For six weeks over the summer just gone the Grafisch Atelier Alkmaar moved its printing presses and its artists from the Jugendstil school building it occupies in the city centre to a huge deconsecrated church two blocks away to print and celebrate 40 years in business: GAA Druk Maken 2015 (trans.create pressure or make a fuss).
Printmakers in all media and many nationalities were invited to participate and, as Bath Artist Printmakers have previously collaborated with the workshop, (Bath being twinned with Alkmaar), three BAP artists were included: Leah Crews, Sheena Vallely and myself, Emma Gregory.
In addition to installing the print equipment GAA had created a floor based exhibition space from rough wooden palettes running around the Grote Kerk (‘Great Church’) to show printed works from all over the world, also running workshops and print related events. The public drifting in all day, week round.
So much of the experience was exciting and moving. Print artists command proper respect of the public in mainland Europe which is always a shock. I gave a good talk about my current project and the difficulties I’m having in readying it for exhibition in a museum environment – this ended with a heated discussion on contextualisation, the entire audience (of 9) on its feet.
I made a surprisingly good body of work including a leporello book, the form neatly mimicking its subject matter – roof tops of Alkmaar – and a short edition of screenprints that sold as I was printing them. Finally, Alkmaar itself, the Dutch technicians and supporting staff, in particular my hosts Merel and Rolluf Van Laar, whom I pretty much fell in love with – genuine and creative individuals devoted to pedagogy and print.
This project began with an opportunity for Emma to draw in Liverpool University’s heritage collections store. Initial lines of enquiry focussed on the particular challenges involved in caring for organic specimens but when her father became ill the project developed in a more personal direction.
The work in this exhibition has been selected from a larger body of prints, drawings and mixed media experiments made during and after these experiences. In the context of family loss and preservation – of collections and memories – it represents a meditation on the transient nature of existence.
Emma Gregory studied drawing and printmaking at Sir John Cass, Central School of Art and UCLan. Between 2003 and 2013 she taught printmaking in Liverpool and re-established the Bluecoat’s print studios. She continues to teach across the North West although she now lives in Bristol. She is ‘member book-keeper’ at Spike Print Studios and a volunteer technician at Bath Artist Printmakers.