Underworld (An Escape) was inspired by the narrative and music in Beethoven’s Fidelio which is returning to Glyndebourne in The Festival Tour in 2021. It was about the most complicated and layered woodcut we have made to date in the studio and started off with an idea involving an image that incorporated a modernist building as a prison(as a metaphor for the brutality of the state) set on the slopes of an autumnal forest (as an alternating metaphor representing hope, joy and the self correcting spirit of the people). The schematic of the prison was taken from a drawing in silhouette of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoie. I had also just watched Parasite and was very interested in the way the building was used as a motif that spanned experiences of heaven and hell within it’s own vertical footprint. The arrangement of seven versions of Leonora acting as Fidelio, descending into the basement, to rescue her beloved Floristan was informed by the way that some quattrocento painters repeated the same figure within a picture as a way of conjuring up movement and alluding to the turning of time; two famous examples are Masaccio’s Tribute Money in The Brancacci Chapel in Florence where Peter reappears several times within the drama of the image; the other is found closer to home in The National Gallery where within Giovanni di Paulo’s St John the Baptist retiring to the Desert we experience the prophet striding out of a crenellated house in his pink tunic and without diminishing in scale walks into a cleft in the mountains. Technically this woodcut was a nightmare! When you are printing to this scale we always encounter paper stretch. The key was to off register each inked layer through the press so that we could even out the mis registration of the detail as it passed underneath the roller. Eventually we had to carve out everything but the leaves in the trees, trying not to make mistakes. This took us days working in close proximity wearing masks in lockdown. - TH
As with all the work made in response to Tom’s two years, as Associate Artist at Glyndebourne, a donation is made to Glyndebourne’s Young Artist programme from the sale of this woodcut.