Barbara Rae RA Hon RE, Winter Almonds, screenprint.

Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers Annual Exhibition 2011 at Burton Art Gallery and Museum

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Barbara Rae RA Hon RE, Winter Almonds, screenprint.

Comprising 200 works, the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers Annual exhibition at the Burton Art Gallery and Museum showcases the full range of printmaking methods including traditional etching, lithography, wood engraving and mezzotints as well as the latest digital and photographic techniques, by members of the Royal Society of Painters-Printmakers.

One star of the show is painter and printmaker Merlyn Chesterman, who works from her studio in Hartland, North Devon. Much of Merlyn’s inspiration comes from taking advantage of her coastal setting in Hartland and working directly from the landscape, with its rugged, indented and folded rock formations, a starting point that lends itself ideally to woodblock printing.

The Royal Society of Painter-Etcher (RE) was founded in 1880. It was set up mainly in response to the Royal Academy’s disinclination to take printmaking seriously and also to distinguish the work of artists who made their own etchings and engravings (as opposed to the hundreds of practitioners who were superb craftsmen but who were creating reproductions of paintings.

Only original prints are shown by the society: works that have been conceived of as prints and made by the artist. The society changed its name to Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers in response to the welcome proliferation of other printmaking techniques, but it decided to keep the letters “RE” for the sake of tradition.

Members are elected on merit, first as associates and then earn their places as fellows. The purpose of the society is to show prints and educate the public.  It is a registered charity and runs many courses and is involved in schools, local to its home at Bankside Gallery, London and art colleges around the UK. Membership is world-wide.

Former president of the Royal Society, Hilary Paynter, explains: “During discussions over the past few years with the Warren Collum, exhibition and collections officer at the Burton, we talked about the desirability of bringing a first class, mixed exhibition to Bideford. The annual exhibition includes the full range of printmaking methods including digital techniques. The artists are continually pushing the boundaries as well as preserving traditional art forms.”

Hilary Paynter lives in North Devon and her own prints are represented in the collections of the Ashmolean, Fitzwilliam and Victoria & Albert museums. Here she gives some top tips for would-be collectors: “The works that I would most like to take home? Barbara Rae’s Winter Almond screenprint, because the sun comes out when you look at it. Anne Desmet’s London Olympic Site, WWII Archaeology (wood engraving), because it is exquisite, fascinating and makes you want to go there and probe the area. Meg Dutton’s Through the Arches (etching & watercolour) lifts the spirits. Marianne Ferm Tat Kuang Si VII (etching) is a wonderful, powerful print, full of movement and noise (yes – noise! It is a waterfall). While Roger Harris’s Magic Flute (mezzotint) is another exquisite piece.”

Councillor David Lausen says: “The beauty of the Burton Art Gallery and Museum is that it is an open, inclusive gallery where you can enjoy the art for what it is without feeling that you have to be a collector or an expert. This is an uplifting exhibition from high profile artists working nationally and locally. The different types of printmaking technique are fascinating in their own right.”

• Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers Annual Exhibition 2011 is at Burton Art Gallery and Museum from June 18 to July 25

(image: Barbara Rae RA Hon RE, Winter Almonds, screenprint.)

Talk and Tour
June 18, 2pm, Free
Explore this exhibition in an informal atmosphere with the president of the Royal Society, Hilary Paynter.

Prints without a Press with Ursula Leach
July 2, 10am-4pm, £30
Suitable for beginners and the more experienced, this workshop is open to all who are interested in exploring printmaking and/or landscape. Using line and colour on polystyrene or cardboard plates, participants will develop artworks through quick and easy processes. Ursula Leach makes paintings and prints responding to the chalk landscape of Cranborne Chase. She won the Intaglio Printmaking Prize in 2009 and has works in the collections of Ashmolean Museum and The Curwen Archive.

Wood Engraving with Kate Dicker
July 9, 10am-4pm, £30
Wood engraving is a relief printmaking method using end-grain wood blocks and is created using tools capable of giving multi-textured marks and delicate grey tones with contrasting blacks and whites. This workshop will introduce: handling the qualities of the tools, help prepare images that can be abstract or representational, and show how to transfer an image to the wood block. Kate Dicker is an elected member of The Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers and The Society of Wood Engraving. She has exhibited widely and has extensive experience teaching wood engraving across the South of England.