Press Gang Exhibition Review: An exhibition of print from past to present

By Effie Gridley

The Press Gang exhibition at Falmouth Art Gallery is an exhibition to champion the art of printmaking. Falmouth students studying Illustration, Fine Art and Drawing have the pleasure of showcasing their work alongside the likes of Stanley William Hayter, Matisse and Grayson Perry. Historical works straight out of the Gallery archives provide context to a timeline of printing, where we can see the evolution of prints across one wall alone and how different methods can be used to show the complexity of a detailed landscape.

Walking into the gallery space you are immediately greeted by prints that date back to the 17th century, unbelievably well preserved. The framed delicate paper, so well intact as if untouched from the day it was placed behind the glass, is sensitively curated. Prints are clustered together to show similar points of perspective in pieces that were produced by different artists across the expanse of printmaking history.

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The Press Gang’s exhibit consists of prints made from several methods, including etching, engraving, lithography. A specific type of print stood out in the room; the aquatinted prints. Aquatints became more popular towards the end of the 1770’s, used to emulate the effect of water colour washes, with most subject matters in the collection being centred around the water of Falmouth and Penryn. The result is a gorgeous shade of blue, it’s difficult to identify the work as a print and not as a painting. The aquatint is a subtractive method of production, where by heat and acidic materials are used to dissolve resin which enable the artist to form a tonality. Using resistant material and mapping the print then re-etching it, graduation of tone is achieved.

The loudest piece across the stretch of walls is of course made by Sir Terry Frost, with several frames dividing stripes of simple colour, printed with wood. The texture cannot be seen until you are in closer proximity to the frames, Frost is easily recognised for his bright colour palette, used consistently in his series across years of practice.

A personal favourite was ‘Here’s Flowers 7’ belonging to Gary Hume. We deduce the odd shapes are flowers with his segregation of one area of the print with a splodge of dainty pink ink. Even without depth and tone, we see the shapes as petals layered on top of one another in a heap. And on close examination we see that the lines aren’t neat and different colours clumsily collide into one another, print never has to be perfect, though the well-aged etchings from the collection appear to be!

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We learn the importance of ‘proofing’ when producing prints, and this is how the ink becomes more defined after several prints between pulls through the press. Some prints only need a couple of proofs, however the exhibition displayed a fifth proof of Joseph Turner’s portrayal of Trematon Castle. Print making was and remains to this day a medium of image making that enables us to display our heritage and document the expression of messages. An example of this is Grayson Perry’s ‘Print for a Politician’ a comedic print in room two, gifting nearly everyone with social labels including ‘neo-pagans’ and ‘thick people’!

The Press Gang exhibition is on from Sept 10th- Nov 19th at the Falmouth Art Gallery, within the town library. Printing workshops are also being held at the gallery for more info visit http://www.falmouthartgallery.com/assets/documents/Printing_Workshops.pdf

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