‘I’m not a printmaker’ was the opening statement from Maleny artist Noela Mills speaking about her work in the Regional Marks printmaking exhibition at the artist talks last Saturday. It made me wonder what she meant, and I would have liked to follow it up with her later, but the opportunity passed.
Not a printmaker? She was standing beside her lovely monoprints that are featured below the signature title of the exhibition.
What do we mean when we say ‘printmaker’. Clearly it means different things to different people, but surely anyone who makes prints as part of their art practice is a ‘printmaker’. How many prints do you have to make to be classed as a ‘printmaker’? Do prints have to be a certain proportion of the works that you produce? Or do you need to have skills across the range of printmaking techinques? Or is a printmaker defined by the equipment they own or use?
Noela’s comments made me remember works I had seen recently in a print exhibition in Pau in France, by artists best known as painters. But they were printmakers too, trying their hand at engraving, etching, mezzotint and relief printing. What struck me in looking at a whole gallery of prints by many of the French Impressionists best known for their paintings, was how their own individual style was as evident in this ‘other’ medium as in their paintings.
Like those artists, and like Noela, most of us belong to that same tradition of artists working across mediums. Our work is not confined to one technique. We are willing to try new or different things and the total body of what we produce becomes a rich tapestry of experiments and techniques. If we are lucky one of those techniques grabs our hearts and our hands and becomes the focus of what we do, but it is rarely at the exclusion of everything else.
I’m happy to call myself a printmaker, amongst other things, but not at the exclusion of other things, and I think Noela is definitely a printmaker too.