Print UnLtd: Exhibition Review

Print UnLtd at Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Well done to the guys that promoted Print UnLtd exhibition, this is one of the busiest private views we have been to in a long time! It was actually packed. This may have something to do with the ‘tickets’ they sent out to people. We received ours through the post which was a treat! I feel like once you have a physical ticket, you feel obliged to go to said event. That’s not to say that we didn’t want to go, or that you should need a ticket to go to a private view, but it just adds that extra bit of specialness to it I think. Anyway, I digress. Here’s my review of the exhibition which includes artist’s Claudia Alonso, Joey Collins, Gwilym Hughes and Lubna Ali.

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Let’s start with Gwilym Hughes, ‘Salford Faces’. You are hit with a triptych of light boxes, each showing a different face. They look like blown-up etchings, with two colours added which gives it an almost 3D effect. Standing close to the images, they are too blown up for you to recognise the faces, but when you stand back it’s a totally different story, you see the emotion in each one. They each have a ‘Mona Lisa’ smile about them, hiding something behind the features.

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Alongside the huge triptych, there are a series of tiny prints, about the same size as a Polaroid. These faces look like they have been taken from a history book, like they were passengers on the Titanic. There’s a mix of classes, right from Rose DeWitt Bukater through to Jack Dawson.

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If you follow the blog you may know why I dislike Artists Statements, but as a person who reviews art, I know I need to read them. So, after writing the above I have now read the statement and found out that these faces are from the Salford Local History Library based at the Salford Museum and Art Gallery, so they are historic! ‘The artist gives new lives to people who may not know they were having their picture taken, and may have never seen the resulting photographs.’

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Lubna Ali series of prints looks like one of this quizzes your mum shares on Facebook – ‘how many diamonds are in this picture?’ You can see the process of screen printing, starting with the single diamond, then adding a colour, then adding more diamonds, and adding more colour etc. The amount of prints is ridiculous, there is an additional pile on the floor next to the framed images, which gives you a real sense of the time and effort gone into this work. As a series, this is something I’d happily have on my wall. However, these prints can be bought individually which I think is a shame, it will take away from the overall effect that you can see when looking at the development. As a single (albeit a very cool) print, I just think you would lose that element of ‘wow, that’s impressive’.

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Lubna Ali’s work is named ‘My Tiles’ and consists of 50 individual prints. The artist takes inspiration from Islamic patterns and each piece is drawn by hand. The artist statement describes how the numbering process of prints usually works and how Lubna has flipped this on its head. To be brutally honest, I did get a little confused by it. However, when standing and admiring her prints, I do see the painstaking process used and understand the work that has gone into creating such intricate patterns. The overall look is pretty amazing.

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I couldn’t stop writing notes about Joey Collins’ work. At first I noticed the transition of the prints, from left to right. The first print on the left was heavy in black, then, as we moved across, pinks are added, then yellow, and white – the print on the far right being the lightest. It’s like he was mixing paints as he went along, experimenting with the shades and colours. I then saw the marks used, somewhat reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock free-hand, unruly style. Following that, I realised these prints were made up of vertical strips, cut out and reassembled in a collage of marks. It looked like a dance, as though a street dancer had put their choreography into marks and dashes on paper.

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The series is called ‘Try Me.’ Joey Collins collected the little pieces of paper that you use to scribble on in the art shops when you are testing the pens and pencils. I remember as a kid of the Art Attack generation, loving going into Partners and messing with the gel pens! Joey ‘feels like each of these drawings is its own collaboration.’ Joey takes these pieces, scans them, blows the up, re-works them, cuts them into strips and reassembles them to recreate the randomness of the original doodle. We are fans!

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I was pretty impressed by Print UnLtd, and this was my first time in Salford Museum and Art Gallery – which is a weird venue but that’s another story. So yes, this exhibition is definitely worth the visit. The work is modern, different, and not restricted by any set theme. You can simply appreciate each artists’ work and enjoy the different forms of print. For an exhibition that is supposed to ‘challenge and question perceived constricts and rules around printmaking’, I think they have done it and done it well. Oh, one last thing, the caterers need a mention too, those cheese and beetroot tarts were divine!

Print is on at Salford Museum and Art Gallery and runs till 14th October.

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