Woodcut printmaking is said to have originated with the advent of paper, and is regularly linked with the reign of the Han Empire in China (206AD-220BC), a period associated with great prosperity in Chinese history.
Whilst the earliest completed pieces date back to the 8th and 10th centuries in China and Japan, the art form eventually gained popularity in Europe by the 15th century, when it was used primarily to reproduce religious imagery.
Since these times, the technique of hand-carving images onto blocks of wood, and producing a print by applying ink and then paper (or a variety of other materials), has enjoyed various renaissances.
|‘Saigon Compass,’ an illustration by Ho Chi Minh City-based artist Jack Clayton. Photo: Supplied by the artist|
Jack Clayton started doing ‘woodcut’ during his third year at Leeds Metropolitan University in England, ten years ago.
Initially drawn to photography and illustration, his professors noticed his interest in ‘messing around with chemicals in the darkroom whilst trying to draw over film.’
It was then that they recommended he give woodcut printmaking a go, and the native East Londoner has been producing original material ever since.
|‘Ca Phe Sang,’ a sample of work by Ho Chi Minh City based artists Jack Clayton. Photo: Supplied by the artist.|
“I’ve always been more attracted to hand-made crafts rather than digital,” he told Tuoi Tre News. “I feel the art is more personal when you aren’t relying on the latest technology to create your work. All you need is a piece of wood, ink, paper and a knife.”
Talking about his style, which has seen him rack up multiple commercial commissions, he said that it has changed over the years, but like many expat artists, singles out his arrival in Vietnam in 2012 as giving him a new lease of creative life.
“The freedom of my work schedule plus relatively cheap access to materials has allowed me to experiment more and more and to grow as an artist. Plus, there are lots of other creatives living here that want to collaborate,” Clayton said.
|A participant of one of Jack Clayton’s woodcut printmaking workshops displays her work. Photo: Supplied by the artist|
“In terms of my style, it tends to chop and change a little, as I don’t like to be too consistent. I do tend to use faces and characters a lot as I like the way the viewer can relate to them. I also like to make use of the material’s unique qualities such as grain patterns in the wood or the oily nature of the ink. This can actually be seen to dictate the image and form, which is something I haven’t seen other printmakers do, so I suppose that could be my signature.”
|‘A quote from Jung,’ one of Ho Chi Minh City-based artist Jack Clayton’s early woodcut prints. Photo: Supplied by the artist|
Since early work that explored the nature of being and the human condition, which was inspired by Clayton’s own fascination with the writings of famed analytical psychologist Carl Jung, he says his more recent work has been motivated by the city he lives in.
|Ho Chi Minh City-based artist Jack Clayton. Photo: Supplied by the artist|
“More recently my work has been inspired by the streets of Ho Chi Minh City and all aspects of street culture. I’ve re-introduced the hand-drawn element to create what I consider unique mixed media works and to gain a better understanding of life in Vietnam,” Clayton said.
Jack Clayton’s exhibition ‘Streets of Vietnam’ is currently on at Soma Art Café in Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City. There you can see his interpretation of life on the streets inspired by the street food vendors, fashion, sellers and signage of Ho Chi Minh City and beyond. The opening night was rescheduled to accommodate the AFC U23 football final on the weekend and will happen on Thursday February 1 from 7:00 pm. Soma Art Café is at 6b Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City.