Derbyshire artist Peter Knight celebrates his love of the craft of print media with the layered continuum of exploring this remarkable county. His exhibition ‘Derbyshire perspectives – reading landscape’ is on show at the record office.
Here, Peter tells us about his work and inspiration.
I’d always been interested in books and illustrated books in particular. I was developing my work with a strong printmaking approach and discovering historical work by George Cruickshank, politically focused and beautifully etched, and other historical graphic artists. I was struck by how ‘current’, applicable and entertaining their work was.
I enjoyed the combination of printmaking and book structures and crucially in the late 1980’s I had discovered letterpress which in my time was available cheaply from junk markets if not from skips.
I was researching the history of chapbooks and street literature, eventually writing a small article for the Society of Bookbinders newsletter as a by-product – I’m interested in traditional forms of book structure; methods materials and conservation – but informing my activity with plenty of references, prototypes and conceptual starting points in the process.
My work is varied in concept and starting point – exploring and recording the existential threat to life in ‘Four Horsemen Approaching’, exploring history and carved archetypes in ‘An Unreliable Derbyshire Bestiary’ and collecting and classifying flotsom and jetsom in ‘a Scottish Rainbow’.
The work stems from a love of printing in many forms.
My work is at its most basic, essentially focussing on recording and listing. It sometimes involves classification, e.g. ’Twigs that say Y’, but my locality and the history, geology and received narratives of ‘place’ are normally the starting point.
Additionally I produce engraved pop-up cards and letterpress ephemera as a strategy to break even and pay expenses which just allows me to keep producing in volume – and they are often, but not always, fun to do.
I paint in my studio in Wirksworth. I show work at bookart shows and print shows so there is often a bit of a cross-over effect of different print forms on my exhibition stalls. I decided to call my imprint ‘The Common Press Crich’ as I live on The Common.
For public consumption I continue, amongst other things, with my interest with the effects of lead mining in my locality in Derbyshire; mining landscape, mining place names, mining vein names, even the names of wildflowers that thrive on spoil tips are fascinating, see ‘Scrins, Flats and Pipes’.
Also it was printed as a page matrix on one sheet of etched metal so references basic book signature structures.
I’m a member of the Society of Bookbinders so I get exposed to a wide range of traditional and experimental approaches to bookbinding. A number of my books have variable structures that are not limited editions; they have been evolving with time, so they continue.
For my own consumption I continue with what I call ‘My Mnemosyne Atlas’ project. Started in earnest six years ago, it is a series of ‘perfect bound’ annual volumes that collect all the bits of reference material, drawing, photocopying, material ripped out magazines, text and found material; essentially the detritus that accumulates in sketchbooks and falls out when you give them a shake. It is literally the material that falls through the gaps. It is the marginalised supporting material that has no other existence – mainly for copyright reasons, it has an audience of one.
‘Derbyshire perspectives – reading landscape’ is at the record office from Thursday 19th September 2019 to Friday 17th January 2020. Normal opening hours apply.
Peter will be giving an insight into printmaking techniques as they relate to his work in a talk ‘A drawn response to Derbyshire Landscape – printing from metal’ being held at the record office on Monday 30th September 2.30pm-3.30pm. The talk is free, click here to book a place.