Collective spirit

For those in need of a break from all things digital, here’s a chance to appreciate the results of down-to-earth techniques such as linocutting and other hands-on printmaking methods. Emily Pacey previews an east London show

Judging by the title, East London Printmakers’ upcoming exhibition 13 sounds like it is themed around luck and superstition, but the name simply refers to the fact that the group is about to celebrate its 13th birthday.

’There is no single uniting theme to the annual shows,’ admits 13 contributor Fabio Coruzzi, but a quick glance at the exhibition’s contents shows that fairytale whimsy, the slightly sinister and gritty urbanity will all be out in force.

Printmaking is an increasingly popular medium for designers, artists and illustrators alike. ELP has a 25-strong core group, but an impressively large additional membership of nearly 600 people participate in workshops and events including this exhibition, which shows one or two artworks by each of 50 artists. For many, the appeal of printmaking lies in the physical, tangible nature of the processes involved and the unpredictable effects that they add to a picture. For 13 exhibitor Nick Morley, linocuts are the way forward.

’Linocutting is this technique that people learn at school so they look down on it a bit, but actually if you practise you can get some really amazing effects.’ Morley enjoys the fact that linocutting is humble or in his words, ’democratic’. ’You don’t need lots of expensive equipment I mean, it is the same stuff that people use for flooring.’

Printmaking’s heritage lies in illustration and design, and Morley’s linocut for a magazine cover shows how commercially fashionable traditional printmaking is becoming. ’I think it is becoming more popular as a reaction to all the computer imagery around, and also it reproduces really well,’ says Morley.

While some of the greatest artists of all time have used printing techniques, from Rembrandt to Albrecht Dürer, printmakers have always struggled to have their work seen as art by the art world. Morley describes it as ’an ongoing battle’. However, Coruzzi is doing something for the cause with his recent piece Afa a Milano (Heat in Milan), which appeared this month on the BBC programme Show Me The Monet. This new series features a panel of ’art experts’ selecting pieces for an exhibition at the Royal College of Art. An excited Coruzzi cannot divulge the results of the show before it airs, but he will be showing the work in question at the 13 exhibition.

13 is on at the Triangle Gallery at Space, London E5 from 8-11July

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