2005 Menier Gallery
LOOP started from two small group shows by recent Camberwell MA printmakers, in 2003 at the RK Burt Gallery and in 2004 at the Sheridan Russell Gallery, off Baker Street, then run by Paintings in Hospitals.
In 2004 Paintings in Hospitals took over the Menier Gallery in the old Menier Chocolate Factory in Bankside, and we were offered a show there, Sunday 30th October to Sunday 20th November 2005 – three weeks, and we had to invigilate. It cost £2,400, an introductory rate. That was £200 each for 12 participants, with printing, publicity and Private View costs extra. I’d recently spent a year working at the nearby Printspace Gallery, run by artist printmakers Brenda Hartill and Trevor Price, and I’d seen how people could visit two or even three times before deciding to buy, so it seemed worth keeping the show open for three weeks.
In early June we met in the Royal Festival Hall to discuss arrangements. A vital question was a name for the show. ‘Why don’t we call it Loop?’ asked Katherine Jones. & so it’s been ever since.
Some guidelines became clear. I thought artists can and should curate, organise and promote their own shows successfully. We decided the work should be new – to exclude reshowing degree-show work which had already been seen. Media could not be specified – we’d just left college and hadn’t all managed to arrange working space or access to printmaking facilities, so new work was often painting and drawing. In any case it seems wrong to exclude work on grounds of media or subject, which artists should be free to choose. So although LOOP came out of the Camberwell print studios, it has shown drawing, painting, photography, stop-frame animation, 3-D work, video and ceramics – but mainly print. There was no pre-selection of work so the artists themselves chose what they would display. Making it all fit together at the hang remains a group improvisation. Lastly, we chose artists by personal recommendation, which is simpler than open submission. These guidelines were practical decisions at the time but they’ve stuck with us. We choose artists, and we show their most recent work.
The show looked good and was well-attended. Our receipt book for 2005 shows sales of £1,840 from that 3-week show.
2006 Menier Gallery
Inevitably, there was enthusiasm for a 2006 show, and we took the Menier Gallery again. It cost £4912 for three weeks, and 16 artists took part. We presented ourselves as a group of artist-printmakers, and we showed mainly print, but also drawing, painting and 3D work.
We worked hard on publicity and had a 20-page catalogue printed, with a forward by Mike Taylor, and two publicity slots which Anna sold to help cover the costs. The show cost 301.98 each between 16 of us, and as I’d budgeted £313 each, there was a refund. Sales were £1512.50.
Mike Taylor’s introduction to the 2006 catalogue
Artists are involved in a continual search for language. To express the particular and personal, the social and political; to reveal structure, celebrate activity, pose questions, point fingers and generally exault in the absurd, the beautiful and the ugly. In contemporary life, an artist has need of many means of expression.
Artists using print have access to an ever-increasing array of such languages, ones rooted in history and expanded by the newest of technologies. The printed multiple image has many guises and disguises.
Printmaking’s languages, its processes, techniques and materials, can provide perfect vehicles for a Modernist reading of art; a one-to-one unifying of hand and eye, head and heart, art and craft. A truth to materials. Yet the ‘mechanization of an image’ can appear to create a void between the physical and the cerebral, where the found and acquired has equal value to the made and fashioned.
The artists in this exhibition are all engaged with these languages, revelling in an expansive response to old techniques and new technologies. All language, whether written, verbal or visual, is there to communicate ideas, which when expressed in succinct and poetic ways, underpin the work and engage the audience.
Michael Taylor 2006.
2007 Bankside Gallery
Someone working at Bankside visited our 2006 show and asked if we had ever considered showing at Bankside. We hadn’t: Bankside seemed that austere headquarters of the RE and the RWS, and in any case beyond us financially. However I approached them, and three weeks after the 2006 show closed we’d booked one week at Bankside for £4,800, from 16 – 22 July 2007.
For our proposal to Bankside, we wrote: ‘Loop is a loose organisation of artist-printmakers who recently completed the Camberwell MA Printmaking course. Although we trained on a printmaking course we see ourselves as artists who use a variety of media, rather than exclusively as printmakers. Our exhibitions have featured 3-D work, drawing, watercolour and collage as well as a wide range of printmaking media from the oldest, woodblock, to the most recent developments in digital print.
‘For some of us, print has found its way off the page, and on to a variety of surfaces, appearing in 3D work and in commissioned public art,.
We feel that the opportunity to exhibit together encourages wide-ranging individual research and development. Many of us show work in smaller exhibitions throughout the year but the diversity of work in the group shows, and the communication this encourages, is valuable.
‘We exhibit without a group theme or rigid curatorial agenda. This has resulted in exhibitions showing innovative, exciting and varied art, and we wish to continue along this path.’
