Laurence Sterne’s shaggy-dog novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, published between 1759 and 1767, remains one of most influential of all comic novels in the English language.
Commissioned to create a collaborative artwork commemorating the 300 years since Sterne’s birth in 1713, poet Ian Duhig and artist-printmaker Philippa Troutman went on wandering, Shandyesque jaunts around his former home, Shandy Hall, Coxwold. The mazes, meteor sites and medieval shape-shifting ghosts they uncovered became the inspiration for Digressions – poems, prints and collages, now brought together as a book by Smokestack.
“Our idea,” says Duhig, “was to celebrate both the legacy of Sterne’s novel and his home, with a rambling, creative engagement cunningly designed to resemble Tristram Shandy’s apparently random construction, but with genuinely directionless excursions. I felt particularly well qualified to undertake this task as I can get lost on a sofa.”
Troutman used drypoint, chine collé, drawing and collage to capture Sterne’s gag-laden, multifarious, multi-layered text. Her images range from exuberant, assemblages, incorporating text clippings of Sterne’s text, to delicate, monochromatic studies that take inspiration as much from Duhig’s light-footed, tender poems as Shandyesque characters and motifs.
The Digressions exhibition of the poems, prints and collages is at the Poetry Society’s Poetry Café, London, until 4 Oct 2014. A launch event and reading will be held on 18 September. The exhibition transfers to Shandy Hall, Coxwold, near York, 11 Oct – 1 Nov 2014.
– Review from the Autumn edition of Printmaking Today