The FE McWilliam Gallery encourages printmakers to shake off the constraints of 2D
It is a surprise to walk into a print exhibition and see sculptures, jewellery and installations. Yet the Seacourt Print Workshop artist collective's Another Dimension exhibition aims to provoke this reaction.
Printmakers traditionally work in only two dimensions, the height and width of their subject being the only constraints of scope. For this exhibition, however, the FE McWilliam Gallery commissioned artists to move their flat planes of work into a third dimension and explore structure, sculpture and form.
The most striking of these experiments combine the visual qualities valued in printmaking - such as detail and pattern - with explorations of texture and materials. Both Sara Brown and Ned Jackson Smyth display work in metals, using aluminium plate and steel respectively.
Brown chooses to print directly onto multiple aluminium plates in ‘Calm Wave’ (pictured below), the long thin vertical stripes of metal combining to construct a landscape print of Strangford Lough at early light. Carefully suspended by wire from the ceiling, an image of a traditional landscape print becomes a 360° visual experience.
Jackson Smyth is one of the few artists featured who steps away entirely from print in his exhibited work, ‘New Species’. Instead, the artist works from an earlier etching of a doodle he made, creating a delicate metal sphere impossibly balanced on the fulcrums of several cones stacked one on top of another. It appears both organically formed and carefully engineered.
Other artists rely on display techniques to elevate their two dimensional prints on paper and card to a third dimension. Their works can appear lost amongst the stronger artworks that fully demonstrate the remit.
Several artists are more literally inspired by the Banbridge-born artist FE McWilliam himself, and have looked to the archival works stored in the gallery for inspiration.
Vicky Stone’s mixed media installation ‘MCMLXXII’ is a very personal response to FE McWilliam’s influence. Stone has a familial link to the Abercorn Restaurant bombing in 1972, the same incident that McWilliam depicts in his series of bronze sculptures Women of Belfast. His sculptures portray victims of the bombing reaching out for help in the midst of the blast.
Unlike McWilliam, however, Stone does not show a literal depiction of the victims but picks out sensory elements from the incident. For example, a print of almonds on glass reminds us of the bitter smell of plastic explosives.
Henrietta Alexander has also taken inspiration from the Women in Belfast sculptures, but has reinterpreted the shapes and movement found in McWilliam’s pieces for a more optimistic subject.
‘McWilliam’s Ceilidh’ combines woodblock and etching to produce a sculpture that looks to the elongated limbs and distorted forms of the Abercorn-inspired art. Rather than conveying chaos and fear however, Alexander has created a piece that celebrates lightness of body and movement in the joyful figure of a dancer. Her body is covered in layers of black and white images of friendly faces, conveying the liveliness and warmth that can be found at a ceilidh dance.
Those who believe that print is a poor cousin to older, more traditional fine art styles - or a cheap means of mass production - should visit to this eclectic and experimental exhibition.
Another Dimension runs at FE McWilliam Gallery, Banbridge until May 15.