Words, Josie Jenkins
I’ve known about Ed Bruce‘s work on the ‘Station Ends’ monoprints for a while. Earlier in the year I visited him in his studio and he showed me what he’d been up to. I thought it looked very promising at the time, but the final execution far surpassed my original expectations.
There’s a real difference between liking a piece of art and being in love with it. I don’t think the feeling happens very often, but I left the exhibition feeling compelled to write something. You can see some photographs of the exhibition in this article but this work really needs to be experienced in the flesh.
If you didn’t get to see it, contact Ed and find out when and where he might be showing them again. It’s not the sort of work that’s going to end up in the back of a cupboard with nowhere to go, it’s asking to be seen.
This is a bit of a backwards review – It began with my judgement, because my excitement about the work is desperate to come out. The exhibition features monoprints of stations. It’s a simple concept, it has simplicity in its execution, but there was nothing simple about the making of these pieces. Ed’s been working on these prints, and the techniques involved, for the best part of 2 years and he’s not the sort of person who likes to settle for less than perfection.
Ed employed the skills of fellow Bridewell member and cabinet maker Ken Hughes to craft the specific frames that he had in mind to display the artwork. They allude to the traditional Japanese panel screens which present delicate prints and re-define interior spaces. When I visited Ed in his studio, he showed me how he was printing each rectangular section onto thin Japanese paper, which is actually incredibly tough. Ed uses a solution of charcoal and water painted onto glass. The rectangular prints come together to form one large image of a station.
The image you’re presented with is faded, perhaps from bright sunlight or from the mist of a freezing cold day, either is possible and neither would be incorrect, because they are the sort of artworks that are telling you to make up your own story. They are simple and leave much to the imagination. Your mind is left to wander over thoughts of trains and the excitement of travel and for me, the history of the stations, the coming and goings and all that these functional beautiful buildings have seen.
The artworks have the feel of photographs, but as with the wonderful nature of monoprints, each is a ‘one off’ and their hand crafted nature is apparent in the marks you see, including brush strokes and sometimes drips, which come into and out of focus as you take in the work.
The exhibition includes a number of one piece prints along with a singular drawing in charcoal. They are smaller glimpses that a buyer could (and did) take away more easily. The smaller pieces have a great impact of their own, but for me the excitement of seeing something truly exceptional comes from the larger forms.
Think about those times when you’ve been alone waiting for a train, the forced solitude, but with people all around you; space and time to enter into a thoughtful state, but without loneliness. I found this experience again in ‘Station Ends’. And for me, when a piece of figurative art makes you feel you’re experiencing the situation that it itself portrays, it has done its job.