Conference


Most years for Valentine’s I hide away in the studio and make pictures, but this year was different. I was invited to give a talk at Wrexham’s Regional Print Centre at Coleg Cambria, as part of their Print Symposium, and seeing as it was Valentine’s Day I thought I would theme the talk around Love.

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It is a theme that I have been preoccupied by for many years: prints can be, after all, a token of affection, especially when each is handmade with love. I have explored making prints about love and connection with animals (Spirit and Guardian); sensual love (the Orchis Series); things I love and that make me laugh (Little Linocut Series); and fantastical love stories (Lansu Garden Series, China Love Series), with birds (Swallow Span) and beasts (Devour) that jump straight out from my imagination.

Talking about caesareans

Talking about caesareans. Photograph by Wiktoria Przekora

My current series of works (the little linocuts) has been all about a kind of loving conversation with my dad (without that sounding too weird, I just want to cheer him up with something more concrete that lasts longer than the short time we have together)…

Talking about the Olympic pool

The Olympic Pool and its ridiculous hairdryer situation… Photograph by Wiktoria Przekora

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Clockwise from left, Vasile, me, Tony, Mum and Dad

WG talking about her linocut process

Showing my linocut process: I draw directly on the block. Photograph by Wiktoria Przekora

Anyway there are 35 of these prints now, and I showed my working process (I draw directly on the block) as well as bringing all the BAT (bon a tirer) proofs to Wrexham to show the delegates at the conference after my talk,. These BAT proofs are covered with notes and colour swatches and printing instructions.

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I made a special Valentine’s print for sale at the conference, as well as a New Year Card for the Year of the Dog, and enjoyed meeting the other presenters and chatting with the delegates.

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Despite all the excitement of being with a group of printmakers (surely the friendliest bunch, ever), I had to leave early…

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I had an evening reception to attend at Buckingham Palace! I’m not sure how the invitation came my way, or who nominated me, but I was really happy to be invited as an artist, not as a vet.

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After the invitation came, I started to feel completely unworthy of a royal visit. In my life there are many chaotic elements, strivings, failures and disappointments: all my possessions crammed into one room

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living in a wild and ugly part of town,

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a patchwork of jobs and commitments,

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long neglected friendships, a fridge that needs cleaning, a bike that needs new parts, a diary with scrambled deadlines, a pile of prints that threatens to collapse on top of me. I didn’t feel glamorous enough, or successful enough to be asked along.

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After some excruciating trips to fancy shops that I would normally never go to (what’s the point of an outfit where you can’t move your arms?) my dear sister Feng Ho, an ethical fashion designer, stepped in and offered one of her bespoke jackets for the occasion, and ethical handbag designer Embellished Truth lent me the statement bag.

Wuon-Gean Ho wearing jacket by Feng Ho and carrying Embellished Truth handbag

Image by British Ceremonial Arts, copyright The Crown.

You aren’t allowed to take photos or record anything when you are in the Palace, so I wrote the description below for my instagram page the following day, when everything was sparkling and fresh in my mind…

***

The Palace is a bit like stepping inside a lavish cake. A red carpet takes you up three flights to a domed lobby, a perfectly white and gold studded ceiling. Prince Albert, looking young, in marble, stands in an alcove, and I’m sure there’s another statue of Albert facing himself, in a weird parallel world. A marble girl plays with a dog, her hand buried in its fur. Heavy sparkling chandeliers glitter. The ceiling is far away, the carpet so so soft.

Every surface is embellished with gilded twisted vines, intricate repeated oak leaves and acorns, goat hooves, naked women clutching their breasts, lions feet on every chair and lions heads on the armrests. There are crests and shields, fleur de lys and red pentagonal roses, Corinthian columns and swirling mirror surrounds. Ming vases, rosewood inlays, opal cabuchons, a pair of pink thrones, embroidered ER on the left, and P on the right.
In the picture gallery, Rembrandt, Vermeer(the light! The shades of blue!), Frans Hals, van Eyck, Rubens, there, on the wall. I spent a while gazing entranced at the Rembrandt portrait of Agatha Bas. Her creamy skin glows in the light, and her hand posed casually on the picture frame makes you think she is just there, beyond the archway.

Carved wooden vines sprout from doorways and birds nestle on swagged foliage on the walls. A pair of mirrors reflect you into a blue limpid infinity. Marble girls posed casually, resting an elbow on either side of the fireplace, hold yet more abundant grape vines. I tried the sofa out for comfort, it was padded with fraying satin, the silky fabric split by regal weight.

