58 years ago today Lindy Clark was born in Blackpool – she moved to Bristol where we met her a quarter of a century ago through various arts activities, and yesterday we celebrated her birthday in one of her favourite spots – a wood near Bristol vibrating with bluebells. Sadly though, she wasn’t with us this time. When we took her there in June last year it transpired that it would be her final visit to the outside world and she died in September after heroically and humorously living with a brain tumour for over five years.
Lindy had few relatives but we were among a network of people who became very close to her in these last years and although we’d always known her as an accomplished artist, with a wicked sense of humour, this deeper level of friendship revealed a truly remarkable person and a creative ‘tour de force’.
She introduced me to the feral world of mail art in the late 80s – a domain in which she was ‘Red Herring’; she made exquisite wood engravings of plant forms, cats, and monstrous beings; pioneered ceramic printing methods, and created some extraordinary and beautiful forms out of clay. She fashioned artists’ books, took rubbings of people’s bodies, painted, etched, letterpressed, taught, photographed, researched, was an excellent draughtswoman, gardener and shepherd of cats, constructor of both large and tiny kites, grower of plants in old chairs seats – and maker of rubber stamps.
We’ve inherited some of Lindy’s original hand cut stamps and recently I got out the wooden box they’re kept in to look at them and lifting the lid was like opening a treasure chest – they are quite magical – still stained with the bright ink-pad colours they seem so fresh and animated. Some of them are pictured below, but in the image at the top of this page are a collection of hand cut stamps of all sorts of birds.
What’s remarkable about these sculpted erasers is that even at only 6 or 7 mm long, it’s possible to identify most of the birds, not just because of the detail, but from the character of the creature she’s somehow managed to convey with some deft cuts of the scalpel blade.
Lindy was able to do this partly through her technical skill but also because of her excellent powers of observation and incredibly wide-ranging knowledge about, and fascination with the natural world – even in her last wordless weeks she was completely absorbed by photographs I showed her of moths we’d found in our garden. I had the most rewarding collaboration with Lindy in 2002 which resulted in a huge woodblock print that I kind of commissioned – you can read about it here.It was during this process that I realised what an encyclopaedia she was – an enriching and entertaining addition to any walk, much missed.
When I embarked on the Sticks, signs and leaves project, it was partly a journey inspired by Lindy and her work. I’d begun working in a new way with images that I wanted to make into an artist’s book – I was entering largely unknown territory. But I prepared by taking a few impromptu workshop sessions with Lindy who was a firm, organised and stimulating teacher, full of resourcefulness and wit and so she set me going, well equipped, along this new route, and I made something I’d never done before.
As this network of friends drew together around Lindy, I think we all became more aware of her talent through some collective process and realised we must honour her achievements after she had gone – it seems so sad that she didn’t have the recognition in her lifetime that she deserved. After her death (cared for at the end with quiet and kind consideration at St Peter’s Hospice) her various artworks were distributed amongst her friends on the understanding that they could be recalled for an exhibition to celebrate her richly creative life.
This plan (largely managed by David James, with support from some of this network of Lindy’s friends including Andrew Eason), is now near completion. David and his wife Barbara had known Lindy for decades and they have generously turned their house upside down to create a fitting and friendly space in which to display a range of examples of Lindy’s artwork for the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail which takes place this weekend. It’s very fittingly called ‘Seriously Playful’ – if you’re in Bristol, please go and sample the rich, tender, oddball, elegant, down to earth, eloquent and dreamlike work of this lovely artist at Venue 13, 64 Birch Road, BS3 1PF. There will be some printworks for sale – proceeds to St Peter’s Hospice.