In the first of a new series of interviews with up-and-coming printmakers, we talk to recent Leeds Beckett graduate Richard Marsden as he prepares to venture north of border to do his Masters. 

One of the best things about print fairs is the people you meet – the curious locals, the dedicated collectors, the guys at the venue who've spent ages putting the fair together and promoting it, the other stall-holders, the artists, and the enthusiastic students. One such student, Richard Marsden, introduced himself with a broad grin and announced that he was soon to embark on an exciting adventure – a Masters Degree at the Glasgow School of Art.

'Map' – silkscreen print

As a small gallery with a little bit of a profile, we receive a few emails from artists – both of the established and the budding varieties. Generally speaking, the quality of the work is high, even if it doesn't always tick the boxes required to grab our attention in the fullest possible sense... However, Richard's work more than grabbed our attention, and while our roster isn't expanding for a while we're more than happy to shout about up-and-coming talent. And seeing as we met Richard in person, it felt like the perfect start for our Ones To Watch Q+A series.

Richard holding 'Accommodation Road' – silkscreen print

Look Up Hi Richard – how did you get into printmaking?
Richard Marsden At Leeds Beckett, towards the end of my second year on the Graphic Arts and Design degree (following a Foundation at The Leeds College of Art). Before I started experimenting with printmaking I worked across a range of disciplines including photography, painting, illustration and animation.

Detail of 'System' – silkscreen print


LU On your website, you say you're "dedicated to the exploration of geometric abstract art through screenprinting". What is it about geometric abstraction that makes it such a fertile terrain for experimentation?

RM Because it's primarily, if not completely visual. You’re not concerning yourself with what the work might denote... Even while working with certain rules, experimenting with quite specific colours, shapes, compositions and systems the combinations are endless. You're free to experiment.

'Fluoro' – silkscreen print

LU How do you approach the use of colour in your work? Do you begin a print with a set colour palette in mind, or does the palette develop layer by layer?

RM With most of my prints I plan which colours I’m going to use, I experiment with different combinations digitally before committing to mixing them as ink. I always go back to something the artist David Batchelor said in a lecture about his use of colour. He doesn’t follow any particular theory, he just uses "what works, what looks interesting". I've followed the same mantra ever since. I try not to think about the new colours that might be created by overlapping sections – not knowing what colours you'll get during the layering is one of the exciting parts of printmaking.

LU Who are your biggest influences? 

RM There's a huge list of artists who have inspired me, the main people who really began my study of geometry and colour are Mark Rothko, Agnes Martin, Richard Diebenkorn, Robyn Denny and Peter Halley. My work started as an interest in architecture; Le Corbusier and Yakov Chernikhov were major influences at that time. Others include John Hoyland, Damien Hirst, James Hugonin, Sol LeWitt, Kasimir Malevich, the list goes on and on. In terms of colour, David Batchelor's a key figure.

Detail of 'LPW' – silkscreen print

LU You recently received a First Class BA Graphic Arts & Design degree from Leeds Beckett University. What were your favourite elements of the course? And can you please tell us a bit more about the prize-winning work that saw you recognised as the course's stand-out printmaker?

RM The course was very open. There was a lot of freedom to explore what interested you personally, which is why I chose to do the course. It allowed me to gradually discover my love of abstract art. The facilities, staff and lecturers were all brilliant; the more you put in, the more you got out. I was given the award for my ongoing experimentation with printmaking, especially screen printing.

LU How did you first get involved in the Leeds Print Workshop?

RM We worked hard to set up the workshop with the help of East Street Arts; it runs as a cooperative, and has around ten members. Our aim is to provide printmaking facilities for local artists and to develop the creative community of Leeds. I got involved when I met local printmaker Mick Wellbourne at my degree show, through one of my tutors, Christian Lloyd. Since then we've all volunteered many hours to set it up and to keep it running. Now the workshops are booking up fast and with around 50 signed up members people are starting to use the facilities more, which is fantastic.

'Kidacre Street' – silkscreen print

LU You're starting your MA in Printmaking in Glasgow soon – what are you most looking forward to about the course?

RM I’ll be studying at The Glasgow School of Art on the MLitt in Fine Art Practice on the Print Media pathway. I wanted to do a masters because I discovered my interest in printmaking and geometric abstract art quite late in my degree, and I felt like another year or two of intense study would greatly progress my work. The facilities look amazing, and you get a huge studio space to yourself. The main thing I'm looking forward to is spending most of my days in a creative environment – making, playing, and talking to the tutors and my fellow students.

LU What's your long term goal when it comes to printmaking?

RM The most important thing to me is to continue experimenting, reading, learning, developing my skills, and my knowledge of printmaking and art history. Becoming an internationally recognised artist is the ultimate goal; exhibiting my prints around the world. Realistically I'd eventually like to teach in universities, while selling my prints and running workshops. I recently ran one at Leeds Print Workshop for some Leeds Beckett students, and I really enjoyed it."

Richard holding 'Miles Hill Mount' – silkscreen print

The majority of prints we've featured in this post are from a series of ten silkscreen prints made by Richard during his final year at Leeds Beckett. "I used a random number generator," explain Richard, "to generate longitude and latitude for ten different points on a map of Leeds. Using Google maps I reduced the visual information of those areas to geometric compositions. The colours are experiments, there's no system. The title is the name of the street closest to the randomly generated grid reference. Although I used quite a specific system it was more of a means to an end; I like the prints to be viewed as completely abstract."

Stay up to date with Richard's evolving printmaking practice by following him on Instagram, and by keeping an eye on his website.

All photos by Jonathan Peach