Fear, horror, terror – all the primal human emotions gathered together in three simple words was the starting point for an exhibition of international print works exhibited recently at the Wallace Gallery, Morrinsville.
It brought together 19 printmakers from around the world and displayed their work for the first time in New Zealand. The venture behind the show, called, The International Print Exchange Programme, (IPEP), was established as an annual event to raise the profile of printmaking. It does this by arranging multiple exhibitions of the same show worldwide through an agreed process whereby each selected artist consents to take home to their respective countries the 19 winning prints with instruction to have them exhibited.
This year, New Zealand printmaker, Hanah-Amelia King was one of the selected artists. Her work, Narcissistic Significance, enabled New Zealand to have the opportunity to participate in this venture for the first time.
Artists from India, Peru, Iran, Ukraine, Mexico, USA and Australia were involved, each producing one work that reflected on the tripartite and universal human emotions mentioned above.
Most of the artists chose to interpret the brief in various figurative and representational ways. Only Aban Raza used complete abstract notations to communicate the experience of fear, associated in her case with the rise of religious fundamentalism. Her broad crosshatched mark making, using the silkscreen method, resulted in a dense spider-web forest of abbreviated lines butted into each other.
Luis Antonio Torres Villar took a more literal approach presenting small dark silhouette figures throwing their victims off a cliff and into a river.
Mutant forms proliferated throughout the show. Neera Singh Khandka created an etched figure of a hybrid animal with a man’s head bent back and howling at the moon.. The transparent body of this creature revealed a collaged collection of weaponry.
Ukrainian Oleksandra Sysa also employed the etching technique to create an expressionist tableau of anguished figures that recall Picasso’s Guernica, while Australian, Julia Wakfield, depicted fear in a small naked huddled figure whose shadow loomed up behind him like some giant homunculus.
The New Zealand entry, by King, chose something with a contemporary twist – a group of people fleeing an approaching army tank while a foregrounded figure takes a selfie of the event.
My only quibble about the show is that being Indian based, the selection favoured artists from that country. However it is good to see print works getting their due given that the medium is often treated like the bridesmaid to the main event. Good on the Wallace for addressing this imbalance.