The SGCI conference in New Orleans was a right bonanza.

Imagine over 1500 printmakers all partying in a town famous for its hedonism, fried food and jazz. Seriously, there are naked lap-dancers in the bars in the middle of the day!

It was amazing. The town is set on the banks of the Mississippi, a steamy grey thing.

Buildings are graceful and crumbling, and palm trees and huge spreading live oaks line the avenues, which still retain their French names.

Highlights for me were numerous. Willie Cole opened the conference with a keynote speech about his artistic practice which involves a method of mark making with a hot iron which he calls scorching, which in effect is a type of printed mark. His work was beautiful and playful, taking photographs of irons and making them into mask like faces, or using the ironed marks to make huge figure composites.

There was a great exhibition of prints by David Dreisbach, who was awarded the printmaker emeritus prize by the Southern Graphics council this year, in the Contemporary Arts Center.

I marveled at his narrative and compositional strength, all while tucking into perhaps the most delicious spread of food ever seen at a private view before. Appreciating art must be hungry work, seeing how much they’d laid out.

There were inspiring, ambitious and fantastic demonstrations especially the rubber stamp one by Sukha Worob who showed us how he cuts into foam board with a router set to 1/4″ depth and then fills the mould with a solution of silicone rubber composite called “Mold Max”

and some great silkscreen prints printed by Ernest Milsted with wallpaper paste and water soluble dyes in place of the traditional acrylics and medium, producing lovely prints all at a fraction of the cost.

There were some very impressive satellite events. I particularly liked Dirk Hagen’s broadside text speak haikus which he’d printed on letterpress and cardboard.

A lovely show of prints about New Orleans and the floods in the hippily named Healing Centre.

A nice set of prints in various portfolios were displayed in the hotel conference venue on grey pinboards and rotated daily; some of these were delicate and beautiful.

Also Midwest Pressed had a great show of silkscreen monoprints which were installed as a huge panel of floating heads of famous figures, skulls or Chewbacca.

This is my friend Brian Lane, from Seattle, who looks  a bit like Chewie.

Most notable for me was the Carnival of Ink set in an old ironworks factory to the east of the main town. This was a riot of printmaking activity.

Drive-by-press  printed T-shirts with skateboards (just inked up and jammed through the press with a foam blanket).

The main event was run by Wolfbat Press, and involved hundreds of artists who spent the week of the conference decorating box cars with collaged prints which were paraded them through the town on St Patrick’s day before setting them on fire.

Several studios ran various fun fair style games such as “Wrassle a printmaker and win a print for a dollar” which had me in fits of laughter.

I presented a paper on movement in print in the International panel which got some good feedback, if you would like to read the article then please go this page here,

then showed the animations Shift and Lucid Mask, along with a selection of prints at the open portfolio session,

which was a great time to meet other printmakers whose work I admire

Like Ben Moreau’s gorgeous etchings

Some print genius Marcus Benavides

Michael Barnes

Mark Bovey

And oh so many more…!

I promised myself I would never again venture up north in February, but found myself in Liverpool, Preston and Manchester this week, and loved it!

First stop was Liverpool, with its shabby buildings conveying a sense of elegant (or otherwise) decay.

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I stopped off at the wonderful Bluecoat where there was a very arresting show by Gina Czarnecki. Her work is about the human body moving in space, and I found her video work very inspiring. The portrayal of frenzied and slow motion arabesquing movement is really beautiful.  I also loved the castle made of clear resin, much like spun glass, which is due to be encrusted with thousands of donated milk teeth in the four years to come. I wish I had retained my extracted wisdom tooth from a couple of weeks ago to add to the project!

There was another whimsical show called Republic of the Moon in FACT which was a great combination of sound, smell, installation and imagery. I particularly liked the “Moon Goose Analogue” by Agnes Meyer-Brandis, who has taken geese hatched and raised as if future super star astronauts. These cute fluffy things have been named patriotic space age names such as Boris and Svetlana, and spend their days wandering around happily in a lunar landscape space station in Italy, with a live feed to Liverpool.

Next stop was the University of Lancashire in Preston. It was surprisingly mild. I checked out the largest brutalist bus station in Europe and then the Harris museum.

There was  nice print show about walking the land, with multilayered boggy coloured meshes of paper installed in a quivering column above the central stairwell, by Tracy Hill, my host.

I toured the print department and had instant print studio envy when looking at their beautiful Columbian press. They have a very spacious department run by Pete Clarke and Tracy Hill pictured here.

I gave a talk on my work to local artists and students as part of their Art Lab talking Prints series, and showed them some of the latest video work.

For a nice review of what I talked about, please see the link here http://artlabcontemporaryprint.co.uk/?p=642

Afterwards I laid out a selection of prints from the past 12 years for them to view.

On my return trip I went via Manchester. It was rain rain rain, so a good opportunity to lurk around inside some great galleries, like the Portico Library where i saw a show on Victoriana, taxidermy and penny dreadfuls, and the Manchester Museum of Art. Ken Currie’s huge dystopian cityscape and Antony Gormley’s flying man were my favourite pieces in the Museum, alongside Grayson Perry’s ironic map of society (and technically brilliant etching) “Print for a Politician”.

Finally, I attended a private view in the Chinese Art Centre: Chen Man, a young photographer from China. Strangely enough, no-one mentions that she is also very proficient in Photoshop. Her images of women are stylized, glamorous, objectifying and sexual. The show is lavish! Fantasy female faces with luscious lips are printed larger than a metre high, and the imagery is appealing, commercial and desirable. (Shu Uemura sponsored the opening event with make up remover)… I liked seeing a successful female artist in such a solo show, but couldn’t decide if the vision presented was empowering or degrading to women.

Here are a few of the prints that I have been making since August 08, after being a travelling show woman and not having access to a print studio for a while. They series is of sleepers and dreamers, women who embody their imagery on the surface of their skin

Sleeper Snake

Sleeper Torii

Sleeper Curve

Sleeper White

Sleeper Peony

Sleeper Bamboo