This month, once again, the WAG provides a venue for the work of printmakers with very different aesthetics.
As I look at the exhibition I’m struck by how every back wall dedicated to a single artist tells a story. Wendy Cain evokes sea- and landscapes by combining paper pulp printing with screen printing to produce textured, tonal images in black and white with distinct focal points. The stars of Rebecca Cowan’s drypoint prints are ordinary objects such as shoes and upholstered chairs. Margaret Bignell explores texture and movement in her monotypes with string and coarsely woven scraps of fabric. Barb Carr’s monotypes—contemplative landscapes—contrast sharply with those of Fanny Cecconi, which explode with colour. Closer to the front of the gallery Elizabeth Pulker’s series of six collages juxtaposes flat black with cut-out printed elements to create compositional variety.
While the WAG showcases framed prints by these and other artists—works that also include collographs, nature prints on fabric and relief prints—in the KSOA front studio I witness works in progress by some of the artists in the show. The Friday morning printmaking open studio is in full swing and five artists are spread around the room, working on ideas for monotypes and linocuts.
Someone has brought in a paper wasp’s nest, which Fanny finds intriguing. She also has her eye on a piece of raffia that could add interest to a small abstract print, which she has already given a number of passes through the press. Barbara Morrow (who has not participated in the current exhibition) is working with Softoleum, a form of lino. While Margaret, the studio co-ordinator, offers her suggestions, Barb gives me a synopsis of a technique she is enjoying—reductive linocut, also called Kamikaze linocut because the final plate, which supports the final colour (there can be as many as five press passes), is mostly cut away. As an aside, she tells me, “You know, the Softoleum is easy to work with but too soft to be put through the press; the paper has to be burnished.” Meanwhile, Jane Hamilton-Khaan is puzzling over rubber overlays that she will use for successive colour applications to create her monotype.
“J’adore!” pipes up Fanny, overcome with enthusiasm for the printmaking process. The atmosphere here is congenial and relaxed. The studio is a space for exchanging ideas, fixing accidents when they happen, trying new techniques and, of course, making use of the presses. Some of the artists in the WAG show have their own press, but for those who don’t, the printmaking open studio provides access to this large, expensive piece of equipment.
“The KSOA also has a printmaking archive,” Margaret reminds us. The archive acts as a resource for the student artists at the school. Margaret brings out an example of a drypoint and before long we are discussing the difference between a chop and a stamp, two forms of print identification, the former an embossing tool, the latter an inked tool.
Then a lively discussion ensues about the difference between a monoprint and a monotype. A monotype is unique. It begins with a smooth plate, usually Plexiglass, to which coloured inks have been applied with a roller. The plate may undergo successive press passes as new colours are added or scraped away, or as colours are blocked. The results can be unexpected. A monoprint, on the other hand, is pulled from a plate with a matrix or underlying image (like a linocut, or woodcut, or etching) that allows the printmaker to be faithful to the image with each pass. But, if the artist decides to vary the colours, a series using the same image can be created. Each print is still a monoprint.
“I think I’ve got it straight,” says Fanny while Margaret goes back to her spot at the table to continue work on a monotype she started earlier.
Kingston Printmakers are Margaret Bignell, Wendy Cain, Barb Carr, Fanny Cecconi, Rebecca Cowan, Kym Fenlon-Spazuk, Judith Gould, Jane Hamilton-Khaan and Elizabeth Pulker.
Hot Off the Press continues until Sunday, November 24, with a reception on that day from 2 to 4pm.