Anne Desmet: Time is of the essence

Published 13 October 2015

Anne Desmet RA is known for her prints and collages exploring space and time. But in her new show she combines these with objects in unusual and playful ways.

  • From the Autumn 2015 issue of RA Magazine, issued quarterly to Friends of the RA.

    One might not expect an exhibition of prints to include works made from antique timepieces. But Anne Desmet RA’s new London solo show, Time Sequences, includes a work made using an antique mantel clock sourced from a friend’s former horological repair business. On the face is a collaged scene of Roman ruins, with a popup tableau of arches and palm trees inside. And another series of collages, Constructed Space, is framed behind convex discs of clock glass.

    Besides being a master printmaker, Desmet is also a magpie – a hoarder of roof slates, seashells and pebbles on which she mounts the miniature cut-outs she makes from recycled fragments of old prints. Recently she has been collecting small ceramic bowls into which she collages printed images, playing games with perspective. In the roundel Palmyra, Approaching Storm (2015) the ceramic glazes add atmosphere, appearing like heavy clouds hanging over the columns.

  • In her collages, Desmet courts serendipity; in her prints, she is more deliberate. Her command of different print techniques is mind-boggling: her Brooklyn Bridge series (shortlisted in the New Light Prize 2015) combines wood engraving, linocut and stencil to convey effects of weather on this familiar landmark, as seen in Snow Light and Blizzard (both 2015). Intricacy of scale is part of her magic: glimpses of architecture in the wood-engraving Skylines (London), from 2013, look like thumbprints pressed onto the paper.

    Time has always played a central role in Desmet’s art. As a student on a Rome Scholarship in 1989 she became fascinated by the compressed layering of the city’s history, with Roman catacombs below ground and Baroque domes above, and her own architectural capriccios traverse time and space. In the clock face collage Moonlit Afternoon (2015), the colonnade of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral insinuates itself among the Roman ruins. The bright blue sky in the background was printed from a piece of reclaimed lino, the indentation of a chair leg supplying the white disc of the moon – another piece of satisfying serendipity, and a mark of the passage of time.

  • Anne Desmet, Palmyra: Approaching Storm

    Anne Desmet, Palmyra: Approaching Storm, 2015.

    Wood engravings on paper collaged onto glazed ceramic bowl. 12cm (diameter) x 4.5cm (depth). © Anne Desmet.

  • Anne Desmet RA: Time Sequences, Long & Ryle, London, 15 October – 11 December

    Laura Gascoigne is a freelance art critic who writes for the Tablet and the Spectator.

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