Making Contact/ Ta Kontakt

A printmaking collaboration between members of Grafiska Sällskapet (GS) and the Gloucestershire Printmaking Cooperative (GPC) is in full stride with many interesting, and some unexpected, results.

But this is just what was intended at the project’s inception when Jenny Palmer (GS) and Wendy Rhodes (GPC) initiated “Making Contact/Ta Kontakt” a year ago following a chance reunion at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) where they were both exhibiting.  The idea was to harness friendships and conversations in order to spread the experience of re-connecting with art, printmakers, and the practice of printmaking with other communities and countries and to be inspired by one another after the pandemic. 

The venue for the first exhibition, from the 27th of May to the 18th of June 2023, will be at the gallery of Grafiska Sällskapet located on Hornsgatan in Södermalm.  The works will then be transported to the U.K. to be exhibited at Sixteen Gallery in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, from the 23rd of November to the 6th of December 2023. 

The first challenge for Jenny and Wendy was to curate the project in such a way as to ensure and facilitate their vision. The solution was to ask the participants from both Sweden and the U.K. to send one image each of their work and three words that described them, their printmaking ideas or anything else that stimulated them. This was a tool to help pair printmakers with others who may compliment, enhance, or contrast with one another. Whilst not binding, for many these introductory images and words provided a very useful starting point in the collaborations with their new grafik partners.

Kristina Thun and Jane Sasanow  feel their collaboration is a ‘visual conversation’ with Kristina setting Jane a challenge of working with intense colours. Kristina says, “it feels fulfilling to work together, you are forced to think differently.” As a result, Jane has been exploring layered intaglio and relief processes.

Andy Lovell and Maria Lagerborg have found the opportunity to work together “energising”. Maria has been inspired by Andy’s practice of printmaking on site, in the landscape, where he makes monoprints of wind turbines. In response, she has evolved her own Japanese woodcuts and watercolours into swirling animations featuring her prints in motion.  

The concept that has united Fran Christen, Beth Jenkins and Jenny Palmer is the Wood Wide Web. Beth says, “as a group, we have been looking at the ways trees connect with each other. We wanted to link the physical items to the way we have been overlapping our ideas and thoughts”.  As with the other partnerships, the resulting prints will be displayed side by side in the two upcoming exhibitions. 

Eileen Dunlop and Kristina Stark are similarly inspired by nature and also the challenges of climate change, particularly those faced by flowers as highlighted by the phenomenon of cherry trees in Sweden flowering in November instead of April thus weakening them and making them more prone to disease. Kristina’s print features the first flower to be grown in space, the Zinnia. Eileen’s print references the famous book ‘The country diary of an Edwardian Lady’ by Edith Holden who recorded the year in the life of plants in 1907. 

Sharing an interest in ecology, nature witnessing the passing of time, and the mythology that surrounds this, Anne-Lie Larsson Ljung and Fiona McIntyre have turned to exchanges of poetry written in Swedish and English inspired by each other’s prints. The booklet they have produced together to accompany their prints will be on show at the two exhibitions.

Wildlife in nature has also inspired and united other pairings in the group: Lisa Andrén and Tony Lloyd discovered their shared love of the outdoors, particularly the sea, and found they both like to shape metal plates before etching and engraving them to reflect the subject.

Landscapes, and trees in particular, have captured the imagination of several of the partnerships. Lena Hjelm and Marie Smith discovered a common theme of different houses and observers in the landscape. Marie’s image entitled ‘Amongst the trees’ is a collagraph made with Tetra Pak intaglio plates and lino print, whilst Lena has opted to work in digital pigment print utilising her Cintiq Wacom; two very contrasting techniques employed to respond to a common theme.

Others, such as Yasmina Karli Malmsten and Ollie Goodson, have also embraced digital designs and the creative opportunities that come with the ease and speed of exchanging images and ideas between Sweden and the U.K that this method lends itself to. They say that “they have had an enormous amount of fun adding to and adapting one another’s prints.” 

