An Introduction to Printmaking

13 January 2020

Watch our latest educational film, which features artist and printmaker, Professor Paul Coldwell. The film presents an introduction to the four main printmaking techniques found in Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition, The Printed Line, exploring the tools and techniques used and demonstrating the differing characteristics particular to each approach.

Using examples of artworks from the Arts Council Collection, including Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud and Rachel Whiteread, the film explores how each printmaking process makes different demands on the artist and allows for a huge range of approaches to mark-making.

The film, which has been produced with support from Camberwell College of Art, University of the Arts London, features demonstrations by Brian D Hodgson and Paul Atkins.

The current touring exhibition considers how artists have used a variety of printmaking techniques to exploit the potential of the printed line, from the thick velvety line of drypoint and the heavy cross-hatching of etching to delicate wood engraving and boldly coloured screenprints and lithographs. Spanning the 20th century and up to the present day, the exhibition will include Walter Sickert's masterly cross-hatched etching The Old Middlesex (c.1910), Ben Nicholson's rich drypoint Halse Town 1949 (1949), Eduardo Chillida's bold etchings and David Hockney's pared down linear etchings in Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C. P. Cavafy (1966-67). The use of colour will be explored in screenprints by Bridget Riley and Kenneth Martin, as well as Simon Patterson's witty lithograph reworking of the lines of the London tube map.

An Arts Council Collection film produced with kind support of Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London.


Artwork in Focus: Field for the British Isles

24 February 2020

In our latest educational film, Antony Gormley reflects on the creation of his iconic work, Field for the British Isles, the largest artwork in the Arts Council Collection. Made by Gormley in 1993 with 100 volunteers at a school in St Helens, Field for the British Isles consists of 40,000 tiny individual terracotta figures and is currently on show at Firstsite in Colchester as part of a National Partners Programme exhibition.

Field for the British Isles is one of Antony Gormley’s best-loved works of art, featuring 40,000 clay figures.  In 1996 Field was purchased by the Arts Council Collection, with the support of the Henry Moore Foundation and the National Art Fund.  Since its acquisition Field has been seen by over 500,000 visitors in Aberystwyth, Carlisle, Colchester, Gateshead, Gloucester, Lincoln, London, Salisbury, Sheffield, Shrewsbury, St Ives, Yorkshire, St Helens, Somerset and in venues as diverse as a trainshed, a church, a cathedral, a gallery, and a warehouse.

Winner of the 1994 Turner Prize, Antony Gormley is renowned for his distinctive representations of the human form. Gormley has described Field as ‘...twenty-five tons of clay energised by fire, sensitised by touch and made conscious by being given eyes...a field of gazes which looks at the observer making him or her its subject’. This arresting installation comprises a sea of miniature terracotta figures, clustered together. Some stand out because of their size and character, others are greyer than the earthy reds of the majority. The overall sight is both captivating and mesmerising. The figures were handmade by 100 people, aged seven to 70, from a community in St Helen’s, Merseyside in 1993.  Every time Field is exhibited it takes about a week to install by a team of volunteers.


Watch the full film below.


Field for the British Isles is on show at Firstsite in Colchester until 8 March 2020.


Young People's Collaborative Project Launch Event

16 April 2021

On Saturday 13 February, 2021, the Arts Council Collection hosted the first event for the Young People’s Collaborative Project, part of the National Partners Programme.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and national lockdown, this launch event was hosted online via Zoom. It brought together members of the youth groups from the partner venues: Celebrate Different at Sunderland Culture, SEEN at Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange, and YAK at Firstsite, Colchester and was facilitated by the youth-led and Bristol based Rising Arts Agency.

This was the first time for members from all three youth groups to meet, albeit over the internet, have an introduction to the Collection and begin thinking about their collaborative project. Over the course of three hours, we did icebreaker activities, listened to presentations by Arts Council Collection artists John Walter and Flo Brooks, learned about curating from Rising Arts’ Campaign & Communication Manager Rosa ter Kuile, did breakout sessions to prompt discussions about exhibition-making, and finished with a zine workshop.

