05 Dec Local printmaking on an international scale: Warren Editions reflects on the E/AB Fair in New York
Warren Editions was the only printmaking studio from Africa to travel to New York and participate in the esteemed E/AB Fair this year, where over 40 international printmaking studios gathered to showcase their work, as well as attend talks and workshops throughout the Big Apple.
The fair aims to cultivate an international community of print-makers and provides a platform for printmaking growth within the larger art market. At the fair, Warren Editions showcased the work of Georgina Gatrix, Michael Taylor, Diane Victor and Dan Halter. We chatted to master printer Zhané Warren to find out more about the experience and the international print-making scene.
How did your involvement in the E/AB Fair in New York come about?
The Editions / Artists’ Book Fair is one of the most prestigious print fairs internationally. When looking to expand outside of South Africa this was naturally an option. We were really excited to have been selected by the curator to take part in the fair.
What was it like being the only printmaking studio from Africa?
It was a great experience seeing the work made by South African artists up alongside works from American and international studios. We were really proud to see our work sitting so well in terms of quality of printing technically, and subject matter on an international platform.
There were over 40 exhibitors from the US, Europe and Japan. How would you describe the quality and range of work presented, and were there prominent aesthetic differences between continents?
The majority of the studios were US based, there was a wonderful range in technique and style which offered viewers a feast for the eyes. There was one Japanese studio and they had a range of smaller works. Although they used woodcuts which are typically and traditionally Japanese, the works fitted well into a contemporary art bracket of style. They were definitely one of my favorite booths. There was a clear stylistic direction of the US based studios towards abstraction.
Amongst currently being some of the studio’s most popular artists, they also reflect a fantastic range in technical skill that Warren Editions has to offer. Techniques of linocut, monotype and intaglio. The decision was also a prediction to what the American audience would best respond to.
How was their work received?
The work was very well received. The figurative nature of the works was thoroughly enjoyed by the viewers. Viewers commented that the works felt fresh and they appreciated the sense of the hand in the works. Taylor’s painterly monotypes were closely examined and desired. Gratrix’s quirky and humorous portraits, as well as her loose treatment of mark got people excited. The viewers loved the intricate nature of Dan Halter’s linocut and Diane Victor’s exquisite exquisite depictions in her etching. Victor’s direct gravures were highly praised.
Printmaking is an intricate process that encompasses different techniques. Of the four artists you chose to exhibit, whose technique proved most challenging and why?
Each technique has it’s own challenges. But we are most proud of Diane Victor’s direct gravures of smoke drawings as it is the first convincing translation of Victor’s smoke drawings into print. Warren Editions is the only studio in Africa setup to practice photogravure and so it is very exciting to be able to collaborate with artists using this technique, especially for something that can offer such a direct solution to translating something into print.
One of the aims of the E/AB Fair is to create public awareness. How do you think this can be achieved on a local level?
The fair was free which meant it encouraged any and everyone to come and see. Students and schools were brought through and encouraged to ask questions about technique etc. A print fair in South Africa or education and practice encouraged at school level would be a great way to produce awareness, as well as the encouragement in art purchasing and viewing to create a culture of art lovers.
What advice would you give to a first time buyer?
If you love it, buy it.
Reflecting on the experience, is there anything you would have done differently?
The choices of artworks and artists were a great reflection and representation of the nature of Warren Editions as a studio.
What surprised you most about the fair?
The American public’s knowledge and familiarity with the print medium. The visitors to the fair really engaged with the works and were excited to talk about the work.