The Tate has been bequeathed the Prunella Clough archive and has made some of it available on the internet. Prunella Clough began her artistic career in 1937 and, apart from a brief gap during the war, continued working until her death in 1999. She won the prestigious Jerwood prize for drawing just months before her death. Prunella Clough lived a full creative life and the subtleties and sheer celebratory joy in the way she used everyday objects in her compositions is inspirational. Look at her painting entitled Wire Tangle (at the start of Part One). Note how she developed her original visual source material into a sophisticated painting, changing the scale and making decisions about the composition to create an image that is much more than a simple natural still life.
Include your thoughts on Clough’s work in your first assignment submission.
The Tate archive is a fascinating collection which was bequeathed to the nation by Clough. It contains many aspects of her work and much more valuably for researchers her process through the notes she made. These give a valuable voyeuristic insight into how she worked – her ideas, perceptions, images and experiments that inform and develop in her creative process.
Prunella Clough was ‘drawn-to’ and fascinated by the urban and industrial landscape of Britain. Through her work she documents the lives of workers and labourers and utilises them as much as the tactile surfaces around them and which is part of our contemporary landscape. she sought to transform the mundane and ordinary; the litter and mess of industrial Britain into compelling images of mystery and beauty. She explored the abstract qualities of industrial buildings and everyday objects by choosing unexpected and multiple angles, repeated motifs and close-ups of interesting areas. By cropping and getting in close she managed to disrupt the viewers reference points of scale and normally.
Her working method was to keep copious notes on everything she encountered. All her ideas, perceptions, things that caught the eye and hinted at a possibly of further exploration was noted. These notes also contained the instructions and thumbnail sketches for larger works. Much of her notes could be considered word sketches. These word sketches and thumbnails were the only preliminaries before she started to work.
On the following pages I have used the Tate on-line archive to gather snippets from the extensive materials. This illustrates the manner in how Clough worked. Pages from her notebook can be seen to ‘get inside her head’ and let the artist her us herself about how she worked and how she perceived her subject. There are also some examples of her work along with photos of some of her inspirations, such as close-ups of industrial landscape.
Clough’s notebooks (Clough 1951), contain detailed entries relating to Lowestoft Harbour 1951. Her notes reveal that she saw the triangular arrangement of the figures weighing the dead fish as resembling a pietà (a term applied to a painting or sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary supporting the dead Christ on her lap) with the caps serving as haloes
“To do again 1st essential idea to do i.e. hard
bright ships black red grey small flat hard, against
held by, muted ==. ? Vertical shape, detail top R
again but nearly half, L standing fig half length
(hands, ’counter detail low L?). Dull red brown, pale
(or grey) white etc (not green either water or interior)
- simple static fig. possibly with (or in front of?)
scale (sideways) eclipse, cf detached halo shapes pieta
Very exact color neat. Hardness all over to connect shapes (? avoid pale weak effect –
as in one yellow manscale study). Long simple shapes
left eg a grey cf black small; white [ed]. he nearly as
clean. ? lower cutting men harbour R
?Other methods integrating distant detail
(eg if directly with figure how avoid
hopeless complexity there”
Clough’s (Clough 1948) notebooks contain three entries on Fishermen with Sprats 1 1948, which relate closely to the finished painting.
Fish on tarp on floor in net dark
In nets irreg, being picked &
shaken out, flying up in front
of men. Net ochre and trans, in
all shaken folds being piled onto wet carrier, corks and [ sketch ] on
far side, cords dark.
Near fig: cap down, to eyebrows, bluish
coat, twist of oilskin from side, hands
dark, holding shaking; standing over
wood obj, oilsk down to boots.
Far fig: Holding sorting cork edge, in battle
dress, leather on R shoulder, less shaking
Gen: Water at shoulder level
sea up thru head, hor just above head
Generally bluish and sand, sea
glitter on fish”
This etching is a simply drawing subject. The hiddley-piddley arrangement of the industrial buildings (Fig 8) hint at the manner building and businesses grow with additions and changes of use over time. This simple dark shapes dominate the image. They are set above a horizontal line of the fence top and essentially all the corrugations point to these buildings just above the fence line.
