Last year, when I was on a residency in China, I made a series of fifty water-based woodblock prints (mokuhanga prints) which ended up becoming an animation called Smiley Rock.

Smiley Rock still frame

The technique of printing successive thin layers of watercolour is called bokashi and some of the frames for the animation were made from progressive stages of the printing process. I took photos of the print, while printing fresh layers of colour, so that you can see how the colour builds up. I edited the piece in the Royal Academy Schools in Piccadilly, London, and talented musician Eliot Kennedy made the music for me.

Smiley Rock frame being photographed for the animation

The animation is currently being shown in West Yorkshire Print Workshop, as part of their group show called Japan, until 1 September. Read about the show here or at https://www.wypw.org/blog/japan/

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Smiley Rock is also coming with me to the IMPACT conference in Santander, Spain next month… I’ll be showing the animation alongside some of the frames. Watch this space!

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You can watch the animation here or go to https://vimeo.com/237974015

 

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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.

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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. 

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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.ImageImageImageImage

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. ImageImage

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.

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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.Image

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.ImageImage

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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.ImageImage

Liz Ingram and Bernd Hildebrandt’s long litho/ mixed media book on swimming called Turbulent Chroma: The Imperatives of Water and Body.Image

A great series of woodblock prints by Henrich HeyImage

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.Image

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!

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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.

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All in all it was a super fun experience, and meeting lots of friendly printmakers from all over the world made every minute worthwhile.Image

Girls from Glasgow

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Girls from Norwich

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Tamarind master printers and the Aber crowd in one small pub boothImage

Paul Croft with a print portfolio APPPImage

Kari Laitenen doing a woodblock demoImage

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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!

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I made my first trip to Australia last month to attend the IMPACT printmaking conference in Melbourne. It was a four day bonanza of print related fun, and there were lots of inspiring people, places, exhibitions and lectures.

It was well attended event with many people from all over the world as well as within Australia itself. There were at least 25 students from Adelaide,  printmakers from the Torres Strait islands, Indonesia, Brazil, Iran, the US, amongst others, and a good handful of UK representatives including Sarah Bodman and John Purcell!

I enjoyed seeing various print studios in Australia, especially the fantastic facilities in VCA (Victoria College of the Arts), whose facilities include an electric albion press that looks like a one armed bandit crossed with a flower press

APW (Australian Print workshop), who have a suspiciously clean workshop, does anyone actually ever spread ink around in there?

Megalo print studio in Canberra where I taught a workshop (felt like home from home, with a friendly vibe and the biggest fabric bed in Eastern Australia)but at the same time the most cute handmade vacuum table I have ever seen too…

The big print study room at the National Gallery Canberra where we spent a happy few hours looking at Rauchenbergs and Stellas up close, courtesy of the Ken Tyler bequest

ANU (Australian National University), with a vast printmaking unit that would fit in the whole of East London Printmakers in one corner of their etching roomwith some terrifying signs on the walls

and some funny signs up on the walls

and a small printmaking studio in Araluen cultural institute in the desert, that even had a steamer and facilities for discharge printing, though everything seemed very unused.

The lectures at IMPACT were a bit patchy to be honest. I was shocked at the poor quality of the skype presentations and the pHD students who mumbled their thesises to themselves with lack of conviction. There were also many talks that really didn’t have much practical content, which was surprising considering the practical nature of the subject, or talks which spent a very long time saying very little (or am I just an untrained sceptic? Too many of the keywords “materiality” or “Derrida” were used for my liking!)

However, I really enjoyed the talk on Mike Parr by John Loane, a long term collaborative printmaker, who was very eloquent on his creative process. Other highlights were lectures on book arts, especially one on how dance may be incorporated into books by Jude Walton (“The proprioception of a book”) and one on book alterations by Inge Hanover (a lady who searches secondhand book stores for books which have been dedicated to others, or marked with tears, coffee and doodles).

There was the usual raft of talks on digital technology (“printmakers are scavengers of technology originally developed for other purposes”) and on Thai and Indonesian printmakers Prawat and Heri Dono.

The exhibitions were also varied. Some names just came up again and again, both in the university shows and in the city wide satellite shows, and I wanted to see more variety. For example, Angela Cavalieri makes large linocuts of text in Italian, carved in a chunky repetitive fashion. They are distinctive prints, but very illustrative. It was impressive that her work was present in 7 different venues but gave me the impression there was a lack of diversity in the choice of artwork.

I enjoyed seeing some of the Australian and Aboriginal artworks, and would have loved to see more local work from the Pacific region as well as south east Asia.

There was a fantastic demonstration of paste printing by Chika Ito who showed how she makes ink with boiled up rice flour and various organic natural dyes including strong tea! With these pastes she makes beautiful translucent silkscreen prints which are colour fast and very natural and non toxic.

In Melbourne itself, Robert Heather showed me around the National Library of Victoria which had a book art show on the first floor, as well as a stunning collection of printed maps and books from their archives, particularly of the natural flora and fauna drawn by European artists when they first colonised the country. We also visited the RMIT satellite shows including a box set exhibition exchange organised by Melanie Yazzie, called Fold, which was fantastic, and a lovely show of prints by Tate Adams, the artist who established the print programme in RMIT in the 60s (?), whose bold black and white prints are dynamic and graphic.

It was nice to meet lots of friendly printmakers from the UK as well as NZ, Canada and the States as well as the local crowd (especially the huge numbers from Adelaide) at the conference. Below from left to right are Glynnis and Jacqueline from Darwin Northern Editions (collaborative printmakers both) and Ann Cunningham from Melbourne who kindly had me stay at her house during the conference

Finally, one of my highlights was the chance to show my latest series of dancing dress prints that are going to make up an animation, and display my artist’s books to the conference attendees. I got a lot of positive feedback and interest, and it made my month!