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Artists’ Press, White River, South Africa

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Artists' Press founder Mark Attwood at work on the letterpress

Artists' Press founder Mark Attwood on the letterpress

Greentings from the Lowveld – September 4, 2009

The economy may have slowed down but things in the slowveld have been very busy (hence writing has been on the back burner). The beginning of August marked seven years for us being here, this has caught us by surprise…. Hopefully it will not take us another seven years to put a celebration party together! Perhaps the best way to celebrate is the fact that our micro hydro system is almost up and running. The garden has been churned up with a huge trench, unsightly blue pipes littered the view and huge boots have flattened the grass… The chaos is almost over though and the unusually early rain will hopefully mend the scars fairly briskly. We are now just waiting for the engineer (who said artists are unreliable???), the turbine was promised for the first week of July, we are still waiting…. The turbine will mean that we have closed one more environmental circle. Bruce, Mark’s father is proudly telling his friends that his son is the owner of a power station.
We were lucky enough to attend a talk by Cormack Cullinan (if you don’t know who he is do a google). He mentioned that one needs to look at systems in ones lives in terms of circles and that one should close as many of these as possible. The circles that we are lucky enough to have closed are: water (borehole/septic tanks and soaks), vegetable garden/nut trees/fruit trees-food-compost, chickens-eggs-food waste, heating (burn invasive trees from our land)-ash-compost,  energy (solar and micro-hydro power). We have become somewhat obsessive to see what other circles we can close. The swimming pool is next on the list (be warned that Mark’s conversation will now consist of reed bed systems, natural filters and algae).  Simon and Maru are trying to out us as hippies, the next sentence may just do it! Circles echo the inter-connectedness of everything on this planet.  Cormack also commented on how many company/political logos have been transformed into circles in recent years. Even more hippie: we have also tried our hand at sandbag building (with a small retaining wall in the parking area), copying Theuns Naude who has built a stunning center using this method, we filled orange packaging bags with soil from the site, a bit of brick force, a local gum pole or two and voila! The turbine house is next. Theuns also gave us his paint recipe (more sound than what you can buy and it is odorless) 3 parts parts water to one part plaster bond liquid, add to white cement and oxides ( a few spoons for colour), mix into a thick paste (stiffer than ordinary paint) and apply. We painted the outside of our house with this and it cost R 670 for the paint.
We have spent most of this year catching up with editioning and are happy to announce that we are now on top of things. This means that we have a stash of fantastic new prints to launch by Robert Hodgins ( http://www.artprintsa.com/robert-hodgins.html ), Colbert Mashile (http://www.artprintsa.com/colbert-mashile-lithographs-05.html) and  Fiona Pole (html http://www.artprintsa.com/fiona-pole.html ). Take a look at them, they make for a good welcome to Spring 2009. The photograph above is an indicator of how the print market is looking for us,the odd bend but steadily climbing! The pic was taken at Lekgalemeetse reserve in Limpopo on a bizarre stretch of tar in the middle of the veld, sign posted as the Orrie Baragwaneth Pass, a remnant of the loopy homeland system. Limpopo has become our travel destination of choice, part of the reason for this is that it seems to not be the destination of choice for anyone else so we have the place to ourselves. In April we spent nine days in the Machabeng and the Blouberg. In the Machabeng we camped in the bush (no facilities, just pristine bush, brilliant) and spent the days exploring the rock art of the area as well as climbing Thabantlanyana (but only half way up, it is very steep and Simon has Tamar’s total fear of heights so we wobbled out of a summit bid). Last summers rains turned the bush into the most spectacular display of colour and seed pods. We decided that this is where our retirement village will be (we walked past quite a few “fix-it-uppers” that we are sure will be snapped up once the property market revives). At the base of the Blouberg is a village called “My Darling”, what else can one ask for! In the Machabeng we saw lots of kids riding around on big yellow mountain bikes. Government in Limpopo is delivering…and some of the delivery is green, it is a brilliant transport solution for kids who live in rural areas far from their schools. The department of transport has given kids identified by their teachers bikes and helmets so that they can get to school more easily. On returning home we were thrilled to see that our local farm school has also been given the bikes. Now we are holding thumbs that the Shova Kalula project goes national. At the beginning of winter we organised grey school jerseys for each of the pupils in the school, so seeing them warmly dressed and cycling to school gets the day off to a good start.
At the beginning of June we held our second monoprint workshop. Karin Daymond, Dominique Mayer, Jen Lewis and Ilona Petzer added their names to the group and Griet van der Meulen, Josie Grindrod and Erica Schoeman took part for the second time! It was intense and some beautiful prints were done. We will be running our third workshop in September as the demand has been insistent. Take a look at the monoprint page to see some pics: http://www.artprintsa.com/monoprint-workshop.html
Simon is shooting up like a bamboo spike and turned twelve in June (we ordered a load of books from Amazon and have been frantically reading up on how to handle teenagers – seems that keeping boys as far away as possible from computer games is a good start), we are quite keen on putting together some sort of alternate initiation thing for him. In the States there is a programme where boys go with their dad’s to spend a month or so building community buildings like school rooms in disadvantaged communities in South America. We have decided that this would be a great way of physically extending him and giving back to the community in a way that will also be good for some solid male bonding and all very possible in the South African context.  Anyone out there who would like to join Mark and Simon (probably in the next year or two)?. Tamar is dreaming up plans for Maru (although these are somewhat fuzzier and revolve around going off into the mountains to gather medicinal plants…). Hmm, never thought that we would be heading up an in-house initiation school!
At the end of July we went off to the Bushfire Festival in Swaziland and had a total jol at House on Fire. Seeing Vusi Mahlasela, Dhobet Gnahore and Habib Koite among others sharing the stage was sublime. On the bushfire front we all spent a day fighting a neighbours fire break fire that got out of control. It is amazing seeing what a wind, dry grass and neglected blue gum plantations can combine into. We have taken advantage of the burning out of our veld by planting a bunch of new trees and papyrus and sedges into our little wetland. Being so close to the effects of weather has led us to discovering the most fantastic weather forecasting site. Our new oracle is Norway. The Norwegians are way ahead of the South African Weather Bureau (whose site has collapsed into a disco bunny confusion of advertising and web gimmicks). Norway has six (!!!!) weather stations around Nelspruit and they are very accurate. The address is : http://www.yr.no once on the site you do a search for your location.
All the best from Mark and Tamar
The Artists’ Press
PO Box 1236
White River
1240
tel 013 751 3225 or 083 676 3229

