Established in Chicago in 1980, Printworks Gallery specializes in works on paper including prints, original drawings, photography and artists’ books. Printworks Gallery represents a large number of established artists whom are widely recognized. Printworks Gallery has made a commitment to promote the work of important emerging artists. Prints and drawings from Printworks Gallery have been placed in the permanent collection of major institutions around the world including the Tate Gallery in London, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirshhorn Museum and National Museum of American Art in Washington DC, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Australian National Gallery.
A suite of 20 prints by Ian Howard
Alchemia [screenprint] – Uccello [screenprint with bronzing, monoprint and collaged lithograph] – Lux [screenprint with varnish]
[All are 107×76 cm]
In the suite of prints entitled Heretical Diagrams, Ian Howard explores the theme of ideas in opposition: orthodoxy and heresy, magic and reason, order and disorder. The ‘opposition’ is found in both the imagery and the form of the prints. On the one hand the compositions are frontal, symmetrical, diagrammatic and describe clear unequivocal designs which reflect the structure of the altar-piece, the icon and the banner. On the other hand these simple designs often act as ‘containers’ for a complexity of small scale imagery, at times existing within other more tangible containers: glass domes, alchemical vessels, receptacles and recessed areas. These recall not only the shrine, the reliquary, the instruments of experimentation, but also house other self-contained worlds which are in opposition to the larger image.
Fisica [screenprint with lithograph] – Bruno II [etching with lithograph] – Ritratto [etching with lithograph and rubber stamps]
[All are 107×76 cm]
The imagery contains a set of metaphysical symbols and references to the Hermetic, particularly to the work of Giordano Bruno, but also to Fludd and Dee. There are also a number of archetypal symbols: the cross, the chalice and the urn, as well as various quotations from early Renaissance and 20th century art. Exact knowledge of these appropriations is not essential for the viewer as they are intended to form a patina of signs and symbols, some recognised, some half recognised, others not. This layering of meaning is mirrored by the physical layering of the printed separations, the final image revealing traces of those below.
The Heretical Diagrams series is published by Peacock Printmakers, Aberdeen with support from Duncan of Jordanstone School of Fine Art Research, and the Scottish Arts Council. There are 20 prints in the series, each 107cm x 76cm, in an edition of 10. The series uses the full variety of print media frequently mixed on the same sheet. The images are often sampled from other works, by the artist and by others, to be re-stated through the production process.
The series has been exhibited in the USA at the John David Mooney Foundation,Chicago and at venues in the UK.
There is an accompanying publication of 80 pages and 20 colour plates with essays by Alan Woods, which places the print series in the context of the artist’s other work; Jane Lee, whose comprehensive text unravels the iconography and charts the sources of the imagery in the wider history of ideas; and Arthur Watson, who describes the technical aspects of the work.
Collection: The Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow ( purchased with the assistance of the Scottish Arts Council).
- Acrylic gel & collage on paper, 121.9 x 101.6 cm
- Collection: City of Edinburgh Council
Victoria and Albert Museum Collection
Large chalk and gouache drawing with representations of alchemical symbols.
Place of Origin
Scotland, Great Britain (drawn)
Howard, Ian, born 1952 (artist)
Materials and Techniques
Bodycolour, chalk and acrylic paint
Height: 74.4 cm sight dimensions, Width: 101 cm sight dimensions, Height: 79.7 cm frame dimensions, Width: 105.6 cm frame dimensions
Object history note
Historical significance: Ian Howard RSA is a painter, draughtsman and teacher, born in Aberdeen in 1952 and educated at Edinburgh University and College of Art till 1976. He won a travelling scholarship to Italy as a young student and in subsequent work has continued to reference imagery from the Italian Renaissance, besides other art historical sources. He won the Royal Scottish Academy Guthrie Award in 1978, the first prize in the Scottish Open Drawing Competition in 1985, was a Tolly Cobbold Eastern Arts National Competition prizewinner and was awarded the Chicago Prize in 2000. He has had solo exhibitions at the Compass Gallery and the Third Eye Centre in Glasgow. He taught at Gray’s Art School in Aberdeen, was head of painting at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee and is currently the Principal of the Edinburgh College of Art.
