John Duffin arrived at my etching class at the Central School of Art in Bloomsbury in the 1980s. By that time he had already worked for four years as a ships draughtsman at the famous submarine shipyards of Barrow in Furness followed by a further four years at Goldsmiths College, a hotbed of enterprise and home to the emerging group known as the Y.B.A.s or young British Artists.
Essentially a painter he had identified in himself a desire to etch. The desire to etch is, as an early tutor of mine, Julian Trevelyan RA, insisted, a kind of addiction.
It takes one to know one, and over the centuries Durer, Rembrandt, Goya, Picasso, Hockney and many, many others have embraced etching with a compulsive passion, reveling in its freedoms and parameters, as well as its poetic resonances. John Duffin is of that ilk, a true etching addict.
A man with a limitless work ethic, John instinctively understood what etching could achieve that no other medium could. A voracious appetite for learning and enjoying hands on skills and influences, an engaging optimism coupled with enormous energy are fundamental to his being.
Over the last three decades I have watched with great interest as he has developed into one of the foremost etchers of his generation. As an artist he has always moved between painting and etching, a necessary symbiosis.
Painting and etching feed off each other and, as Edward Hopper another compulsive depicter of cityscapes, said: “after I took up etching my paintings seemed to crystalise.” I think John will agree with me that it also works in the other direction.
It is good and informative therefore to see paintings and etchings together in this exhibition. It is also good to know that there is more, much more, to come in the future.
Norman Ackroyd RA RE London 2018
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