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Politics in Print

involving 7 UK contemporary artists / April – Sept 2010
Funded by Devon Record Office

Politics in Print was a collaboration between Double Elephant Print Workshop (DEPW) and Devon Record Office (DRO).

Seven artists were commissioned to bring to life Devon’s political archives through the medium of printmaking. The twin aims of the project were to highlight the range and versatility of printmaking as well as explore some of the rich historical resources at DRO.

Artists Catherine Cartwright and Nicci Wonnacott looked at the letters of leading Suffragette Cristobel Pankhurst, which led them to the story of The Three Suffragettes of Clovelly. “We were inspired to pay homage to their action of ‘getting up the nose of Asquith’ who had been staying in Clovelly, by visiting exactly 101 years later, performing an art action, and creating prints and a short film from the experience.”

Volkhardt Mueller’s installation screen-printed shopping bags. Trying to Meet Matilda Brimmacombe was prompted by the 1843 records kept by Exeter Prison’s chaplain on the eponymous 15 year old, who was sentenced to six months’ hard labour with periods of solitary confinement for the heinous crime of stealing a hat.

Ironically, archives can also keep secrets, and Steven Paige’s photo-etchings explore the process of redaction – the blacking out of information from documents to keep sensitive information from being distributed, a phenomenon that has particular contemporary resonance.

Gary Powell’s screen-prints respond to the slave trade and its abolition, using records of Devon ships’ cargo and the exploits of the ‘pioneer’ of the British slave trade, Sir John Hawkins.

Jonathan Velardi found inspiration for Semper Fidelis Exeter city’s 1660 motto as the basis for a screen-printed bandana that explored centuries of Devon’s identity. “These Latin words of ‘Always Faithful’, rang like a mantra throughout my research at the Devon Record Office”.

Lucy Brett’s series of etchings focussed on Devon’s lost railway lines “depicting the railway’s political marking of the Devon landscape – noticing what has disappeared, what remains and what has been replaced.”

The exhibition launched at The X Centre on Exeter’s quay as part of Devon Open Studios 2010 and then toured to Exeter Phoenix, Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington and Devon Record Office.

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