‘I just go where instinct takes me’- Norman Ackroyd
We couldn’t be happier here at Art on a Postcard to have Norman Ackroyd CBE, RA on board as one of our Artists for our Art on a Ukulele project. In 1957-61 Ackroyd trained at Leeds College of Art and subsequently became Professor of Etching at the University of Arts 1994. His iconic landscape etchings have become some of the most recognisable pieces of English art of the century. Ackroyd was awarded a CBE for his services to etching and painting. However, even with all the success he’s earned he never forgets his roots as a working class son of a butcher; working from a warehouse in Bermondsey he lives in the rooms above it which he describes as ‘living above shop. A great tradition for the Ackroyds’.
His process often begins with sketches he makes on boat trips to remote destinations around the British Isles and Ireland. Much like the great impressionists before him, Ackroyd allows the atmosphere and the elements to guide his hand, channelling the breath-taking world around him. He is like a medium between humanity and artifice, capturing within every work the spirit of what he sees and more importantly what he feels. He has said that ‘the great things of art are the human figure and the landscape it lives in, just trying to get a resonance of humanity’. Works such as Stac an Armin – Evening are wonderful demonstrations of this. The still markings carry within them the sense of movement of an unrelenting and immoveable sea. Much like work of the abstract artists of the sixties that painted jazz music, this work is a series of minimal shapes amounting to a heavily charged piece brimming with energy.
Although etching has roots in services such as detailing on armour, Ackroyd achieves in bringing an original passion and flare to the medium. Taking his initial sketches from his trips outdoors and at sea, he then works them into metals, stating that he has to first get into the mind set and generate the feelings of the atmosphere. His process is very instinctual, he says ‘I don’t think about the marks I’m making, I let the marks happen. There’s a huge desire to make the marks. I let the eye look at (the landscapes) and then let the hand just do what the eye and the heart wants, and I just respond to it, because I want to do it, I feel it’s very instinctive’.
Ackroyd is also well known for his landscape paintings, mainly done with watercolour. Often more subdued in style, but still with the same ability to transport you from wherever it is you are looking at it and straight to the river, or trees or sea. Anyone who has walked across the British countryside will recognise the beautiful soft haze in the air and colours and the fluidity of every soft edge. In 2006 Ackroyd painted landscapes to go alongside the poetry of Kevin Crossley-Holland, a perfect collaboration that blended images and words to tell the story of The Moored Man; the mythical being who embodies the wilderness and warring elements of the north Norfolk saltmarshes.
Norman has completed the etching for his ukulele and it is absolutely stunning. The ukulele is currently on route to Pete Howlett to be varnished and stung. Please join us to find out more by signing up to our mailing list (at the bottom of the page) to receive updates about this project and to find out about our crowdfunding campaign, the rewards we are offering and be part of the process over the next few months.
About the writer
Rosa Torr is a final year BA Politics and Philosophy student from London currently at University College Dublin. Her place of interest is political theory and in particular Gender Studies. Rosa has written for numerous online publications and the University Observer. She is also a theatre maker and is currently co-artistic director of BUMP&GRIND Theatre Company. The show she co-wrote BUMP will be on at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer.