Gallagher & Turner are proud to present two shows in tandem, ‘In Pursuit of Pleasure: Lucy May Schofield & Japanese Woodblock Prints’.

‘In Pursuit of Pleasure’ refers to the golden age of Japanese woodblock printing in the 18th and 19th centuries, Ukiyo-e, or 'pictures of the floating world'. This is an expression of the fleeting, ephemeral pleasures of life: the theatre, beautiful women, or courtesans, folklore stories and the beauty of animals, flowers, and plants.

The exhibition prompts a conversation between contemporary British artist Lucy May Schofield’s stunning prints, inspired by the experience of living and working in rural Northumbria and made using contemporary and traditional Japanese woodblock techniques, and Gallagher & Turner’s japanese woodblock collection, featuring printmakers of the Edo, Meiji and Shin-Hanga eras of Japanese art.

The technique of producing images using delicately hand-carved blocks flourished during the Edo and Meiji periods in the 18th and 19th centuries, with skilled artists such as Utamaro (1750 - 1806) and Kunisada (1786 - 1865) creating more intricate designs and introducing vivid colours and glazes as dyes and pigments became more readily available.

Early illustrated woodblock books were printed on fine, expensive papers, and frequently reimagined Japanese historical classics which had previously only been hand painted on scrolls for society’s highest elites. Due to their popularity, printers were quick to develop processes to create more affordable books for the mass market, and on a wider range of subjects. This led to images that had humorous or erotic elements, as well as greetings cards that depicted animals, townscapes or popular temples.

The prints were finely carved from hardwood with enormous skill, but were not perceived as fine art, being produced by the thousand as commercial art. Over the centuries many prints were destroyed: the French impressionist painters only discovered them because they were wrapped around crockery as packing. Their unique style came as a revelation and this quirk of fate helped to shape the future of modern European art. Some of these highly influential prints are now very rare and collectable, being traded around the world.

They still represent some of the most remarkable examples of fine printmaking and craftsmanship in the art world, with extraordinarily detailed designs in fine detail that remain as brilliantly coloured as they were two hundred years or more ago.

Lucy May Schofield (b.1979) is an acclaimed British artist based in Northumberland, who continues traditional and contemporary woodblock techniques. She works and exhibits internationally and is held in collections including Tate Britain, The Ashmolean Museum and Yale Centre for British Art.

Responding to the expansive landscapes, dark skies and seasonal shifts of rural Northumbria, Lucy works with paper, ink and wood to connect and convene with nature. Lucy’s works are a continuation from the later period of Ukiyo-e printmaking, where the possibility of travel beyond Japan’s cities opened up the countryside and the pleasures of the flora, fauna and landscapes.

Lucy’s striking, meditative work, presses pause on the drama and speed of flourishing modern life in Japan. Her work observes the relationship between time, remoteness, and the ritual of making, while making reference to the desires and longing that may bring. Alongside printmaking, her practice encompasses installations and performances inspired by the earth’s rotation, the phases of the moon and our relationship to light and time. Her printmaking seeks a dialogue with the temporal and transient nature of our impermanence. She is interested in belonging and dislocation, remoteness and ritual, separation and intimacy, repetition and remembrance, stillness and light, silence and rhythm, pilgrimage, and place.