In the main street of Giardini, not far from the eponymous biennale site, 'Visual Public Service' have fun taking the proverbial out of artspeak, posting 'artist's statements' in local shop window displays.
Now that I am home I've had some time to test drive my new little press (well new to me anyway). Looking pretty good for a first go I think. I'm struggling to see too much difference between these and the work I do on the Bendini press (Inverlochy), apart from several hundred millimetres of roller width (and several thousand dollars in cost, lol), so I'm very happy with my wee press so far.
One Mans Treasure... (Limitation is Inspiration!)
Much of my work is about consumption and waste. In 'Paper on Paper', I printed discarded packaging to explore the beauty and complexity of waste material. 'Outsourcing' uses cast off clothing to consider the excesses of the fashion industry, and its practise of outsourcing garment manufacture to poorer countries.
In Spain I arrived with no fixed idea of what I would do and almost no art materials, thrown onto my own resources and what I could scavenge from the environment. The skip and rubbish pile at the winery where the residency is based, provided rich pickings.
I lay my found treasures out on a large table in the bright, clean, empty studio space (so unlike my own hoarders space at home). Overnight they foment in my mind along with the local kava wine and warm Catalan hospitality.
The next day I cut, play, work, think and write...and see what happens; how I respond to these waste materials on the other side of the world, in the physical, cultural, and political environment of Catalonia.
As well as a beautiful environment, great accommodation and studio spaces, the best thing about this residency are the people. The other artists, the lovely effervescent Meryl Custers from Australia (without whom I wouldn't have been here), Femke, and Wouter from the Netherlands . Femke is so wise and teaches us about food and journeys. Wouter creates the most fantastic installation for the Folk Foix festival and all the local children (and adults) play in it. Vicky from Canada sadly leaves shortly after I arrive, and Arnout and Iris amazingly manage a young energetic family along with the residency at Mas Els Igols and the Estudio Nomadas art school in Barcelona. There are the local people we meet at the monastery dinner, and then again exhibiting at the Folk Foix festival. The day is organised by an impressive young man no more than 18 years old I think, and his friends. It's refreshing to see the young Catalan teenagers looking after all the younger children, enjoying the culture, dancing, and demonstrating the incredible cooperation required to make the traditional 'human towers'.
Congratulations to the winners of the International Miniprint of Cadaques 2015,
William Barnhart, US, 'Days of delight', Drypoint and Chine collé.
Danielle Grosbusch, Luxembourg, 'Verbindlich – III', Soft ground and aquatint.
Litzco Yamamiya, Japan, 'One-man show',Etching and aquatint.
Cristina Pérez i Alay, Spain, 'Combatent', Etching, drypoint and collage.
Stephen Lawlor, Ireland, 'Blue tutu', Etching.
Victoria Westmacott-Wrede, Germany, for the print 'House in a village', Etching.
In a previous blog post I described winning the Miniprint International of Cadaqués 2014, the prize being a solo exhibition in 2015. While in Cadaqués I was also privileged to be a member of the jury for the 2015 miniprints award, which was a team effort by the six winning artists from the previous year. It was not until my return to New Zealand that the winners and finalists were announced, and it's great to see the consistent quality of the final six very diverse prints. While attempting to select just a few works from so many I made some general notes around the reasoning behind my choices (some feature among the finalists and winners, though not all) that may be of interest.
Some Notes from Cadaques...
As a judge at Cadaqués Miniprint, what am I looking for? With 683 prints my first list starts with those that reach out to me, that I have a visceral reaction to… that speak, not necessarily loudly at all sometimes very softly, but still with a certain power.
It helps (especially with printmaking) when work is technically excellent. It is not the most important thing, it is secondary to the image, but it still matters very much. That doesn’t mean ‘perfect’ at all but that the technique, materials and execution are compatible, relevant and enhance the work rather than detract from it.
Personally I tend towards work that explores the material forces of its making, whether that be the rich black ink of a mezzotint or the subtle layers and unexpected happenings of ink on ink, rich embosses or smooth fine textures. I am moved by the process made real, (though not at the expense of the idea and the image).
‘Combatent’, an etching, drypoint, collage by Christina Perez i Alay, of Spain, is a powerful, richly and textured print with intense raised areas of black ink, and deeply punctured ‘wounds’; a striking and complex work. (As with many of the works, the photos don't do these dimensional qualities justice).
Some digital works can be at a disadvantage against the raw ink and physicality of other techniques, especially if they are simply a reproduction of some other work. However original digital prints that show the hand and ideas of the artist, that push the boundaries of computer assisted images, are definitely strong contenders. There are several on my list, including ‘En el Transporto’, by Rafael Rivera Rosa, a painter and printmaker from Puerto Rico. The seemingly everyday occurrence of people on a train has been given a menacing and foreboding presence, that speaks of deprivation and state control. Korean born and US based Jimin Lee’s work also impresses, in a similar vein, with people boarding an aircraft, both these prints leave a disturbing and memorable emotional resonance. I feel a little bereft in not having any artist’s statements, I have no definitive context for the work, but it does leave me free to imagine and make my own interpretations of what the artist has conveyed through the print process.
Scale is important. Small prints are like a precious gem, and often it is the quality of the detail, the strength of the composition that provides the gravitas that seems more easily attainable with larger works.
Each artist submits four works and it’s an advantage for them to be consistent, rather than diverse. Only one work is shown on the wall (the rest are in folders) but all four are a representation of a body of work, an idea of what a larger exhibition might look like.
My observations considered that intrinsic quality of voice that defies description, along with the usual underpinnings of strong composition, materiality, concept, but of course printmakers send work for many different reasons, and keeping the judges happy is probably not one of them! These are just a few of the notes I made during the exhibition to help clarify my own thoughts. There were so many wonderful prints to see and I was glad I wasn’t the only judge or the responsibility would have been daunting.
Congratulations to all the participants, finalists and to the winners on your achievement. I wish you all the best in the coming year in making your body of work for your solo exhibition, and assure you that your time in Cadaqués will be a great experience to look forward too. Plan on staying as long as you can…some artists never leave! At my opening I met Arvon Wellen of Arago Press, a previous winner who lives there permanently now, and many others who were regular visitors to this beautiful place.
My next blog post (I was so busy being away, that I've had to wait until now to blog about it, lol) will be about my opening night and the following week at Cadaqués (or the residency at Penedes, or Barcelona, depending on how organised I am about chronological order!). My time at Cadaqués was really a wonderful experience, most of all because of the time I spent with Mercé, Mercé, Aliex and their family, from Taller Galeria Fort. Going out in their wooden boat, meals with friends and neighbours, singing and music, it was a privilege to be so included in their family life. I also gained an insight into Catalan culture and politics, and the passion for an independent Catalonia, that informed much of the work I subsequently made at the residency at Mas Els Igols, and my explorations in Barcelona.