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Wednesday, 11 May 2016 15:28

Monotype prints from international camp on display in Swift Current

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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Over 50 large and bold monotype prints from a 2014 international workshop in China are currently on display at the Art Gallery of Swift Current. Over 50 large and bold monotype prints from a 2014 international workshop in China are currently on display at the Art Gallery of Swift Current.

Handmade monotype prints from an international creation camp in China are currently on display at the Art Gallery of Swift Current (AGSC).

The new exhibition, Monotype: The China Workshops, opened in the AGSC, April 30.
An opening reception took place during the afternoon.
The monotype prints were created during the 2014 International Creation Camp in Zhangjiajie, a city in China’s Hunan province.
The 28 participating artists were from Asia, Europe and North America, including six Canadians.
Three of them were present at the opening reception — Swift Current artist Stephanie Kaduck, AGSC Curator Kim Houghtaling and master printmaker Gordan Novak of Admiral.
This is the first time since the workshop in China that these prints are displayed in an art gallery and Novak is very pleased with the result.
“It is very different and I never saw it all like this,” he said. “So when I walked in I had a fantastic pleasant shock, because it is really good. I’m very, very happy.”
This is the second time the AGSC is hosting an exhibition of monotype prints created during an artistic workshop in China. Novak was also part of the inaugural event in 2012 and prints from that workshop were on display at the AGSC in the summer of 2013.
He noted the prints from the second workshop are more colourful than the works created during the initial event.
“The first session was more monochromatic, more into black and white,” he said. “This one is an explosion of colour. I am really happy looking at it. I forgot how good they were.”
The difference in results between the two workshops might be partly due to the impromptu nature of the inaugural event.
“The first series was totally unplanned,” he recalled. That was an oil painting camp and I was invited because I helped them getting people to participate. So I was not supposed to do anything and then you hear ‘Please do something.’”
In contrast, the 2014 workshop was planned specifically to produce monotype prints and Novak was invited to assist the artists.
“We worked really hard because we did this and more,” he said.
He will be happy to return to China if he is invited again to be part of a monotype print workshop.
“It’s lots of fun to work with lots of people,” he said. “It’s a lot of commotion. It’s nice.”
For Houghtaling and Kaduck, the trip to China was also a memorable experience, as the group visited some scenic natural areas and ancient villages in the region.
Kaduck was inspired by the distinctive shape of the rock formations in the nearby Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.
“We were in a very special landscape,” she said. “Tall skinny mountains — where the movie Avatar is based on — and they had taken us hiking through there. So my paintings had red silhouettes through the paintings that represented the mountain ranges and I did the same thing when I was making the prints.”
She deliberately used red as a distinctive feature in her prints because it is an important colour in China.
This was not her first experience with the monotype print process. Before this trip to China she had spent three days in Novak’s studio in Admiral.
“I was using a different kind of paper though and that makes a big difference,” she said. “This paper is very thin and very fragile. It can make the images a little different than what you’re used to, but the removal from the surface is tricky. Sometimes, they have to back it with another sheet of paper in order to lift it without it falling apart.”
The printmaking process starts when an artist paints an image on a large sheet of glass. The printmaker will then press a sheet of rice paper into the painted area and through careful control of the ink and paper the image is transferred. The paper is then lifted from the glass and hung to dry.
According to Kaduck, the process to create these handmade prints had in influence on the appearance of her works.
“One thing that I noticed is that they are little bit looser,” she said. “In the last couple of years my paintings have started to get tighter and tighter and I wanted the looser thing to come back. So it was a good thing to see where I could take the paint on canvas to make it a little bit more painterly.”
The opportunity to attend this workshop in China was a life changing experience for her. She was able to meet artists from across the world and to see a completely different country.
The trip had an impact on some of the symbols in her art work.
“Some new symbols appeared based on things that I was inspired by,” she said. “As I paint, I am sort of storytelling and stories from my mind evolves in painting. A lot of information about China has introduced itself into those thoughts.”
Houghtaling assisted Novak in the printmaking studio during the workshop in China, which was an opportunity to interact with the artists.
“I was there when the international artists were coming in and working on each of these prints,” Houghtaling said. “That was an excellent experience, because of different personalities and different approaches in their painting and work that was affected by this very expressive, loose and fun kind of monotype printmaking process. You could see that it was inspiring to them and it was a departure for them.”
He felt the artists were challenged by the process and it had an impact on their creative thinking.
“That’s the real value of an artist workshop when the artists get together and affect each other’s work so that they can potentially give a stepping stone for a new direction in what they’re doing,” he said.
He feels it is a real opportunity and honour for the AGSC to host this first show of the monotype prints from the 2014 workshop in China.
“We know that many of these works will travel to other places,” he said. “We’re looking at a gallery in Italy and perhaps one in Croatia and another in France that are interested in potentially hosting them and I’ve had some expressions from around the province and other centres who might like to present them as well.”
This exhibition of monotype prints will be on display at the AGSC until June 26.

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