I’ve just come back from Dundee, Scotland, for a biannual printmaking conference called IMPACT. Back in 2009 I attended my first Impact conference in Bristol, and gave a talk on Marcelle Hanselaar and other printmakers who use animals in their work. I also put up a wall of printed proofs from the mask series. The 2011 Impact was based in Melbourne where I marvelled at the Aborigine paintings, enjoyed roo stew, and displayed my dancing dress prints. This year, Dundee was the host city, and they generously gave me a huge space to exhibit work; this was a great opportunity to try an installation of three series of works. First of all, a panel of 64 dancing dress prints fit the space perfectly.
Next I put a long book up which was a variation on the Unending Forest. This shows the trees of West Wales (Aberystwyth) if viewed from the far west, and the trees of East London (Hackney) if viewed from the east. The forests are mirrored so the trees morph into a hybrid reflected landscape. The staff at Duncan and Jordanstone College of Art made the fantastic shelf to measure for the book on the day, and I like the colour of it, and the elegant triangular struts.
Finally, the forest prints fit into a little room which had been intended for my animation. I decided that it would be interesting to panel the walls of the room with the prints. If I had had time and energy I would have liked to create a really different world, with a darkened ceiling and pine needled floor, and a velvet curtain over the entrance. Inside I would like to have one of those old fashioned lanterns, perhaps with a candle, and people would go in to explore the spooky space alone. The music that Andrew McPherson made for the prints: Beyond the Moon, was playing on continuous loop in the space, which gave it a lot of atmosphere..
The room which I had been allocated was next to two other artists’ shows which turned out to be my favourite in the whole group of over 50 different exhibitions. Paul Furneaux makes intensely quiet Japanese Woodblock prints and often layers the washi onto three dimensional structures such as hot water bottles (metal ones) or pole like constructions. His work is abstract and has a very beautiful colour palette, restrained neutrals next to glimpses of near fluorescent bands of colour.
My other neighbour was Reinhard Behrens who had constructed an arctic hut and made some exquisite drawings of a fantasy land called Naboland, which at first glance seemed to be as if part of an anthropology museum had relocated to a gallery space. His collected artefacts of miniature clothing and furniture adorned the inside of a believable living area, complete with space for work and prayer, a backlit painting of a glacier landscape and an overall rusty retro aesthetic. He commented that the music from my forest room complemented the slightly mournful nostalgic air of his construction.
Other shows that I really enjoyed were:
David Faithfull and Edward Summerton’s drinkable edition of beer called Perennial Drift, which took the idea of creating a multiple to its logical conclusions.
State of the States, a fabulous portfolio of prints from invited US artists. I was thrilled to recognise lots of names in the etching section! The prints were of a really high standard, and the vision ambitious and quirky, all strong points of the US printmaking vibe at the moment.
Sean Caulfield’s monumental woodblock prints were stuck to the wall– I think you can tell how large they are by the size of my shadow in the bottom of the picture.
Liz Ingram and Bernd Hildebrandt’s long litho/ mixed media book on swimming called Turbulent Chroma: The Imperatives of Water and Body.
A great series of woodblock prints by Henrich Hey
There are many more shows and prints that I enjoyed which I didn’t photograph at all, the range of ideas and execution was very inspiring. David Ferry’s panels of Pop British culture, a wall full of money, Anita Jensen’s velvety ink jet prints of shells and film stills from Japan, and so on.
Of course the demos and portfolios were a lot of fun too. I particularly liked seeing a demo on conductive ink which inspired a lot of hilarity as a battery placed over the two printed lines could complete circuits and activate either light or sound: here the nose glows.
Tim Moseley had some beautiful books based on the haptic experience: books that challenged the viewer to tear and modify in order to “read” them. He prints colour on both sides of translucent Japanese paper and then binds the pages in trastional book format, but also sticks pages together. The act of tearing the work in order to explore what lies between the hidden areas feels very transgressive!
Finally, all good conferences have some good talks. About a third of the talks were great, but many were poorly delivered, and some with uninspiring or frustratingly dense content. One of my favourite talks was by Marjorie Devon, talking about how artists who come to make prints have been profoundly affected in the rest of their work. She had gathered some hilarious quotes such as Askin, “As far as I’m concerned (printmaking) is the best thing ever invented, better than sex and rocky road icecream”; Cohen, “(Printmaking) refreshes me, shows me new ways of solving old problems”; and Close, “Ideas are generated by activity”. Another inspiring talk was Suzanne Anker, who gave an excellent keynote speech on biotechnology, covering diverse facts such as the use of bio-ink on cell friendly bio-paper to print hearts that have an intrinsic heart beat, and pointing out that the replication of DNA involves the use of a matrix to make copies– a kind of printing of course! The best panel I came across was one on animation, with Ben Partridge, Nathan Meltz and Andrew Super each describing the use of time in their respective works. In terms of delivery, my favourite talk was by Richard deMarco, now in his 80s, who paced the hall like a hungry lion and proclaimed Scotland, “The oldest landmass in the world, the land of Macbeth, the land of the witches… I would like to congratulate you all for being in Dundee and not being in Edinburgh!”
Dundee Contemporary Arts down the road welcomed us to visit their workshop, complete with electronic etching press, and we also visited the Sister Corita Kent show in the gallery.
All in all it was a super fun experience, and meeting lots of friendly printmakers from all over the world made every minute worthwhile.
Girls from Glasgow
Girls from Norwich
Tamarind master printers and the Aber crowd in one small pub booth
Paul Croft with a print portfolio APPP
Kari Laitenen doing a woodblock demo
Boys from Wrexham
A big thank you to Umberto Giovannini, fellow printmaker, who helped me put the show up and take it down. Looking forward to the next conference when it comes back to Europe in 2017!