Hawke's Bay Inkers and Gisborne Printmakers 18-30 June 2018, Hastings Community Arts Centre By Rosheen FitzGerald
When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press six centuries ago, he started a revolution that changed the world. Science, religion, education and the currency of ideas were all made accessible to the populous by the simple expedient of print making. Now, as we move away from ink and paper to the digital age, the medium of print offers the same democratisation to the art world.
Right now Hastings’ Community Arts Centre is awash with print, with two exhibitions running concurrently and complementarily, offering limited edition art prints to view – and to buy at a nice little price. Downstairs is the second iteration of East Side Story – the combined efforts of a pair of printing collectives, Hawke’s Bay Inkers and Gisborne Printmakers. Above, the Print Council’s travelling show – The Small Print Exhibition – puts its feet down in nine locations around the country, of which we are the second.
With so many artists’ work featured there is an awe-inspiring diversity of styles. As a wannabe wordsmith I am drawn to the letterpress, particularly the works of Terrie Reddish. Her impression of Paula Green’s Janet and Frank go rowing is a communion between creators. The poet’s imagined experience of a couple of New Zealand’s most celebrated literary voices of the twentieth century, is brought to life in economical strokes of silver on black. Her clever and provocative Print Isn’t Dead proclaims from afar the death cry of analogue media in bold lettering – “PRINT IS DEAD”. It’s only when we come up close that the n’t becomes visible, embossed in relief, to change the meaning utterly.
There’s a trend towards incorporating stitching through paper to give depth to the otherwise flat prints. Raewyn Patterson’s Man v Nature series contrasts dichromatic printed local landscapes – Te Mata and Pandora, with manmade constructions of wood and wire – a fence and a telephone pole – stitched in mustard, in an effective, thought provoking use of media. Carol Goodier’s Across a crowded room and Take the Plunge uses woodblock prints to produce bold forms to which detail is added in stitching. They are whimsical, sweet pieces that spark a child-like joy.
Dimension is further added by folding prints to stand upright. Sarah Ingram’s Birds accordion books bend back on themselves, giving fleeting impressions of natives in flight, or watchful eyes peeping out from the folds, that mimics the experience of bird spotting writ small.
Photographic techniques are used too. Lisa Feyen’s Butlins, 1947 and On My Mind, Always take solarplate etchings of vintage snaps as their basis, from which watercolours bleed, and clouds of quasi-geometric arcs and lines form overhead, calling to our most human need to make sense of chaos.
There is a breadth of artistry on show here, all of it begging to be given a good home. Each piece is designed to be displayed on ordinary walls of ordinary people, to reflect their many and varied tastes. It’s a legacy of which Gutenberg would be proud.