It was a personal pleasure to visit the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair, now in its third year. The ambitious project has taken over the huge warehouse scale structure at Woolwich. I visited on the New Collectors Evening on a dark, damp night in early November and was shown around the bright white halls of the industrial scale building by many of my fellow graduates from the MA Fine Art (Printmaking) from Camberwell College of Arts.
Being a printmaker myself I am fascinated by process, and there was a substantial mix of works created in different media. Although there were a few giclee prints from famous artists, such as Anthony Gormley, most of the work was in traditional fine art processes and variations of that. Etchings, both traditional and experimental, woodcuts including some classic reduction pieces, lithography, collagraph, linocut, screenprint featured alongside digital processes.
The cover for the fair’s brochure is a greyscaled piece by Katy Binks. She is an artist who works with digitally manipulated images screenprinted. Her bold circles lines and blocks are used for wallpaper and large images that effect through colour and design alone. Her actual work displayed for the exhibition is characteristically in bold colour; orange, grey, blue, bred, black, fleshtone on a background of white with just a small square of maroonish purple in the bottom right-hand corner. Binks carefully balances form shape and tone in her own visual world of opposites, complementaries, the relationship of blocks.
Another former fellow student contributing is Kirsten Baskett who interprets models that she builds from paper into photoetchings, rendered in Prussian blue ink that mimics cyanotypes. Her work was divided in different locations which made it difficult to appreciate how powerful her pieces actually are. They communicate with the creativity of generations that made ambitious small-scale works at home. There is an emotional secret to her work that repays a long time spent with them, bringing out a sense of introspective methodical concentration. The typewriter, the home cine camera, sheet music, these tools of complex creative enterprise are transformed through a string of process, leading to a deeply buried relationship with her mother, an animator who worked at home.
I was pleased to see Brian Hodgson, the technician from Camberwell’s etching studio not only have three important prints on display but also to have won the Awagami Factory Printmaking Prize. Brian draws on location. The narrative of the rocks of Northumberland is depicted in his pieces which involves a deep relationship with the experience of the environment. He pulled out his phone to show his video Changing Channels – Enter the Image (2017) which documents the journey through a rock arch to the sea by wetsuit. This action is part of his process. Visiting his website gives a comprehensive insight into how he went about achieving this work. His method he believes ‘forms a bridge’ and allows a discourse between himself and the sea. One grounded plate lay chained to a rock in the tunnel under the sea for a summer full moon tide. The other plate presents a drawn plate with markings indicating his psychological processing of the view. These two plates he works together in the print studio. These plates are then added to with a photographic element from photopolymer intaglio plates. The work demonstrates his careful and expert printing skills in registration and inking. It is good to see that although his work base is in central London, his work continues to focus on the wild Northumberland landscape, and shows how an artist living in London can retain a deep relationship with a particular area beyond the constraints of the city. I admire that loyalty to place.
There are many artists beyond the Camberwell circle on display here. Some pieces that caught my eye the colourful spiritualism of Hartash Dale’s ‘The Wheels of Dharma’ and Kaz Dewis’s woodcuts of rooms. These put me in mind of Jean Lodge’s tuition at the Ruskin School of Art and her promotion of woodcut as a method of achieving lyrical and experimental, ambitious results that go beyond the observational and representational. There is a sophisticated sense of light in these drawings. The stairs the doors, the walls, the skirting boards are depicted with a tenderness that goes beyond reproduction. This is when printmaking becomes exceptional. It is no longer a means to distribute an image. It has an unspeakable delicacy, a sense of engagement that goes beyond the gouge, the scrape or the rolling of ink, the pull the paper. Jean always taught the printer to look beyond the process into what we see through the still life, what the process can reveal to the maker, and woodcut is her signature material.
As a poet as well as a printmaker I felt an affinity with the shapes and multimedia, cartoonish approach of Arabella Hilfiker’s work. She uses screenprinting combined with drawing, breaking down the separation of fine art and illustration. Her series shown here, ‘Claygate and’ represents the home and everyday observations, recurrences and patterns, and celebrates friendship and place in text as well as image.
Finally, I would like to commend those who are ambitious enough to take on a large scale installation. Carol Wyss extended her project Signs for the monumental space. Her folded paper ‘bricks’, debossed with etchings of human bones were constructed into an oval wall that presided over the view down into the main hall of printing presses, walls with framed pictures and the bustling ‘new collectors’ visiting the gallery stalls. She created over 1,200 paper cubes for the project in her effort to make an impact on the platforms of the former artillery museum, previously meant to be occupied by tanks. She explains her installation as ‘an attempt to visually abstract human bones to remove their mystique as human remains, transforming them into information.’ To me the pieces of bones have become creatures, swimming through the sea of paper-white, amoeba, primaeval life-forms or other animals, connecting us with the lost world of our ancient, inner selves, showing us our calcified self, swimming in blood, wrapped up in the envelope of our skin.
Woolwich is the ideal place to host contemporary printmaking being close to an important print workshop (Thames Barrier Print Studio) and the scale of the former museum space offering an appropriate scale of display for the type of work that many contemporary artists want to show the work they want to make. But can the organisers sort some practicals out, please? This is not the friendliest place to reach on public transport. Evenings are dark, and it’s tempting to come by car if you drive and live in SE London (although I know ecologically we should be coming on public transport at least we were car sharing). My lift was given a ticket by P4 parking attendants for leaving his vehicle in a poorly signed empty carpark where it was obstructing no-one, in an empty zone where there was no demand for spaces. If you want more collectors to visit and have a good experience transport at night should be considered, not just provide fizzy alcohol and a thudding disco-system.
Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair Exhibitors Included: Trevor Abbott, Sally Adams, Ade Adesina, Emily Adey, Edward Adlington, Becky Allen, Guy Allen, Laleh Ardestani, Anna Arenstein, Margaret Ashman, Sinclair Ashman, Damaris Athene, Paul Atkins, WillMake(s)Things, Paulette Bansal, Kirsten Baskett, Martha Beaumont, David Begley, Gabrielle Bejani, Melanie Bellis, Lizy Bending, Polly Bennett, Cy Bernheim, Laura Bianchi, Alice Valentina Biga, Daisy Billowes, Katy Binks, Chloe Bocquet, Sara Borga, Neil Bousfield, Kit Boyd, Louisa Boyd, Robin Bray-Hurren, Virginia Bridge, Ian Brooks, Frea Buckler, Jess Bugler, Meg Buick, Marguerite Carnec, Samantha Cary, Maite Cascon, Rachael Causer, Jake Cecil, Francesca Centioni-Dene, Ian Chamberlain, Prerna Chandiramani, Laura Clarke, Sarah Cleary, Sarah Cliff, Austin Cole, Julia Colmenares, Babette Cooijmans, Kethi Copeland, Mara Cozzolino, Chrissie Craig, Sally Cutler, Clare Cutts, Fiona de Bulat, Mat Denney, Eloise Dethier-Eaton, Kaz Dewis, Paul Dewis, Stephanie Draper, Holly Drewett, Oscar Eaton, Steve Edwards, Justine Ellis, Tim Ellis, Georgina Fay, Hugo Flores, Ros Ford, Fiona Fouhy, Alex Fox, Christina France Crews, Clare French, Laure Fretigne, Amy Gardner, Peter Gibbons, Mario S Gonzalez, Natalia Gonzalez Martin, Rachel Goodison, Katie Goodwin, Fran Gordon, Veta Gorner, Irene Graham, Sarah Granville, Catherine Greenwood, Chris Grice, Clare Grossman, Martin Grover, Sally Gunnett, Jemma Gunning, Hugh Hamshaw Thomas, Caroline Hands, Anna Harley, Rose Harris, Russell Harris, Paul Hawdon, Lorena Herrero, Andy Hibberd, Josephine Hicks, Arabella Hilfiker, Wuon-Gean Ho, Sam Hodge, Brian D Hodgson, Adam Hogarth, Paul Hogg, Rebecca Holmes, Stephen Hoskins, Radek Husak, Claire Hynds, Alice Irwin, Constanza Isaza Martinez, Manami Ito, Alexander Johnson, Sherrie-Leigh Jones, William Jones, Fabienne Khial, Amale Khlat, Leonie King, Olga Krasanova, Arthur Laidlaw, Aubrey Laret, Chloe Laurence, Jonathan Lawes, Jungyeon Lee, Sara Lee, Marine Lefebvre, Sharon Lindensfeld, Matthew Lintott, Jonathan Lloyd, Katrin MacGibbon, Tammy Mackay, Gregori Maiofis, Flora Malpas, Julia Marco Campmany, Zoltan Marfy, Anna Marrow, Sonia Martin, Calum McClure, Alex McIntosh, Sally McKay, Sharon McKeown, Diane McLellan, Chitra Merchant, Gregory Millar, Cathy Milner, Janet Milner, Atefeh Mohareri, Loraine Monk, Claire Mont Smith, Rachel Mooney, David Moy, Louiz Nielsen, Bobby Nixon, Oran O’Reilly, Yesim Paktin, Shinyoung Park, Thomas Parkhouse, Stan Peach, Isobel Peachey, Thomas Pennick, Sumi Perera, Clare Phelan, Will Pierce, Maria Positano, Katie Pratt, Rosey Prince, James Randell, Ian Rawlinson, Tamsin Relly, Andrea Robinson, Stephen Robson, Julia Rodrigues, Saskia Rodriguez, Cat Roissetter, Tania Rutland, Bislacchi, Celia Scott, Yoonjung Shim, Nana Shiomi, Cecilia Sjoholm, Lucy Smith, Deeksha Soni, Tim Southall, Lubna Speitan, Shirley Stevenson, Euan Stewart, Fiona Stewart, Jane Stothert, Odilia Suanzes, Sergio Suarez, Eunjung Suh, Patti Taylor, Stewart Taylor, Will Taylor, Natalia Tcherniak, Liorah Tchiprout, Ashleigh Thompson, Sadie Tierney, Helmi Valkola, Geraldine van Heemstra, Mira Varg, Matthew Vaughan, Luke Wade, Annie Wasdell, Susanna Widmann, Amy Wiggin, Carol Wilhide Justin, Claire Willberg, Liz Wilson, Matthew Wilson, Po Yi Bonnie Wong, Wai Wong, Stephen Wright, William Wyld, Ali Yanya
Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair 22 – 25 November 2018 Building 17, Cartridge Place, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, London SE18 6ST