Malaspina Printmakers Gallery, Vancouver
By Beverly Cramp
With the rise in conceptual art and new media, traditional printmaking techniques such as lithography, intaglio and woodcuts can often be regarded as passé, and because of its attention to craft and tradition, printmaking is sometimes viewed as ‘all technique and no concept’. But a recent exhibition by a group of art instructors from Greater Vancouver shows that printmaking can be experimental and progressive.
Deborah Koenker, an instructor at Emily Carr Institute, combines low-technology stenciling with a high-technology laser vinyl cutter for her piece titled New. The background panel is painted pink, and black vinyl stencil images adhere to the panel like giant stickers. The stencils include a heap of body parts, skull and crossbones caricatures, cacti plants, a tree with bare branches, and a startling baby girl image that floats above everything else.
Koenker’s past work has referenced the unsolved murders of more than 500 missing women and children in Juarez Mexico and New is a continuation of this meditation on violent death.
Koenker’s baby girl image is seen again in a smaller Koenker piece, also titled New, but composed of letter press and lithography on tairei paper. The text “I want to be new” headlines the image.There are many ways to situate printmaking within the context of a contemporary art practice. Davida Kidd’s installation, Excuse Me, invites gallery visitors to view a framed giclée print through antique opera glasses set on a velvet-covered plinth less than ten feet from picture. The side of the plinth facing the hanging print has large text: “(…excuse me…)”. The framed print contains tiny text that is hardly big enough to make out. “You just don’t get it…,” it reads. Kidd says the installation work touches on the discomfort some people feel when entering the “white box” of a gallery. Her piece addresses the viewer’s fear of not being in the know.
Maria Anna Parolin’s 5πr2 /H/W = 10% less, would be a traditional Japanese woodblock print of cotton plants, except where the cotton balls should appear at the top of their stalks, spherical shapes have been carefully torn from the kozo paper. Parolin made a conceptual choice to remove these parts of the print, which represent 10% of the paper. A large portion of Parolin’s artwork has an environmental theme, and the Curriculum print speaks volumes about her concerns with the deterioration of the natural world. People press for more bang for their buck while often getting less and less. In this Japanese woodblock print, the viewer is missing 10% of the image and Parolin says that, “10% in my opinion is significantly less.”
The other four artists in Curriculum include Diyan Achjadi, Shinsuke Minegishi, Tim Nash and Gordon Trick. Their work presents evidence that printmaking as part of the fine art tradition is relevant, and the new digital processes not only build on the old printmaking traditions, they also mesh seamlessly together.