The name and person, David Krut, occupies a prominent position in the Johannesburg, and South African, art scene. Over the past 30 years, Krut has played a significant role in promoting contemporary South African art and artists through printmaking, art book publishing and education. Today, the David Krut organisation encompasses several exhibition spaces, a book store and print workshop, and represents prominent artists including William Kentridge, Deborah Bell, Stephen Hobbs, David Koloane and many others. We spoke to Jill Ross (master printer) and Mary Wafer who run the David Krut Print Workshop in Arts on Main. They very kindly let us into their world of inks, presses, plates and washes, and provided some insights on professional printmaking.
Please give us the official description of what the space is…
David Krut Projects is an arts, design and project space that consists of a print workshop, exhibition space and bookstore. The intaglio prints created in the workshop area are exhibited and displayed in the project space which is continually growing and changing. This is one of four spaces in the organisation that is dedicated to collaborations and promoting contemporary South African art through printmaking, book publishing, education and exhibitions, with the other gallery and bookstore spaces being in Parkwood, Johannesburg; Newlands, Cape Town and Chelsea, New York.
David Krut was one of the first art studios to move into the Arts on Main development, and continues to occupy a dominant presence there– what was the plan or vision then, and how has it unfolded over the last couple years?
Arts on Main, is a mixed-use creative hub in Johannesburg’s new art neighbourhood, the Maboneng Precinct, a ground breaking urban community. The space was identified for its potential as an urban regeneration zone and developed with the idea of inner city revival in mind. The area has increased popularity with inner city creatives and visitors from across the globe, decked Arts on Main with an air of possibility and excitement which stems from it being a meeting place for such an eclectic group of people.
How important is it for the studio to be situated in this part of the city, rather than say another area, or even a more suburban location?
David Krut Print Workshop was initially established as a collaborative intaglio and monotype studio, in Johannesburg in 2002 on, which was soon after to become known as, the Arts Strip on Jan Smuts Avenue in Parkwood. The studio was therefore situated in the suburbs for a few years before moving to the inner city. The workshop, however, now feeds off the energy of a space like Arts on Main and is also well situated to connect with interesting people from all walks of life.
What about the location and space appeals to you as an artist?
I love the printers, the building, the energy on the streets. It makes me feel like I’m in Johannesburg, which is really home.
Please tell us about some of the different types of printmaking that is done in the studio…
David Krut Print Workshop (DKW’s) experimental printmaking workshop applies different techniques like drypoint, engraving, etching, aquatint, sugarlift aquatint and spitbite aquatint. The workshop also assists artists with relief printing like woodcut, linocut, chine collé and hand-painting.
Is the print studio open to anyone, or just the DK stable of artists?
The aim of DKW is to provide a professional facility for collaborations between South African artists and local and international printmakers. Emerging and established artists are regularly invited to create limited edition intaglio prints and monotypes at DKW.
How does the process typically work when collaborating with an artist on a project? (Is ‘collaborate’ the right expression?)
An artist is invited with a purpose in mind, like starting on a new body of work, or to create specific works for an exhibition. The artist and master printer then discuss the goal of their time in the workshop and what they would like to achieve. The artist conceptualises and the printmakers, as technicians, advise on the best way to achieve the desired results.
The value of creating prints in the workshop also lies in the fact that various creative minds are participating in the process, as opposed to an artists working in isolation in his or her studio. This means that boundary pushing work can be produced, and allows the artist the freedom and assistance to experiment with ideas or techniques that they usually wouldn’t work with. ‘Collaboration’ is therefore certainly a good way to describe the process of what takes place in a print studio.
Who is welcome in the space, and what are some of the ways you invite people in?
Everyone is welcome in the gallery space, bookstore and by appointment, in the workshop. The staff aim to be informative and make people feel comfortable in a space where they might not exactly know what they are looking at. Of course, hosting several art and book- related events (like exhibitions or launches) or printmaking demonstrations is also a way of introducing our activities to a broader audience.
What will the space never see?
We will never see a dull day! Wanted to say we will never see mice – but that would be a lie!
What exciting things should we look forward to seeing at the studio in the future?
A new body of work by Deborah Bell, the editioning of a huge Kentridge multi-plate print; as well as editioning the works of Sam Nhlengetwa, Diane Victor and many more. Also be on the lookout for exhibitions by Maja Maljević (now on), Diane Victor (at DKP Cape Town), Endale Desalegn (visiting artist from Ethiopia) and Quentin Williams (in July).
Anything else you would like to add…
Yes – come and visit us the David Krut Workshop at Arts on Main, 264 Fox Street, David Krut Publishing and Projects at 151 and 142 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, or David Krut Projects, Cape Town at the Montebello Design Centre in Newlands. As an organisation we aim to demystify the appreciation and understanding of contemporary art, specifically in printmaking, by adopting an approachable and engaging environment to the arts.
Find out more about David Krut Projects here.