The Art of Collaboration at the Heong Gallery
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
Master printers are highly skilled printers who work very closely with artists to produce editions of the artists' work, as google says. Even more, master printers tend to push boundaries of printing technologies, explore the artist’s narrative and emotional approaches and deliver aesthetically appealing collaborative results. Although the master printer’s name is usually hidden from the viewers and only a name of the artist stands out in the exhibition, the current show at the Heong Gallery celebrates the former. The Art of Collaboration shines a light on over 40 years of Master Printer Kip Gresham’s artistic partnership with world-wide known artists and hints a challenging ‘conduit’ position of Master Printer to transform artists’ ideas into artworks.
If you came to the gallery, I would immediately tell you that the exhibition consists of 61 original print by 41 different artists from the British and international art scene. The exhibition features work by 21 Royal Academician, 6 artists recognized by Turner Prize judges and artists that were awarded with honorary knighthoods.
The list of the artists is as impressive as an attempt to squeeze so many artworks in such a small gallery. Just imagine, if you put all displayed prints side by side, that would be more than 50 metres walk of the continuous exposition. Tate Modern caught a phrase “Slow looking” to encourage visitors to take time to look at artworks at length, for as much as half an hour. The exhibition is until 19 May - there is enough time to examine each print in details at the most convenient pace.
Anyway, a horizontal line divides the artworks visually satisfying and systematically guides the attention from Elizabeth Frink’s to Eduardo Paolozzi’s prints. At first, I felt baffled – so difficult to believe that here artworks are not paintings, drawings, collages, but prints, mostly screenprints. Through the highest level of technical ingenuity, watery colours and charcoal lines, subtle washes, visible wide brushstrokes, unexpected transparency and luminosity occupy the paper making every print unique. And at the same time, the artworks can be unmistakably attributed to a particular artist. Master Printer Kip Gresham unconditionally helped the artists find their voices in a timeless medium.
Historically, however, screenprinting was firstly considered as ‘low’ art with flat, bold colours, appealing in advertising, becoming a strictly commercial method. Artists showed no interest in screenprinting, as it looked like propaganda. Screenprints were not allowed in print competitions and were widely criticized for the withdrawal qualities of the images. To separate the screenprinting from consumerism, the new term – serigraph - was invented for screenprinting. The situation changed with the advent of halftone technology. Yet, for popularizing screenprinting as an artistic technique, credit has to be given to Andy Warhol, who effectively espouse symbols of mass culture through a commercial medium. Young artists started using screenprints as a form of communication.
Whilst in the beginning I lined up all the works, the stacked layers of the prints would reach tremendous heights. Actually, screenprinting is about layers: the physical layering of images, marks and mediums and the figurative layering of time, space, and ideas. It is fundamentally like a puzzle: you have an idea/image, you break it into parts and reassemble it later.
I have to admit, the afternoon before the opening of the exhibition, I sneaked into a private tour led by Kip Gresham, revealing the mysteries behind the prints in the exhibition:
Order always matters.
What you leave in counts as much as what you leave out.
Colours can live separate life from the print.
Ink, paper and their relationship are always rigorously tested before the printing.
Many variations are needed to achieve the result.
Printing is like visual poetry, allowing to adjust inspiration from literally sources and invent unique symbols. Proper visual language is very evocative.
How to prove/track the existence of layers? Sometimes impossible. The overall effect talks for itself.
Sculptors making prints can achieve multidimensionality in their work.
It is possible that my imagination plays a role here, but I can clearly picture Alan Davie running around the press, shifting paper, pointing to different colour to achieve pleasing abstraction. Or Patrick Procktor coming back from Japan straight to Kip Gresham’s studio with his small 1x2in size notebook full of sketches. A tall artist found it difficult to fit in ‘small’ Japan: small bed, small people, even a notebook was small. And print resembles a top part of kimono, 74x125 centimetres in size. Or how Cornelia Parker found a feather in Freud’s pillow, that heard everything what Freud said.
However, I would like to draw your attention to the prints at the gallery entry room. James Hugonin’s Binary Rhythm (Indigo) and (Dark Red), 2012, 107.5 x 92.5 cm in size each, share the space with Humphrey Ocean’s Red Chair, 2018, 76 x 56 cm in size. One print is of strict order, another - of easiness. A mixture of colours and bold red on top of red. A delicateness of square and a bulky chair. An abstraction and a domestic object. Completely occupied area and no context for an object. Meditative experience and questionable case. Both prints have to be acknowledged for the overcome challenges.
