It is with heartfelt sadness that we share the news of Master Printer John Hutcheson’s death. John worked at Tyler Graphics for over sixteen years, from 1975–1978 and then from September 1987 until the workshop closed in March 2001. John was a key member of the team as a printer, papermaker and Tyler’s ‘right-hand’ man. He was the Workshop Manager for many years and was responsible for the practical management of the print workshop at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute as the inaugural Master Printer/Workshop Manager. In 2008 he was appointed as Associate Professor at the University of North Florida, a position he retired from just weeks ago.
John was passionate about printmaking and generous in sharing his wealth of experience and knowledge. He is remembered by his colleagues and students as an inspiring and supportive friend. Here at the NGA we knew John as an enthusiastic, engaged supporter who was always generous with his time and happy to share anecdotes and technical details about the projects undertaken at Tyler Graphics.
In a 2014 interview for the NGA’s publication, Workshop: The Kenneth Tyler Collection reflected on his central role at Tyler Graphics:
“At TGL my role was to support Ken’s creative printmaking by ensuring that we always had the necessary materials, manpower, and machinery no matter what new direction he took. Every day there were new pits to steer the shop around in order to keep it running smoothly for his high expectations. One of the hallmarks of Ken’s collaborations with famous artists was his technological developments and his attitude of ‘thinking large’… Although everybody got involved in the innovations, I was Ken’s main ‘go to’ guy in the workshop for that research. And, once we had a new technique running smoothly enough, I would rejoin the team to use the new method to make the print editions
If an artist was in residence or a team of film-makers was at work, I would race around behind the scenes to ensure that everything went smoothly. It takes a great deal of ahead-of-time prep mixed with inspired ad-libbing to make this heroic printing work look effortless in front of the cameras. Ken is a master at entertaining world-famous guests even while he is inking and pulling the most brilliant prints right there in front of them. We did all we could to assist him during those magic moments.
I worked with Ken and with most of his artists for decades both at Ken’s shops and at other ateliers. Everybody was doing things never seen before. And, because of Ken’s high profile in the art world, we were in the spotlight all the time. Famous artists, curators, and collectors were hanging around. It was pressurized and satisfying beyond compare. I had the best printing job in the world.
What I enjoyed the most was working at the highest level in the world of prints. Because Ken invited artists from the ‘top ten’ tier worldwide, the finances justified a feeling of unlimited commitment of time and materials. Within that ‘sky’s the limit’ approach, Ken ran a tight and efficient operation. But it still was the most inspiring and well-supported atmosphere that any creative printer could ever hope for.” [i]
John wanted more of the story of the Tyler print workshops to come to light. In correspondence this year John recalled the “magic” that took place during his time as Workshop Manager, noting that there are “deep, deep pockets of wonder which are yet to be revealed.” [ii] John also spoke of the daring and dauntless innovation that took place at Tyler Graphics:
“I want to highlight… the heroic actions taken by Ken and his artists on an almost daily basis… insiders like me can see them and read between the lines. But people don’t realize how often and how heroic. Those darn outsiders need to be made aware of the magic they are seeing. How the art fed the technician and the technique fed the artist. What I refer to are the ad-libbed leaps into terrifying space that Ken and each artist would make hand-in-hand with each other. Giant leaps off the cliff right in the spotlight and with no safety net. Like Hockney’s Paper Pools, or Stella’s Moby Dick series, or Frankenthaler’s Freefall. I believe this is one of the things that artists love about working with Ken. His willingness to join them in that trip with no reservations whatsoever.”
Modest to a fault, John omitted mention of his own integral role in many of TGL’s most complex projects as an essential crux to the practical operations at the Workshop. John was unwavering in his commitment to realizing the creative vision of Ken Tyler and the artists he collaborated with and though reluctant to step into the spotlight he was right there taking the heroic leap.
[ii] John Hutcheson, in correspondence to Dr Jane Kinsman, Senior Curator of International Prints, Drawings and Illustrated Books at the National Gallery of Australia, dated 12 February 2016.