Important news about the staff team
Whilst we are closed, we have lost all our earned income. As a registered charity we have so far not been eligible for the financial support announced by government for businesses and we are still waiting for an announcement from Arts Council England about what support package might be offered to organisations like Northern Print.
We have therefore decided that the best course of action to ensure we are in the strongest position possible to reopen is to use the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and to ‘furlough’ part of our staff team. Rebecca and Alex will be ‘furloughed’ from Monday 20 April for an initial 3-week period. This means that they will not be able to carry out any tasks for Northern Print, with other members of the team taking over their responsibilities. All emails can be sent as usual directly to Anna, Jill, Helen or via firstname.lastname@example.org
It is important to re-state that this is to protect Northern Print’s future and that no member of the team will be disadvantaged financially or in any other way as a result of this decision. On a personal note I’d like to thank all the staff for their commitment to Northern Print - they have fully embraced a new challenge with creativity and enthusiasm. Anna Wilkinson
We hope you are all enjoying the longer days and spring sunshine wherever you are – we all know that increasing light levels and re-awakening of nature is good for our spirits. There have been many positive stories about the benefits of reduced human activity on the natural world – from dolphins in the Venice lagoon, pollution-free views of the Himalayas to normally shy creatures becoming braver in our towns and cities. Perhaps having begun to learn a new way of living we will also be able to come together and begin to tackle climate change too. With these thoughts in mind we are taking ‘nature and printing’ as the theme for this newsletter.
One of the highlights of last year at Northern Print was the exhibition and visit by Mexican artist Nunik Sauret. Like so many artists Nunik has been working and planning for an exhibition that has now been postponed due to covid-19. This was a retrospective at the prestigious Museo de la Estampa (Museum of Graphic Arts) in Mexico City. You can explore this and other print works on their website.
One of the motif’s in the work Nunik showed at Northern Print was an ibis bird. She talked about her interest in this ancient bird because it was endangered in Egypt but its numbers have since increased. Anna was asked to write about Nunik’s work for the exhibition catalogue and mentions the ‘Bird’ prints – the text is included at the end of this newsletter.
Remote Technical Support
We are keen to help you develop new skills for either making or promoting your work during this shut down period. Helen will continue to provide free technical support via email, telephone, Facetime or Zoom. You can book a session at the times below via email@example.com
We are focussing our technical support around processes that can be done without a printing press such as linocut, woodcut, monoprint and collagraph. Technical support is also offered in photoshop or using digital media to promote your work such as setting up an Instagram account.
If you have any other suggestions on things you’d like help with just let us know!
|10am, 12noon, 2pm, 4pm
10am, 12noon, 2pm, 4pm
A selection of prints by studio users
Images left to right: ‘Geranium’, screenprint by Louise Bradley; ‘A Garden Bursting (In to Life)’ relief print (printed by hand) with lasercut woodblocks by Steve Jeffries; ‘Untitled’, cyanotype by Kasia Parker and her daughter.‘Nature printing’ is a term related to printing from a natural object – like a flower or leaf. It was not originally viewed as an artform but a way of documenting and identifying species. The British Library published a book focused on their collection titled ‘Impressions of Nature’ by Roderick Cave. This was featured in The Guardian in 2010 where you can see a number of examples from across the world and spanning several centuries.
Left: detail of Polysyphonia Parasitica from William Grosart Johnstone’s ‘The Nature-printed British Seaweeds’ from Auckland Museum, New Zealand. Right: Artist Allan Barnfather demonstrates how to do Gyotaku printing during The Late Shows 2018. Why not spend some time researching print collections online so that you can visit in the future? Locally we have The Newcastle Collection housed at the City Library and the Natural History Society of Northumbria has a collection of artworks and library at Great North Museum. Nothing beats the experience of being able to handle original works in a print room and to be able to see them up close without being behind glass.
Gyotaku is a traditional Japanese technique for printing fish started in the 1800s. Some studio users may remember a visit and print demo / class by artist Rachel Ramirez – she was accompanied by a dustbin of large salmon. These had been illegally-fished, not by us, but intercepted and on loan from the Environment Agency before being returned in their ‘evidence’ bags. Studio user Allan Barnfather has also demonstrated this technique during the Late Shows at Northern Print.
There are of course traditions and techniques that can be studied and practiced for nature printing – but artists can also find their own ways of creating images directly from nature. Julian Meredith has printed with his distinctive blue ink from fish and mammals and you can watch a short film on our Vimeo site. Another artist working with and commenting upon our relationship with nature, whose exhibition has also sadly been curtailed by Covid-19, is John Newling. His exhibition ‘Dear Nature’ at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham can be seen online with short films here. John Newling has also designed a font as part of a residency for the National Trust which is free to download from his website.
