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‘What would it be like if it were here?’- ‘What on earth can it be like where it is?’

Written by Frederick Jones ARBSA

This is my latest wood engraving. It is the High Level Bridge in Newcastle. Unusually for me, it has a water colour wash which many will recognise as the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. This is the reason why:

Olesya Dzhuraeva is a Ukrainian artist whose home and studio are in Kyiv. She works primarily in linocuts and has an international reputation. We have been exchanging prints from time to time over several years. Below you can see images of prints we have exchanged in the past:

I have learned a great deal about engraving from looking at her works. Her urban scenes are so atmospheric and very largely achieved with straight cuts. Olesya gets wonderful effects of light, weather, and time of day with her straight lines and dots, and some of her most recent works are images of just clouds, of urban scenes blurry with rain, or darkened in the glare of contre jour sun.

Her latest unfinished lino, left behind as she and her family have had to leave the city, shows her behind a huge camera lens which occupies the centre of the picture plane and is framed by the artist’s hands. It is a sort of portrait of the artist’s eye and its greediness to capture everything in its focus.

Olesya has contributed to many editions of Body and Soul published in Berlin by Hendrik Liersch (these are collections of original prints and drawings bound together with poems). She has supplied artwork for two books published by Hendrik’s Corvinus Presse (poems by Simone Katrin Paul and by Nato Ingorokva) and now many of her real and virtual friends are collaborating in a special edition for her. We have been asked to offer prints, paintings, drawings, or poems, as long as they use the thematic colours of the Ukrainian flag. Mine is an engraving in which I tried out some things I have learned from Olesya’s works; it is my biggest engraving yet and has taken a long time to make. I had intended to send an imprint to her once it was finished, but the dreadful events in Ukraine have overtaken this intention. This is why I have been happy to offer the work to the project. And by using these colours on an engraving of Newcastle, I am, de facto, asking both what would it be like if it were happening here and what can it actually be like where it is happening now.