The Personalised Surface within Fine Art Digital Printmaking:
project supported by the AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council) led by Professor Paul Coldwell between June 2007-June 2009.
Summary of the research
With the advent of Digital Technology and the increasing use of the digital print as a vehicle for artistic production, there has been a need to evaluate the role of the digital print within the overall context of fine art printmaking. Whether this technology can be integrated into the wider tradition or whether it represents a fracture from itis a pressing question for artists, curators and critics alike. Central to this research project has been the role of surface within fine art print production and whether, when using digital technology, the degree to which the artist’s propensity to create a personalised surface is subjugated or thwarted by industry norms and conventions. It was also asked to what extent the surface is an aspect negotiated throughout production or simply a design decision at the end? In order to address these issues, this research project has drawn from a wide constituency including artists, theoreticians, publishers, gallery directors and print curators. In addition we have engaged with students and other research institutions.
The methodology for this project has been rooted within fine art studio practice and has sought to illuminate the decision making process of artists when engaged with new technology. One principle aspect of the research has been to conduct six case studies (in addition to the principle and co investigator) through which the making of new work was facilitated and documented. Through this the research provides valuable insights into a wide range of practice as it relates to the research question of surface. The selection of the artists for the case studies was crucial not only for establishing the level of practice, but also to present a broad sense of what could constitute printmaking at this moment. The case studies represented a range of artists of national or international standing; Tim Head, Kathy Prendergast, Dan Hays, Sissu Tarka, Bruce Gernand and Christian Nold, as well as investigators Barbara Rauch and Paul Coldwell. Each artist was selected to represent a very different approach to both surface and technology. The artists in each case study have all been generous not only in their time, but also in their openness to subject themselves to interrogation and questioning. The resulting documentation, rare in the field of printmaking, makes a rich contribution to the understanding of how artists view and approach technologies and opens up understandings of the function that print has within an artist’s overall work.
Beyond the specific case studies, this project has successfully engaged with a broad demographic which has included among others, artists; Michael Craig-Martin, Charlotte Hodes, Peter Kennard, Tim O’Riley and John Hyatt. Curators; Marilyn Kushner Gill Saunders and Tessa Sidey. Theoreticans; Naren Barfield, Paul Thirkell, Ruth Pelzer-Montada, and Catherine Mason and the studio director Brad Faine. Additionally, through an open call for submissions, a large number of artists were able to put forward their own case studies in response to a set of questions, which were presented on the project website.
The project began with a symposium at Chelsea College of Art & Design with ten speakers and an invited audience in July 2007. This was followed by an exhibition and symposium at the ICA in Nov 2008 and a final symposium The Personalised Surface; New approaches to Digital Printmaking at the V&A in April 2009. All the papers from the V&A symposium have been published in hard copy along with a DVD documenting the overall research from the two-year project. To obtain a copy of this publication, The Personalised Surface; New approaches to Digital Printmaking, please contact Paul Coldwell at: email@example.com. Reviews of the publication can be found in Printmaking Today (Winter 2009), and Print Quarterly (March 2010)
Through the website, links have been established with a number of artists’ websites, thereby placing our research within a broader context of their work. An example of this engagement is evident from the inclusion in our project of the AHRC funded research conducted by Dr Cathy Treadwell & Charlotte Hodes. Their research intersected very effectively with our project and we hope that through this, we have given their research wider dissemination while also suggesting future lines of inquiry for the studies made in both projects?
The research has been centred in the UK, but over the course of the two years every effort has been made to reach a wider international audience. This has been achieved in part through conference papers presented at CAA (Dallas 08), ISEA (Singapore 08), Consciousness Reframed (University of Applied Arts, Vienna, 08) and Impact (Bristol 09), through peer reviewed journal articles, including NMC Media-N Journal of the New Media Caucus, though presenting work emanating from the project with exhibitions staged at venues such as Camberwell College of Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, through works exhibited at Kettle’s Yard Cambridge, An Dan Te Gallery, Seoul, Kulisiewicz International Graphic Arts Triennial, Warsaw and finally at the Animal Gaze exhibition at Metropolitan University, London. Further dissemination has been through lectures in Oslo, for the British Council in both Seoul & Sao Paulo and through talks at the University of the Arts London.
As a result of presenting at CAA conference (Dallas 08) Coldwell was invited to guest edit an edition of the online journal NMC Media-N Journal of the New Media Caucus in an issue devoted to the possibilities of new media for artists. The issue, co-edited with Professor Joan Truckedrod, included papers by Coldwell and Dan Hays (one of the case studies in the project).
Further benefits of the research links that this project has created, have been an exchange exhibition with the Instituto de Artes, Porto Alegre, Brazil, in which several of the case studies presented new work. The exhibition and symposium was presented in Porto Alegre, Brazil, May 09 and then staged at Chelsea College of Art and Design in September that year. Barbara Rauch chaired a panel at ISEA, Belfast in August 2009 and Coldwell wrote and researched the book Printmaking: A Contemporary Perspective,a major overview of printmaking in all its forms thatincludes work made through the project, and was published by Black Dog Publishers in April 2010.
Professor Paul Coldwell
The Personalised Surface within Fine Art Digital Printmaking. This project, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) aims to explore the role of surface within fine art digital print from a variety of perspectives including those of practitioners, critics, publishers and curators. It will investigate how it is possible to articulate the unique surface qualities of digital print and explore ways, through engagement with the technology, of creating personalised surfaces, which reflect the artist’s needs rather than accepting industry norms.
About FADE (Fine Art Digital Environment)
This joint research project between Camberwell College of Arts and Chelsea College of Arts has developed out of a previous project, The Integration of Computers within Fine Art Practice. FADE seeks to investigate through practice based research, the impact of digital technologies on fine art practice including its relationship to established studio practice. In particular issues around questions of surface, layering and memory will be central to the project’s concerns. FADE brings together staff from Camberwell Collage of Arts and Chelsea College of Art and Design in developing individual research as well as group events. FADE also has contributions from researchers from other institutes both nationally and internationally. This website presents our latest research, news about FADE events and activities, archives of previous projects and profiles of our current researchers. An expanded explanation of FADE’s remit can be found here as a PDF.