The venue says of the exhibition:
FRIDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2016 – SUNDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2017 // This major exhibition of printmaking in all its forms, returns in a new time slot over Christmas. Created by Rheged, this exhibition is the largest of its kind in the North of England and features over 600 artworks by more than 65 British artists. As part of the exhibition, Cumbria printmakers will run workshops and demonstrations.
We have built a pop up studio in the gallery called the Making Space. Here printmakers are creating artworks in the gallery using their own tools plus an original Albion Press. You can speak to the artists about their printmaking, and buy artworks directly from them!
I found my visit absolutely inspiring. The exhibition was unchartered in sheer work volume, every wall was covered, yet it didn’t feel overly full, as another exhibition may have done.
I took particular attention to notice how the work had been set out, for example certain artists were dotted around the exhibition, showcasing different styles of their work, depending on whether the piece was nature, building based or portraiture.
All print making terms were explained, yet not to a complete beginner level. The exhibition was aimed at the intelligent individual.
I found the whole exhibition a little like an exam, as I had my mum there, who at first glance hated the idea of printmaking, as she didn’t understand the processes. Thus it took explaining. Now, what a different set of opinions she has, having seen all the beautiful works.
The exhibition was available to photograph and there was a sheet will all the numbers and artists’ works on. This may come in handy if I decided to reflect back or mention any of the artists in my work.
Clear glass boxes were placed around the floor areas, to illustrate a few of the print making processes. I found this to be a very helpful resource, as sometimes a cold label on a wall saying “Aqua tint” is confusing, I want to know more and see “HOW” it’s done. Techniques such as lino cut were displayed in this way, from the lino cut to the finished print.
I will visually illustrate some pieces from the exhibition:
I loved the colour coupled with the line. This floral made me think back to my own floral work. Why don’t I look at colouring the prints I have or doing more to them? This looks painterly, watercolour style, not as much a print. (see below)
The exhibition certainly brought home the planning that goes in to print making. Unlike a drawing, where it is quite on the spur of the moment, print making has to be planned, especially when using a few colour in say a lino cut.
I mentioned earlier about the boxes which displayed the processes. Here is an example:
This is classed as a Reduction Lino Cut. But what does that mean? Often referred to as a “suicide” print. This method of linocutting uses a single piece of lino to produce a multi-coloured print. The lino is gradually cut away as each colour is printed and the image emerges. Sometimes only a very small printable area remains for the final, darkest tone. As the block is essentially destroyed during the process, a reduction print can never be reprinted. Yet we can see what beautiful effects it can give through this process:
The artist put this section of development on the wall for all to see. So here you see the colours being built up.
Having this showcase, helps me as an artist, actually decide which techniques I would want to pursue, which ones I would like to try myself.
Sometimes a print can be one we are drawn to, because we find it comical or clever in some way, rather than liking the style.
The artist has left a little comment in pencil at the bottom, saying that the cat is stuck in the greenhouse, while the bird flies free. I love how the simplistic features, such as the cats eyes, give us a story. We smile, it’s that simple. Thus it is not always about liking the technique or style of art, but appreciating the thought behind it.
The one left of the dogs is a mono print. This is something that I could not have to go into a print makers to trial, thus even easier. The slight colouring of the background helps too. In contrast, the one right is an etching. The artist has carefully laid the colour on in different points of the copper plate. Then not rubbed all of the ink out, so that it is coloured in. I have to say that the perfectionist in me had not let me do this in my own work yet. But this is something I could try when I next visit Northern Print.
Finally I was interested to see how artists had used the shop section to sell their work.
Cushion covers, cards, books were all high on the list of saleable goods.
What can I take from this exhibition?
- Don’t always think about the technique before looking at the outcome. Sometimes you need to trial a few, even the ones you don’t like, to hone what works for your practice.
- Visually seeing the process is key. More time asking questions at Northern Print for me in the future.
- What was obvious, was that all the artists were not there for commercial gain. The art work came first, as really very few of the artists had stocked the shop.
- Cross techniques. Yes some of the artists had a definite style, yet most had a few pieces around the room in different techniques, for example one artist had dry point and lino cut exhibited.
- The makers in action were helpful. I chatted to the one who was there the day I visited. Seeing them work is the best way to learn.