One of the main draws of any national art competition is the standing of the judges. In the case of this year’s RBSA Print Prize, we were doubly blessed.
Leonie Bradley is Editor of Printmaking Today and a respected artist working in a wide range of media including filmmaking, etching, linocut and wood engraving. She was joined by Mychael Barratt, Past President of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.
Leonie shared her thoughts with ART BLOG on the judging process for the Print Prize, and the state of printmaking in the UK today…
How did you find the judging process?
It’s a huge responsibility selecting an exhibition, because you want to make sure everyone is given a fair, equal chance. We considered every artwork at least four times to make sure we had made the right choices and that it all worked well together as a show. It was a pleasure judging with Mychael Barratt, we’ve judged together before (last year’s NOPE) and know each other well so we could be vocal and express our opinions freely. I think that’s incredibly important when you’re talking about art, which is a highly subjective task.
What struck you about the entries?
How print is flourishing! There were a surprising number of linocuts and also collagraphs. I believe they reflect a wider renewed interest in printmaking. I was also excited by the number of artists showing excellent technique, a clear vision or a unique take on a familiar subject.
Did any strong themes emerge?
Landscape, as always, had a strong showing, with several wide panoramas. I was pleased to note a strong return of traditional portraiture. Two unexpected themes were swimming pools and football, anticipating the long, hot summer.
How does the exhibition reflect UK printmaking today?
The exhibition is a very representative reflection of UK printmaking: there are prints by immediately recognisable, well-established artists and emerging talent alongside lots of work by unknown artists. Hanging these works together is like a busy print workshop, where beginners can learn from experienced printmakers. I can’t wait to see the actual prints and how they talk to each other on the wall.
On the wider scene, are there any current areas of excitement?
Printmaking is a rapidly expanding field at the moment with the output from 3D printers and all CNC machines, such as laser cutters, classed as prints. What’s particularly exciting is artists who are combining traditional techniques with these experimental new technologies such as Niamh Fahy’s use of digital embroidery together with relief and lithography in Across Borders.
What advice would you give someone new to printmaking?
Don’t go for a scattergun approach; show the judges a consistent body of work, with a clear theme or technique. If your work is presented well and your thought process is clear, the judges will often look on you favourably.
And more experienced artists?
Please take care when photographing your work. Some works were photographed behind reflective glass, partly out of shot or badly lit. I think online selection makes exhibiting far more democratic by reducing costs, but if you pay the entry fee then upload a poor photograph, it can be a waste of money.
Visit the exhibition soon…
All works featured are part of our forthcoming Print Prize Exhibition, which opens on 26 July.
Our biennial Print Prize exhibition aims to champion and celebrate the exciting range of contemporary printmakers producing original printed artworks within the UK. Selected artists also have the opportunity to be rewarded for their talents, with a top cash prize of £1,000!
Leonie Bradley is an artist, member of the Society of Wood Engravers and Editor of Printmaking Today. She has an MA in Multi-disciplinary Printmaking and has work in many private and public collections including the V&A and the Ashmolean.
Banner image: Michael Allison, ‘Moseley Road Baths’ (detail), Engraving, Monoprint £190