John Preston

Silver Silvium

Prints, paintings and drawings celebrating trees

2 - 17 June 2013


John Preston

Artist’s statement

I have painted and drawn throughout my life.  Wanting to be able to both finish a composition and have the opportunity to take it further, I decided to learn printmaking.

My etchings initially focused strongly on the qualities of lines on paper: I continue to be fascinated by the way in which the fineness of an etched line can capture a large landscape on even a very small plate. My work is often very atmospheric, using aquatint on zinc, or the natural texture of steel, as well as the more spontaneous pencil-like effects of soft ground. I have also recently returned to painting, using watercolour and acrylic.

Many of my latest etchings use sugar-lift, which involves painting saturated sugar solution directly on to an aquatinted plate, then pouring on a liquid ground. When boiling water is poured over the dried ground, it lifts, exposing the plate. This technique allows bold, positive images to be created.

I have always been inspired by Italy, particularly Venice, but my work reflects my range of travels as well as my professional interest in architecture. Trees have often featured in my images, but this exhibition is my first to take trees as its theme.

As Historic Environment Manager for the Council I was in charge of both the Building Conservation and Tree Teams. The Tree Team managed the City Council's trees and the County Council's highway trees, as well as dealing with Tree Preservation Orders and planning-related tree matters. Before I took over the team, as a conservation officer I worked closely with tree colleagues, notably in the Mill Road Area where my Conservation Area Appraisal work in the late 1990s catalysed (among other improvements such as the Bath House area and shop front improvements) the Free Trees for Mill Road Area scheme which ran for a number of years. My particular pleasure is having an exhibition within the Mill Road area, to the improvement of which I committed a good deal of my professional life.