‘His Hands Magic’ – Michael Renton (1934-2001)

New exhibition celebrates an unassuming but inspirational master craftsman


The first exhibition devoted to the work of a designer and craftsman of rare skill opens this spring. ‘His Hands Magic’, explores the whole career of Michael Renton, a multi-skilled artist whose work continues to influence designers. For 20 years, Michael Renton worked alone in an old Sussex barn with no electricity, designing a wealth of works on wood, stone and paper. 

The exhibition will present a wide range of Michael Renton’s design work, including fine wood engraving, stone lettering, calligraphy, bookplates and illustrations, signwriting and logos, as well as  notes and sketches recovered from his Sussex workshop, all illustrating the sheer variety of work produced over a 50 year career. It will also include original designs for perhaps his most notable and publically accessible work – the signs and lettering which appear throughout Winchester Cathedral.

The exhibition will feature Michael Renton’s original design for his own memorial headstone, which he created following the example of letter-cutter and typographer Eric Gill, who produced a memorial to himself in the 1930s. In a curious and unwelcome parallel, both Gill and Renton died just four years after creating their memorials. Renton was well aware of what happened to Gill, writing: “…so that it should not be taken too seriously or tempt Providence (EG’s friends were alarmed, and in fact he died only four years later) I have omitted any reference to age or dates (even of birth!). In any case, are memorials only for the dead?”

Michael Renton was a mainstay of the Memorials by Artists organisation. Part of the Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust (LCAT), Memorials by Artists was set up by Harriet Frazer MBE, to guide people through the often lengthy and sensitive process of commissioning a memorial and negotiating the strict rules and regulations which must be satisfied before it can appear in a church graveyard or cemetery. Aside from producing many memorials, Michael Renton designed the woodblock for the Memorials by Artists logo.

Harriet Frazer, Director, LCAT, said “In May 1989 I went to visit Michael at his home, which was also his workshop. Unforgettable…; a wonderful old barn, which stood in the middle of a grassy, sloping field covered in sheep – the only access was by a narrow wooden planked bridge – no electricity, no bathroom, an outside loo. The instant I stepped into the barn there was such a powerful stillness, and such astonishing work lying on every surface – he seemed to be in the middle of several things at once. There were cobwebs everywhere, tools and books, lettering on paper hanging from the beams. I knew I had come to the right place. 

Duration 03 April 2015 - 28 June 2015
Times Fri, Sat, Sun & Mon 11am-5pm; Closed Tues-Thurs.
Cost Free
Venue Lettering Arts Centre
Address Snape Maltings Suffolk IP17 1SA, ,
Contact 01728-688393 / / www.letteringartstrust.org.uk

Related Events

Sean Scully: Facing East - 03.11 - 10.12.2017
Suzi Morris: The Viral Sublime - 28 November-16 December 2017, Herrick Gallery
London Art Fair: Celebrating 30 years - 17-21 January 2017 - Book Now
Open Source Salon with Hauser and Wirth - A new monthly discussion group
Advertise your next show on Artlyst from £200 per week