough to brighten any April shower. The works undeniably deliver on Woodman’s intention to give the viewer an experience that she considers different from that offered by a lot of contemporary art: optimism and pure aesthetic pleasure.

From Nina's Room: An Edition by Betty Woodman

Despite being well-known as a master ceramicist, Woodman has also been making prints for over 35 years, working mainly with woodcuts and monotypes.

From Nina’s Room (2016) is a digitally printed limited edition depicting one of the larger wall works included in the Upper Galleries, generously created to support the ICA’s programme.

“[Prints] have been very important in my work because the print was the beginning of putting the vessels and sculptures I was making…[into] an environment for them. Prints have led to a lot of the work that is in the show.” Betty Woodman

The decision to produce this print stemmed from her fascination with digital printing. In the same way that Woodman’s recent exploration and incorporation of painting on canvas has allowed for “a place for the [ceramic] works to live”, producing a digital print for the first time enables Woodman to further extend her work beyond the ceramics context and into the wider visual arts scene.

Before Theatre of the Domestic began its run at the ICA, the exhibition appeared in another form at Florence’s Museo Marino Marini (Betty Woodman, 20 September – 28 November 2015). Curator Vincenzo de Bellis spoke of Woodman’s objective to create objects "whose beauty would enrich everyday life." From Nina’s Room at once acts as a direct reference to the most recent direction in Woodman’s practice, and offers visitors the chance to further this intention by taking a piece of Woodman’s work home.

Whether you are well versed in the art of collecting, or feel compelled to start, Betty Woodman’s spring edition offers a vivacious expression of beauty. ■

Betty Woodman's edition is available in the ICA Shop.

Betty Woodman: Theatre of the Domestic runs 3 February - 10 April 2016.