The exhibition, based in Exeter, was to accompany a symposium that was being organised by Double Elephant Print Studios. The aim of this being to challenge the traditional boundaries of printmaking.
I was not able to get to the symposium but was able to visit the exhibition which was being held at three venues across Exeter. Unfortunately the RAMM was closed the day that we went so we only got to see two-thirds of the work. I plan to go back at the beginning of January to see what I missed.
One part of the exhibition was at the Yard Gallery, Exeter College and this would probably be considered as traditional printmaking. There were a number of artists’ works on display. Richard Kaye’s Drypoint intaglio works presented geometric shapes through depicting trees, communication masts and telegraph poles. It was interesting to see how he had arranged each format – the work was figurative and yet could be seen as abstract in the way the straight lines broke up the composition. Echoes of modernism and particularly Mondrian could be recognised in his work. From a basic print point of view I liked how he had arranged four plates onto one sheet of paper.
I was also taken with Paula Youens collagraph and Chine Colle’ works. Again these were largely figurative, representing gold fish in bowls. I liked the contrast between the monochrome prints with the coloured tissue giving pops of colour for the fish. Other collagraphs by her: ‘Ferry Port at night’ and ‘Old Fishing Huts-Dorset’ attracted my attention. I liked the atmosphere the artist had managed to create from using this technique alongside layers of bright florescent colours contrasted with darker tones.
The main exhibition “Surface/Contact” was held at the Exeter Phoenix Gallery, which included work by four contemporary artists: Katy Connor, Bryony Gillard, Mark Leahy and Clare Thornton.
The preview was scheduled for the Thursday after we attended and in retrospect I wonder whether the exhibition wasn’t completely finished because there was no information next to each of the artworks. This lack of context meant that we were none the wiser about the artists’ intentions which led to a challenging visit.
On the face of it I could see quite clearly that the artists had extended the boundaries of printmaking into for example 3-D printing or frottage but that was all I could glean from the works at this point.
It was only after the event and researching the artists that I found I could engage with the works. For example Clare Thornton’s “Triadic Croquet” which moves the ideas of printmaking into the realms of performance – using the printed objects as props for a ‘social sculpture’ where the game was actually played out.
More of a discourse about the relationship between performance and print is available here. It is interesting to read about how the individual engages with the larger frottage works by Briony Gillard. They inhabit so much space that there is a type of performance as the viewer negotiates there way around them.
Also Katy Connor’s work “Untitled/Force” was interesting. The artist had translated the artist’s blood into a series of digital prints. The effect was very subtle and actually quite beautiful, which is something very different to the normal connotations that you have about artists’ using bodily matter in their works. The number of processes involved had created an effect of distance and removal from the original subject.
I found the exhibition to be an interesting way to look at the world of contemporary print. Instead of it being seen as a ‘craft’ subject these works were firmly presenting the media as an option to use in Fine Art, encouraging practitioners to push against and question the traditional limitations and processes of ‘what a print is’.
This has given me some food for thought for the future. I wonder if in this course we are able to push the boundaries as the course materials are quite prescriptive. That said, I enjoy exploring and playing with materials so I am likely to keep that mindset going in this course also, and see what happens. It is good to see that there is a new theoretical framework that is encouraging this approach and it will be interesting to see how the medium of print will develop over the next few years.