Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Bite - a NEW Contemporary Print Exhibition

Bite or BITE: Artists Making Prints is a brand new exhibition about contemporary prints.

It comprises a mix of 'eminent names' (e.g. Michael Craig-Martin and Sir Peter Blake) with those of artists whose work is selected through an open competition.  It creates a 'draw' for those who like to see work by the famous and an opportunity to come away very impressed by the work of the rather less famous.

I have to say I really couldn't tell the difference between the two!

A view of part of the BITE contemporary printmaking exhibition
Now for about the show in detail.
(foreground) Hour glass by Carole Hensher RE
(background) A study in time and space 10 and 11 
by Barton Hargreaves (one of the selectors)
Pros:
  • The show has a very high standard and I was very hard pushed to tell the difference between those who are well-established and well-known and those who are emerging artists.  
  • There's certainly a lot of creativity and inventiveness going on.  I do like artwork which does more than try and reproduce a photograph faithfully in another medium.
  • Anybody who likes drawing and mark-making will really like this show.  Somehow printmakers always seem to be able to demonstrate the real extent to which line and mark-making can be really exciting in a visual sense.
  • a variety of print-making techniques are on display including some more recent techniques e.g. photo transfer and digital print
  • this is a large show - 277 prints in total.  I think the number of works being exhibited might actually exceed those seen at the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.  A number of RE members are included in the show - notably Margaret Ashman, Mychael Barratt, John Bryce, Paul Croft. Anne Desmet, John Duffin, Paul Hawdon, Louise Hayward, Carole Hensher, John Howard, Frank Kiely, Anita Klein, Peter Lawrence. Stephen Mumberson, Simon Redington, Sandy Sykes, Paul Thirkell
  • a lot of large works are being exhibited 
  • a lot of names which are new to me - it reminded me somewhat of shows like the ING Discerning Eye where the fact that it an open competition means artists enter who would not enter an art society exhibition
  • Some excellent articles about print-making in the catalogue
  • Nice to see so many images of works in the catalogue however....
Cons
  • confusing numbering systems in the catalogue for images and artists - see below for more comments
  • most of prints are etchings and screen prints.  Wood engravings and lino cuts are to my mind under-represented.  Where are the leading members of the Society of Wood Engravers for example?  There are no SWE members listed in the catalogue and that to my mind is a major omission.
An economic proposition

From an economic perspective this is a good new show to have around.  Fine art prints are always more affordable than original art no matter who the artist it.  It seems likely that this exhibition will generate a fair few sales for exhibiting artists.

You can have
  • an original Damien Hirst (Exaudi Domine) unframed for £6,500 - and made by somebody who won't be DH.  This is the kaleidoscope of butterfly wings which has an option of diamond dust - and I looked carefully but I could no see no glitter going on so I assume this is the version without!
  • or prices lower than some of the original art typically displayed at the Mall galleries (eg prices started at about £150 for an unframed print) - but alongside work which is selling for very respectable prices (framed or unframed)
Artists who caught my eye
Garden Scene by Wally Sewell
  • Wally Sewell' describes himself as an artist programmer and says he can create effects not possible in  commercial software.  His unique inkjet print of Garden Scene is very clever and was sold before the Press preview opened!  To my mind it looked very like a Klimt from across the room. I was amazed to see how it was created when I got up close.
  • Euan G Stewart - Wound Man and Wound Woman are very impressive - and stopped me in my tracks.  I was hoping he had a decent website as it was impossible to get a decent shot of these in the gallery.  I'd have loved to see these hung side by side.  This was one of those occasions where I really wanted to know more behind the development of the work - and now I have it!
Wound Man and Wound Woman take direct influence from the Wound Man illustrations of the 15th Century. These drawings indicated often brutal injuries that can afflict the human body to surgical pioneers of the age.
  • Mychael Barrett - I liked his imagery associated with narrative texts.   I found the The Canterbury Tales first but preferred A London Particular (which is all about Charles Dickens)
  • Jolanta Rejs, who recently studied at both Goldsmiths and the Royal Academy Schools, was invited to submit work by Barton Hargreaves and had three prints on display.  They were all made up of tiny coloured squares and oblongs which - in Chuck Close style - created images of people.
Past - Present series by Jolanta Rejs
  • Gini Wade's Stone bone boogie made me smile! (click the link to her website to see it)
  • Elaine Jankel's View of Regent'sPark.  This is 3D linocut prints.  The linocuts are printed and then cut out and arranged three-dimensionally, and then presented within a deep box
View of Regents Park by Elaine Jankel
  • Will Taylor -  The view from Sissinghurst Tower brought back lots of memories for me and I liked the way he had treated the view
  • I liked Neil Bousfield's Millenium Bridge - could be to do with the number of times I've walked over it and admired the views both ways.  He's incorporated both views into one print!
(top) Millenium Bridge by Neil Bounsfield
(bottom) work by Sandy Sykes
Who's been involved?

One of the things which gives an exhibition credibility is the people involved in selecting the work.  The selectors for this first Bite Exhibition were:
  • Chris Orr Royal Academician and ex-Professor of Printmaking at the Royal College of Art
  • Richard Noyce, Curator of the 4th International Print Exhibition in Istanbul 2011
  • Barton Hargreaves, Royal Academy Schools Epson Print Research Fellow
  • Brad Faine, Managing Director of Coriander Studio, and
  • Paul Coldwell, Professor at CCW, University of the Arts, London.
Bite 2012

No sign of the details for entering the open competition for next year - I'm advised these should be available round about October/November 2011.  This exhibition does not, as yet, have a dedicated website - however it needs one.

  • The deadline this year was in July 2011.  There are also a range of prizes.
  • You can submit up to six works - however most artists only had one work hung.

Commissions

Now this sounds like a really good idea!  Plus it's another really excellent reason why artists should submit their work to this exhibition in future
To coincide with the launch of the BITE exhibition, Mall Galleries are launching Bespoke, a contemporary wing of our well-established commissions service, drawing on our growing pool of artists to create and source unique fine art for purpose and place.
I wonder why more exhibitions don't offer this service.....

and finally.......

A couple of small irritations
  • Call me an old fogie if you like but to my mind you shouldn't use capitals for a name unless it's an acronym.  Bite is an excellent word to use as a name for a contemporary printing exhibition - but as an acronym it's non-existent.  So can we just call it "Bite" plain and simple from now on - and leave the capitals out of the marketing?
  • Two completely different numbering systems for (1) the catalogue images and (2) the listing of artists had me TOTALLY confused for a while.  How about just one numbering system in future or some way of cross-referencing between the two?
Information about Bite: Artists Making Prints 
  • Gallery: Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1 (Nearest Tubes: Charing Cross / Embankment / Piccadilly Circus) 
  • Open to the public: 24 August to 3 September 2011, 10am-5pm daily 
  • Admission £2.50, £1.50 concessions (Free to FBA Friends, National Art Pass holders, Westminster Res-card holders and under 16s)