A matrix of thousands of tiny squares of various colours and tones, with specific hidden pattern that artist carried in his mind (still, I had no time to explore whether any rules for the squares applies) was printed over underlying grids. Some of the colours were printed on the top of the grid merging the squares, some of the colours were transparent allowing the grid to appear on the print. Within the 90 printed layers, only one third of millimetre of colour mis-registration allowed for the meticulously planned print. Not thinking about size changes in paper while printing or other issues that have to be tackled, this shows the remarkable precision and the extreme level of patience required for the printing.
On the side of the Binary Rhythm, flat bold red chair with red symbols pattern stands out. Mind that human eye is more sensitive than the camera, thus the pattern is a lot more vivid looking at the original print. Finding the right colour and its intensity, the right paper took long hours of experimentation and trial versions. Humphrey Ocean is a Royal Academy Professor of Perspective, not sure how this influences his selection of objects for prints, but an intention to create the most ordinary domestic object anew echoes a longstanding problem. A pattern for the chair is taken out of an existing chair: doodle-like curls, swirls and hearts give a homely, playful look. Also, it exceeds boundaries of the chair, like a child (or me) colouring a chair could easily do. But the effect of mysterious red pattern on a red chair is achieved thanks to continuous programme of research of possible means towards an excellent result.
Combining all the vibrant, transparent, flat, bold, fluorescent, opalescent colours with very delicate details, patterns, pencil-looking writings, toothbrush splashes or sharp geometrical forms into prints, one can be seen – technical skills, deep passion for the process and mutual understanding make any idea flourish.
If you are interested, see the list of the artists, a short description and whether their artworks can be seen elsewhere in Cambridge.
GILLIAN AYRES CBE RA (1930 – 2018) was an English artist, best known for abstract painting and printmaking using vibrant colours, which earned her a Turner Prize nomination in 1989.
WILHELMINA BARNS-GRAHAM CBE (1912 – 2004) was one of the foremost British abstract artists, a member of the influential Penwith Society of Arts. Her print can be found at the Murray Edwards College.
JOHN BELLANY CBE RA (1942 – 2013) was a Scottish painter.
SIR PETER BLAKE RA (1932-) is an English pop artist, best known for co-creating the sleeve design for the Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
WILLIARD BOEPPLE (1945 -) is an American modernist, known for sculptures and prints.
MICHAEL BRICK (1946 – 2014) was an English artist and printmaker, whose art belongs to the tradition of European Constructivism.
STEPHEN CHAMBERS RA (1960 -) – is a British artist, praised for the use of colour.
PRUNELLA CLOUGH (1919 – 1999) – was a prominent British artist. She is known mostly for her paintings, though she also made prints and created assemblages of collected objects.
ALAN DAVIE CBE RA (1920 – 2014) a Scottish painter, strongly inspired by Zen philosophies, his artwork consists of spontaneous primitive abstract compositions.
JANE DIXON (1963 -) is a British artist, creating paintings, drawings and prints.
BARRY FLANAGAN OBE RA (1941 – 2009) was a Welsh sculptor, best known for his bronze statues of hares and other animals. His sculptures can be seen at the Jesus College.
DAME ELISABETH FRINK CH DBE RA (1930 – 1993) was an English sculptor and printmaker. Her Times obituary noted the three essential themes in her work as "the nature of Man; the 'horseness' of horses; and the divine in human form". See her works at the New Hall, Murray Edwards College.
ANTHONY FROST (1951 -) is an English painter noted for his abstract works consisting of brightly coloured prints and collages.
SIR TERRY FROST RA (1915 – 2003) was an English abstract artist, who worked in Newlyn, Cornwall. Frost was renowned for his use of the Cornish light, colour and shape to start a new art movement in England. He became a leading exponent of abstract art and a recognised figure of the British art establishment.
SIR ANTONY GORMLEY OBE RA (1950 -) is a British artist, best known for his sculptures. He was awarded the 1994 Turner Prize. His sculptures can be seen at the Downing College and the Sidgwick Site.
KIP GRESHAM (1951 -) is a British artist and master printmaker.
PETER GRIFFIN (1947 -) lives and works in London.