Prior to the event, artist Flo Brooks invited the young people to submit questions to him which he’d then respond to in a pre-recorded video which would be shared during the event. His willingness to answer “informal, intimate, challenging” questions was well and truly tested by our participants! Questions such as “how do you start the complex pieces”, and “do you work from photographs or memory?” allowed insight into his artists process, while others allowed for Flo to share more personal comments on his experiences as a queer, trans man. 

Using images of his works, together with archival photographs, sketches and found imagery, Flo put together a rich and varied slide show to illustrate his answers as captured in the two stills from the presentation below. You can read the full transcript from the Q&A here.


The Arts Council Collection : Young People's Collaborative Project Launch Event
The Arts Council Collection : Young People's Collaborative Project Launch Event

We were lucky to have John Walter join us in person for the event. John Walter’s work encompasses a diverse range of media, including painting, drawing, artist’s books, sculpture, costume, performance, video, sound, installation and spatial design. His oeuvre is characterised by an exuberant use of colour and pattern as well as an absurdist and tragicomic use of humour. He works serially, producing iterative bodies of work that accumulate to form large and distinct projects, and often collaborates with individuals and institutions such as other artists, scientists and museums in order to exchange images, ideas and narratives. 

John participated in an Q&A style presentation with Jodie Edwards, General Manager, National Partners Programme, discussing his background, his inspirations, his multi-faceted practice, and how it feels to have work in a national collection.

Walter explained “For me, it's an incredible honour. I'm part of two public collections in the UK – [the Arts Council Collection] and the Walker Art Gallery as well… The way I have survived is not primarily by selling work. It's by designing projects that I run, and so for the work to find a home is the biggest achievement it can have, that it can live on and other people can see it...for perpetuity.

John's answers the young people's questions in the following video clips:

The group greatly enjoyed hearing from John about his experience as an artist firsthand and having the opportunity to ask him questions directly. Many commented on his strong jumper game, of course.

“It was great to hear from curators and artists about how they approach different themes and situations - i’ve been very inspired to explore taking art outside of the gallery space more and perhaps using our organisations to spread the work more into the local community, rather than within the 4 walls of the gallery. I also feel inspired to explore more themes within my own work :)”  - Quote from YAK member.

“How we are not confined to doing one style, we can be our own personalities expressed into art” - Quote from Celebrate Different member.


“I’ve had fun seeing people like me and discussing how they curate art! Seeing other people’s thoughts and feelings about art has been a wonderful experience. Seeing other trans or queer artists has been like a very emotional mirror, it’s been lovely to see other people like me succeeding.”  - Quote from SEEN member.

As one attendee put in the chat “Much better than my usual saturday!”, we hope to all meet again in this digital space, speak with more artists from the collection, make together and along for more space to discuss the Young People’s Collaborative exhibition.


Learn more about Flo Brooks and John Walter.

Unquiet Moments: Capturing the Everyday

9 July 2020

In a new Arts Council Collection film, we go behind the scenes of the Courtauld Institute of Art MA Curating programme’s first ever online exhibition, Unquiet Moments: Capturing the Everyday.

The Courtauld MA Curating the Art Museum programme’s annual exhibition was originally conceived as a public exhibition in Somerset House’s galleries. Due to the unprecedented circumstances, the project moved online: potentially reaching a far wider audience at a moment of immense collective digital engagement.

Organised by nine emerging curators, Unquiet Moments: Capturing the Everyday was developed in response to the 50th anniversary of the departure of the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages from the General Registry Office at Somerset House. Such an archive records the banner headlines, the life-beginning, life-changing and life-ending moments that mark human experience. But what would an archive look like that instead recorded the fine print: the quiet, everyday moments of transformation and connection that shape human lives?

Bringing together 24 major works from the Arts Council Collection and The Courtauld Gallery collection, spanning from the 17th century to the present day, Unquiet Moments: Capturing the Everyday explores the enduring impulse to record, reflect and connect through everyday life: its small wonders and disappointments, its intimate joys and tragedies.

In the film below, Julie Bléas – one of the student curators – guides us through the group’s experience of organising this online exhibition with the Arts Council Collection. Julie describes how this opportunity of curating the programme’s first digital exhibition allowed the curators to be more ambitious, present works that otherwise might not have been available from the Arts Council Collection, and gain experience working directly with professionals in the field.


