Respondences, a collaboration by Susan Aldworth and Nigel Oxley

Anik Lee, page 19, Printmaking Today, Winter 2018

Respondences – A suite of prints for a Sleep Clinic
Visualising sleep

The Dark Self/Respondences
Sleep Disorders Centre, Guy’s Hospital
Permanent Collection


A new collaboration by Susan Aldworth and Nigel Oxley responding to Victor Pasmore’s Correspondencessuite of the 1970s has just been completed. The collaboration has a serendipitous side to it: Aldworth, a visual artist and experimental printmaker, had been commissioned by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity to make work for The Sleep Disorders Centre at Guys’ Hospital, and had always had a secret passion for Victor Pasmore. The charity has many Pasmore prints in their collection, and Aldworth decided to ‘respond’ to his work. When she called up her friend and master printer Nigel Oxley to ask if he’d ever worked with Pasmore, she discovered that his first job at White Ink print studio was helping Pasmore print the Correspondencessuite. ” I think as an artist, your duty in a way is to spot the coincidence is, and to run with it,” says Aldworth,and thus Respondences was born.

Correspondences was a suite of 7 prints – combinations of etching, aquatint and silkscreening – with lines of his own poetry screen printed on top of them afterwards. “So with all that,” says Aldworth, “having looked at Nigel’s printer’s proofs and talking to him, I asked how did he make those marks? What’s that?  Why did he add poetry to the prints? These prints were etched in his memory because they were the first works he’d ever done as a master printer.”

Aldworth and Oxley have collaborated in the past, but this was different. Though Pasmore died in the 1980s, his character was very much present in his work, and the process of making the Respondences prints very much became a three-way dialogue. “In a way Nigel is talking in both directions, he’s remembering the conversations he had with Victor and also talking to me about the work we are making and talking to me about what it was like to work with Victor,” says Aldworth.

In Respondences, Aldworth has borrowed the prevailing images or lines in Pasmore’s prints and surrounded them with her own response –  bringing a feminine eye to a very masculine suite of prints. “One of the marks of my work as a printmaker is usually to have some negative or white line that runs through it,” says Aldworth. “So most of these prints have some connectivity which has to do with white line. And Nigel thought Victor would really like that.” Aldworth and Oxley used a combination of intaglio and cardboard plates, as well as stencil shapes, as a response to the importance of geometry in Pasmore’s prints. “How they’re inked is totally Nigel’s decision, because I wanted him to make them look and feel like how Pasmore would have liked his prints to be inked.”

“I think as a response, it’s about shape,” says Aldworth. “It’s about how you fill a piece of paper with texture and marks. I use texture more than Pasmore does, and I think it’s quite interesting to look at the interplay with that…. It is a respondence rather than a copy. I’m not trying to make it personal, but I’m trying to get under the skin of it.”