The Queen is so pretty she has a soft sparkling air and smiles at everyone, calmly greeting everyone individually. They read out your name from the pink card so she knows who you are. She gave me her gloved hand and I didn’t kiss it but shook it awkwardly with a half curtsey but didn’t fall over, hurrah (oops clumsy me)…

***

Sheika bag by Embellished Truth

When things have settled down, perhaps some of these things will emerge in new work, who knows. In the meantime, I’ve cleaned the fridge, repaired the doors, done some laundry, and started to tidy up some of the piles of paper… just in case she ever wants to visit me in return…!

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IMG_0797Print maven, Seattle-based Brian Lane, has organised a portfolio for the Southern Graphics Conference in my favourite city, Portland, Oregon, that runs from 30th March to 2 April 2016. IMG_0776Entitled Dreamscapes: The Ebb and Flow of Time and Possibility, this portfolio asked artists to address their subconscious, where past and future collide.IMG_0801My dreamscape print is a linocut which I made last year, showing a woman’s face partly hidden and transformed by the petals of a white chrysanthemum. The chrysanthemum flower is from Asia, and white ones signify grief and bereavement, traditionally placed on graves. IMG_0777Lined up, the women and the chrysanthemums appear like masked warriors, eyes shut contemplating the past and protected against the future. IMG_0802

Dreamscapes Portfolio statement reads

 ‘Our subconscious provides unfiltered access to the storage vault of memories, observations, feelings, and the day to day minutiae that we absorb without knowing.  This storage is virtually unlimited, yet in the waking state we have trouble accessing this surplus of info and rely on our known thoughts and experiences to guide us.  However, in the sleeping state our brain is trying to process everything, resulting in manifestations that bridge past, present, and future realities into a subconscious soup of abstracted yet cohesive possibilities. Often we can barely comprehend what these dreams mean or why certain people, places, or memories have surfaced after being suppressed for so long. Our dreams and nightmares become the vehicle that travels down the vast pathway of our imagination.’

Participants include

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1. Brian Lane

2. Abraham Mong

3. Wuon Gean Ho

4. Kyle Huntress

5. Chris Dacre

6. Mare Blocker

7. Tyna Ontko

8. Chris Rollins

9. Travis Moorehead

10. Virginia Hungate Hawk

11. Amber Chiozza

12. Ashley Shumaker

13. Sean Smoot

14. Emma O’Leary

15. Nikki Barber

16. Ben Beres

17. Charlie Spitzack

18. Amy Oates

19. NateStottrupdd_09_pushing_print

Also at the SGCI conference, Marilyn Zornado and Barb Tetenbaum have coordinated a printmaking and animation showreel, which will be displayed on a video monitor in the atrium at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), and at the Univ. of Oregon’s Grey Box Gallery. 33 of 55 submitted films were selected, spanning the entire range of print techniques and created by artists from all over the world. My linocut animation, Shift, which shows a ghostly dancing dress, will be there.

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Shift is on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTyCksf-cCo

Grey Box Gallery, 24 NW 1st Ave. Portland, OR  http://whitebox.uoregon.edu/

22 Mar – 8 Apr, private view on 31 Mar 5–7pm

I wish I could be hopping on a flight to lovely Portland tomorrow to join in the fun… If anyone goes, please take some pictures for me!

I’ve just come back from a March printmaking bonanza! Firstly, New York and the Metropolitan Art Museum, and then the Southern Graphics Conference in Tennessee. Here are some of the things I saw…

IMG_8824_eAt New York’s Center for Book Arts, I enjoyed John Jacobsmeyer’s show More Than Human, a sequence of over 80 wood engravings all cut from cross-sections of the same 40-year-old maple tree, representing an American Sign Language interpretation of the soliloquy in James Dickey’s poem Sheep Child.

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Noah Breuer and I then went to NYU to teach printmaking. Here are some of the students looking at my books.

IMG_8828_eAt the NY Metropolitan Art Museum print department I had a look at the anamorphic prints in their collection as research for my talk on Distortion.

IMG_8921_eI was completely stunned by this etching by Kathe Kollwitz and some small Posada prints which were there.IMG_8908_eKnoxville is located in Tennessee close to the Great Smoky Mountains; Dolly Wood, home of Dolly Parton; a building called the Sunsphere (that looks like a tomoato on a stick); and the University of Tennessee. I stayed in downtown Gay Street in a loft in the iconic Sterchi Apartment block, with the most amazing view.

