Dystopian drawing inspired by Norwich School artwork

PUBLISHED: 14:00 13 January 2018

Reece Jones� On The Corner of Carrow and Koblenz (After JS and ME Cotman), 2017.

Reece Jones� On The Corner of Carrow and Koblenz (After JS and ME Cotman), 2017.


Harriet Loffler tells how modern printmakers are being inspired by artists of the Norwich School.

Reece Jones’ On The Corner of Carrow and Koblenz (After JS and ME Cotman) is a 2017 charcoal drawing by the contemporary artist which is currently on display as part of the exhibition ‘We Came Here to Conquer’ at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

The exhibition showcases a group of contemporary artists working with print and printmaking who were invited to create new work in response to the print collection. The collection spans more than 300 years and contains in the region of 12,000 works on paper. Traditionally printmaking was a means to reproduce a work of art. It was Rembrandt in the 17th century who established printmaking as an art form in its own right. Since then artists have experimented with the medium with great inventiveness and technical ingenuity.

For We Came Here to Conquer each of the artists selected a print or number of prints from the collection that provided the starting point or source material for their newly-commissioned work. These prints sit side by side with their responses creating a conversation between the past and the present.

The two works Reece Jones selected for the exhibition were of the same view of Norwich but by two different - albeit related - artists. Devil’s Tower, Norwich (date unknown) is a drawing by John Sell Cotman and The Devil’s Tower, Norwich Oct (1841) is a lithograph of the same view by Miles Edmund Cotman, John Sell Cotman’s eldest son. Through John Sell Cotman’s original version and his son’s subsequent published lithographic copy we see vivid representation in dialogue with artistic licence, romance and suggestion.

What makes Jones’ drawing so extraordinary is that is looks just like a print but is in fact a drawing which he carefully covered in varnish then stripped away with sandpaper to create the fine lines that run across the image. It’s at once realistic and dystopian and - much like the fictional scene conjured in the Cotman images – his work combines fact and interpretation to create something seemingly authentic - even when it is manifestly invented.

Harriet Loffler is Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

We Came Here to Conquer runs until March 25, and features Adam Bridgland, Charlie Barkus, Matthew Benington, Alec Game, Jade Jamean Lees, Reece Jones, Flora Parrott, Sophie Purchase, Carl Rowe, Aaron Scott Griffin and Gabrielle Walker.

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