By Nathalie Banaigs
Hugh Ribbans was born in Faversham towards the end of WWII, and was educated at the local district school and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar. He studied relief printmaking at Canterbury College of Art between 1959 and 1963, specialising in linocutting. He obtained a NDD in Commercial Design.
In 1963, Hugh moved to London, where he worked as a graphic designer in advertising and design, eventually becoming creative director of a design group. He became a self-employed graphic designer and illustrator in 1974, working with advertising, corporate and packaging-design companies. He also illustrated books and publications for publishers including the BBC. In 1989, he bought a restored Columbian press, circa 1860, and returned to lino and woodblock printmaking.
Hugh moved back to Kent in 2000, eventually settling in Conyer, where he works as an illustrator, printmaker and designer.
He mainly produces linocuts and, occasionally woodcuts. Primarily working in black and white, he sometimes adds small areas of colour to provide contrast or detail. He also makes multiblock prints using five or six colours. Hugh’s fascination with pattern and line is a constant source of enjoyment to him. “I just see things that amuse me and get the urge to turn them into a linocut.” He says he always has an obsession with linework and a reverence to Edward Bawden. His subject matter is largely inspired by the or landscape, animals, birds, people and places around Faversham.
Exhibitions have included - the Barbican Gallery, the National Theatre, the National Print Exhibition, the Printmakers Council, the Society of Wood Engravers, the Society of Wildlife Artists, the Fry Gallery in Saffron Walden, the Mall Galleries in London, the Affordable Art Fair and the Devon Guild of Craftsmen.
His work can be seen locally at Top Hat & Tales in West Street, Faversham.
A GOOD AGE
200I to 2019 Conyer Creek, Kent
Back to Kent to live in villages and eventually on a creek
Luck deals me a favour in the form of working at Queen’s Hall Studios
I continue graphic design but printmaking becomes the main passion
A quiet but very rich life
Walks on the shore
Sheep in the samphire
Faversham Hop Festival
House martins and water birds
Boats, barges, old brickfields
Apple and pear orchards
The Columbian press workshop with full-time printmaking
And four talented grandchildren to carry on into the
next Good Age.......
‘A Good Age’, a series of four narrative linocut prints illustrating the changes in his life over the years, alongside the waterways where he lived.
“Producing ‘Good Age’ was a very cathartic experience, making me dredge up memories of my life that I had almost forgotten. The image of me and another boy playing amid the bomb sites of Faversham I find quite moving as it reaches back to a time when Faversham was very different. A town smashed by the war and relying on the backbone of the working people to rebuild it through the many local industries - in my case, my family’s three generations in the shipyard.
“I don’t normally look back in life too much, preferring to enjoy the present and look ahead to things to come, but ‘A Good Age’ was an indulgence that I thoroughly enjoyed.
“People like stories. They like trivia and everyday happenings that imitate their own lives. People have been very interested and when I am in front of the prints ask me questions about the detail.
“The most common question is ‘Why is there an elephant in the street?’ A story about an elephant being led down my road when I was seven and my complete excitement and terror, having never seen a live elephant in my life!”
A GOOD AGE
1943 to 1959 Faversham Creek
Doodlebugs over Kent (so I am told)
Bomb sites and disused air raid shelters to play in
Hop picking and fruit picking in the holidays
Festival of Britain desperate to go - nobody took me
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth - big excitement - lots of events
Steam train to travel on
Butcher’s boy - weekend job - fighting off the farmers' dogs
Faversham Carnival and the sea cadets band
Sailing Barges and cargo boats on the creek
Westgate Road and chasing round the cattle market
Street parties to celebrate big occasions
The day the elephant came down our street
Grandad's allotment - first taste of peas straight from the pod
Bantam chickens in our backyard
Football on the rec - always football day and night till dark
Teddy boys in charge in the market place -
Parish church choirboy and altar server nervously
carrying the cross
Cowboy outfits and shiny metal six-guns with caps
The Faversham shipyard dynasty - grandad, father and cousin
Collecting spiders in jam jars
Blackberry picking and primrose bunches
Gasworks, and the breweries, mixed smells over the town
Steam lorry delivered beer to the pubs
I get to the local boys grammar school escaping
the shipyard dynasty
Horse-drawn carts pulling milk, beer,
rag & bone merchants
and the coalman's horse was white ..........