Sanibonani,

Greetings from a rather damp Lowveld. We had 60mm of rain over the weekend, the little river in our valley is now rather large and is flooding with the overflow from Witklip Dam, where we saw a lazy fish eagle waiting for fish to be swept over the dam wall (it knocked off at about 6pm, we watched it fly off to its roost). The rain has been fantastic but has also means that we have mould growing on everything from handbags to wooden carvings and dining room chairs. Ahhh, the sub-tropical life!

We had a very laid back Christmas break, it disappeared in a haze of working in the veggie garden, reading books and staring into space. Too divine. The year stated off in top gear and we are shooting ahead despite what we read is a “sputtering” art market, (bit much being part of an industry which is described as sputtering!). So far we have already had Robert Hodgins and Conrad Botes in the studio. While here Conrad signed two large “comic strip” prints, to see them : www.artprintsa.com/conrad-botes.html . Helen Sebidi has returned to complete the big print that she started last year. Claudette Schreuders has just signed her latest series of prints, The Fall see : www.artprintsa.com/claudette-schreuders.html: In January we also launched Anton Kannemeyers new lithographs www.artprintsa.com/anton-kannemeyer.html . Judith Mason’s retrospective exhibition opened in January to the Sasol Gallery at the University of Stellenbosch, until the 18th March 2009, if you are in the Cape and have not seen it yet, get there!

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Maru is now in grade three and Simon has sprouted into grade six. For Christmas Maru got a soccer ball and Simon a cast net (yet to catch a fish). For her birthday Maru got a guitar (early present), it is tiny and will commence service this month with her taking up lessons. She has been begging us to let her learn how to play an instrument since grade one, we decided that a guitar would lead to less parental rage than a piano and we harbour fantasies that she will learn to play the guitar in the vein of Louis Mhlanga (odd how ones own children are ALWAYS the most brilliant and gifted).

