Introduction to Neil Bousfield

The following is from the catalog written by Simon Brett in conjunction with our January Invitational, “Bewick’s Legacy: Six Contemporary British Wood Engravers.” Read on to learn more about one of the participating artists, Neil Bousfield.

"Alfred Brown" wood engraving by Neil Bousfield

For his first graphic art degree in 1990, Neil Bousfield specialised in animation. He worked in that field, in the games industry, and in craftwork in wood and wood-turning and taught these subjects to the socially excluded, for 10 years, while also gaining an Msc in Graphical Computing Technologies. By the time he began an MA in Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking at the University of the West of England, in Bristol, in 2003, therefore, he had experience of visual narrative and of hands-on making, a deep and growing interest in the woodcut and wood engraving of the 1930s and 40s, especially the ‘novels in woodcuts’ of that time, and an experienced sympathy with the poor and the underprivileged.  For his finals, he produced The Cycle, a novel told in 188 images, measuring about 6 x 4 ¾” each, which he engraved on vinyl mounted to type-high, at the rate (as the deadline approached) of one a day. It concerns the cycle of deprivation and exclusion which families can get stuck in, one generation after another.  He produced 12 hand-printed copies of the book.  It is now available in a commercial edition as Walking Shadows: A Novel Without Words (Manic D Press, California).

The prints exhibited [in the “Bewick’s Legacy” exhibition] are from his new work Alfred Brown: A Life in Pictures (the working title) which is being engraved on plastic blocks about 9 ½ x 6”. It follows its protagonist from the age of 7 in the late 1940s to his death around the present day.  It is all story-boarded out but not drawn up in pages yet. There will be between 1 and 4 images (usually 2) on each block, allowing variety of pace.  Neil expects to engrave around 400 blocks with 750 images on them. He does not know how long it will take.  He has to try to make a living meanwhile. Amazingly, he finds time to make other prints as well.

Alfred Brown explores the wider ideas of values and what we consider to be a useful and productive life. It is an attempt to understand what we are all doing, running around. There are no answers provided, just description.  Neil himself, having ‘run around’ the whole gamut of modern technologies, has realised that a passionate concern with narrative lies at the heart of what he wants to do and that the engraver’s marks are the best means of doing it.


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