A Bankside show was a big challenge. We had just eight months to get the people together, and new work made, and the expectations of a show at Bankside were high. We printed 1,200 copies of an A5 catalogue, and sold seven pages of advertising to help cover the costs. Professor Paul Coldwell kindly wrote an introduction and Oona Grimes, who had helped many of us as a visiting teacher at Camberwell, agreed to be a Guest Artist.
A few months after it closed we were already busy looking for a gallery for a 2008 show.
2008 Menier Gallery
July 1 to July 12 2008
Review by Professor Steve Mumberson, July 2008.
Printmakers frequently use shared workshops for access to presses, storage and for supporting technologies. Unlike most visual artists they work collectively. Within a workshop, a visitor notices the practice of individual interests and approaches to print, so print processes and forms are shared, despite differing individual ideologies. Print is a meeting ground for ideas, for application of new technologies, debates about art, fashion, and for reflection on everyday events. Through workshop association, printmakers are increasingly extending workshop activity into exhibiting work.
LOOP08 at the Menier Gallery is a show of fifteen diverse UK-based printmakers, each with a particular ideology and approach to printmaking. This is the fourth year the group has exhibited together.
Martin Ridgewell’s etchings are one of the first sets of work to catch the eye. Memories of boyhood populate a forgotten patch of grass. Familiar elements from a boy’s summer-time party are cast around the uncut green; action man, a toy car, a gun and snake, marbles, twoway radios, and badges are a still life interrupted by cakes and orange fizzy pop. Only the titles suggest that these memories have a deeper meaning for the creator – ‘Snake in the grass‘ and ‘First encounter’.
Memory is also the theme in Terry Steckler’s digital works. In the series ‘Possession’, worn nostalgic images, dolls and surfaces, look like items from a catalogue of a life lived, like distressed surfaces of urban streets. Janet Curley Cannon’s modern architectural fragments show a similar interest. The face of each block is covered by digitally collaged graphic and typographic elements, implying some near future disintegration of a modern city where only a few pieces of rubble preserves traces of a lost culture.
The urbanscape of British and American cities is also exposed by the silk screens of Helen Bridges. The images are cool, distant, detached, rendered in close-toned light blues, greens, whites and yellows. The city horizon is reduced to an interlaced line over the shadow tower blocks where sky and land meet.
In contrast, Alison Bickmore’s monoprints reference tree and mist covered landscapes, transient and glimpsed from the corner of the eye, just as Julie Hoyle’s silkscreens and digital images of human silhouettes evoke half-forgotten moments of the company of friends in a large open landscape. A mythical landscape pervades the work of Shuxiang Jin Farrall. The child-like images in background fields of colour have mushroom shapes, almost human in form.
Sam Marshall and Perienne Christian both use etching simply and directly, with very different results. Marshall’s suite of prints ‘The menagerie of the absurd’ shows landscapes of metamorphosed animals whose origins appear more mythical than animal. Christian’s prints are populated by people interacting in social situations, often in interior spaces, suggesting unspoken narratives of personal interrelationships and group dynamics.
Both John Tate and Bill Pryde reference their experiences aboard. Tate worked with Tibetan refugees in Northern India, while Pryde references a strong emotional visit to the Hamptons. Both use strong, pure colours and linear, schematic forms of architecture, and natural forms. Tate uses complex combinations of mixed print techniques, whereas Pryde uses strong graphic forms and colour in silk screen for his herbaceous works.
Alex Booker references his father’s British Merchant Navy Journals, using the diagrammatic images of seamanship. Instructional images, recognition tables of signal flags, are set on the distressed wood surface of a large plank of oak: imagery that for British eyes always holds a certain power, since within living memory so many were involved with the sea.
Ann Norfield, like other members of the group, has an interest in the architectural. Her silkscreened images on roofing slates are mixed with elements of the urban, built environment. A larger carborundum and drypoint work called ‘Tower’ is major work, roughly a metre and a half in height, showing a stone tower like those seen in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and also sourced from fairy tales, a prison with only one high window, awaiting a sufficient growth of a woman’s hair to aid escape.
Finally Kitty Reford and Sumi Perera’s works deal with the formal nature of the print, combined with their subject matter. Reford’s large silkscreens show individuals in the street, isolated from any background, and broken up into different layers of multicoloured scaled dots. The eye switches between these decorative dots and the figurative form. The viewer is aware of the subject and its construction. Perera’s complex laser cut and printed books and installations use typographic forms and blind embossing. In ‘Turn the Page – the preview vii’, a music stand holds a book with pages of musical notation and laser-cut music scores, printed elements and text, tied by colour ribbons within a box frame. The process of construction cannot be avoided nor can the nature of the materials used to construct the work.
LOOP08 represents the continued practice of a group of professional printmakers. This is a snapshot of developing practice by fifteen artists. The group is characterized by inventive commitment to the use of printmaking as a major part of work, by diversity in individual sources and directions, and by openness in the application of new technologies in print. This group show demonstrates what can be achieved in print by long engagement and constant application.