Spread throughout the labyrinthine DJCAD buildings, printmaking is a quiet yet impressively employed practice in the ‘Fine Art’ degree show. From Abi Baikie’s layers of printed abstractions and painted figures to Guy Titterington’s screen printed palettes, almost all of the works manage print with poise. Down at the far end of the level five Fine Art corridor, Anna Olafsson’s lengthy work immediately catches the eye. Stretching out beneath four eye-catching frames of print which perfectly capture the essence of folk music, her work is brimming with beautifully textured titles of “Tunes” which have stuck in her head since her adolescent attempts at the fiddle. Through her aptly named ”The Tunes in my Head”, ending at the ”Tunes at my Feet”, Olafsson offers a guided experience connecting the sensuousness of fiddle strokes to the material locations where she learnt the tunes themselves, making for a complex and noteworthy project.
Further on in, Allyson Jane Fraser’s printed publication ”An Alphabet” and adjacent framed prints of all 26 letters of the English language, provide a visual and mental experience to pause over. By taking the mundane letters out of context and aligning them with the soliloquies of Adolf Hitler (written in the hand of her 21 year old brother whose lettering is never identical), she provides a fresh challenge to literature and type. Through her ironic employment Hitler’s own words, she has created an absurd(ist) challenge to literary norms; through her abstraction, Hitler’s words serve as motivational maxims rather than defamatory expressions of a political demagogue. Alongside, her 26 screen-printed letters with non-identical layering provides thought-provoking insight into the often overlooked aspects of reading and everyday life. There is stunning complexity to her work; it stands to reason that she has been announced as both the RSA New Contemporaries (2016) Selected Artist and the 2015 Winner of the Dundee Print Collective & Dundee Contemporary Arts Print Studio’s Award For Printmaking.
Away from familiar but still as provocative, Lorie Ballage’s large screen-printed map of the Outer Hebridean area where she learnt to face her phobia of water through diving presents another guide into the extraordinary via the everyday. By only showing water depth in superficial diagrammatic form, she captures bodily limitations to marine exploration and also the enduring curiosity that the sea inspires in us. Together with her oak chest that houses 248 prints depicting impressions of the sea in a variety of printmaking techniques, her display as a whole offers a more in-depth representation of our fascination with the undiscovered aquatic landscape. Downstairs, Bobby Sinclair’s photographs of strangers in the street not only shows off a high calibre of printmaking expertise on paper, fabric, plastic and aluminium but perhaps, and more importantly, the reproduction of these portraits breaks down the illusion of solidity and, like Ballage’s map, invites the viewer to project themselves and imagine the identity and depth of each work.
The predominance of themes of “nurture” and “growth”, which abound amongst many of the works, mirrors the outstanding creativity of printmaking techniques utilized by the graduating artists. From Catherine Dickson’s layered repetitive prints to Amy Bertram’s use of small sculptures as printmaking tools, there remains a significant facet of printmaking within the Fine Art degree show imaginary that testifies to its ongoing importance. This is exemplified in the works of both Mhairi Anderson and Eilidh Wilson, whose print personifies the socio-economic juxtapositions of Scottish culture. From ‘Community’ to communities in protest, both works adopt print in a manner that captures what other techniques struggle to: the alive, natural aesthetic of everyday life. In Anna Olafsson’s work, the everyday pulses in the folk tunes of Perthshire, for Fraser it radiates in the handwriting of siblings and sinners, and in Eilidh Wilson’s, the fist in the air.
Printmaking at the 2015 DJCAD degree show is often hidden away, intermixed and watered down by other visual aids. Yet it proffers a tangible mark of distinction, inviting visitors to step imaginatively into the artwork that certainly holds its own amongst other forms.