Left: Julian Meredith in residence at Discovery Museums organised by Northern Print as part of Northern Print Biennale 2009 and Right: John Newling, ‘Criminal Ornamentation’ see more of John Newling’s work on his website and blog here.
Printmakers Coffee Break
Next coffee break is Tuesday 21 April at 11am
These are a chance to meet other studio users and staff for an informal conversation about life in lockdown, printmaking generally and sharing ideas or advice. You can join the conversation or just listen to what others have to say - All welcome! To join in with this please use the link below:
Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 759 8139 7933
One topic that came up during the last coffee break was anthotypes. This is a process using light-sensitive plant materials to create images. It was originally invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842. His son Alexander Stewart Herschel was the first Professor of Physics in Newcastle – hence The Herschel Building.
Studio user Ian Gale has kindly sent through some information about the process and a link to more information and step-by-step instructions here. Following on from this Ian also mentioned Chlorophyll printing with a link to a video by artist Almudena Romero which can be viewed here.
Above: Work by Almudena Romero ‘Growing Concerns’ – please visit her website for more information
The idea of making a large collaborative collagraph seems to have captured the imagination of studio users and we have received a large number of suggestions for famous paintings we could interpret. The staff have edited the list based on which images we think would translate as a collagraph (bearing in mind it will have to rely on texture and tone) and have arrived at a final three for voting.
How to vote: if you would like to cast a vote for your favourite please email firstname.lastname@example.org by putting the artist’s name in the subject box. Please note we will not be reading the emails and reason for your choice - just counting the votes in the subject boxes.
The shortlist is:
Henri Rousseau - Surprised! (Or ‘tiger in a tropical storm’)
Georges Seurat - A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
LS Lowry – Market scene, Northern Town
Left to right: Henri Rousseau; Georges Seurat; LS Lowry
How will it work: We will announce the chosen artwork next week and will be sending out further details then. Anyone wishing to take part would interpret a given square in the grid into a collagraph. Once we can all return to Northern Print the collagraph blocks will be assembled and printed together to create one large collagraph print. You need not have made a collagraph before and the process and materials are really simple. You will need some cardboard (such as a cereal packet) some glue and some textured materials you can use to create the printing surface.
Virtual Visits and Digital Demonstrations
We are hoping to arrange a virtual studio visit to Mexico but in the meantime of you would like to host a virtual studio visit (or a virtual visit to your kitchen table, spare bedroom or cupboard under the stairs) please let us know. If there’s a studio you’d like to visit anywhere in the world let us know and we will see what can be arranged!
We know many 3D printers are in action making PPE and others are busy sewing masks and scrubs. Artist, Lecturer and Northern Print trustee Erika Servin is making bands for visors at Newcastle University. This is an initiative started by Nathan Hudson from the university’s Architecture workshop. He downloaded a 3d file and they are producing around 65 each day, a team at the RVI then fit the transparent panel.
Studio user Stephen Jeffries is raising funds for NHS via a justgiving page.
We know some of our studio users are or have family members who are health professionals or care workers at the frontline against covid-19. Here’s something for you:
Cueve de las Manos (Cave of Hands) Argentina created between 9300 to 1300 years ago and a Unesco World Heritage Site. The images of hand are simple stencils made using natural pigments.
Why not check out more about the origins of natural pigments such as ochre, sienna and umber?
Sharing your work online #printmakerspost
If you have images of work in progress, finished work or perhaps sketchbooks or ideas you would like to share we are doing this via social media (Instagram; Facebook and Twitter) using the hashtag #printmakerspost. For those of you who would prefer to email images and short text we will share as part of our weekly newsletter. Just email to email@example.com
You can post on social media at any time but we thought it might be good if we tried to post new work on Fridays to round off the week.
Here are some of this week’s images…
Images left to right: Cat Moore has started making linocuts based on observations from home; Phil Aitman is getting prepared to begin his new lino project; Hannah Scully has been reflecting on her reflective copper plate etchings, with gold leaf, created at Northern Print which depict the plaster noses, ears and other body parts taken from repairs to statues at The Glyptoteket museum in Copenhagen.
We will continue to send out this weekly newsletter and using our social media accounts and website to keep in touch. Jill has also set up a Facebook group (details in the last newsletter) for those who would like to share images and conversations that way too.
We are planning themes for the forthcoming newsletters with the next theme being ‘woodcut’. If you would like to suggest a topic, volunteer to write a section for this or any other newsletter – or even be a guest editor please get in touch. We’d love your help!
