The Drawers - Pulled (A Print Show) Commentary by Julie Oakes

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Pulled (A Print Show)

 There is something about a multiple, about seeing the same image reproduced, doubled, tripled, quadrupled, multiplied–that inspires a deep breath of satisfaction. It is a basic concept of life–this idea of reproduction–of multiplying. Not only is the fascination with the increase of quantity brought into play but also the quality of the print run–the similarity of each print to the other, the desire for exactitude of sameness.

Different print making mediums respond to both quantity and quality in different ways for the hand-pulled print involves the possibility for human error. Even the machines brought into play don't eradicate the touch–the time when the hand enters the picture to leave the human imprint. With silkscreen, it may be the pressure of the pull; with drypoint and etching, it may lie in the cleaning of the plates; with linocut, the unknown quotient may lie in the inherent strength of the material to remain resilient through the desired run–and often there is the exactitude of the registration that holds sway. Even the digital print, a more technologically driven print process, is not as reliable a quotient as might be desired as the humidity of the day or the slippage of the printer's settings result in inconsistency between prints. The idea of originality is built into the print, first through the artist's concept, secondly through the formation of the idea as a physical trace–the drawing on the plate, the inking of the acetate, the taking of the photograph, the application of the mark–and thirdly, through the print making medium. Different artists weigh heavier in one area than others but they all deal with the same basic concept– reproduction.

Printmakers speak a dialect that is rooted in the medium as well as the concept of reproduction. Each medium has a dialect that is refined to the extent to which the artist invests himself in that particular area of printmaking. A tourist-like journey through the land of printmaking can invoke awe and admiration. It can inspire the desire to move to the medium, to revisit, to plan the next tour with more depth. It can impart not only the knowledge of the medium but also the realisation that it takes time and commitment to gain citizenship. A foray into silk screen may encourage a visit to a neighbouring technique, say lithography, as the limitations of the silk screen may be overcome with lithography. All of the techniques pose limitations. No-one can enter and leave fulfilled without some form of passport. Permanent residency becomes a life changing decision where the investment equals the gains. Just as in any social construct, there are aristocratic and plebeian postings based on inheritance where talent brings an ease of accomplishment. Democratic, yet mysterious–good hard work achieves results and chance furthers the ability to create. No wonder there is such enthusiasm, such ardour, surrounding printmaking. It is a land rich in knowledge, historically diverse, politically accessible and, depending on the method (the 'work'); it can even be economically feasible.

To be a connoisseur of this culture carries a similar sensibility to that of being a creator. The more known, the greater the appreciation; yet, the basic human condition with perceptions in tact is all the pre-requisite needed to begin the course. Original prints are a fertile field for the growth of knowledge and pleasure where knowledge does not preclude pleasure, but tends to encourage it, inviting engagement.

The field is so diverse that it is a challenge to organise and curate a group exhibition of original prints. The bottom line for inclusion has been two-fold–the inherent quality and the technical success of the work. Destiny has also entered the decision making process as many of the artists whose work has been featured in Headbones Gallery's works-on-paper exhibitions are included in this show. Pulled features four printmakers whose works have historical resonance.

12 Midnite was one of the original Headbone's artists with his exhibition Gunland in 1994 made up of large scale paintings with neon embellishments and works from his print portfolio. 12 Midnite's work addresses the values of a contorted society through pop imagery. Pulled will exhibit all ten of the silkscreen, hand pulled prints in an edition of 49 using up to ten colours per image. The prints are available individually or as a complete set, they are packaged in a metal box. With characters from the 'toons and action heroes blasting from the walls, 12 Midnite's energetic imagery sets the pace.

The meticulous hand rendered screen prints by Steve Mennie were presented at Headbones Gallery, BC since 1994 as well.  Spitten Image Serigraphic Studio produced prints where the imagery “reveals the strangeness of the everyday and points to the ineffable mystery underlying our familiar surroundings”. The obsessive pointillism, with which Mennie has dotted each colour as an inked acetate, resulted in serene yet densely layered screen prints where ambient light and corporeality each have a presence. Mennie used up to 52 colours on one of these prints.

Headbones Gallery presents Don Carr's lithographs and his masterful use of the medium is the perfect compliment to the precisely rendered surrealistic narrative that engenders social/industrial implications. Man, as if defined by technology or bred in urban complexity, is compromised by machined apparatus so that Carr's characters exist within a metropolis that links then into complicity. He taught at McMaster's University for 30 years during which time these masterful prints were produced (1971-74).

