Linocut Exhibition at the Horsebridge

by Christopher James Stone

Cutting away the surface to let light into the world

The highlight of last year’s carnival fund-raisers was the auction, organised by Julie Wassmer and myself, and held in St Peter’s Hall on Cromwell Road.

A number of prints were sold, including two linocuts, one by Ben Dickson, the other by Ben Sands. The Ben Sands was kindly donated by his son, Mat, and fetched the princely sum of £150.

My sister bought it. I’m looking at it now. It’s a black and white scene of Morris Dancers outside the East Kent on May Day 1987.

The dancers are leaping into the air, their feet off the floor, while the crowd looks on, clutching pints, or laughing and joking amongst themselves.

The image is taken from the far side of the road, outside the British Legion. There are two cars in the foreground and a couple of people trying the cross the road.

It’s a wonderfully evocative piece of work, vibrant and alive, full of incidents and wonder, all captured in exquisite detail.

You can read the faces of the characters in the crowd, and even the sky seems alive, as if the sky itself was part of the dance.

Ben Sands died in January 2016, but this year marks his centenary, in honour of which there will be a major exhibition around his birthday in July, which Mat and I will be helping to organise.

Meanwhile there will be a number of Ben Sands’ linocuts on display in a large group show on at the Horsebridge from the 11th of January till the 2nd of February.

Curated by Ben Dickson, it will feature works by linocut artists from around the country, including a number from Whitstable. There will be an opening event at 3.30 on the 11th where people can meet the artists and discuss their work.

The reason they are called linocuts is that they are cut into linoleum, but the technique works with other media as well, including wood and vinyl.

Properly speaking it is known as relief printing. The body of the medium is cut away to leave raised areas which are then inked up and pressed against paper to leave a printed impression.

There’s a wonderful quote from Ben Sands from an interview in 2003 which describes the process:

“Automatically, with practice, your mind sees that block as a field of solid black… when you start cutting you start letting the light into the block and revealing the world you are going to present to the public. Because you are letting light in all the time, every cut you make lets another streak of light in….”

I like that thought. Isn’t that what all art is in the end: a process of cutting away the surface to let the light into the world?

It reminds me of the song by Leonard Cohen:

“Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in….”

I’m looking forward to seeing lots of light at this exhibition.


From The Whitstable Gazette 09/01/20

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ

Phone: 01227 475985

fax: 01227 762415


Whitstable Views: How You Can Help

  • Make sure you share and like our articles on Facebook and Twitter, and whatever other social-media platforms you use.
  • Follow the site to get regular updates about new articles when they appear. Press the “Follow” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen and that will take you to the option to sign up. (It disappears as you move the text down, then reappears as you move it back up again!)
  • Leave comments on the site rather than on Facebook. Let’s get a debate going. All of our contributors are willing to engage with you if you leave a comment.
  • To all writers out there, we would LOVE you to make a contribution. Read our submissions page for details on how to go about that:
  • Finally you can donate. As little as £1 would help. Details on the donations page here:


  1. Matt Sands

    Ben Sands had a very Jaded view on “modern art” but I dont think he would have been unhappy to have work displayed alongside any in this show.. Didnt appreciate it at the time but yesterday, the 9th January, when the pictures for the exhibition were hanged was the 4th aniversary of Ben Sands’ death. Its a remarkable variety of pictures. Thanks for this, Chris.


    1. christopherjamesstone

      Wow! That’s what you call a synchronicity Mat. What perfect timing. I agree, I think he would be more than happy to be a part of this singular collection of work, most of which I think he would have approved of. They are all part of the continuity of this particular technique, of which your father was a master. I feel privileged to be able to help get Ben’s work more widely appreciated. We are learning from Ben Dickson, who has already said he will help when it comes to setting up the centenary exhibition in July.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s