A Postcard from Melissa Smith: Printed Stuff
Great opening at the s.p.a.c.e. Gallery in Launceston on Thursday (5/5) for the show Printed Stuff, one of the shows on the calendar for the Year of Print … wonderful turn out. David Marsden had accumulated an incredible collection of prints … almost a museum of print!! He had borrowed works form the University of Tasmania collection, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, private collectors and more! There was even a 1987 PCA poster on display! He had printed fabrics, toys, ceramics … it really is a fantastic exhibition!!
Before there was Banksy there were stencilled handprints in Australia and other places, followed a long time later in China by stamps and seals carved from stone, and, later again, in Europe by playing cards carved from pear wood. Then sometime later a Bible printed by Gutenberg and then Apocalypse by Dürer, and quite a while later by William Morris wallpaper and the floating world of Hokusai and then the German expressionist woodcuts.
The elaborate engravings of the silversmiths and armour makers became the Battle of the Sea Gods by Mantegna, then Dürer’s Knight, Death and the Devil. In later times, along came engraved postage stamps and banknotes and maps and calligraphic letterheads and the Melbourne Cup. With chemistry came etched copper plates by Rembrandt and Goya and Piranesi and then Willow pattern plates and, by and by, the halftone plate for photographs and Bea Maddock. Somewhere along the chemistry line Aloys Senefelder quickly made a laundry list lithograph on limestone, a process which languished commercially until artists got hold of it and proved its worth – Benjamin West, Fuseli and Goya again, and Toulouse Lautrec, Kevin Lincoln and Jan Senbergs. Stencils in Japan became silkscreen in Britain, which became Liberty prints, enamelled street signs and then Reg Mombassa and Eat Your Garden posters and Chameleon.
The letterpress, which came down the linotype line from Gutenberg, became the The Illustrated London News with wood engraved illustrations, which gave way to the chemical etching of photographic plates and gravure and reigned supreme until Senefelder’s process lithography became offset onto everything from tin toys to Willow pattern tins, jam labels, book covers and The Examiner. Now in its fiftieth year, the Print Council of Australia has long been devoted to print as art. This exhibition, Printed Stuff, celebrates this and the art of printing.