The repletion of the repeating pattern of the corrugated fence contrasts strikingly with the black blocks shapes above. The horizontal line of the fence top is repeated several times through the edges of the building, such as roofs and the equipment structure. The vertical lines of the corrugated undulations are also repeated in the sides of the buildings and equipment. These horizontals and verticals are contrasted by the diagonal lines of the equipment and gables ends of the buildings. This use of repeated imagery rather than unsettling and bringing disharmony actually brings a sense of harmony to the image as a whole.
Clough has cropped the industrial view to just a few buildings above the eye line of the fence. The sky though plain is atones and textured by a series of randomly applied scratches and lines.
The corrugations seem to be applied by a mechanical means – possibly a partially inked roller.
A skull and two pomegranates placesd on a table (Fig 9). We are seeing these objects from above having a viewpoint that encompasses the table top, edge and part of the floor.
Such a choice of subject matter hints of the “memento mori” paintings and images from long dead painting masters. The skull and fresh fruit hint of a life lived but fleeting in its appearance.
There are strong broken lines depicting the objects on the table. The edges and structures of the skull and pair of fruit are drawn and re-drawn, with the surplus lines not corrected or erased. The blank featureless table top is a uniform black of the etching ink. The only relief to this is the broken un printed surface just discernible – this is the paper texture also responsible for the broken drawn lines.
The paper is a light-ish grey toned paper to set the mid tones and the black ink gives us our deepest darks. The highlights are the addition of white ink / water colour to areas in the image such as the skull, pomegranates and the floor.
The strong linear elements of the image are offset by the curved lines of the skull and fruit. There is a tension introduced to the image by the placement of the skull on the edge of the table. This precariously placed object can fall at any time!
Clough frequently worked with stencils, using a wide range of cut-out shapes or found objects such as a draining board mesh. She also worked with collage.
Clough frequently worked with stencils, using shapes she had cut out herself or adapting found objects. Traces of paint from use are visible.
List of Illustrations
Fig 1: Clough, Prunella ( ), Standing on Ladder [photograph] At: http://www2.tate.org.uk/prunellaclough/flash/images/gallery/image58.jpg [Accessed 6 Mar 2017].
Fig 2: Clough, Prunella ( ), Market Stall . [photograph] At: http://www2.tate.org.uk/prunellaclough/flash/images/gallery/image59.jpg [Accessed 6 Mar 2017].
Fig 3: Clough, Prunella ( ), Footballs [photograph] At: http://www2.tate.org.uk/prunellaclough/flash/images/gallery/image54.jpg [Accessed 6 Mar 2017].
Fig 4: Clough, Prunella (1951), Notebook #1 [photograph of notebook], At http://www2.tate.org.uk/prunellaclough/html/methods_descriptions3.htm [Accessed 6 Mar 2017].
Fig 5: Clough, Prunella (1948), Notebook #2 [photograph of notebook], At http://www2.tate.org.uk/prunellaclough/html/methods_descriptions2.htm [Accessed 6 Mar 2017].
Fig 6: Clough, Prunella ( ), Industrial Scene [photograph], At http://www2.tate.org.uk/prunellaclough/html/inspirations_mixedindustrial.htm [Accessed 6 Mar 2017].
Fig 7: Clough, Prunella ( ), Gas Monitor [photograph], At http://www2.tate.org.uk/prunellaclough/html/inspirations_mixedindustrial5.htm [Accessed 6 Mar 2017].
Fig 8: Clough, Prunella (1955), Corrugated Fence [etching on irregularly cut paper], At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/clough-corrugated-fence-p07915 [Accessed 6 Mar 2017].
Fig 9: Clough, Prunella (1954) Skull and Pomegranate [etching with aquatint on paper] At http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/clough-skull-and-pomegranate-p07914 [Accessed 6 Mar 2017].
Fig 10: Clough, Prunella ( ) Collage [ ] At http://www2.tate.org.uk/prunellaclough/html/methods_materials4.htm [Accessed 6 Mar 2017].
Tate. (2017). Prunella Clough, Tate. [online] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/prunella-clough-921 [Accessed on 6 Mar 2017].
Tate. (2017). Prunella Clough – Exhibition at Tate Britain [online] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/prunella-clough [Accessed on 6 Mar 2017].
Tate.org.uk. (2017). Explore the Prunella Clough Archive, [online] At: http://www2.tate.org.uk/prunellaclough/html/ [Accessed on 6 Mar 2017].