Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reports and Reviews
An Exhibition of Printmakers from Across the Region
PAD Gallery, Preston
Review by Harry Ball

It was good to see this exhibition of work by members of UCLan’s Artlab group in what is a great central location in Preston.

Artlab, the brainchild of Professor Lubaina Himid, was set up to allow local artists of all abilities, including complete beginners, to make use of the University’s extensive printmaking facilities for a small annual fee. It is run by the skilled and creative duo of Tracy Hill and Magda Stavarska Beavan who cover a wide range of printmaking skills between them. This scheme has really taken off and there is now a large, lively and very productive group of enthusiastic printmakers at the Victoria building. Artists are able to make prints with the assistance of Tracy and Magda who also give frequent technical demonstrations on various techniques. In a new collaboration between LAN, UCLan staff and Artlab, there is even a programme of invited master printmakers in place who are to give talks and technical demonstrations during the coming year.

This particular exhibition of three dozen or so works showcases prints by twelve members of the group. Work on show has been made, as would be expected, by a wide range of methods, from traditional techniques such as etching and silkscreen to mixed media and digital prints. The work is all small in scale and hangs together well. The prints are affordably priced (as prints ought to be). Here, for instance, you have the opportunity to purchase a silkscreen by an artist with an international reputation for only £80.

What I particularly enjoyed was the thread of humour and irony which ran through the prints of a large part of the group. (Is this something engendered by working at Artlab?). I felt that ideas were carried with a lightness of touch, using techniques that seemed appropriate to the artists’ aims. In particular I enjoyed the ‘edge’ to work by Julie Saul, Angela Presnail and Emma Gregory. Also demanding a return look were the deliciously coloured botanicallyinspired monoprints by Ann Marie Foster.

This exhibition is enjoying an extended run until the end of January. Go and have a look.

Since retiring from teaching Fine Art at UcLan, Harry Ball has been making paintings and has set up a lithographic press at his workshop in Arkholme, Lancs.

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