‘Anne Desmet: Kaleidoscope/London’ at The Guildhall Art Gallery

Photo credit: City of London Corporation / Paul Clarke Photography

“Climate crisis, escape, and possible new worlds” provide inspiration for wood engraver’s new art works in City of London gallery’s exhibition

Offering art lovers a fresh perspective on London, its architecture, and geography, the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery celebrates the work of artist and specialist wood engraver, Anne Desmet RA, in its forthcoming major exhibition.

‘Anne Desmet: Kaleidoscope/London’ (12 April – 8 September) will see the artist slicing into prints focused on London from her earlier wood-engravings, linocuts, and hand-drawn lithographs to make a new series of digital collages.

Speaking candidly about her inspiration for the new work, Desmet has pointed to “wild scattergun thoughts running through my mind” while undergoing treatment for breast cancer two years ago, and looking at a fragmented view of the world through a toy kaleidoscope.

Deeply personal and endlessly imaginative, ‘Anne Desmet: Kaleidoscope/London’ is the first solo exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery to be led by a female artist and will be one of two solely female exhibitions in 2024, with ‘Evelyn De Morgan: Pioneering Artist in Victorian London’ opening in November.

Spanning over three decades of Desmet’s documentation of London through the mediums of wood engraving and mixed-media printed collage, the exhibition will feature 150 works, including 41 London-themed kaleidoscopic prints created exclusively for this exhibition, and a selection of tools and engraved wood blocks.

Desmet’s prints create a unique dialogue between time and change, depicting the evolution of urban landscapes – from ancient Rome and Pompeii to London.

One of the stand-out art works will be a complex collage, ‘Fires of London’, created using 18 razor-clam shells to present a theme of the many historic fires of London over the last 1,500 years. The work has just been acquired for the art gallery’s permanent collection.

The exhibition is curated by Anne Desmet and the City of London Corporation’s Head of Guildhall Art Gallery, Elizabeth Scott. Admission will be ‘Pay What You

Printmaker and wood engraver, Anne Desmet RA, said: “Many of the collages were made in 2022 while I was undergoing treatment for breast cancer and consequently, they reflect something of a wild scattergun of thoughts that were running through my mind at that time, such as escape, possible new worlds, and the climate crisis.

“The framework for those thoughts was inspired by a kaleidoscope toy that I had bought at the Sir John Soane’s Museum some years ago, which breaks up whatever view you’re looking at into extraordinary triangulated repeat-patterns.

“I set about applying a kaleidoscope lens to my London imagery to create new work for the exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery. By seeing the city anew and with a sense of its unexpected possibilities, I hope that my work will inspire optimism and constructive thinking in our uncertain times.”

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage, and Libraries Committee, Munsur Ali, said: “Many visitors to Guildhall Art Gallery may be intrigued that wood, that most natural and tactile of materials, provides the focus for its next exhibition, which we expect to be very popular with its followers and admirers, as well as those who discover this beautiful gallery for the first time.

“It will be an absolute joy to see how Anne Desmet’s vivid imagination, life experiences, and highly skilled hands have helped create such evocative work,
some of it never seen before.”

Desmet is only the third artist to be elected to the prestigious Royal Academy of Arts in London for working in the medium of wood engraving and to date, she has exhibited her work in over 50 solo shows, including five major museum exhibitions in the UK and overseas.

Anne Desmet: Kaleidoscope/London is an integral part of the City’s arts and cultural offering and forms part of the City of London Corporation’s Destination City programme, which sets out a vision for the Square Mile to become a world-leading leisure destination for UK and international visitors, workers, and residents to enjoy.

The City of London Corporation is one of the largest funders of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130m every year. The organisation manages a range of world-class cultural and heritage institutions, including the Barbican Centre, Tower Bridge, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Guildhall Art Gallery, London Metropolitan Archives, and Keats House. It also supports the London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London.

For more information, please visit www.thecityofldn.com/kaleidoscope