Building a relationship between hand and eye – Abstraction of a close reality.

I’ve been looking at Prunella Clough after a suggestion by T.A.

The Tate have a good Archive of her work along with associated visual research she had collected over time.Screenshot 2019-07-13 at 08.59.52

Her photographic collection of ideas says, to me, that she saw the world in a similar way to me when looking through a camera lens.

“Clough was attracted to the abstract qualities of everyday objects, which she photographed in surprising ways, such as in close-up or cropped. Sometimes she cropped a photograph after it had been taken by choosing a section of it, cutting that section out and framing it. Cropping dislocated the viewer’s perception of size and scale, making it easier to see an object as a pattern or shape.”(@Tate, 2019a)

Clough was attracted to the abstract qualities and possibilities of objects and landmarks she saw on the beach at Aldeburgh. (Ibid)

I’m quite intrigued by the way she reworked things. Something sadly very lacking in my own practice. It is something I should endeavour to build in to my relationship with my work. I think this way of working will inspire a way of mark making which is still governed by chance, and having decided not to work with the waste laser cut boards I now need to find a way to build an element of chance into my processes in a different way.

“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” (Ibid)

Using found objects she seems to cut out shapes, often inspired by a mark or shape on the object. She also used practical objects which were around her studio, like the draining board mesh. She used these pieces in collages as well as to mark make on her paintings.  She also used and element of printmaking.

She made notes of particular colours that she noticed and described them as if painting, i.e. “solid cobalt over brick red”. I notice that I have begun to refer to things by the names on paint tubes!

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The Tate’s Biography of her work and approaches speaks of her ability to capture not only the working lives of those who were around her but also her ability to capture the texture and colour of the landscape around her. Not the pretty open countryside but the factories and lorries, the “seemingly commonplace, the brightness of the plastic detritus and the grimy texture of the buildings” become “beguiling” under her hand.(@tate, 2019b)


On The British Art Studies Website Catherine Spencer reviews the later works by Clough and comments that the change in her focus, is inspired by the move to London and time spent on the south cost. Where the detritus of a post industrial world catches her eye. Spencer comments that “The abstracted images Clough developed from her studies of these commodities constitute a unique episode in the artist’s sustained meditation on the gradual movement from an industrial to a post-industrial economy in Britain”. (Spencer, 2019)

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The titles of her work reflect the concerns she had i.e. Wrapper (1985), Iridescent (1987), Sugar Hearts (1987), Toypack: Sword (1988), Sweetpack (1988), Vacuum Pack (1988), Plastic Bag (1988), and Party Pack (1989).


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Land & Gravel Jerwood Prize Winner 1999 -Prunella Clough


This change in tack had a cumulative and positive effect on her career. With Art Critic Patrick Heron writing the introductory Essay to her Catalogue for Kettles Yard in 1996 in which he said ““fascinated . . . by many of those products of the present age whose magical potential she alone has perceived and in her paintings has insisted on celebrating”  Shortly before her death in 1999 she received the Jerwood Prize for Drawing.(Spencer, 2019)

Of the prize winning painting The Telegraph Correspondent Martin Gayford writes.

“embedded in the imagery it is usually possible to discover the unconsidered trifles that had initially caught her attention – a length of wire, say, a plastic bag, or a scrap of waste paper. In 1998’s Land and Gravel … there is the gravel of the title, though in the process of making the picture Clough has decided to paint it pink, green and yellow.”(Gayford, 1999)

It seemed a strange choice of words to phrase his description of her work as a comment on her choice of colour. As if Gravel should/could not be painted in blue and yellow. It feels he should have added an exclamation mark; with that I believe he would have put his finger on the pulse of Cloughs process. Surely …she did because she could!

Of the contenders for the prize that year he wrote…

“So, altogether, here is an interesting group of artists who collectively indicate how much worthwhile work is done between the two poles of the super-cool cutting edge, and the arrière-garde – just the kind of people, as I understand it, that the Jerwood was founded to encourage.”(Ibid.)

*Quote in 1929 reported in the Guardian Newspaper’s review of her biography by Frances Spadling.(Spalding, 2012)


@Tate (2019a) Explore the Prunella Clough Archive | Tate (Accessed: 13/07/19 2019).

@tate (2019b) ‘Prunella Clough – Exhibition at Tate Britain | Tate’.

Gayford, M. (1999) ‘The painting prize that got it right – Telegraph’.

Spalding, F. (2012) ‘Prunella Clough and the art of ‘saying a small thing edgily”.

Spencer, C. (2019) ‘Abstraction’s Ecologies: Post-Industrialization, Waste and the Commodity Form in Prunella Clough’s Paintings of the 1980s and 1990s’, British Art Studies, (1).