About Artist - Judith Devons
I am a printmaker and ceramicist based in the UK. Much of my print work has explored themes of identity in our multi-cultural society, inspired by personal memories and collective traditions. I have also been involved in art-science collaborations, creating abstract images evolving from my responses to magnified human cells. Most recently, I have been exploring intertwined themes of shadows and memories.
All my prints are original experimental one-off screen-prints. To make them, I combine hand-made stencils with layers of text, drawings and/or images that have been photographically transferred to screens and often under-painted and over-painted.
I love working in clay as well - because of its organic, tactile quality and ability to be impressed, stretched and distorted by hand or gently wheel-thrown into pure symmetrical forms. I am inspired by designs from many cultural traditions and often screen-print imagery directly onto slabs of clay which I then place over vessel-shaped moulds. It is a pleasure to create aesthetic objects that I can use practically and enjoy as part of my daily life.
Identity and Culture Themes
Much of my work has focused on themes of identity. I have layered photographs, images from ancient sources, and fragments of family letters and travel journals to create one-off screen-prints that explore dislocation, memories of home and family, and connections with ancestors and traditions.
An image that I often use symbolically in my work is the pomegranate. Abundant in the land of Israel, containing more seeds than any other fruit and looking like a vessel offering up its contents, the pomegranate is my metaphor for the procreative, nurturing woman and also for the ideals and dreams of the Jewish soul.
Fragments of Hebrew interwoven in my work are parts of prayers that teach the importance of traditions and morality - precepts to be handed down from generation to generation. I express these themes more abstractly using letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each of which has extensive symbolic significance.
My series of art-science screen-prints - abstractions of cellular images - extended a unique collaboration with scientists at the Medical Research Council's Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester and led to many exhibitions and workshops in the UK and in Beijing and Shanghai, China.
I visited the Toxicology Unit and examined a variety of normal and abnormal human cells magnified up to a quarter of a million times using electron microscopy and then selected some to transform into innovative screen-prints. At first, the cells suggested radiating eyes, branching trees, swirling fishes and graceful dancers. Gradually, they evolved into lunar landscapes and muted abstractions. To scientists, however, the images represent neurones, neuronal transmitters, glial cells and apoptotic cells, and they are studied to understand the mechanisms that cause cells to die.
All the prints are one-off works. To make them, I combined hand-made stencils with layers of drawings and images photographically transferred to screens and then over-painted.
Shadows, Memories and Nature
My interest in identity and nature has led me to develop another body of photographic and over-painted screen-prints in which shadows are superimposed on woodland paths and interior structures - suggesting memories and people looming just out of sight for viewers to interpret in their own personal ways.
My starting point is usually one of more photographs that I edit and transfer to screens photographically. I combine them with hand-made stencils and layers of over-painting so that each of my screen-prints are unique one-off works.
For some of my screen-prints I have started experimentally using leaves, flowers and fabric as stencils. Then I work on the image by applying layers of over-painting and pastel to produce a one-off work.
Alongside my screenprinting and ceramics practice, I have been involved in many art and social history community projects - in New York, London and elsewhere in the UK.
In Harlem and the Bronx, New York City, I was an interior decorator and muralist in day centres for elderly from many ethnic minority groups.
In a Tyneside community arts centre, I helped local residents create an illustrated book about their old ship-building and coal-mining town - as well as teaching art and organising exhibitions.
In London, for the Jewish Museum and the Museum of London, I researched and developed exhibitions on Jewish social history - many involving in-depths interviews with immigrants from other countries.
In Leicester, at the New Walk Museum, I devised and developed a major exhibition to celebrate 100 years of the city’s main synagogue, including special exhibits, videos and quiz sheets for school groups. I created a smaller version of the exhibition for the local Records Office in Wigston.
For the Leicestershire Museum Service I helped with a Refugee and Asylum Seeker social history project, conducting and transcribing audio and video interviews and writing and designing an exhibition booklet.