Robert Bigelow taught printmaking at Concordia where he developed a studio that was free of toxic substances that helped to set the standards for printmaking studios as they are today. He had collaborated on prints with Josef Albers, Jim Dine, Sam Francis, Richard Hamilton, Claes Oldenburg, Ellsworth Kelly, Man Ray, Bruce Nauman, Tony Onley, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Motherwell, Ben Shan, David Hockney and Frank Stella. His own work is in the vein of post-automatism, as he creates images that access an uninhibited and uncensored flow of visual mental information.

The Pop artery of the Pulled exhibition, introduced through 12 Midnite, continues most graphically through ManWoman's silk-screens, also a comment on modern lifestyle and consumerism. Daryl Vocat presents a striking, succinct version of “snakes and snails and puppy dog tails” grappling with “sugar and spice and everything nice”. Ed Pien's intuitive line questions with graphic lucidity “just how big it is” in The Red Dot Clown and puts to task the sensible in The Feet Eater. Franco de Francesca sustains the flow of tangential reference with his digital prints circling round Peeing in the Shower–brilliantly polished to an agreeable end.

Angus Bungay has used drypoint to describe the process for his sculptures. The prints seem easy as if guilelessly pulled from a sketch book with the quick notations describing the process – but herein lies a key for the letters have been scribed onto the print plate in reverse in order to be read once printed.

 Briar Craig's word-based cryptic meanings, layered by colour, bring the detritus of abandoned messages into aesthetic comprehension through the beauty of the patinas. Bodos Korsig's didactic commands, coupled with pure abstraction, lend conceptual depth to the time worn clichés. And Jesse McCloskey deals out a morality tale in Death and the Maiden, rough cut, broadly coloured and instinctively in tune with his subject matter.

Johan Feught's work is elegantly architectonic, lusciously chromatic and obliquely ecclesiastical as his poignant composition pulls the eye and spirit towards the heavens. Vaguely surrealistic, it steps above dreams to grant a foothold to the desire for beauty. Dave Sheppard is more classically surreal, dwelling in the atmosphere where myth and magic are possible counter balances on illogical yet archetypal couplings such as man and fish or man and bird. Larry Eisenstein's creatures enact their own phenomenal logic, morphing between plant and mammal lending the etching's propensity for detail to fantastical use.

Etching his way through the ongoing series titled, Minmei Madelynne Pryor Went into the Dryer, Tyler Bright Hilton's combination of the illustrational alongside references as diverse as Goya, Alice in Wonderland and Japanese contemporary cartoon characters, brings forth a cast both endearing and tensely alienating in order to make for the dynamics of a thriller. Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo's renditions of another kind of dynamic, more sinister and non-redemptive, leave room for a nasty ending as his brutish beasts gnash their teeth in lascivious grins.

David Samila is the positive balance. His silkscreens contain the fullness of life: joy, delight, clarity, humour and unabashed confidence. Jeffrey Little brings play to the fore, although not without a psychological weight. His rubber stamp hand-colored prints evoke childhood distorted through a lens, for the queer little toys seem nostalgic of a more innocent, less harried existence than the contemporary. Katia Santibanez catches us with the delicate net of hair-like lines that veer away from purely organic with the grid formatting. Zeroing in on the particular, she exposes a larger world than is physically presented.

Ortansa Moraru transcends the normal confines of the stiff line, often endemic to wood and lino-cuts, to access the ethereal. Through her use of Japanese paper, the low relief of an embossed image upon which the inked image is applied, the powdered pigments, and serpentine cross hatchings; Moraru creates a world so wonderful that even the printing surfaces become works of art. She is presenting the original hand cut lino-blocks, still inked, as art pieces.

With Nancy Watts works, the embossing has been printed to perfection so that the impression of snow shoe in snow becomes an impeccable snow print, a near Zen experience. The final crowning of religious likeness, akin to meditation, is the work of Elisabeth Forrest. Using the Japanese Mokuhanga woodblock technique and giving equal weight to paper, print and artist so that the balance of give and take becomes the subject of the pieces, her simple grids on hand made paper whisper their intent.

Headbones Gallery presents Pulled as a tribute to the printmakers and to their images.

Copyright © 2010,  Headbones Gallery