SUSAN HILLER (1940 – 2019) was an American artist based in London. Her ground-breaking installations, multi-screen videos and audio works have achieved international recognition and are widely acknowledged to be a major influence on younger British artists.
JOHN HOYLAND RA (1934 – 2011) was a London-based British artist. He was one of the country's leading abstract painters.
JAMES HUGONIN (1950 -) is a British artist, known for paintings and prints, composed of marks of closed toned colour with an underlying grid.
ELLEN LANYON (1926 – 2013) was a painter and printmaker from Chicago. Her works are in the permanent collection of many major American museum.
KIM LIM (1936 – 1997) was a Singaporean-British sculptor and printmaker of Chinese descent. She was most recognized for her abstract wooden structures as well as for her stone-carved sculptures that explored the relationship between art and nature.
RICHARD LONG CBE RA (1945 -) is an English sculptor and one of the best known British land artists. Long is the only artist to have been short-listed three times (1987, 1988, 1989) for the Turner Prize, and received the award in 1989. His sculpture can be viewed by permission at the Jesus College.
JOHN MCLEAN (1939 -) is a British abstract painter, born in Liverpool to Scottish parents. His father, Talbert McLean (1906–92), was a painter, whose later work was influenced by Abstract Expressionism.
MALI MORRIS RA (1945 -) is a British artist. Her works are attributed to Pop and Abstract art.
HUMPHREY OCEAN RA (1951 -) is a contemporary British painter and Royal Academy Professor of Perspective.
CLAES OLDENBURG (1929 -) is an American sculptor, best known for his public art installations typically featuring large replicas of everyday objects.
SIR EDUARDO PAOLOZZI CBE RA (1924 – 2005) was a Scottish sculptor and artist. He is widely considered to be one of the pioneers of pop art. His sculptures can be seen at the Jesus College.
CORNELIA PARKER OBE RA (1956 -) is an English visual artist, a 1997 Turner prize nominee, best known for her sculpture and installation art. Her sculpture can be seen at the Jesus College.
BRYAN PEARCE (1929 - 2007) was a British painter. He was recognised as one of the UK's leading naïve artists.
PATRICK PROCKTOR RA (1936 - 2003) was a prominent English artist of the late 20th century. His works are held in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum.
DAME PAULA REGO DBE RA (1935 -) is a Portuguese-born visual artist who is particularly known for her paintings and prints based on storybooks. Her works can be seen at the New Hall, Murray Edwards College. A 1989 Turner prize nominee.
CAROL ROBERTSON (1955 -) is a contemporary English artist, firmly rooted within reductive abstract conventions. Throughout her career she has chosen to use the square, rectangle and circle for their ideal power, for their aesthetic beauty. Her works can be seen at the New Hall, Murray Edwards College.
MICHAEL ROTHENSTEIN RA (1908 – 1993) was an English printmaker, painter and art teacher. Although little known as a painter, Rothenstein became one of the most experimental printmakers in Britain during the 1950s and '60s.
BETYE SAAR (1926 -) is an African American artist known for her work in the medium of assemblage. Saar has been called "a legend" in the "world of contemporary art". She is a visual storyteller and an accomplished printmaker.
KIKI SMITH (1954 -) is a West German-born American artist whose work has addressed the themes of sex, birth and regeneration. Her figurative work of the late 1980s and early 1990s confronted subjects such as AIDS and gender, while recent works have depicted the human condition in relationship to nature.
TREVOR SUTTON (1948 -) is a contemporary abstract artist from London.
JOE TILSON RA (1928 -) is an English pop art painter, sculptor and printmaker.
WILLIAM TURNBULL RA (1922 - 2012) was a Scottish artist. His sculpture (Head 1987) can be seen at the Jesus College. Husband of Kim Lim, sculptor and printmaker.
ALISON WILDING OBE RA (1948 -) is an English artist, a 1988 and 1992 Turner Prize nominee, known for her abstract sculptures, which embrace a wide range of materials and processes, on all scales from the handheld to the almost-monumental. Her sculpture (Melancholia 2003) can be seen at the Jesus College.
PAUL WUNDERLICH (1927 – 2010) was a German painter, sculptor and graphic artist. He designed Surrealist paintings and erotic sculptures. He often created paintings which referenced mythological legends.
Kip Gresham | The Art of Collaboration
The Heong Gallery, Downing College, Cambridge
1 Mar 2019 - 19 May 2019