Simon and Maru continue to amaze us with what they see in the garden, no insect (see pics), flower bud or monkey goes unnoticed. A few weeks ago Maru rushed into the house having discovered a baby tortiose in the garden. She named it Eloff (a name she had previously decided would be suitable for a tortoise). Eloff turned out to be something of an aquatic tortoise, who would grunt when nearing water! After a few days of very close observation we released him at a nearby wildlife estate (see pic).

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On the 14th January Sarah went to tidy up the stone house and noticed a mamba in the rafters (house hadn’t had a human occupant for some time), we called in the mamba catchers, Andrew and Malcolm, they ably removed the fellow, just over 2m long. After evicting the dodgy tenant Andrew asked if he could rent the stone house, he and his land rover (vanity plates read SNAIL) have now happily settled in. Then at lunchtime (still the 14th) Mark and Leshoka caught a Mozambican Spitting Cobra near the recycling bins and took it off the property. In the evening as we sitting down to dinner Emma started barking, thinking it was the scavenging monkey, Simon got out his kati and shot a palm seed into a small tree on the lawn. A vine snake fell to the ground, most grumpy at being dislodged from its perch (they can sit still in one position for days on end waiting for prey). It puffed up its neck and gave us a good display of its beautiful markings before being caught by Mark to be released in the bush far away! Fortunately on the snake front things have been very quite since then.

The vervet monkey that has made occasional forays into our garden has been getting bolder (taking food from the kitchens) and has discovered the veggie garden. This meant that we had to harvest all our mangos in one shot, and we are trying to disguise the butternuts, from which it takes one bite out of before moving on to the next delicacy. He has also ruined our mielie crop and we are fed up. He has also stated to bring in back up; Syneth spotted four the other day. Any suggestions for chasing them away would be most welcome!

Bird wise things have also been busy. We have spotted two stunning snake eagles soaring over our valley and about fifty amur falcons have been seen swirling overhead. Plum coloured starlings and green pigeons have been feasting on the mitziri fruit and Simon intercepted a hawk eating one of our baby guinea fowl (through the cage net). We have made a chicken tractor… it is a permaculture concept and is basically a portable chicken hok that you put over veggie beds when they are finished producing. The chickens eat the weeds, pests, remaining plants and dig it all up for you while busily fertilizing the soil. All organic food waste and weeds get tossed into the hok too. Net result is digging is cut out; chickens feed themselves, the soil and produce eggs. Even the earthworms seem to thrive in this no dig system. Mark is busy converting anyone who will listen to the permaculture way (Maru is bored stiff and is begging him to talk about Sonae’s pollution instead). Tamar has taken to hiding his latest reading, a book about biodynamic farming that goes into stuffing cow horns with dung and burying them at strategic points, playing Bach to your seedlings and a whole host of Steiner ideas that bring back deeply buried memories of a Waldorf education for Tamar.

On the green front we have added a green page to our website: www.artprintsa.com/environmental-efforts.htmlhttp://www.earthhour.org/news/za%3Aen.

Yesterday we got a quote for our micro hydro scheme (gulp, it will take us fifteen years to pay it off) but the thought of buying an electric car in a few years time and then being able to tell people we run it off our canal water makes us feel a little better about the cost. On the 28th March is Earth Hour, take a look at how you can participate, even if it is just having a candlelit dinner and gazing at the stars

While you are on the web take a look at The south African Print Gallery which Gabriel Clark Brown (of SA Art Times fame) has just opened in Cape Town, we wish them loads of success. www.printgallery.co.za

Vasbyt through the elections, we have wild moments fantasising about the military being deployed to plant veggies (the First Airborne Vegetable Division…) is this what happens when the faithful loose hope?

With best green wishes

Mark and Tamar

tel 013 751 3225 or 083 676 3229
The Artists’ Press
PO Box 1236
White River
1240
mark@artistspress.co.za
http://www.artprintsa.com

2009 Greetings

It seems appropriate to start down the dodgy looking road of 2009 with a new series of lithographs by Anton Kannemeyer. In a few months time South Africans go to the polls to vote for a new president, as we envy the USA and their (for once) fine choice of leader. The thorny issues and deceptive side tracks that Kannemeyer explores with his imagery seem claustrophobically appropriate as does his acid sense of humour. Take a look at the images and be either appaled or enthralled. Some of these prints were exhibited on Kannemeyer’s exhibition ” Fear of a Black Planet” at the Micheal Stevenson Gallery in Oct/Nov 2008. http://www.artprintsa.com/anton-kannemeyer.html
To order prints or for higher res images please contact us.
antonsay
Best wishes

Mark Attwood
mark@artistspress.co.za
http://www.artprintsa.com

Mark & Tamar’s Holiday Newsletter 2008

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Greetings,

Change seems to be in. On the weather side we have had loads of fantastic rain and the garden has transformed into green paradise, at the moment just about everything that can flower is flowering and the birds and frogs are as close as they can get to amphibian and avian heaven. The lightening storms have been spectacular and have included some green lightening (eye witnessed by Maru, Simon and Mark), promise it is not due to all the home grown veggies we are eating!

Judith’s retrospective exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg has been a huge success. The opening was massive (about seven hundred people) and the subsequent walkabouts were also in demand with about two hundred people turning up. Seeing her work together in same space, spanning just slightly more than their lives was quite something for Tamar and Petra (who flew in from NYC with her husband Ausbert). It was amazing to see visual aspects of one’s childhood all beautifully curated and lined up on a wall. It was also an incredible experience for Simon and Maru to see part of what their Ouma has created.

Politics has changed and has started to get interesting again. We are much relieved at the exit of Mbeki and Dr Beetroot and hope that South African will use their brains and not other parts of their anatomies when they go to the polls next year. Msholozi is the name given to an illegal settlement (plots being sold for R 50 each) over the hill from us. This is not what we want from the next government and yet we are skating rather close… hopefully COPE (one rather hopes that political parties in a thriving democracy do more than just cope) will be able to set us on a course of having a real opposition to keep the ruling party in line. The madness that has led America seems to have also changed. Lets hope that Obama can lead his country away from the political and environmental mess that it is in. It was a close call; a moose killer with a fragile grasp of geography would have been worrying to have in the White House.

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The crime in our valley seems to have calmed down (for the meanwhile) and the police have shown that they are up to national standards by being totally incompetent. The only arrest that was made in a spate of robberies lasting five months was when a woman spotted her stolen quad bike on the back of a bakkie, she then called her husband who was able to intercept the bakkie and arrest the occupants of the bakkie with a …. paintball gun. We have just finished reading Johnny Steinberg’s book about the South African police titled ‘Thin Blue”, his analysis is succinct and well worth reading.

And the rand is rapidly turning into small change. Following the trends of the rest of the economy the art market has also taken it’s knock, although one would not think so with Damien Hirst’s auction. Like the housing market the international art market has been a bit loopy over the last few years. We are most relieved to have just paid off the bond on our property, when we bought six years ago, our neighbours thought that we were mad paying what we did for our property, now you would be hard pressed to buy an apartment in White River for that amount.

We are also pleased that we have been able to continue to publish work by such fine artists. Since we last wrote we have launched a number of stunning prints by the following artists: Judith Mason: <http://www.artprintsa.com/judith-mason.html> Sam Nhlengethwa<http://www.artprintsa.com/sam-nhlengethwa-03.html> Robert Hodgins (see attached pic) <http://www.artprintsa.com/robert-hodgins.html> and Anton Kannemeyer: www.artprintsa.com/anton-kannemeyer.html To catch up click on the links. We are ending the year with Helen Sebidi in the studio (it has been a while, she started work on a print about fourteen years ago which we still have to complete….).

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Mark has set up a book binding division (in the upstairs storeroom) for the studio and with the help of a book Leshoka bought in the USA has fashioned a plough and a lying press out of old printing equipment and some superwood. The first edition to be bound on the new equipment is a beautiful book by William Kentridge, based on a flipbook and titled ”Breathe”. It has been suggested what we could go into passport forgery if the economy really goes sideways. Mark has perfected that old embossed printed on fabric text thing.

In October we got the sad news that Coex’ae (Dada) Qgam had died of cancer. Tamar worked with Dada at the Kuru Art Project in Botswana and subsequently on various projects, including Qauqaua ( www.artprintsa.com/qauqaua.html ). She was one of the Kuru artists that Mark accompanied to work at Tamarind in the USA in 1997. We will miss her wicked sense of humour, vision and tenacity.