We are trying to do a weekly round up of opportunities we see but please send in any that you’d like to share with other studio users.
Printmaking Today has listings of opportunities available online here
If you have any suggestions or would like to contribute to future editions of Studio News please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
Nunik Sauret – “Beyond Words, Beyond Boundaries”
I was first introduced to Nunik’s work via artist and printmaker Erika Servin. On hearing that she wanted to show me a catalogue of prints by a Mexican artist, without really thinking I conjured up impressions of the work by other Mexican artists I know and expected to see images of abundance, vibrancy and heat. I was therefore surprised to see work which had a stillness, a quietness and a sense of space more often associated with Japan.
But of course, why should I be surprised by this? The influence of Japanese art and in particular printmaking has encircled the globe. The qualities of mindfulness, space and ‘the moment’ are human qualities not confined to any one continent. They speak to us all.
In the same way that the prints by masters of Japanese woodblock were easily transported to far-off lands so too with Nunik’s prints. An exhibition of artists books and prints arrived at Northern Print in her suitcase and I was lucky enough to spend time with both Nunik and her work in our gallery at Northern Print. Despite a lack of any common spoken language the prints themselves became our connection.
I was especially intrigued by a series of prints titled ‘Avem’ (lithography, 2019). These one-off prints all conforming to the same scale of 28 x 21cm filled one wall and were exhibited unframed as if floating across the white wall. The prints were made using lithography – a process suited to producing editions but used here instead to repeat a series of motifs in unique images. Lithography, of course is not only a means of reproduction but has its own intrinsic qualities – the qualities of drawn marks, the inky expanse of splattering to create space and the washes alluding to air, sky and the mudflats and shallow waters of the sacred Ibis bird.
Making of the image upon the litho stone is only half the story of making a print – the freedom with which these are printed and repeated in varying compositions plays with subtle changes in colour and paper tone to create unique works that call to one another. By doing away with the conventions of frames and borders our eye moves freely between the prints, as I take in the bird and the rhythms flowing in this imagined watery world.
Nunik tells me she is interested in this bird, a bird revered by the Ancient Egyptians and associated with Thoth, the God of wisdom and writing. In ancient times thousands of these birds were mummified and buried each year, the Ibis mummy reminding the God to protect the dead.
The sheer scale of demand for these sacred birds combined with habitat loss are thought to be the reason they became extinct in Egypt. Changes to climate and the effects of humans have altered migration patterns, though remarkably these ancient and distinctive birds have recently begun to reappear not just in North Africa but in Europe and the Middle East.
The bird in Nunik’s prints is depicted mid-feed, one leg aloft and as a silhouette – the details of wing or eye darkened. The image of a long-billed bird in this context also reminds me of that other iconic bird – the crane. Often appearing in Japanese art, the crane is thought to live for a thousand years and symbolises happiness and eternal youth.
The other motif repeated in this series of prints is a seed head. A plant caught in the moment between death of a flower and the fertility of a ripening seed. A moment suspended. The seed head and the bird float in and out of the images, at times rotating as though the ibis is looking at a curious, impossible reflection of itself. The lack of a definable horizon (as is often the case in Japanese art too) disorientates the viewer and adds to a dreamlike, floating quality. The clarity of the incomplete circle in the works alludes to the Zen symbol of Enso – symbolising the beauty of imperfection, asymmetry and the power of holding things in balance.
The artist book, ‘Ruta XIII’ (woodcut transfer on gampi paper and arches paper, 2019) share this freedom of movement, where the image is not bound by the folded page edges of this concertina book but flow freely from one page to the other. The processes too show a freedom and confidence with collaged elements of woodcut on translucent Japanese paper adhered to the stronger cotton-rag paper of the book’s construction. The semi-circular slices of tree printed to reveal the time-grown rings. Holding the book in my hands I can move freely between the pages with no words or dictated sequence to limit my interactions with the printed images.
After just a short time with Nunik and her exhibition I valued the insight it gave me into her work and view of the world. Like the Zen philosophy which informs these prints and artists books she has stripped away the inessential qualities to create a stillness where the elements are held within space reaching a moment of perfect balance. The space and energy emanating from this works offer a place for contemplation and reflection.
As we reach the final moment to act on climate change, caught between action and inaction, the equilibrium between humankind and our world needs to be restored. We need to strip away the unnecessary elements of our lives and rediscover an equilibrium.
Nunik’s work is made in the here and now, and harks back to ancient civilisations - reminding us of the fragility and the possibility of life.
Anna Wilkinson, January 2020