The biennial ‘Print Prize’ exhibition at the RBSA

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The biennial ‘Print Prize’ exhibition has returned this year to the RBSA, on display in Galleries 1 and 2 on the second floor until this Saturday, September 1st.

RBSA ‘Print Prize’ 2018

Held every other year, the print prize exhibition attracted 240 printed works, of which only a quarter were selected for display in the exhibition. The purpose of this exhibition is to celebrate the diversity of contemporary printmakers and printed artworks here in the UK. This diversity is well represented, with an impressive array of prints using different techniques, methods, materials, colours, and subject matter.

Judged by Mychael Barratt, elected member and past President of the Royal Society of Print-Makers, and Leonie Bradley, the Editor of Printmaking Today, only a handful of these works and artists were awarded prizes. These  included several cash prizes, as well as a free editorial in Printmaking Today magazine and the Paul Hipkiss Memorial Price to an artist under 35. The recipient of this prize reinforces the exhibition’s aim of championing and celebrating contemporary printmakers and their innovation, as the work incorporates an unusual combination of techniques.

Niamh Fahy, ‘Across Borders’ (2018)
Niamh Fahy, ‘Across Borders’ (2018)

Niamh Fahy, a visual artist from Northern Ireland currently based in Bristol, was awarded this prize for her work ‘Across Borders’, an intriguing piece that comprises of differing mediums and techniques. Combing relief with lithography, she has employed digital embroidery to add new and innovative textures. This embroidery element cuts through tracing paper, adding a sense of impermanence and transience to the work, creating a layer of softer shadows atop a rusty red landscape.

Martin Foster, ‘Fog, Cardingmill Valley’ (2018)
Martin Foster, ‘Fog, Cardingmill Valley’ (2018)

Fahy’s work is not the only one to effectively use tracing paper in their printed artwork.  Martin Foster’s work, ‘Fog, Cardingmill Valley’, is a small but singularly stunning linocut on tracing paper. The clever layering of tracing paper evokes a realistic and yet ethereal reference to the visual effect of fog rolling across a landscape. It is incredibly atmospheric, despite its small size. Although this print did not win a specific prize, Foster was among six artists who received the accolade of ‘Highly Commended’ by the judges and well deserved.

Other works

The use of different mediums is a common theme throughout the exhibition, as is the combination of contrasting methods. There are wood and resin engravings, collage, screenprints, lino-cut and vinyl-cuts, chine colle, mezzotints, etchings, drypoint, monoprints and aquaprints, collagraphs, digital prints and a handful of works using photopolymer intaglio. Heinke Jenkins’ print is a particularly expressive use of lino-cutting and is recognised as such by the judges. Jenkins, who is a prize-winning printmaker, has another lino-cut on show, emblematic of the stark tone she uses throughout her work.

Heinke Jenkins, ‘The Bridge’ (2018)

Another interesting work was ‘Echo chamber 1’, a diorama with wood engraving by Leonie Bradley. This work, viewed through the peephole of the diorama, is a commentary on the contemporary phenomenon of endless scrolling, a feature now common with social media websites such as Facebook. The use of the diorama to investigate this is unusual and very thought-provoking.

Prints, due to the nature of their medium, are often more simplified and expressive, with a focus on clarity of line and form to convey a depth of emotion (think of the prints of Käthe Kollwitz, for example, on show last year in both the Ikon Gallery and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts). But what this exhibition demonstrates is the diversity and potential of print-making, especially in the combination of older print methods with newer, digital processes.

Current Exhibitions

The exhibitions on display in the café and craft gallery are quite different to the print exhibition, with colour dominating the space.

  • Shape Up!, on display until the 29th of September, is an exploration of the patterns , textures, and structures found in the urban environments, expressed through ceramics, jewellery, and textiles. These designs are bright and bold. Of particular interest is the jewellery by Tania Clarke-Hall, who uses leather to create incredible sculptural and geometric forms.
  • Ann Hackett’s Portraits of Flowers is on display until the 1st of September, and features delicate yet robust watercolour and ink works of flowers.
  • Steve Evans looks at the limits of the pictorial space, pushing these limits through light, line, and colour. There is a hallucinatory element to his works, with distorted perspectives and clashing colours. From Another Angle is on display until the 15th of September.
  • Landscape Through Clay features the ceramic work of Usha Khosla and is on show until the 8th of September. These pieces are inspired by the landscape and have the appearance of being an archaeological find, of recovering something that was once lost. This is emphasised by the selection of photographic prints nearby, which feature rock formations and ancient structures.

All exhibitions in the RBSA are free admission.

Time for one more read?

If you enjoyed today’s post, you might enjoy our recent post on Melanie Tomlinson at the Wolverhampton Museum and Art Gallery.

Author: Cai Lyons

I am a PhD student in the Department of Art History at the University of Birmingham.

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