Julie speaks to us from the Art Council Collection store in London, where Collection technicians helped to bring parts of the exhibition to life. The film captures the installation process of particular works on camera, such as Mohini Chandra’s album pacifica (1997) and Michael Craig-Martin’s Kids Stuff 1-7 (1973), for viewers to experience how these works are shown in physical space and their interactive elements.

Despite the challenges faced in this unprecedented situation, the film highlights the how Courtauld MA Curating students utilised online exhibition to bring new perspectives and help create more ways for the us to engage with the Arts Council Collection.

Related Blogs

Long Loans to Newlyn School

Programme Curator, Cat Gibbard, reports on Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange’s on-going project to take the Arts Council Collection into local classrooms as part of the galley’s National Partners Programme.
Conservator's View: Movement in Squares

Conservator Rachel Carey-Thomas discusses Bridget Riley’s seminal Arts Council Collection work, Movement in Squares, 1961, revealing the intricate processes and methodical approach involved in cleaning this iconic painting.
Curating Super Black

Led by people from Essex’s black community, the exhibition Super Black presents artworks from the Collection exploring the complex questions of identity and the experiences of black people living in Britain today.

Interview with Katherine Gili

1 October 2021

We had the pleasure of asking Katherine Gili, one of the artists featured in the Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition Breaking the Mould, a few questions about her work in the Collection and her process.

Katherine Gili is a sculptor and teacher whose works Pistil, 1979 and Vertical III, 1975 are part of the Arts Council Collection. Although abstract, much of Gili's work in mild steel appears to reference the human form. Works such as Pistil, 1979 have an energy and a sense of movement reminiscent of dance. This vitality is achieved through Gili's ability to exploit the expansive surface of her sculptures in a highly sensuous manner, transforming weighty pieces of steel with a lightness of touch.


Read the full interview below and watch a short film of the artist at work in her studio in Kent from 2017.



Special thanks to Cameron Amiri at Felix & Spear Gallery.


1. Both of your works in the ACC - Vertical III and Pistil - are made from steel. Can you tell us why you enjoy working with this material?

As a student at Bath Academy of Art, I worked in many materials and it wasn’t until my second year at St Martin’s in London that I began to work exclusively in steel. Actually, it is a very simple material, technically. You do not have to keep it damp as you do with clay. Or mix it up as you do with plaster and wait for it to dry nor worry about the grain in wood and keep your chisels sharp, nor do you have to cast it. You can get quick results; you can see what you have done almost immediately, this can be an advantage or a disadvantage.

I find the material a challenge and I like that. Steel is hard, cold, and heavy, it comes pre-formed in girders, sections, plates and bars. It also appears resistant to manipulation, but that is only an attitude of mind. To make anything with it you must have a purpose strong enough to overcome this. Whatever the purpose, the material gains an energy and a new character. When you join pieces together even more aspects start to appear. All manner of feelings emerge if you are alive to them. Even the heaviest lumps can have a feeling of lightness in a certain context. You can also change what you have done if dissatisfied. For me, steel and the use of construction continues to have huge potential as a material for making sculpture, still so much to discover.








Right: Image of Katherine Gili's Vertical III, 1975 on the roof of the Stockwell Depot, London. Courtesy of Felix & Spear Gallery.

The Arts Council Collection : Interview with Katherine Gili
The Arts Council Collection : Interview with Katherine Gili

2. Can you tell us about your experience of working in the field of welded sculpture, which is often considered a particularly 'macho' domain? What barriers and opportunities did you face?

I was not particularly conscious of any barriers and I was not looking for them. I was absolutely absorbed with my subject and keen to learn as a student and as a professional I was considered to be a serious sculptor by my contemporaries and the wider art world. Maybe I was lucky to be in a conducive environment. Of course, over a career of nearly fifty years there are bound to be fluctuations of fortune and interest, disagreements and disappointments. I lost my teaching job in the 1980s and had to find other ways of supporting myself financially but I never let that, or any other difficulty get in the way of pursuing my interests in sculpture. As for opportunities, I was included in many exhibitions in the 1970s notably surveys of British sculpture organised by the Arts Council at the Hayward Gallery, and those organised by other bodies and Galleries. The art scene changed in the 1980s – a shift of interest and attention occurred – but I still managed to show my work.


