“Printfest 2011” Ulverston, Cumbria April 29th – May1st 2011

Why travel over 260 miles to show prints in a town smaller than Llanelli? Well, for the same reasons Printfest attracted other participants from as far away as Brighton, Norfolk, Cornwall and London: Ulverston comes across as a ‘can do’ town. It is a busy market town with many independent shops; it was once famed only for providing one half of possibly the world’s most famous comedy duo; now it provides an opportunity to network with, and test one’s own work in the company of artists who dedicate their time to printmaking techniques. It soon became apparent to us that after 10 years of close aquaintance, this corner of Cumbria is populated by an educated public who know what they are looking at. Their interest in the technical aspects of printing came as a welcome surprise. There might just be the chance of a sale or two here…
The interior of the Coronation Hall is guarded by Britannia and her entourage, with Edwardian ‘Putti’ watching on from the tops of the decorated pillars. Below them were arrayed 37 stands, with not a giclee or digital print in sight.
As recently as the 1980’s, a print show would have been a largely black and white affair, with just the odd splash of dayglo colour on a screenprint. No longer, monochrome was very much a minority presence here. There were few intaglio images; relief prints [woodcuts in particular], and serigraphy were in the ascendant. There were no lithographs in evidence. Its materials are hard come by now after the stone-breaking purges, which took place in our art college gulags during the 1970’s.
As regards subject matter, representational natural forms predominated. Birds in general [and crows in particular] nested in several stands. But of course there were those works which defy categorisation. The work of Anne Bridges is built from collaged print surfaces, rich and dense in their North Wales green-ness. Tessa Pearson builds mark upon mark through multiple screened layerings to form frenetic, floating hieroglyphics. Ian Williams carborundum prints are almost unfathomable; keyboards? Sports pitches? Or simplified versions of those wonderful Snowdonia slate fences? Who cares? These images are engaging in the extreme.
Prints were mainly of domestic size, and the prices correspondingly affordable, as prints should be –even though many artists eschewed the financial potential of producing large print runs in favour of experimentation through single, unique works.
As newcomers to the event, we found the number of visitors impressive. We were told that actually, footfall was down on last year, but sales had improved. Credit card facilities and free wrapping services obviously make the buying process easier. The event also provided a programme of demonstrations during the event, and workshops for community groups and schools are offered throughout the year. The website is well worth a look. A big thank you is due to the organising team at Ulverston; you produced a remarkable event for public and exhibitors alike. Well done.
Did we enjoy the experience? Yes. Would we do it again? Most certainly.

Carole King  Glenn ibbitson   May 2011