WHEN: 26th January – 2nd February, 2012 (Fair: 28th Jan)
WHERE: Leeds Gallery (map)
MY STORY: ‘Do you know anything about print at all?’ asked one of the artists at the Leeds Print Festival Fair. Er, no, I’m afraid not. I love and enjoy and admire art, but when it comes down to it, I’m ‘mere prattle without practice’ as the Bard so harshly put it. All is not lost, however, because the best part about the Print Festival is that you don’t necessarily need to be an art guru in order to understand or like it. By combining simple, effectiveness ideas with a meticulous process of production, the resulting prints make for a very universal, informal kind of art. What you see is usually what you get.
Held at Leeds Gallery, the relatively new independent art space at Munro House, this was actually the very first official print festival in the city. Judging by the huge crowd that turned out despite the biting cold though, you wouldn’t have guessed. Being Little Miss Keen Bean, I visited the exhibition twice. The first time was for the Print Fair on 28th Jan, which was incredible and a lot of fun. The artists all work with different types of print media, but regardless of whether their images were done in the good old fashioned way or made digitally, each of them were just as compelling as the other. There were monsters, whales, stars, mock-propaganda… you name it, they probably had it on sale in the form of greeting cards, posters, stickers or books. The artists themselves were all lovely to talk to, too, and you can scroll down to read more about three of the artists whose works I found particularly interesting.
My second visit was very different. It was the second last day of the exhibition and I went by myself. Winter sunshine was streaming peacefully through the huge glass windows of the gallery, and there wasn’t anyone else around apart from those enjoying their lunch breaks at Cafe 164 in the next room. It was a quieter, more reflective experience, and I got to enjoy the prints in a much closer and more personal way. Most of them were slightly curled around the corners and looked a bit tired from having been on show for so long, but they were still beautiful. There was a lot of talent displayed on the white walls. Some tackled personal issues of identity (photographs of an ex-model who was constantly told that she looks like Courtney Love), while others challenged social ideas of political correctness (a bathtub filled with a red liquid and what resembles the decapitated heads of Felix the Cat). They were all weird in their own ways, but in a lovingly quirky sort of way. And one thing’s for sure – Print Snot Dead.
I’ve heard the winds whisper that they might be doing something or other in May… We’ll be keeping a look out!
View my full set of photos from both the fair and the exhibition by clicking HERE.
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MY 3 FAVOURITE ARTISTS FROM THE FAIR
#3 Jonny Packham
The first word that slammed into my head when I looked at Jonny’s – aka JAYPEE – posters was ‘Monsters’, accompanied by several exclamation marks (from which I shall spare you). They were somewhat comical and cartoonish, but at the same time also quite disturbing.
‘Yeah, a lot of my works are based around the idea of monsters,’ said Jonny when I expressed my thoughts outloud. ‘But they can get quite personal and autobiographical too – sometimes they’re like my inner demons that just spill on to the page.’
As we talked, a group of guys came over and immediately decided to buy a poster before even knowing how much it cost (a tenner), saying how cool and beautiful it was. And they were beautiful, albeit in a slightly sinister sense, as colours violently explode all over the parchment, juxtaposing dark shapes or backgrounds.
‘Most of these are hand-drawn, although for some of them,’ Jonny explained, gesturing towards a pile of drawings which all had the same black outline of a skull in profile with varying embellishments, ‘I use a template outline and then fill it in with different colours and styles.’
Another poster was sold. At the rate that the prints were going, surely he can make a whole living out of this?
‘It’s my first show or stall actually,’ he said, to my surprise. ‘I mean I’ve done a few other shows and things before but this is the first time I’m showcasing these works – but so far it’s been going well!’
Visit Jonny’s website at: www.jonnypackham.co.uk
#2 Robbie Porter
Currently living and working in Scotland, Robbie is an illustrator and designer whose works caught my eye with their clean, friendly mellowness and quirky ideas. Amongst them were a park ranger riding a triceratops to work, some stickers with keyboard control buttons printed on them, and a portfolio of his drawings published in the form of a graphic newspaper. Looking through his art was like revisiting the stuff that my childhood dreams were made of – and his creative process seems to be just as carefree.
‘I don’t really know where I get my ideas from… I guess I just draw. I get a lot of inspiration just from drawing on bits of paper,’ said Robbie with a shy smile. ‘So far I haven’t run out of ideas yet, luckily. I have too many ideas actually, and I struggle to write them all down!’
So how does he create these images?
‘I first draw the design out in pencil, then go over it in pen, scan it into the computer, clean up the messy bits and just fill in the colour. So it’s half done by hand and half digitally.’
Visit Robbie’s website at www.robbieporter.co.uk
#1 Alex Pritchard
‘I studied Surface Pattern Design for my first degree,’ was what Alex told me when I caught up with him over lunch a few days after the Print Festival. Surface Pa… Specific much? ‘Well I like design because it allows me to work within a set parameters but still be creative. There’s a principle of discipline involved. But I’ve always liked book-making the most – they were the modules that I always got the highest grades for and enjoyed the most.’
Here is clearly a man with many talents and interests – and it doesn’t stop there. When he was young he went through phases of being interested in different things. ‘I went through a dinosaur phase, and then I moved on to butterflies, and then to diggers and street cleaners – you know, the ones with the spinning bristles in front? – and then trains… Wasn’t into cars though, don’t care much for them. Oh, and I was also into military history, like battles and stuff, and Kings and Queens of England, and birds….’
The list went on. One thing in particular stood out against all this though, which is his unwavering love for astronomy. This is what his most central book/work of art, entitled ‘We Are Here’, is about. Alex said that he has been interested in cosmology and all things universe and Earth related ever since he learnt about planets in Year 3. As he delved deeper into the mysteries of outer space, however, he began to find it increasingly difficult to explain the more sophisticated concepts to his friends. That was until he realised that they’d get it immediately once he drew his ideas out on the back of a napkin – and that’s when the idea of making an infographic book struck him. ‘We Are Here’ is based on the idea of a tourist map, with the red arrow pointing to your current location, except expanded to include the whole known universe and planet Earth’s relation to it. It is a beautiful piece of work – colourful, simple to understand, and immensely entertaining.
‘Learning about things in the universe is very humbling,’ he philosophised. ‘When you look at our planet from afar you realise how insignificant we are, and how meaningless life is – but life is what we want it to mean, and what we make it to be.’
In saying that, I feel like he had managed to sum up the whole idea of art and science. They are both studies that provoke thought and debate, but ultimately you can make and take what you wish out of both. Would he ever quit the life of art and become an astronomer instead, then?
‘Oh God, no! I wish!’ he said with a dry laugh. ‘Most of the time you get scientists wanting to become a poet or artist or something, but I’m the other way round. I’m an artist who wants to become a scientist. I’m okay at maths, but I’m just not good enough to go professional.’
He said that he’ll just plan a sequel for his book instead – fair play.
Alex has yet to develop a website, but you can find his bio and works at folksy.com/users/APbooks