Printmaker Profile : Ray Dennis

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I was born in Hertfordshire 1956, and have been an artist ever since- or for at least, as long as I can remember! By 1976 without intending to, I became a commercial screen printer and graphic artist which allowed me to pay the rent and to continue to paint…

I moved to Sheffield in ‘79 where the screen printing continued for another four years until I decided to take on formal art education and completed a Degree in fine art Painting at Sheffield Polytechnic were I learned, amongst many other things, etching and aquatint.

The learning continues.

On graduating, I moved to Brighton to work as a fine art printmaking technician at Brighton Polytechnic. A job I applied for and was offered, but didn’t much care for nor intend to do for more than a couple of years…That was in 1988.

I have been fortunate enough to work with some brilliant artists and students over the past 27 years- some of whom are current members of North Star studios – and have been able to continue to develop my own practice and exhibit as an artist.

Being a figurative artist first and foremost, I have always been drawn to the likes of Goya, Bosch, Whistler, and the Dutch and Italian painters, Caravaggio particularly, surrealists such as Leonora Carrington, Magritte and so on, and I have a particular interest in Japanese culture including printmaking –traditional and contemporary.

I have exhibited nationally and internationally and have work in the collection of Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts Russia.

ray dennis mezzotint of russian astronaut

Ray Dennis : “Russian Icon” Mezzotint

My main area of are practice is Mezzotint, a copper plate engraving process invented in mid 17th century Amsterdam and soon after brought to England where it was perfected and became known as ‘The English Process’ or ‘The Black Manner’

A curved, serrated tool known as a ‘Rocker’ is used to apply a ground of burrs to a copper plate until the surface resembles fine sandpaper. This surface will hold and print a rich, velvet black layer of ink. Where this surface is scraped away and reduced using steel scamper/burnishing tools, a tonal image can be created, hence: Mezzotint or ‘Half-Tone’.

This beautiful and laborious process allows me to produce work with a distinctive character and quality not easy to achieve with other intaglio printmaking processes.

My children have regularly featured in my work; The way we grow, and learn and understand our world through play, no matter what our age, continues to fascinate me.

The image on a Mezzotint plate gradually reveals itself out of the dark background. There is the point between the unseen and the understood, the obscure and the enlightened which is the point of discovery, the ‘reveal’ from matrix to paper, this is what makes a printmaker a printmaker.

printmaker Ray Dennis is based at North Star Studios in Brighton

Ray Dennis : “Egg Hunting” Mezzotint


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