We Love You Glasgow Print Studio: 50 Years of Printmaking at Kelvingrove

Marion Macphee, ‘Leviathan VII’, etching
Marion Macphee, ‘Leviathan VII’, etching

Title:
The Love of Print: 50 Years of Glasgow Print Studio

Times:
Mon - Sat, Thu: 10:00 - 17:00; Fri, Sun: 11:00 - 17:00

From: 18 Nov 2022

To: 12 Mar 2023

Venue:
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Argyle Street
Glasgow
Glasgow & the Clyde Valley
G3 8AG

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Glasgow Print Studio has taken over Kelvingrove’s basement galleries with a wonderful exhibition celebrating its 50th anniversary. With well over 200 works from 130 artists on show, there is a great variety of subject matter showcasing a wide range of print techniques.

The Love of Print, 50 Years of Glasgow Print Studio
The Love of Print, 50 Years of Glasgow Print Studio

The exhibition presents an overview of prints made at Glasgow Print Studio (GPS) from 1972 to 2022, starting with the work of its eight founder members, who all studied or taught at Glasgow School of Art, and moving through sections organised by decade, to the present day, and accompanied by narratives about key events and people of those eras.

The Love of Print, general view
The Love of Print, general view

Early in the exhibition is the film Graphic Impact: Our Lives in Print, containing interviews about the early days of the Print Studio, descriptions of its first premises and moves to later locations. These interviews formed part of a major two-year project which began in 2018, to record the history of GPS and the particular contribution of women to its development, and to enable people to engage with the GPS print collection. (All of the interviews made for the project are available on the GPS website.)

Many of the pre-eminent contemporary artists in Scotland have produced work at Glasgow Print Studio and their work is on show here, amongst them Elizabeth Blackadder, John Byrne, John Bellany, Alasdair Gray, Eduardo Paolozzi, Barbara Rae, Richard Wright, Jim Lambie, Alison Watt, Ade Adesina and many more.

Adrian Wiszniewski, ‘Poet’, screenprint
Adrian Wiszniewski, ‘Poet’, screenprint

From the 1980s there are works by the New Glasgow Boys – Steven Campbell, Peter Howson and Adrian Wiszniewski, whose earliest work at GPS – Poet (1986) – is displayed. Wiszniewski has been associated with GPS ever since and has created over 100 editions in various media, including laser-cut woodblock prints. From 2018, Sculptress and three others form a highly colourful group of four.

Adrian Wiszniewski, ‘Sculptress’, laser-cut woodblock
Adrian Wiszniewski, ‘Sculptress’, laser-cut woodblock
The Love of Print, Wiszniewski laser-cut woodblock prints and others
The Love of Print, Wiszniewski laser-cut woodblock prints and others

There is a section of the exhibition dedicated to Collaborative Printers – Glasgow Print Studio’s Master Printmakers who over the years have been important in realising the works of artists such as Elizabeth Blackadder, Alasdair Gray and Roberto Gonzalez. The Collaborative Printers stories describe how they have assisted notable invited artists with all the technical aspects of producing their prints. For example, John Mackechnie describes helping Roberto Gonzalez produce his masterful soft ground etching Let Him Gaze His Fill (1986), which was inspired by a painting by Antonio de Pereda.

Roberto Gonzalez, ‘Let Him Gaze His Fill’, etching
Roberto Gonzalez, ‘Let Him Gaze His Fill’, etching

Long-standing relationships are highlighted too. Some artists have a body of work on show, made at GPS over many years – John Byrne, Ken Currie and Adrian Wiszniewski have continued to produce editions over many years, and Elizabeth Blackadder made over 100 editions at GPS. There are some beautiful examples of Blackadder’s work on display, including gouache sketch studies of flowers and lobsters which were preparatory to producing her prints along with her collaborative printer.

John Byrne, ‘Girl with Monkey’, etching
John Byrne, ‘Girl with Monkey’, etching

John Byrne’s earliest work on display is the etching Girl with Monkey from 1972, then later in the show there are seven of his works shown together, including Untitled (Self-portrait With Hand II) from 2018, and his association with GPS continues today. It is fascinating to see two of his finely-detailed mezzotint plates on display too.

John Byrne, ‘Untitled’ (Self-portrait With Hand II), monotype watercolour and drawing
John Byrne, ‘Untitled’ (Self-portrait With Hand II), monotype watercolour and drawing

John Mackechnie, Director of GPS since 1983, was instrumental in establishing the programme of publishing editioned prints from invited artists from the mid 1980s onwards. From all editions one print has been retained by GPS and there are now over 3,000 prints in the Print Studio’s archive. It is evident that John Mackechnie’s direction of GPS has contributed in many ways to it being the thriving and admired organisation that it is today.

