Date Posted: 23rd August 2017

Preparations for the Kelly retrospective are accelerating at a pace.  The big news this week is that the etching of Newlands Church is printed, it’s here and it’s wonderful.  All I have to do now is to get the special folder organised.  Robert Adam of Graal Press has printed an edition of 75 from Kelly’s etching plate and there will be no more. The plate will be on display as part of the exhibition and cannot be used again. It is finished.
I said I’d tell you the story in my last newsletter. Well here goes.  Given a choice of five, Newlands Church was chosen unanimously by the Team at Tullie House.  A few days later, by sheer chance, I was re-reading Kelly’s letters to Rosanna, a fellow student at Carlisle College of Art, to check on a date and I picked out a letter headed 7pm Wednesday evening 7th December1966 and I was astonished to see a reference to the making of that very plate. It gave me goosebumps to read it.
Dear Rosanna,
Shortly after we (you and I) visited the church at Newlands, I returned later and did some drawings. Quite instinctively I threw overboard the technique which Dan* taught and worked directly on the plate feverishly. Into the acid it went and I left it to simmer away all day. What a mess it was when I pulled it out all burnt and encrusted with warped ground. What excitement as I laboriously attempted to clean it. The 1st print was fabulous. A comment “This is not student’s work” I needed no reassuring as I knew I was on the threshold of something I never dreamt of. Several prints were stolen from Dan’s metal locker. Later I did some alterations which improved it. Although a certain amount of accident was involved in this plate there was undoubtedly love. I try to love everything I do so that often houses become almost human – mute but with a humble dignity. I believe one has to fall in love continuously. The etching I spoke about is within my reach – even as I prepared the plate, the idea, exquisite and beautiful was germinating in my mind. There are other things too but although I try to grasp with my hands I cannot do so. I thought I might try today for a moment but the plate will stay wrapped in the drawer. Probably one day it will be taken out. I shan’t use it for anything else.

(*Dan was one of the print tutors and the comment was probably his)
Do you see what I mean?  I sent the quote to Robert who agreed that it is an exceptional plate using a combination of sophisticated techniques some not used before in his wide experience.  He studied Kelly’s methods and intentions carefully (regarding ink colour and density as well as pressure and paper) and used his considerable skills in printing it as closely as he could to Kelly’s standard.
The plate of the etching was found by Kelly’s printing press after his death still wrapped in a box of rusting plates. So just over 50 years later Robert made the first strike since Percy made the first one and wrote that letter.  I believe it is one of his best so it is appropriate that it marks his retrospective and centenary year
It measures 375 x 360mm overall. The image is 270 x 200mm. They are all numbered and signed with a printed facsimile of Kelly’s signature. They are presented unframed with the above quote, the history of the plate and the reason for printing the edition at this time. The price will be £250 if they are collected from the shop at Tullie House. You can order them in advance through me (but don’t send money now – pay when you collect) and if you have a preference for a particular number please let me know. If you need them to be sent to you, let me know and I will arrange to send them at cost. If you wish me to hold on to them after the exhibition ends let me know. I am happy to do that or post them to someone else on your behalf as a gift.
During the 4 months of the exhibition there will be a series of events and conducted tours. I will be giving a talk on Kelly’s college days in conversation with ex students who knew him, there will be a session about his letters and another Pursuing Percy about his loneliness, sexual confusion and retentiveness as well as a symposium organised by the Norman Nicholson Society.  Oh – and possibly one about the West Cumbrian coast as seen through Kelly’s eyes. I will tell you more in due course as they are still under discussion. For some of the events you need to sign up as a Tullie House member which I wrote to you about a few months ago.
Now I realise that I’ve probably thrown far too much information at you and you will be in such a state of excitement that you can’t think straight. So, for a start, you are invited to the opening of the exhibition (Saturday 23rd September) from 2.00 – 4.30 when I will be there with others to meet, answer questions and discuss what you see (and there is plenty to see I assure you). If you are coming to that it is essential to RSVP
Not long to go. Be patient.