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Printmaking madness was already obvious on the campus, with Crystal Wagner’s huge installation of prints that looked like a cascading dragon stretching over three floors and entering the gallery space itself.

IMG_9019_eThe print department was really spacious and boasted the largest (reportedly) American French Tool press in the USA, along with a wide array of printing stations ranging from litho at one end to screenprint and the other.

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I admired the beautiful prints by Karen Kunc and Tracy Templeton, who had visited the department.

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Off site shows were rich and varied, sadly I forgot to take photos of many favourites. However, here are a few good uns: local Yee Haw industries letterpress posters which were full of colour and wit…

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Happy printers from Drive by Press located in Striped Light letterpress studio giving a popular demo of T shirt printing…IMG_9249_eMiguel Aragon’s sobering series of victims of the Mexican border wars (drug cartels struggling for supremacy): laser-cut burnt residue embossed prints based on newspaper photographs….

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Wroclaw school of art graduate Agatha Gertchen’s incredible linocuts…IMG_9161_e_agathagertchen

And fellow Wroclaw printmaker Zuzanna Dyrda’s witty print intervention on the occasion of her mum’s marriage…IMG_9167_e_zuzannadyrda

Art Werger’s multiplate mezzzotint colour trial proofs… (honestly mad)IMG_9301_werger_e

IMG_9290_eUniversity of Tennessee graduate Jade Hoyer’s lithographic print installation…IMG_9220_e_jadehoyer

Select Serigraphics poster designs, combining retro elegance with op art and current bands…IMG_9237_e_selectserigraphics

Norwegian Tom Stian Kosmo’s mezzotint Surrender…IMG_9172_e_tomstiankosmo

Ericka Walker’s vintage style aphorisms…IMG_9333_e_erickawalker

Hannah Skoonberg’s delicate landscapes…IMG_9340_e_hannahskoonberg

Lauren Kussro’s mad seascape installation…IMG_9351_laurenkussro IMG_9350_laurenkussro

Emily Minnie’s printed wallpaper…IMG_9358_emilyminnie Liz Klimek’s printed and folded houses…IMG_9356_lizklimek

Intense subject matter and beautiful prints were paired with generous helpings of food at the private views… (We may be artists but we shall not starve!)

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In town, I also saw a few random print events such as this striped tent with painted beer cans…

IMG_9225_eLetterpress studio The Happy Envelope…

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Tatiana Potts wall installation…IMG_9085_e_tatianapotts

Interesting demos including electronic circuits…

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Brian Gonzales of Illegitimate Press, North Carolina showing off his thermographic ink printsIMG_9438_e_thermochromic

Apart from the displays of work, of which I’ve only photographed a small portion, there were some great talks. Sarah Suzuki of MOMA in NY gave a really lucid talk on the burring of lines between the printed useful object and the printed fine art singular object: illustrating her talk with artists such as Tabaimo who uses the printed aesthetic of Ukiyo-e as an essential flavour to her digitally scanned animations; Gert and Uwe Tobias, whose monumental jigsawed prints are unique rather than multiplied; Ellen Gallagher whose layouts were scanned, printed, scratched, added to painted on and reverted to sculptural form again; Daido Moriyama whose book Printing Show 2011 consists of a selection of digital images that viewers are able to sequence order and print themselves; Qiu Anxiong whose beautiful woodcuts show modern stealth bombers and genetically modified creatures.

Another favourite was Amze Emmon’s talk on print in the built environment, how we are surrounded by buildings which have hoardings, some of which describe the contents, some of which describe what will be there in future, and some of which, particularly in China, which have pictures of photoshopped idyllic landscapes far removed from the migrant worker housing that they shield.

IMG_4090_SGCI_eMy involvement in the lecture programme was on Friday 20th March when the panel I had coordinated gave their talks on the topic of Distortion. Noah Breuer and Julia Lillie talked about distorted materiality, in the mimicking of other techniques such as watercolour, engraving, stains and blood in printed format. John Jacobsmeyer talked about renaissance perspectival striving for an elusive truth, and how this delineates subject from object, which is confounded in contemporary approaches. I gave a survey on the topic of distortion, with our desire to see things and faces where there are none, tricks and marvels of machinery, and what happens when machines contribute a distorted view of the world. Erik Brunvand talked about sonic distortion and how to print with conductive ink to create speakers which were activated through electromagnetic signals. It was fascinating for me to hear what the others have been researching.

We jumped around afterwards making distorted poses to celebrate!!IMG_4097_SGCI_e