TRADITIONS AND TRANSITIONS: A GROUP PRINTMAKING EXHIBITION
Apr 8 - May 21, 2011
Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art, Kelowna
By Liz Wylie
Temporarily switching his inky studio apron for the classic black apparel of a curator, Kelowna-based printmaker Briar Craig bravely took on the role of organizing this intriguing exhibition of recent work by five printmakers from various parts of Canada. Craig is a great supporter and promoter of printmaking, but is all too aware of the defensive position one typically takes with a project that could be branded by many as old-fashioned due to its medium-based theme. To counter this, Craig selected works only by printmakers who are investigating new technologies and pushing the limits of the discipline.
Mark Bovey (currently teaching at NSCAD in Halifax) has a single piece in the show called Plume. It is a double-sided work created on a large sheet of plexiglass that is suspended in mid air. The front side is taken up by a photo-reproduction of an open spread in an old ledger book, with faint entries in fountain pen, and the edges of the pages are yellow, brown and crumbly. The reverse side has a projected moving image of a changing cloudy sky. Overall, one's impression is that it symbolizes the inexorable passage of time.
Jesit Gill of Toronto situates his screenprinting in the niche/tradition of the proletarian multiple, both in medium and the casual look: posters and newspapers printed in flat, bright colours, all with a pop-grunge, street-cred look to them. Gill’s paper is, intentionally, of poor quality and dog-eared, giving the impression that these have been salvaged from telephone poles and coffee shop bulletin boards.
Dana Tosic of Calgary made use of a three-dimensional scanning device while on a visit to the UK, and came back with digital images of fragments of her own body: hands touching a foot, hands undoing shirt buttons. These appear in an eerie half tone, looking somewhat like the images from the new airport security scanners. The Big Brother-ish overtone is reinforced by their pale silver/grey monotone colour and the repeated stuttering of the images, centred only in the middle area of large sheets of smooth white paper. They seem a bit like creepy chicken parts wrapped for sale in the supermarket.
Kelowna’s Laura Widmer focuses on traditional linocut to produce large-scale portraits. The variety and repetition of masses of marks that eventually evoke likeness and mood make it impossible not to think of pixels as Craig points out in his catalogue essay. But the viewer may also reflect that it has been a much older human tradition to work with tiny repeated “bytes” to construct a larger image, such as when doing needlework.
Regina-based Robert Truszkowski produces cool, post-modern works, mash-ups of seemingly unrelated images. What does the image of a twenty dollar bill with the Queen’s face all scratched out have to do with his repeated ball-form, which is made up of rectangles that optically pop in and out, like a cross between a soccer ball and Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome? Truszkowski works up interesting grounds, and with these, seems something of a printmaker’s printmaker with his blind embossing, trompe l’oeil crumpled paper and brushstrokes. The overall tone in his prints is urban core grunge, made up of unrelated images as they might have been seen randomly from the inside of a moving bus. They are of wild visual interest, but make no more sense when combined than when seen individually.
What is most commendable about these five artists and speaks to the health of printmaking today is their utilization of new technologies and various processes hand in hand, equally, with their imagery and content. There is smart thinking and decision making going on here, so that content and method come together effectively, creating powerful expressions that are visually and intellectually engaging.