Howard’s work characteristically involves the intuitive interweaving of figurative, abstract and symbolic forms and is inspired by Renaissance and Early Modern imagery of an arcane nature. Such imagery reached the height of its complexity in seventeenth century illustrations to treatises on alchemy, such as those by Heinrich Khunrath (1527-1604) and John Dee (1527-1608). These illustrations often provided labyrinthine allegories of spiritual transformation, or even hieroglyphic stimulants to revelation, as much as they provided practical instructions for changing base metals into gold. Howard is partly attracted to the enigma of alchemical imagery for its own sake, and the subject of his work is likewise less revealed through straightforward depiction than experienced in the exploration of visual connections.
He deconstructs, reconstructs and repeats forms so as amplify, dissolve and extend their hieroglyphic ‘references’. Through this process and though the notion of physical art as alchemy, Howard relates magical symbolism to modernist practices. He has been said to ‘bring the Renaissance magus into the modern world’ and foreground ‘the Neo-Platonic strain in the art of…[the 20th]…century’. The influence of artists from Georges Braque to Francis Bacon, and of movements like Cubism, Dadaism and Surrealism, is palpable.
Sorcery initially appears to be a still-life arrangement sketched by the artist. Yet on closer inspection, almost no identifiable objects are explicitly shown – the erratic pile of ice-cream and cake on the right being the principle exception. Nevertheless familiar forms are alluded to, amidst what remains a collection of depicted spatial entities of some sort. The horizontal figure of a man appears within a collection of objects in the top half of the picture, with the shapes of a black ‘witch’s hat’ and blue scroll at its right-hand end and what look like two upright gun shells at its left-hand end. Looking thus from right to left, he emerges from head to feet, in the same way that human faces emerge from piles of fruit or animals in the paintings of Archimboldo. Given the drawing’s title, perhaps some magus is here shown buried amidst relics and tools of sorcery. Meanwhile, Howard’s interest in the alchemy of art or hieroglyphic meaning – in transformations of material or perception – may also denote the draughtsman himself as a sorcerer of sorts.
A relevant work of Howard’s from 1979 entitled Excavation I (Huntarian Art Gallery, Glasgow) shows an imaginary archaeologist’s recording of a burial tomb surrounding by the artefacts of an unknown culture—objects whose identity, purpose or ritual meaning remain thoroughly mysterious. This is despite the fact that Howard constructed a prior model to calculate perspective and the correct fall of light, giving substance and presence to dreamlike abstractions. Sorcery itself is largely constructed from recurrent imaginings such as the striped trumpet shape or blue scroll, which re-appear in Howard’s other contemporary paintings, shuffled around and re-combined as if they were real still life objects in an artist’s workshop. These forms are manipulated like chemical elements to assemble new entities. Concerning this manipulation of visual ‘vocabulary’, Jane Lee remarks that the ‘reduction of specific reference is the increase of potential reference’. Thus, although various objects or associations give anchorage to the picture, the emphasis on the freedom of optical imagination or association entices the beholder to search for a hidden meaning which can never really be found as such.
Key to this effect is Howard’s longstanding interest in perspective and geometrical devices. In Excavation I the precise perspective construction and schematic grids imply a quantifiable scene, though precise meaning slips through the mathematical net of the imagined archaeologist. In Sorcery, meanwhile, the sharp two-point perspective with which Howard constructs the table-top or alchemical work-bench is emphasised by the isolated white patch of grid in the lower left, whilst other grids are inscribed in between different layers of paint, becoming the aesthetic subjects in their own right. In a suite of later prints entitled Heretical Diagrams, geometric grids are increasingly applied for their own sake, projecting an increased corporeal presence in their own right, as they cease to delineate any conventional abstract pictorial space.
Acrylic on canvas, 182 x 253.5cm Collection: Highland Council
- Date painted: 1979
- Acrylic on canvas, 155.9 x 212.1 cm
- Collection: Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow