MIRROR MIRROR OPENING NIGHT
by David Greenhalgh
The Mirror Mirror exhibition was lit by a sole source of light during opening night: an unassuming tungsten bulb lay in a corner awaiting destruction. Across the floor of CoFAspace stood Al Poulet, assuming the persona of the wandering flaneur: Like a character from a Beckett play, prone to boredom and a destructive urge, Poulet began to throw various projectiles at the light. With a balloon-like pop, a well aimed stone threw the gallery and all its patrons into darkness. While this wanton destruction seemed without purpose, the Throwdown Press residency, begun by Jason Phu and Ben Rak had a well-defined agenda: Explore the possiblities of printmaking, but not with seasoned printmakers. Three amateurs held the reigns of the inaugural residency, and the results reveled amongst a lack of experienced control.
A lack of control seems an appropriate common ground amongst the artists Al Poulet, Patrick Cremin and Ramesh Nitheyendran: Poulet used the printmaking process to record the destructive acts he plays out; Cremin explored the intrusion of surveillance on our lives while Nitheyendran seemingly can’t control the sexual urges of his hedonistic idols.
Mirror Mirror is an example of what happens when a medium as full of history, tradition and decorum is hijacked by practitioners of other mediums: given printmaking’s tightly cloistered, proper world we might even be tempted to call them outsider artists.
To emphasise, perhaps even exaggerate the acts of appropriation these three artists engaged in, Mirror Mirror placed their previous mediums of choice, including painting, photography and sculpture adjacent to the prints produced over a few month in 2012. The Throwdown Press residency is an experiment in the act of translation, or of learning a new language and its intricacies. If art visually communicates, printmaking has a well defined vocabulary of it’s own, one of considered, patient chemical biting. Yet an immediacy to the images this residency produced is apparent, as though the vocabulary of a previous practice was transposed onto the plate.
Cremin utilised the aspect of linework in printmaking to build a vocabulary of surveillance, the grooves etched into the zinc plates came to be one and the same as a security camera‘s assessment of every passerby.
Poulet pushed his plates to capture immediacy and gesture, two things usually lacking in the labourious printmaking process, as a trace of a hurtled projectile marked the zinc plate this residency gave him. The images produced read like a crime scene: suggestive, not telling.
Nitheyendran’s prints are comparable to the cocks they depict: brash, lacking conventional beauty, impulsive and graphic, yet you can’t look away. The subtlety generally favoured by printmaking has been cast aside for a hedonistic vision designed to displace sensibilities.
In his opening night speech, Michael Kempson, master printmaker and head of CoFA’s printmaking department asked why these artists have willingly worked with a superseded print technology. Why use an ancient method to speak to such progressive concerns? Perhaps this is answerable to the analogy of artforms as language: In a desire to further express themselves, Ramesh, Al and Patrick now have an expanded vocabulary. Old words now have a new currency with Throwdown Press’ adventurous dialogue with Poulet, Cremin and Nitheyendran.