In recent years, the London art scene has flourished with studios and galleries that focus on printmaking. Affordable, contemporary and multilayered in their production, printmaking is the umbrella term for an amazing array of techniques including silkscreen, etching, dry-point, woodcut, collagraph, linocut… the list seems endless. These diverse methods allow artists to experiment, with many using a wide range of techniques in their practice or even in a single piece. This means that prints span from the simple to the intricate, geometric to linear, can be graphic or abstract, complex or minimal - so it’s easy, and a lot of fun, to find the perfect pairing for your interior.
Whilst Affordable Art Fair is home to a number of London based collectives and galleries that pride themselves on being print specialists - Printmakers Council or Manifold Editions to name a few – the love for printmaking is spread far and wide. Rostra Gallery provides a smorgasbord of punchy and humorous prints in their Bath-based gallery, as do Wychwood Art in Oxfordshire. Other galleries specialise in specific printing styles, such as Hanga Ten, which exclusively shows contemporary Japanese prints.
The beauty of limited edition prints is they are one of the most economic ways to start your art collection. You’ll be amazed by the range, style, colour palette and content that printmakers can play with. Our online shop includes a whole host of printmakers working across multiple mediums. To help whet your appetite to the delights that printmaking can offer we’ve picked a few of our favourite techniques and prints:
The most popular, and well-known, form of printmaking is screen printing, sometimes known as silk screen printing. Screen printing is essentially a stencil method, where ink is pushed through a mesh which is stretched around a fixed frame, using a tool known as a ‘squeegee’. The design is created as certain areas are masked out, so the ink cannot pass through the mesh. However, where it can - paper on the other side of the mesh is imprinted with the beautiful ink designs. It can be a lengthy process as only one colour can be printed at a time, so many artists use a number of screens to produce a multicoloured design.
This process creates prints with a vibrant graphic quality, where colours compete for centre stage. Take the summer holiday palette of Bonnie and Clyde’s beach inspired prints, the solid colour blocks of Pure Evil or the intricate and ethereal work of Bristol-based Simon Tozer. Any would be a welcome addition to a room in need of some love!
Screen prints don’t only produce bold, graphic designs; the medium also allows thoughtful and more atmospheric works, such as Chitra Merchant’s layered designs with their stunning compositions. Similarly, the wide range of Japanese artists exhibiting with Hanga Ten, including Kazutoshi Sugiura’s floral prints layered with gold leaf, demonstrate the endless versatility of screen printing, from the traditional to the abstract.
In this multilayered process materials are directly applied to a piece of paperboard or wood creating a collage-like feel. Artists use textiles, scraps of paper, bubble wrap, string or even found objects such as buttons or leaves on their collagraph, creating richly textural relief work. Take a look at the landscapes of Sarah Ross Thompson, where in sections of her seascapes you can see materials such as hessian, giving a sense of drama and depth. Unusual prints such as these are great talking points; they can also add a sense of intimacy, as if given access to the artist’s secret creative process, step-by-step, by revealing their materiality.
Dating back to the 15th Century, this is one of the more traditional printing techniques. It was an important method for old master printing - along with engraving - and is still commonly used today. Etching uses strong acid to cut into unprotected parts of a metal surface. The first step is to cover a metal plate with a waxy substance which is resistant to acid; the artist then selectively removes the substance, known as a ground, with an etching tool to imprint the line. The plate is then dipped in acid which dissolves the exposed metal - leaving you with a plate that can be cleaned, inked and then printed.
The technique creates a dense but detailed print that is timeless and ornately charming. Check out Graham Cooke’s The Mermaid, and the simple, minimal quality of Clare Grossman’s nude, which is sure to add a sense of reflectiveness to a quiet corner.
This is by no extent the full list of printing methods - our online shop includes magnificent mezzotints, traditional woodcuts and digitally crafted prints, and many more too! Browse thousands of print styles to suit your taste and space online now »
To learn even more about printing in person, why not visit our legendary dry-point printmaking studio at our London fairs, for adults and children alike? Book Battersea tickets here »
Visitors falling in love with Lars Tunebo's limited edition prints at a Battersea Fair. Browse Lars Tunebo's prints online here.
Artworks from first to last:
Bonnie and Clyde, Dream Come True, Silkscreen print on paper, £300, Liberty Gallery.
Pure Evil, Pure Elvis, Silkscreen print on paper, £675, Lilford Gallery.
Simon Tozer, Arch and Bird, Silkscreen print on paper, £60, Wychwood Art.
Chitra Merchant, Portrait of Sundari – Migrations, Silkscreen print on paper, £550, Hidden Gallery.
Kazutoshi Sugiura, Iris No, 162, Silkscreen print on paper, £780, Hanga Ten – Contemporary Japanese Prints.
Sarah Ross Thompson, In between, Collagraphs on paper, £45, Will’s Art Warehouse.
Graham Cooke, The Mermaid, Etching on paper, £185, Printmakers Council.
Clare Grossman, Patience No. 2, Etching on paper, £175, Printmakers Council.