Impact: Open Bite Printmakers

Above:  Open Bite Printmakers, Thirsty (detail of assembly;),2017-18, etching, collagraph, linocut, woodblock, digital, solar plate, silk screen, each 21 x 14 x 8.6 cm. Courtesy of Open Bite Printmakers. Right: Open Bite Printmakers, Our Common Ground (detail), 2017-18, etching, collagraph, linocut, woodblock, digital, solar plate, 300 x 200 cm.    Courtesy of Open Bite Printmakers. Below: The Open Bite Printmakers assembled.




Linda Galbraith and Sonia Gallart discuss the acceptance of the Open Bite Printmakers group into the Impact 10 conference.

The development of a proposal to enter an international exhibition for an individual artist can be fraught with indecision and insecurities. For a group of artists, this process can be even more challenging. However, Sydney-based Open Bite Printmakers Inc managed to successfully engage with the hurdles, and to be accepted into Impact 10 – Encuentro (Encounter) in Santander, Spain in September this year. The name Impact is an acronym for International Multidisciplinary Printmaking, Artists, Concepts and Techniques (quite a mouthful!) and was founded at UWE in Bristol, UK over 20 years ago. The event aims to facilitate a forum for artistic academia with papers presented, workshops held and an exhibition of works by print practitioners from around the world.

After one of our members attended the Impact 9 conference in China in 2015, she enthusiastically suggested OBP should participate. Her enthusiasm was contagious and we decided to put in a submission for the next conference and so began a collaborative process of choosing a theme and a direction that we could all work with. It was not an easy task and several people decided against being involved. This left 16 dedicated artists throwing many ideas around and eventually coming up with two possibilities. We decided to select one by a democratic vote. Of course, democracy being what it is, the vote was 50/50. Dilemma. We chose to submit both proposals and even got them in with hours to spare!

After a long, tense wait (originally, accepted participants were due to be notified by 15th January, then extended until 23rd February), we were finally advised on 1st March that one of our proposals had been accepted. The collective sense of relief and excitement was almost visible. Then, two days later, we were told the other proposal was also accepted. This, of course, doubled the excitement, the work and the anticipation, at the same time increasing the sense of nervous pressure for us all. We are going to Spain and we need to get the works and the organisation into gear.

The two proposals are quite different but both required us to address one of the nominated themes under the Encounter umbrella. For the first piece, Our Common Ground, we chose the encounters between society, culture and languages. We felt that Australia, a land of diverse cultures and languages, would provide an elegant platform for artists to showcase their disparate, as well as their shared, encounters and stories of our country. We envisaged that the artwork would be symbolic of how we each walk through our lives, so the prints would be placed on the ground where we actually do walk. For the viewer, it becomes a more interactive piece, walking around the project and looking down instead of looking to the wall. It will be installed in a loosely geometric pattern, prints separated yet connected with lines of text implying the cultural intersections of society.

The second piece, Thirsty, fits into the theme of encounters with styles and techniques, which sits so well with a group of printmakers who all approach and make their work in different ways. Based on the Australian invention of a wine cask (these days also used for other liquids), each artist would make a print and from it construct a box replicating the cask. There was enthusiastic approval of this idea but also lot of dissent because of the possible connotations with alcohol abuse. We felt by approaching the work as a symbol of hospitality and good humour we could obviate this and present a unique, sculptural artwork. The casks will be displayed in separate groups around the venue – viewers coming across them as ‘surprise encounters’ – the remains of a fun time?!

The encounters that an artist experiences may or may not be so different from each other or from someone in any other life journey but the interpretations of, and responses to, those encounters are uniquely evident in our prints. It will be a treat for those Open Biters who are contributing to this particular Encounter and will enrich all our lives. As for those of us attending the conference – well, what can we say? Bring it on!