On the environmental front, shopping in a ordinary supermarket continues to be more and more of a challenge as we keep deleting non-local, processed, heavily packaged and not organic off our shopping list. We are mostly vegetarian now (every now and then a craving for boerewors, sheshebo and pap gets too much and we cave in) eating meat about once every ten days. And we feel much better for it (as does the wallet, 20 lamb chops cost nearly R 200 at the butcher a few days ago). Reading, “Eat your Heart Out” by Felicity Lawrence (Penguin) has taken simba chips off the list for us as well as cereal (studies show that mice fed the cereal box plus milk, sugar and few raisins actually did better than those fed the cereal, milk, sugar and a few raisins). Farewell coco pops and niknaks. We have subscribed (for free) to two fantastic websites that have great green content www.greenlivingtips.com <http://www.greenlivingtips.com> and the South African www.urbansprout.co.za <http://www.urbansprout.co.za>

Our shopping trolley is not the only thing changing; our cleaning cupboard is also looking a bit different. We have replaced bleach and Handy Andy etc with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda for household cleaning (if you want recipes let us know and we will email them to you). After a few months of this regime (get the mix right, Tamar never did chemistry and was surprised the first time she tossed the bicarb and vinegar together….) our house is as clean as ever. Bicarb also replaces fabric softener brilliantly. A ¼ cup added to the final rinse means fabrics are easy to iron and do not have that horrid synthetic perfume. Now to find something that works really works to replace washing powder.

Body care has also come under the green spotlight and here it is easy to go green, be healthier and support our local economy. Toothpaste has been the hardest adjustment (Colgate is just so lekker!) but we have are hardcore so have switched to Enchantrix peppermint toothpaste, we think it is better than their fennel and clove variety. For soap, moisturiser, shampoo, body butter etc we have switched to using the Victorian garden range (local, petro-chemical, paraben etc free with organic ingredients also) and a pleasure to use www.thevictoriangarden.co.za <http://www.thevictoriangarden.co.za>

Seeing as we are pushing all these brands we have also read a fantastic book called “Bonfire of the Brands” by Neil Boorman, with true Brit humour he tears his obsession with brands apart. Buy it; it is an excellent antidote to the Christmas consumer frenzy.

Viva change! Lets just hope it is for the better.

With best wishes for a slow, local and peaceful holiday season.

Mark and Tamar.

About The Artists’ Press

The Artists’ Press is dedicated to bringing you the finest limited edition original prints available in South Africa. The artists that we represent are among the finest in southern Africa and have exhibited locally and internationally.

Our vision is:

  • To introduce global audiences to South African printmaking.
  • To sell high quality original prints in an affordable and accessible manner.
  • To provide artists with the opportunity to collaborate with master printers to produce original prints of the highest quality.
  • To introduce visual artists to print techniques as a new medium.
  • To work with artists from marginalized communities to offer them new opportunities to get their voices heard and to promote their work through the collaborative process.
  • To contribute to the development and expansion of art in southern Africa by focusing on excellence.

In 1991 The Artists’ Press opened its doors in Newtown, Johannesburg, under the direction of Tamarind Master Printer, Mark Attwood. The Artists’ Press started as a lithography studio providing artists in southern Africa with a workshop dedicated to the production of limited edition hand printed lithographs.

Leshoka, Mark and Syneth

Leshoka, Mark and Syneth

Since its inception the press has grown steadily and today offers a variety of print processes to artists as well as publishing and selling original prints and artists books via the website www.artprintsa.com . In 2003 The Artists’ Press relocated to a farming area just outside of White River in Mpumalanga, South Africa. In the purpose-built studio the press now offers lithography, letterpress, intaglio, mono printing and relief printing.

Mark Attwood has worked in the printing field since 1981, apprenticing in his father’s print shop (The Broederstroom Press), and later trained in hand printing at Lowick House Print Workshop (UK) and at The Tamarind Institute, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (USA). Leshoka Legate, joined the press in 1999 and qualified as a Master Printer at The Tamarind Institute in 2006. Syneth Nyandeni who trained at The Artists Proof Studio in Newtown joined the workshop in 2004 and went on to complete The Professional Printer training programme at Tamarind in 2007. Jackie Tsila from Hazyview is the multi-talented press assistant.

Syneth and Sarah packing prints

Syneth and Sarah packing prints

From time to time recently qualified master printers work at the press, which serves to keep us up to date with international trends and provides the printers with the opportunity to gain experience in a professional print shop. To date the following Tamarind Master Printers have worked with us: Lee Turner (UK), Sarah Dudley (Canada) and Ulrich Kuehle(Germany). Printer Todd Anderson (USA) who has worked at Tandem Press has also assisted us, as well as Rwandan refugee John Taouss who is an intern at The Artists Proof Studio.

