An exploration of versions is part of ArtÓ’s genetic makeup. Our curated collection of ‘owned not loaned’ artworks includes both an original painting and limited edition print by Colin Brown displayed with equal respect. We’ve delighted in enabling an enthusiastic collector of Alastair Gibson’s carbon fibre Baby Piranha sculptures to acquire the same number in the run across different designs and find significance in the iteration.
The list goes on. One of the first things you encounter on entering the gallery are product proofs of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals. Our ‘cabinet of curiosities’ includes a handsewn comic ‘Blue’ by Martyna Sabadasz, the launchpad for her limited edition print of the same name which we also have on show. We’re fascinated too by variation printing in the works of Chris Guest. Artist signed or embellished limited edition print runs of 50 or 100 have a home in the gallery as much as open edition prints and artists proofs.
As we continue to ponder the questions of exclusivity versus greater reach, uniqueness and repetition, we count ourselves lucky to have connected with experts in this field, the Centre For Print Research at the University of the West of England in Bristol. As a centre of research excellence focused on the future of print, it’s inherently concerned with multiplicity. Innovation and variety are immediately and visibly evident on visiting and its empirical approach to investigation is internationally acclaimed.
To call the Centre For Print Research a hive of activity is inadequate. At once laboratory, studio and research facility, it could be more accurately described as an ecosystem, a dynamic entity which takes in many forms of energy and influence – both people and process – and melds these into a fluidly functioning whole. Traditional printing methods are placed deliberately cheek by jowl alongside cobots (collaborative robots), inkjet, UV and 3D printing and laser cutting technology placing print methods in a wider context of societal change.
The centre has a story to tell at every turn. Its own ‘cabinet of curiosities’ contains silicone replica hearts to aid medical research, ceramic water filters for the Healthy Waters project and plant pots constructed from waste coffee grounds subjected to intense hydraulic pressure, all made in situ. A digitally produced exploration of colour trends in Vogue covers by Arthur Buxton hangs on the wall within line of sight of a cabinet housing original typefaces for a traditional letterpress. A tour of the centre sees artist in residence Tracy Hill talking to camera about her performative practice of creating soundscapes with graphene.
CFPR Editions is the centre’s specialist publishing studio concentrating on limited edition prints across a range of media including digital. Through its artist residency programme CFPR Editions is further opening up conversations on the theme of the multiple, exploring (and challenging) the concept of ‘the original’ and ‘reproductions’ and analysing how editions encourage democracy, accessibility and connection via a community of owners. Each artist is given creative space, literal and metaphorical, to investigate new ways of making that refer back to the idea of the many versus the one.
If traditional gallery settings overtly or unconsciously prompt a ‘look but don’t touch’ attitude to art, the Centre For Print Research turns this on its head with works such as Brownster Hen’s palm-sized resin skulls and Rodrigo Arteaga’s collection boxes that invite opening. Both projects prompt deeply personal reactions through a tactile experience. This sense of reaching out and gaining resonance via the act is echoed in our approach at ArtÓ where our philosophy is very much one of ‘please do touch’. We’d be disappointed if you didn’t.
Some links are simply meant to be forged. ArtÓ is a small gallery with a big heart with strong personal links to Bristol. One of our featured artists, Cheltenham-based Martyna Sabadasz, is also an alumna from the UWE Graphics Arts MA programme. Sometimes you just get a feeling, that you’re speaking the same language and listening to people with something relevant and impactful to say. Discussions with the team at CFPR are animated, make the brain fizz and last longer than their physical duration. We can’t wait to carry on talking.