The Love of Print, 'Here and Now' general view
The Love of Print, ‘Here and Now’ general view

The final section of the exhibition, entitled Here and Now, has 50 new works made specifically for this exhibition as a legacy project in 2022 by 50 printmakers, all current members of the GPS. Several of the Here and Now artists detail the process of making their prints in a sequence of short films presented in one of the side galleries and it is rewarding to view the film presentations and in the adjacent main gallery see the finished work on the wall. Allow some time for the films, there are detailed narratives to follow if you choose to, and these will enhance understanding of printmaking processes and the work of those printmakers.

It is remarkable to consider the diversity of the 50 prints produced (the same only in paper size) using a great variety of print methods, ranging in subject through landscapes, seascapes, cityscapes and architecture, animal, bird and marine life, botany, planet earth, figurative work, sport, abstraction, storytelling, surrealism, fantasy and humour.

In an exhibition of such great variety we will all find some favourites, so here is one choice from me for each decade (not the only ones I enjoyed, of course!)

John Mackechnie, ‘Kibble Palace - Refraction’, etching
John Mackechnie, ‘Kibble Palace – Refraction’, etching

1970s – John Mackechnie, Kibble Palace – Refraction (1978): the quality of daylight through the glasshouse roof and atmosphere of the place are skilfully evoked.

Dominic Snyder, ‘Brass Section’, lithograph
Dominic Snyder, ‘Brass Section’, lithograph

1980s – Dominic Snyder, Brass Section (1984): you can almost hear those saxes, trumpets and trombones.

Elizabeth Blackadder, ‘Sienese Cat’, etching
Elizabeth Blackadder, ‘Sienese Cat’, etching

1990s – Elizabeth Blackadder, Sienese Cat (2003): conveying Blackadder’s wonderful draughtsmanship, with a fierce-looking cat and Italian cathedral architecture.

Alasdair Gray, ‘We Will All Go Down Into The Streets Of Water‘, screenprint
Alasdair Gray, ‘We Will All Go Down Into The Streets Of Water‘, screenprint

2000s – Alasdair Gray, We Will All Go Down Into The Streets Of Water (2008): accompanied by Gray’s own poetry, in his unique graphic style.

Seher Shah, ‘Unit Object (Landscape)’, etching
Seher Shah, ‘Unit Object (Landscape)’, etching

2010s – Seher Shah, Unit Object (Landscape), 2014: from a series of architectural works, with echoes of Le Corbusier.

Chris Allan, ‘Rudd and Water lilies’, etching
Chris Allan, ‘Rudd and Water lilies’, etching

2020s – Chris Allan, Rudd and Water Lilies (2022): wonderful rendering of the ripples in the water, its reflectiveness and the fish gliding below the water’s surface.

Marion Macphee, ‘Leviathan VII’, etching
Marion Macphee, ‘Leviathan VII’, etching

and from Here and Now – Marion Macphee’s Leviathan VII (2022): a dramatic viewpoint from below a mighty whale, with tremendous detail in the whale’s body and a sense of powerful movement towards the surface and the light.

This is a high quality exhibition with several levels of detail – you can simply enjoy the prints on the wall, or in addition engage with the stories of the founding of GPS, its people and key events and exhibitions through the decades, and detailed descriptions of printing techniques and the work of individual current member artists. The wealth of detail within the exhibition itself is reinforced in dedicated sections of the Glasgow Print Studio’s website celebrating its ‘50 Years’ as well as the full project record of ‘Graphic Impact: Our Lives in Print’.

Look out for dates throughout the run of the exhibition when there are printing demonstrations by GPS members at Kelvingrove. In the What is a Print side gallery section, panel descriptions of the various main printmaking techniques again help with understanding how works on display have been produced.

There is also a beautifully produced hardback catalogue, priced £15, to accompany the exhibition, featuring essays by prominent people connected with GPS and images of all the works in the exhibition.

The programme of exhibitions at Glasgow Print Studio’s own Trongate 103 galleries is enjoyable to see all year round: opening next, on 3rd February 2023 is Hullscapes, a showcase of work by GPS Member Paul Boyle. There is also a forthcoming exhibition at Platform Arts Centre in Easterhouse from 18th February to 9th April – Graphic Impact: Our Lives in Print, inspired by the GPS archive and featuring new artworks from Platform art groups, Galgael and Glasgow Print Studio members.

This overview of five decades at Kelvingrove is a wonderful enhancement of all of that and illustrates the high quality of work that has been and continues to be produced, year upon year. This exhibition puts Glasgow Print Studio in front of a wider public still and may inspire viewers to make a first print themselves, and that would be a wonderful thing. Here’s to the next 50 years!

Tickets £7.50, concession £5, children under 16 free.

All images of artists’ individual works are courtesy of Glasgow Print Studio.

With thanks to Gordon Reid for this review.

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