The Artists' Press guesthouse

The Artists' Press guesthouse

Reflections on the dam

Reflections on the dam

The Artists’ Press is a small studio dedicated to offering artists the very best in personal attention. All work printed at the studio is done by hand. We use acid-free paper and the most light-fast inks available, taking the utmost care to ensure that the work is of the highest possible standard. We belong to the South African Paper Conservation Group, and continually strive to improve the quality of our prints. All editions are carefully curated and documented. Once editions have been printed and signed, the plate or stone is defaced thereby preserving the integrity of the edition and ensuring that no “second editions” can be printed. Documentation sheets are available, on request, for all editions printed at the studio.

Interior of The Artists' Press studio

Interior of The Artists' Press studio

The Artists’ Press has been internationally recognised for its contribution to developing the culture of printmaking in Africa. The studio has initiated and taken part in a number of exciting international and regional projects. These have included collaborations with the Kuru Art Project (Botswana). Most notable of these is the publication of Qauqaua (the first book written in a San language, as told by the San and illustrated by San artists and bound in traditionally tanned goatskin). Qauqaua was selected in 2001 for the “Voyages Exhibition” of the Smithsonian Institute Libraries and was listed by the Grolier Book Club as one of the top ten highlights of the exhibition.

The Ultimate Safari, a short story written by Nobel Prize laureate Nadine Gordimer, was illustrated by Mozambican refugees living in South Africa and poignantly illustrates the need for peace and co-operation as a prerequisite for development.

Leshoka and Jackie editioning

Leshoka and Jackie editioning

The studio uses one chop: TAP, which are the initials of The Artists’ Press. These have been assembled to reflect the form of a hand litho press as seen from the side. All prints produced at the studio are embossed with this chop.

Tribute Series lithographs 2008

Sam Nhlengethwa

Sam Nhlengethwa is intrigued by people and their spaces “Throughout the years, all my pieces have dealt with the movement of people. I enjoy paying homage to people and places through my art”. In this series of prints, the second in which he pays tribute to some of his visual art contemporaries, he salutes Dumile Feni, William Kentridge, Judith Mason, Marlene Dumas, Peter Clark and David Koloane. The first series honoured George Pemba, Dumisani Mabaso, Esta Mahlangu, Robert Hodgins and Gerard Sekoto.

All these artists are South African and all of them have secured their place on the local and international art scene. By recreating the works of his contemporaries and role models and then placing them within a represented or imagined gallery space Nhlengethwa provides a new context in which to experience the work of these celebrated artists. The artist’s work has been paired up with contemporary spaces and furniture that emphasise Nhlengethwa’s understanding of the “mental space” of that particular artist, and then pulled together using Nhlengethwa’s own distinctive style.

Notes from the first series in 2003.”Sam Nhlengethwa has revisited the interior theme from a new angle. In his first series of interiors Sam Nhlengethwa dealt with personal memories of interior spaces. In this series he extends the concept of prints as a tribute to those that have inspired him and focuses on a selection of South African artists Esta Mahlangu has forged a path for herself despite being a rural woman with limited formal education and in so doing has been at the forefront of placing Ndebele Art on the international art map. Like Nhlengethwa, Mahlangu celebrates her culture and identity. This print (at the bottom of the page) is the last available print from the first series”.

sam nhlengethwa, sam nhlengethwa tribute prints
Tribute to Peter Clarke
Medium: Sixteen colour lithograph
Paper size: 57 x 76.5cm
Edition size: 50
Price R 6 500

See more prints by SamNhlengeth here.

