Study event review: Ways of Seeing

Exhibition Models in Cambridge

On a very busy Saturday in Cambridge five students and I visited several locations to see work in a variety of contexts. The Cambridge Original Printmakers Biennale at the Pitt Building was our starting point. Student Clair Jackson describes the show.

“There was a huge amount of work split across two rooms and a wide variety of styles. All prints were for sale and a few of the exhibitors were present in person at the exhibition and available to answer questions on their prints. Our visit also included a 3D print demonstration with Ricardo Pimentel who showed us an example using an Albion press as well as showing us his piece ‘Inferno’ including a hidden 3D image when viewing the piece with a mobile app.”

Learning about the way that technology is being harnessed to create printing plates, in this case a photograph turned into code for a 3D printer to create a plate, showed how printmakers are always seeking out new ways of working. Nevertheless, the traditional techniques of printmaking, with its luscious glossy inks and emotionally loaded metals, the heavy machinery of printing presses and the inherent emotion and excited anticipation when pulling a print remain at the core of innovations in the field.

Illustration: Cambridge Judge Business school interior

The OCA group moved on to briefly visit the extraordinary interior of the Cambridge Judge Business School. Usually closed to the public, this was an opportunity to see the design of architect John Outram executed when the building was re-designed from the old Addenbrooke’s Hospital to its current use as a place of learning. It is a riotous mix of colour, surface and texture, now accompanied by a sister building that is by contrast, calm and neutral designed by architects Stanton Williams.

We moved on to our final destination, Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, home of The New Hall Art Collection of modern and contemporary art by women. The Collection, which was founded in 1986 with the purchase of Mary Kelly’s six-part work Extase, has evolved through gifts and loans from artists and alumnae and today includes over five hundred works by artists of international quality and renown – including Dame Paula Rego, Maggi Hambling CBE, Cornelia Parker, Sandra Blow, Lubaina Himid and Judy Chicago – and is now considered to be one of the largest and most significant collections of contemporary art by women in the world.

The New Hall collection includes several paintings and woodcuts by Gwen Raverat, granddaughter of Charles Darwin. Many of the works depict aspects of Cambridge where Raverat spent much of her life. Her observation of light and shade, and the exquisitely fine detail of the woodcuts are modestly sized, none more so than the tiny print “Good Night’ which was made for reproduction in the Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children. Raverat’s husband, Frenchman Jacques Raverat died at a young age, Her portrait of him is touchingly direct as he looks out of the frame of the work.

See it here https://www.raverat.com/prints/prints-1925/portrait-of-jacques-raverat-1-signed

Student Angela Mullins said of the visit to Murray Edwards “I was delighted to see a large piece by Eileen Cooper who I am currently studying but also because I’ll be exploring female artists in comparison to their male counterparts both in contemporary and historical context.”

The three venues illustrated widely differing approaches to the way that art can be shown and seen. From a collection formed over time within a single theme, to an exhibition comprised of work that had been selected and exhibited as part of a paying, wholly commercial model, to work created site specifically, the venues each illustrated the many ways that art can make its way into the world.

Student Emma Maitland summed up the visit. “The opportunity to compare and contrast plus much more time to reflect, discuss the work and hear about the approach of other students took the experience to another level. Reflecting on what I got from the day as a whole, I can see two interlinked strands emerging both of which have pushed me beyond the more technical concerns that inevitably occupy me at this early stage in my OCA studies, namely what my work could be and where it might go:

Being – the idea that my work could become anything and take me anywhere conceptually as well as materially really excites me. Even though I still need to develop my technical skills, realising that it doesn’t have to be a traditional print, or a photograph, or even a hybrid of the two is liberating and inspiring.

Going – I realised that thinking about where my work might go, in terms of sharing it with a viewer, needs to become an integral part of the process of developing it rather than an afterthought, or indeed something I don’t currently think about at all.”

Featured image: Illustration: Work by Bren Unwin, exhibitor at Cambridge Original Printmakers Biennale. Photo: Clair Jackson

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