Friday, September 07, 2012

Review: BITE 2012 - Artists making prints

I went to see the 2nd Annual Exhibition of BITE - Artists making prints at the Mall Galleries this week.  Its aims is to showcase the best in contemporary printmaking - in the same way as the RE open aims to do (see Review: RE Open - contemporary printmaking at the Bankside Gallery
29 Aug 2012).

I recommend it as an exhibition worth visiting should you be in London before it ends on 15th September.  (Note that it is closed all day 9 and 10 September because of the Paralympics due to the The Paralympic Games Marathons and the "Our Greatest Team Parade" which are both using The Mall)

American Trilogy (Centre) by Sir Peter Blake CBE RA
Black and silver diamond dust
silkscreen print on paper with embossing
99 x 75cm Edition 150 (5 available)

The notion is that the best work selected from the open submission is exhibited alongside a small selection of works by invited artists, chosen by the panel of selectors - Francis Tinsley, Anne Desmet RA, Tom Hammick, Jane Hindley and Lance Trevellyan. This year those invited artists include Sir Peter Blake RA and Barbara Rae RA.  I confess I find it odd that a panel of selectors are also exhibiting their own work - I've not come across that one before except for art societies.  However this is an open competition not the annual exhibition of an art society.

Selection of work in BITE - the print in the centre is by Barbara Rae RA

All work is for sale - and this year some of the (unframed) prints are also available for sale online via Artfinder - see The BITE Selection of limited edition prints.

I looked back at my review of this exhibition last year - see Review: Bite - a NEW Contemporary Print Exhibition 24 August 2011 to see what the differences were between last year and this - apart from the change in selectors.

Like last year
  • The work on display is a very high standard. I found it difficult to tell the difference between well known artists who make prints and everybody else.  The only way I knew is when I recognised the names on the label announcing the title and who made it.  
  • this is a show which will really interest those who like drawing and mark-making
  • I'm still very puzzled as to why more FBA artists who make prints are not submitting their work to this competition/exhibition and/or not getting selected.  There are members of the FBA art societies who are also members of the RE. Maybe wildlife or still life (I'm thinking of printers I like) doesn't find favour with the selection panel for this exhibition.
Selection of work in BITE
the print on the left is a digital print
I loved the print top centre - it somehow managed to look just like an eastern fabric
the print bottom centre won a prize
the print top right is by one of the selectors of the RE Open

The difference between the exhibitions of BITE and the RE Open

From the artistic perspective -  there's not a lot of difference between the two exhibitions.  In a way it's pity that they're not held at the same time so that more people who love printmaking could have a jolly good excuse to come to London to see BOTH exhibitions - and maybe buy some prints.  How about a printmaking extravaganza at the same time next year?

I can't tell which is the bigger exhibition because the catalogue of works for the RE were not numbered.  I can tell you that BITE has 243 prints on display.  That makes it a large show - but not as large as last year's when 277 prints were on display.

  • Both were open competitions 
  • Both had selection panels with prestigious members
  • Both had invited works
  • Both had/have an extremely high standard of contemporary print-making on display.
  • I didn't study every single label in detail - however I came away with the impression that there were more leading edge developments in printmaking in the RE Open.
  • The two major deficits of the RE Open to my mind were the lack of a decent catalogue and the fact that none of the prints were identified on a website as being "for sale".
    • BITE has a vastly superior catalogue.  It's printed in colour, contains images of every print and is priced at £3.00 which to my mind is a bargain.
    • BITE has work for sale online.  It's not all the images in the exhibition - but it's a start.
  • For the RE Open the selectors chose the prints they wanted to hang - and then these were hung in a group.  If the prints for BITE were chosen by individual selectors I couldn't tell from either the catalogue or the hang as they appeared to be mixed up - even though some of the labels indicated that some artists were invited by a specific member of the selection panel.  While the Mall Galleries hang was fine, on the whole I preferred the Bankside hang - it was more coherent.  
  • The exhibition at the Mall charges for entry unless you come into the normal categories of people who gain free admission (FBA members etc) - whereas the Bankside was free entry
This is the post about Hanging Bite from the Artists Making Prints blog.

Award Winners

I'll post the award winners later when I have the list from the Gallery.

Tips for Artist Printmakers

If you're thinking of entering this competition next year, I highly recommend that you try and get hold of a copy of this catalogue (priced £3) from the Mall Galleries.  It contains:
  • colour images of every print
  • size, media, edition and pricing information for every print
  • essays from leading printmaking practitioners.
In other words it shows you the competition even if you can't get to London!

Some of the prints on display were selling for more than the paintings which typically hang in these galleries.  However some of the prints were available unframed for much more affordable sums.

Artists who create limited editions need to indicate the unframed print price as well as the framed print price.  To my mind there were some artists who are potentially losing out on potential sales by not providing this information

Artists need to be mindful of the quality of frame used.  When quoting a framed and unframed price the difference needs to be accounted for by the quality of the frame.  While this was not an issue for the vast majority I saw a few where the frame was OK but did not justify the differential.

So far as the gallery is concerned - I'd have liked to see an explanation of all the different forms of printmaking.  Not everybody who comes to see an exhibition such as this is an expert in printmaking and if a person does not understand the description given it can deter a purchase!


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