Robert Hodgins

robert hodgins south african artist

Robert Hodgins: Modus operandi:A self-proclaimed “optimistic old sod”, Hodgins once described painting to be a “a bit like surfing” in that a good deal of time is spent bobbing about, waiting for the right wave to come along. Having said this, it’s not about instant gratification. Where Robert Hodgins is concerned, paintings may only come into their own months or even years after their genesis. But beyond it all, he describes being a painter as a “very nice way to live”. Not restricted by the need for technical support, for him it is about accepting the responsibility of the mark of one’s hand that is negotiated by no one other than oneself, quoting Francis Bacon’s words of “courting accidents”, but then choosing the ones that work. Another Hodgins maxim is that “subject matter is not content”. Art is an “auto-intoxication that allows one to live through marriages, divorces, deaths and unhappy love affairs, and come up smiling all the time”. Brenda Atkinson has noted Hodgins’ distinctive “British post-war vision”. His familiar icons of malevolent businessmen in pinstriped suits, prison cells, historical references and political tyrants still reappear, both tempered and aggravated by his mastery of colour and texture which sensitively negotiate the terrain between seriousness and sombreness.

Artist’s statement:
“There are paintings that stem from memory and from a sombre look at the human condition. Paintings about the construction and confusion of contemporary urban life, but also paintings about the pleasures of being alive, pleasures that crowd in upon the pessimism everywhere – that crowd in and refuse to be ignored”. (Goodman Gallery 2000)

“Being an artist is about putting something into your subject matter that isn’t inherently there. You are not at the mercy of your subject matter, it’s the content, and what you put into it, what you do with it, what extract from it, and what you put it with, that is so exciting. If you are aware of this, then you begin to build on the content of your whole life. Before you know where you are, you’re already thinking about the next work, and you could live to be 300. Paintings can be one-night stands or lifetime love-affairs – you never know until you get cracking”.
Robert Hodgins

You may remember remarkable multi-media collaborative work produced with fellow heavyweights William Kentridge and Deborah Bell. Robert Hodgins first exhibited with Bell as early as 1983. Their association began with ‘Hogarth in Johannesburg’, followed by the ‘Little Morals Series’, ‘Easing the Passing (of the Hours)’ and ‘Ubu 101′, culminating in an exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery marking their 10 year working relationship. But a favourite of Hodgins’ (and of mine) is Memo, a stop-frame animation short film directed by Kentridge, in which Hodgins acts as a hapless businessman whose trappings get the better of him in ways which can only be described as Kafka-esque. Hodgins has been a five-time recipient of various Vita art prizes, either as quarterly or overall winner pre-1997, and was a finalist in 1998.

As a young child in London, Hodgins used to hide out in the Tate Gallery, where it was “warm and open”. Despite having exhibited since the early 1950’s, it was 1981 before he was taken really seriously, but the impact was such that a major retrospective was hosted by the Standard Bank National Arts Festival in 1986. An early career highlight was a two-man show with Jan Neethling called ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’, producing some 60 experimental silkscreens of the gangster and hanging them on washing lines in the gallery. Hodgins cites this as a true “corroboration” of minds.
Robert Hodgins is one of South Africa’s leading artists. His work can be found in private and public collections throughout South Africa. He has exhibited extensively in Europe and the South African art scene can consider itself lucky to have this living treasure amongst it. Hodgins has worked at The Artists’ Press for many years and it is always a pleasure to have Rob’s energy, sticky tea buns and humour in the studio. Mark Attwood has a special place at his press for Hodgins as he feels that the “old man” pushes him harder and challenges him more that most other artists. When the printer and artist collaborate the energy in the printshop is tangible. Hodgins uses mono prints as his starting point and then develops ones that he likes most into lithographs. He has also started to experiment with hand coloured gravure prints. But most importantly, Robert Hodgins wants to be the first South African painter to get up on his 100th birthday and start a new canvas. At the rate he’s going now, this looks like a distinct possibility.

With thanks to Kathryn Smith and Artthrob magazine on whose writing this page is based.

Artists

Artthrob magazine

Lithographs 2004/05/06/07/08

robert hodgins, robert hodgins prints, south african art
QED? Right?
Three colour lithograph
Paper size: 76.5 x 57cm
Edition size: 20
Price: R 5 200

See more prints by Robert Hodgins here.

Celebrating Seventy

Judith Mason will be turning seventy on October 10th this year. To celebrate a career than spans some fifty years as well as the opening of her retrospective exhibition “A Prospect of Icons” at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg, we present a portfolio of eight lithographs that brilliantly pick up conceptual threads that have concerned her over the years.

Judith writes: “As I am about to enter my eighth decade, I decided to create a portfolio of eight prints to celebrate(!) the occasion. A portfolio, which would explore some of the themes that have tantalised me all my life. Then followed a few happy weeks of collaboration with the printers who patiently proofed my work and its numerous corrections, and made me feel that I knew what I was doing.”

