Curated Traveling Exhibition:
Over the last 25 years we have seen new digital tools and processes enter the traditional domain of the collaborative print studio. These developments have, to some degree brought into question the role of the traditional print studio model if we consider the ubiquitous nature of digital resources and their impact upon previous associations with specialist tools and facilities. Similarly the technological developments in inkjet, laser cutting and rapid prototyping are contributing to an expanding field of digital production methods and the subsequent realisation of digitally mediated artefacts.
Within the context of a collaborative print studio practice, the exhibition format is presented as a graphic dialogue of printed matter – revealing the emergent and interpretative possibilities for the graphic artefact in the digital age. This exhibition title Just Press Print was chosen to highlight that although digital printing has a ‘print’ button, the significant elements for the creation of the digital print are often overlooked: the relationship and conversation between artist and publisher/ master printer, the iterations that are necessary to achieve the final print, the need for archiving and recording the process.
The following review of the Just Press Print exhibition at the Northern Print Gallery is by Sara Ogilvie, an artist, illustrator and Senior Lecturer in Imagemaking within Graphic Design, Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK.
‘Most often an exhibition consists of marveling at polished final outcomes. Just Press Print, curated by Dr Paul Laidler from The Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) at University of the West of England, is an invitation to explore beyond this and get under the skin of the print process in its many forms.
CFPR is renowned for its cutting edge print facilities so it is no surprise to see an eclectic range of published prints on display. These recent prints have evolved from CFPR collaborations with a carefully selected group of artists. From mind bending vectors of flaming ice creams to 3D polymer Lichtenstein-esque knuckledusters each project vies for your attention to uncover how it came to be.
Layers of paper sketches, notes and test proofs bundled in bulldog clips hang informally from the walls. Rifle through these pages and you can share in the artist and printer exchange; eavesdrop on dialogue, decision-making and the ups and downs of the creative process that unfurls. It is this factor that pulls the diversity of artists together in this show and hooks the viewer into the work.
Designer Sebastian Schramm’s brief email asking, ‘Don’t you want to sell my prints?’ is a forthright invite which lead to a long distance collaboration between Schramm in Germany and Paul Laidler in the UK. The exchange is at times rapid fire, bouncing feedback on scale and colour, correcting digital photographic images of porcelain figurines augmented with unexpected head balloons in an exploration or alienation and individual behavior. The final edition of large saturated inkjets is vivid, striking and unsettling in equal measure.
Like Schramm each exhibiting artist opens the doors to their process and it is this welcoming, inclusive quality that is so refreshing. In Paul Coldwell’s accompanying visual chronicle we see more of the artist in the throes of the project. Scrawled sketchbook pages, noting the music playing in the studio and a packet of Trebor mints stray into shot. With a jaunty thumbs up over the printing press the atmosphere suggests a more easy going tempo in comparison to Schramm’s.
Coldwell’s outcome, ‘Lines and Branches’, shows two relief prints taken from laser cut MDF, which are also on display, depicting treetops coarsely treated with exaggerated halftone dots. Small personal artifacts are depicted such as letters, kirby grips and combs, items that keep strands together, separate or suggest lines of correspondence all related to family trees.
There are some fine examples of 3D printing on display. Katie Davies and Peter Walters have created ’Vela’ (2011) an elegant ghostlike form sitting quietly on its shelf. Inspired by remote constellations it is a transformation of audio data from a pulsar star into a 3D rapid prototype. In contrast to this is Brendan Reid’s Manta Ray, a 3D technicolour prototype with a rhythm of rainbow stripes shouting for attention.
Other intriguing colour concepts of note are Arthur Buxton’s obsessive digital data visualisations of British Vogue covers from 1981-2011. Like scrambled TV test cards predominant and common colours come to the fore in ordered bars. The results show that trend colour preferences have lightened in tone over the last 30 years.
This show undoubtedly displays the forward thinking ethos of CFPR in relation to digital technologies however it is encouraging to see everything in the mix; traditional, digital and 3D technologies are interwoven here.
It successfully spotlights how specialist guidance and liaison can help artists discover and ‘make’ in new ways, leading to unexpected print territories and possibilities. In his PhD curator, artist and CFPR printer Paul Laidler has explored whether the role of Master printer is still relevant in todays technological democratisation. This exhibition firmly suggests it is’.