Technology, tradition, printmaking and existentialism

 Next week, south London’s Stephen Lawrence Gallery will be opening its retrospective of printmaker Paul Coldwell’s work from the last 20 years – a beautiful series of pieces that show that merging technology with tradition is certainly nothing new.

Means of Escape 1- Lithography /lineblock relief
Means of Escape 1- Lithography /lineblock relief

For the past 20 years Coldwell has been creating unusual, beautiful prints that use digital technology to complement more traditional mediums like etching, woodcutting and screen-printing. The show will feature around 40-50 of his pieces.

‘I’m not a particularly purist printmakers’, says Coldwell. ‘My works are very much driven by ideas, so how I express those is determined by what I think is the most appropriate for that particular idea.’

Coldwell first began using computers and digital media in his work around 20 years ago, though say’s he is wary of being labeled a ‘digital artist.’

‘I incorporate the computer into other tools I have as a printmaker’, he says. ‘There are a number of things that affect the physical result – I might work on an image extensively on a computer but it’ll be outputted on silkscreen or woodcuts.’

Chairs-Etching
Chairs-Etching

While the show is presented as a survey, rather than thematically, Coldwell’s work predominantly looks at objects that have little monetary value, yet carry an intrinsic intimacy, such as brushes, combs and razors.

‘They’re the objects that enable you to do things’, he says. ‘I’m very interested in objects that have little financial value but they’re things we have a close relationships with.’

Still Life with Hair Grip and Paper Clip- inkjet/lino cut
Still Life with Hair Grip and Paper Clip- inkjet/lino cut

The Stephen Lawrence Gallery, which is to stage the exhibition, suggests that the works explore our relationships with such objects ‘through memory and space’, and Coldwell aligns the subject matter with that of the work of other printmakers such as Patrick Caulfield.

Constellation-Suitcase-Inkjet
Constellation-Suitcase-Inkjet

Coldwell says, ‘Hopefully [the exhibition] will show the development and refinement of my ideas. As an artist one has one or two ideas, but you have to just keep battering away at them to keep them fresh.

‘I suppose one of the threads that runs through my work is that existentialist view of life being stripped down. I’m interested in things that are reduced down – and in some small ways, in the relationships we have. I’m not someone for the grand gesture.’

Smoke-Bouquet- Collotype/screenprint
Smoke-Bouquet- Collotype/screenprint

Paul Coldwell: A Layered Practice (Graphic Works 1993-2012) runs from 14 June – 11 July at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery Queen Anne Court, University of Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, Park Row London SE10

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