In contrast to the intimacy of Carolyn Thompson’s new prints, Richard Woods addresses a public audience with this new folio Woodblock Inlays 1-5. Located in Cork Street, the home of some of the most established galleries in London, Alan Cristea Gallery has a particular emphasis on publishing and dealing prints by not only blue chip artists but also some of the leading contemporary artists in Europe and USA. The gallery has been behind some of the great publishing projects of recent years such as Michael Craig-Martin’s Seven Deadly Sins and through its exhibitions, has provided a gold standard against which other shows of prints are judged.
Richard Woods came to prominence with his witty, DIY-inspired transformations of buildings and spaces, including the cladding of The Long Room, Cambridge, with an MDF make-over of oversized printed bricks. In Woodblock Inlays Woods plays with the language of real and artificial, which is such a signature aspect of his work. Here, a sheet of plywood shutter board provides a background woodblock from which the grain is printed. Into this are inlaid representations of wood, such as one would expect in cartoons like The Simpsons. These inlays are graphically rendered in MDF, printed thickly in garish colours with line black outlines, the ink forming a physical layer that sits above the paper. There is a delightful interplay between representation and reality and the idea of natural in contrast to the artificial. The series consists of five large prints each measuring 103 cm x 71.5 cm. Four of the prints are quite sparse, each with relatively few elements and each themed to a colour, blue, green, red or yellow. The final print brings together all the inlays from the first four prints but reorders them into a climactic explosion. These prints reference high modernism and the refined aesthetics of abstraction as they have devolved into the world of DIY, printed laminates and the quick fix. While Thompson seeks a one-to-one dialogue with the viewer, Woods is bold and brash and demands a distance. Woodblock Inlays are seen best as a series where the interplay between the first four prints and the last can be enjoyed.