Left: Katherine Gili working on Pistil, 1979. Courtesy of Felix & Spear Gallery.

3. Pistil seems to occupy a place between abstraction and figuration, and there is a strong sense of movement and of gesture. Can you reflect on your interest on this inbetween the space?

I have often felt that applying labels such as abstraction and figuration are somewhat artificial and can get in the way of experiencing the sculpture. We can generate words very easily but our eyes are wonderful things which I feel we do not use as much as we should. Maybe my work does sit in the in-between space but I do not want it to be diagrammatic, I want it to have a life of its own. In Pistil and other sculptures around that time I was trying to make parts that would feel that they were bearing down upon; or increasing tensions with; and precipitating reactions with other parts to energise the form of the whole. This was a result of my search for an understanding of what physicality in sculpture might mean. When looking at the sculpture I hope the viewer can feel and relate to the experience not just intellectually but viscerally as one does with music.


4. Can you describe your studio practice: do you work alone, as part of a team? Do you work with fabricators or is it important to you that the work is made by you?

I work alone, making sculpture is an emotional and intimate experience, it is important to me not to have any distractions. It is difficult to hand the work to an assistant because I need to get to know everything about the work until it is finished. I do sometimes use an industrial process, such as anti-corrosion treatment which must be done by professionals away from the studio. But even there I have to find someone who is sympathetic to what I am doing. I have worked with other sculptors outside the studio in a group context, to discuss and share ideas and to conduct some experimental work in the past and found it fruitful at times, but I always go back to the studio to consolidate on my own.

5. Can you comment on the wider artistic influences of your work, past and present? Have any particular female role models, historic or contemporary, been important to you?

The painter Jean Spencer, who was part of the Systems Movement, was my art teacher at school. To her, art was not just a pastime but an enquiry to be taken seriously. Her expansive approach resonated with me and sparked my interest in art. She encouraged me to apply to Bath Academy of Art where I discovered my feeling for sculpture. She was the most significant female influence.


6. What are your perceptions of discrimination within the art world today. Many gains have been made and there are many exhibitions by women and artists from diverse cultural backgrounds. Is the battle finally won?

I think the artificial barriers have gone.


7. Your work was acquired by the Arts Council Collection on two occasions. How important were these acquisitions to you at the time and since?

When my work was first acquired by the Arts Council Collection it was a great confidence booster, recognition does matter. I was very pleased to sell a second sculpture because it showed that the Arts Council were interested in my direction.

Since then, my two sculptures have been shown by the Arts Council Collection many times.










Left: A short film of Katherine Gili working in her Kent studio in 2017. © Cameron Amiri and Felix & Spear Gallery.

Breaking the Mould is an Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition initiated in response to Women Working in Sculpture from 1960 to the Present Day: Towards a New Lexicon, a research project led by Catherine George (University of Coventry) and Hilary Gresty (independent). 

After the first presentation at Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Spring 2021, Breaking the Mould will tour to Djanogly Art Gallery Nottingham Lakeside Arts, The Levinsky Gallery at the University of Plymouth, Ferens Art Gallery Hull and New Art Gallery Walsall.

More information about artworks and artists featured in Breaking the Mould can be found via our exhibition page.

Video: Breaking the Mould Study Day

14 January 2022

On Saturday 4 December 2021, in collaboration with Arts Council Collection, Lakeside Arts, Nottingham hosted an informal and engaging day of presentations and discussion to shed light on the important contribution made by women to the field of modern and contemporary British sculpture.

The day-long programme of talks and discussions was presented alongside the Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition, Breaking the Mould, and was programmed in partnership with Djangoly Gallery, Lakeside Arts, University of Nottingham, the day aimed to be an open and informal forum to discuss and delve into areas of research prompted by the exhibition context and themes. Areas of focus ranged from intersectional reflections on the relationship between sculptural practice and identity, formal and informal networks; alternative exhibiting strategies and spaces, market forces and the commercial context and the challenges involved with sustaining a career.

Chaired by the Curator of Breaking the Mould, and former Senior Curator of Arts Council Collection, Natalie Rudd, the panel included leading artists, curators and scholars who shared their latest research and thinking highlighting areas ripe for further investigation.

Watch the event below.



The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.