Richard Galloway and Gerry O’Dwyer decided that they would create a joint print. Gerry screen-printed a tree motif leaving space for Richard to overlay his print upon it. Richard says he has “always built up [his] own humorous pictures. In this respect, Gerry’s large perfect lawn was asking for it!…..Gerry said that I brought a bit of Swedish anarchy to his English country garden!” 

Working in black and white and long-landscape format, Ulla-Carin Winter and Wendy Rhodes are united by places beside water. They have chosen to interpret the remains of industrial activity, nature’s reclaiming of them, and the reflections they make in passing rivers. Ulla-Carin and Wendy say they “have exchanged experiences about graphic techniques, black printing ink and given each other good advice in creative processes.”

Jeannie Brown has worked on urban landscape and society with all its associated patterns, hectic atmosphere and sounds leading to her print entitled ‘Whitechapel Rush Hour.’ In contrast, her grafik partner Ellen Blakstad Paus has concluded with “a print of a peaceful tree with long roots in a rural landscape, where I feel I belong”.

Geometric, colourful, brickwork matrices of Eric Saline’s relief print have been overprinted by Christine Felce using screen printing and flock, giving a tactile quality, together with letterpress resulting in their joint prints entitled ‘Trespass’, reflecting the U.K.’s attitude towards access to the countryside, and ‘Smultron’ (Wild strawberry) that highlights the Swedish “allemansrätten” more open attitude.

Whilst many have been inspired principally by nature, Ellen Cronholm and Emily Lucas have drawn upon ancient architecture, columns and carvings. Ellen sent Emily large-scale prints of ancient ruins and, after a visit to the Acropolis in Athens, Emily responded by sending Ellen monoprints of small figurines found in the ruins. These have been added to Ellen’s collagraphs as a nod to cultural heritage and the fact that antiquities can end up in the wrong places; Ellen says, “it is often the small, initially overlooked objects, that survive the longest”. 

Marking a transition from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional, Eva Spikbacka and Francis Day’s collaboration will result in an artist’s book. It features a series of Eva’s prints, which she refers to as “båtfarare” (in Finnish/Swedish). The book incorporates text in both Swedish and English and opens out as a concertina, the waves can be moved by tabs to give the impression that the boats are floating. 

Jenny Strid with Tonia Maddison are developing prints inspired by notions of obscuration and revelation, Tonia says “I like the idea that not everything is revealed, and closer scrutiny is required”. 

Working in response to a woodcut of a view of trees sent by her print partner Lotta Döbling, Anne Haworth, overlayed sketches made in Northumbria to form landscapes subsequently developed into 4-colour screen prints. The colour palette has now been adopted by Lotta to develop further prints for Anne to respond to.

A joint celebration of colour…..and the neon landscape” has united and influenced Siobain Drury and Roger Metto. They have been having a visual conversation exchanging drawings of landscapes, abstract imagery, and experimenting with the ‘exquisite corps’ resulting in a joint screen-print of translucent colours and delicate lines that Siobain characterises as “different hills, but the same sky

Through the sharing of photographs of some of their “most cherished possessions”, Judy Pascoe and Isabelle Nilsson became “fascinated by how we humans seem to like similar things, even though we are in different places on the earth. There is something about that feeling, the feeling of having something in common. In my prints, I have created encounters and relationships between our favourite things”. 

As a project intended to bring printmakers together ‘across the water’, to have conversations and hopefully find common ground, Making Contact/Ta Kontakt is doing just that!  All this hard work and creativity will culminate in what promises to be two diverse and exciting exhibitions.

As a project intended to bring printmakers together ‘across the water’, to have conversations and hopefully find common ground, Making Contact/Ta Kontakt is doing just that!  All this hard work and creativity will culminate in what promises to be two diverse and exciting exhibitions.

As a project intended to bring printmakers together ‘across the water’, to have conversations and hopefully find common ground, Making Contact/Ta Kontakt is doing just that!  All this hard work and creativity will culminate in what promises to be two diverse and exciting exhibitions.

23-05-16 Jenny Palmer

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