omens and observations

Harry Clewans and
Arthur Gonzalez

Artist Statement - Harry Clewans

I usually draw a single thing on a woodblock, typically a found object––a piece of kelp, an old broom, a melted plastic bottle––then I carve the drawing out, making a reproducible image that I can print and use as an element in the composition of much larger and more complex works. To begin a large piece, I make prints from my collection of woodcuts, I cut the prints up, and arrange the pieces to form landscapes, portraits, interiors. A woodcut of a seedpod articulates the skin of an octopus, or the surface of a tree trunk, a desiccated pear describes the ground around an old well or the wings of a butterfly. Much like a mosaic or jigsaw puzzle 

I have always used drawing as a way to understand the world around me. When I draw the act of looking becomes more concentrated and less judgmental rather than attaching ideas or meaning to a thing I’m just looking. Drawing for me is a process of deconstruction and reconstruction: in examining a thing I mentally dissect it, in drawing it I reconstruct it Both give me a deeper, more tactile, more objective knowledge of my subject. I approach my larger pieces in much the same way I approach my drawings: I deconstruct a figure, a landscape, an underwater scene, so I can reconstruct it using my woodcuts, as my own visual lexicon.

I think of my library of woodcuts as a kind of periodic table, each one is an element that I can use to reconstruct the world around me; just as everything in our physical environment is composed of the same matter, all the pieces are composed of the same collection of woodcut images. This approach, I hope, communicates the idea that all things, by virtue of their makeup are connected, that all things participate in a cycle of composition and decomposition