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We are Redefining Print

Historically, print is a mechanical medium used to reproduce an image. Printmakers have come a long way to expand that role to enable all artists to explore the nature of print beyond its traditional form. Today, contemporary artistic practice rarely embodies a single medium. The process of printmaking as we know it has expanded beyond the confines of the plate and the press. New technologies are being introduced that are an extension of, not a replacement for, the traditional methods. Etching plates can be laser cut from digital data; print can be applied to a multitude of materials and can even be interactive.

The community that develops within the print room is bursting down the walls with exciting and unusual outcomes.

In a two year project ending December 2015, Double Elephant has sought to answer the question:

What is contemporary printmaking and how might it evolve in the next 10 years?

I’m inclined to welcome any approach that destabilises, sometimes dismantles, and looks to the reconstruction or invention of an identity that is both new and ancient, that elbows its way into the future while remaining conscious and caring of its past.
Lucy Lippard 1990

The Exeter Portfolio

To support this project, Double Elephant is offering for sale an exclusive limited edition portfolio of artists’ prints. One collection comprises five prints made by the Redefining Print commissioned artists and ten prints made by selected members of Double Elephant Print Workshop. The Exeter Portfolio is a highly collectible set of art works reflecting the very best of contemporary printmaking.

It can be purchased in our Etsy shop.

Redefining Print : The Symposium

A one-day symposium challenging the traditional boundaries of printmaking.

This event was held on Thursday 19th November 2015 in Exeter and was attended by 185 delegates from across the UK.

In 2013, Double Elephant commissioned five courageous and talented contemporary artists, Katy Connor, Bryony Gillard, Mark Leahy, Volkhardt Müller and Clare Thornton, to create new work by exploring possible redefinitions of printmaking – to explore its role as the inspiration for new work and develop hybrid responses to printmaking. We specifically wanted to work with artists familiar with digital media and performance -  practices far removed from traditional printmaking yet open to many new possibilities.

When different disciplines collide, what will emerge?

At the Symposium, they spoke about their commissions and were joined by speakers:
Professor Jo Stockham, Head of Printmaking, Royal College of Art
John Phillips, Director, London Print Studio
Carolyn Black, Flow Projects
Elizabeth Tomos, Artist Printmaker
Joshua Gaunt, Film Maker

The event was accompanied by print exhibitions at Exeter Phoenix, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter College, Exeter Library and TOPOS.

Information from the day is being collated below and will be added to over the next month.

Images of the event can be found on our Facebook page.

Keynote Speech

The Keynote Speech was delivered by Carolyn Black, Project Writer.

Whistler’s Curse

John Phillips of london print studio – gave a talk based on this starting point:

For the past 150 years printmaking has laboured under a schizophrenic dilemma: it simultaneously claims to be both democratic and elite. In the wake of the digital revolution, will this conundrum diminish or increase?

From 15 C. on, print transformed knowledge and understanding: it lead to the abolition of paradise on earth (because mapmakers were unable to identify its precise location). Through dictionaries and literatures it solidified language groups, which in turn gave rise to nation states (and their instabilities along linguistic fault lines). It introduced everyday life, and particularly the lives and experience of working people, to the realm of visual representation. It shattered the boundaries between manual and intellectual labour (as printers learned to read and intellectuals melted lead). Over 300 years before other industries, it introduced the fundamental idea of industrial production – objects assembled from interchangeable manufactured components. In the 19th and 20th centuries it underpinned mass literacy and education and created a mass consumer market through the production of low cost ‘luxury goods’ and their promotion through advertising.

In the early 19 C the technology that had remained static for over 300 years was transformed by the introduction of lithography, the mechanisation of presses, and the production of cheap wood pulp paper. The old ‘obsolete’ technology became a plaything for the wealthy.

Enter Whistler and his brother-in-law Seymour Hayden, who redefined the ubiquitous print as a ‘limited’ luxury item. Whistler additionally redefined the environment in which ‘art’ might be seen and ‘appreciated’. He invented the ‘white cube’ exhibition space. And, to accompany these developments, the printmakers’ schizophrenic dilemma began.

The talk explores the origins and history of this dilemma, and the ways in which the digital revolution might dilute or intensify it.

Redefining Print – A film by Volkhardt Müller for Double Elephant Print Workshop

This project condenses a series of Skype interviews with people and institutions involved in the cultivation, exhibition and dissemination of contemporary artists’ print. In bringing together an international range of perspectives and practices, I wanted to find out more about what keeps print-making alive from the perspective of those who make it accessible to us.

I am an artist myself and this work has no pretence to scientific rigour. Instead I chose a more casual approach, driven by my own experience and interests in the subject. I found that conversations often panned out differently to how I anticipated; for example the division of roles between artists, printers and exhibiting institutions in the professional field is more diverse than I imagined to begin with.

I used Skype because I liked the idea of people being witness to an exchange between two different places. It was second best to a personal encounter and massively extended my reach on a small budget. Using this technology to compile these positions turned out to be an interesting parallel with the way the culture of printmaking changes through the internet, both in terms of creative influences and economic opportunities.

I want to thank all my partners in conversation for their generosity, and I hope that people will find their perspectives as interesting as I did.

Volkhardt Müller, October 2015

Redefining Print Exhibition

The commissioned artists presented their work at Exeter Phoenix Gallery from 19 November to 23 December.

Double Elephant Director Catherine Cartwright asked Matt Burrows, Curator at Exeter Phoenix, to comment on the inaugural exhibition of work made by the Redefining Print commissioned artists :

What’s been most surprising about the work that is being produced by the Redefining Print artists?

One of things that’s been most surprising is how easy its been to draw out connections that have arisen: not only between each others practices, but between what they’re each doing and the processes of printmaking. Partly that’s something I’m aware that happens when you get any group of artwork or artists together but equally there was every possibility their work could feel completely separate and do things in disparate ways. But in fact there is a resonance between their practices; mostly these are ideas of surface and contact, and the idea of one thing pressing up against another thing, whether that be conceptually or physically.

Where can you see printmaking in contemporary practice 10 years from now?

I think some of the most interesting things for printmaking is the tension between digital processes and the more traditional print processes. That’s really exciting. One of the things I’ve seen happening in the past five years is a dropping of the reluctance to bring the two together. Artists will always enjoy the interplay of experimenting with the very new, and the embracing or rediscovery of the very traditional. That’s something that will never go away. Contemporary art so often has this duality between process and content, and that’s mirrored here by the digital technologies of achieving things, and the more physical analogue ways of achievement. One is never going to replace the other. Whats exciting and interesting is when they start to augment each other, support each other and highlight with the best of each other.

What can we expect from the exhibition at Exeter Phoenix for Redefining Print?

The exhibition is called Surface/Contact and includes both ends of this spectrum from the most basic methodologies to the most technological.

There are examples of data visualisation, some of that’s through 3D print, some of it’s through computer graphics and projection. Then there’s instances of what might be called the most basic form of print, frottage, pressing one material up against another, and rubbing another over it to get an impression.

Handcrafted by Rock Kitchen Harris