To take a look at the prints please go to : http://www.artprintsa.com/judith-mason.html

We wish Judith all the best for her retrospective and look forward to many more print collaborations!

.

Strijdom van der Merwe Signs a New Edition at The Artists’ Press

In the summer of 2007 Strijdom van der Merwe worked on a series of lithographs with us. Two of these were “preparatory” works for the exhibition/installation with the title ‘Haikus’ that was done for KKNK in Oudtshoorn 2008. 45 poets wrote 163 new poems that were printed individually on the 163 white cotton cloths that functioned as prayer flags that blew in the wind. The installation /art work of 100 x 100 sq.m was erected for 8 days and dismanteld afterwards.

Continuing with the transient nature of his land art, the other prints that van der Merwe worked on are drawn records of works that he has done over the last few years, at various times and places. These prints are delicately rendered in a small format, proving that van der Merwe is as capable with printmaking as he is with manipulating large natural elements in the outdoors.


Strijdom van der Merwe has just signed the suite of prints and they are now available for sale. You can see the prints at http://www.artprintsa.com/strijdom-van-der-merwe.html. You can also take a look at a few of the installations that he did in the environment surrounding the studio that he worked on ” after hours”!

.

An Interview with Mark Attwood of
The Artists’ Press, White River, South Africa

Mark and Tommy

Mark and Tommy

Q: You come from an industrial printshop background. From there to fine-art printmaking is quite a leap. How did you happen to make it?
A: Not really such a big leap. My Father ran a small commercial shop doing mostly printing for artists (invitations to art exhibitions, catalogues, reproductions etc.). I apprenticed to his business, and some of the work we did during this time was with artists who drew their own colour separations on kodatrace, (Norman Catherine especially) and brought them in to the shop to be exposed onto plate and printed in limited editions on a Heidelberg. I found that to be by far the most exciting part of the job, and decided to see if I couldn’t do more of that sort of work.

Q: Tamarind Institute looms large in your legend. Could you tell us how you happened to go there, and what happened when you got there? South African lad shows up at American printmaking mecca. It must have been interesting at the very least.
A: There was nowhere in South Africa where one could learn lithography. I wasn’t interested in going to art school and doing fine-art printmaking. I wanted to specialise in lithography for artists, and Tamarind is the only place I could find to do that sort of thing. I learned an enormous amount while I was there and a lot of the practises in my studio now (originality, ethics, conservation etc.) are taken closely from the Tamarind way of doing things.

Q: Looking at your website, one can’t help but notice that your studio is multi media, multi national and multi racial. How enriching is this for a serious art establishment?
A: We do try to focus on Southern Africa with the work we publish, but also work with a lot of artists from outside of the region. I think it does lend an air of internationalism to the studio, and yes, it is enriching to have these varied influences in the studio.

Q: My favorite printmaker is fond of saying that when she gives workshops, she learns as much as the students. Does this happen to you, too?
A: Every artist I work with teaches me something new, and this does carry over into the next project we do, so I guess the service we offer is constantly changing as we learn new ways of doing things.

Q: I love the story you tell of a well-known artist (Norman Catherine) putting up the financing necessary to buy “the paper, the ink and the sandwiches…” for you to make your first print professionally. That was in 1991. Since then The Artists’ Press has had a steady upwards trajectory in terms of artists, projects, additional media, a new purpose-built studio, distinguished collaborators, editions in galleries and museums around the world. To what do you attribute all this success. (Don’t be too modest. Your colleagues around the world are vitally interested in these details.)
A: I think a lack of personal options has lot to do with this. Heck, I can’t do anything else except print for artists and I have to make it work! (The only other skill I have is organic vegetable gardening, and I hardly produce more than one family can eat with that.) I think I have been really fortunate in the studio with getting the breaks I have had, and amazing support from artists. It also has to do with timing. In the 17 years since I started the studio, I have really seen a big shift in how collectors see a print. People who know, do take a print seriously as a significant part of an artists output these days. It really wasn’t like that in South Africa when I started the studio, and some knowledgeable people said I was wasting my time, and there was no chance of making a living from it. But I stuck to it (that “no other options” thing!) and it worked.

Q: Your list of “languages heard in the studio” says it all, I think: Swati, Nharo, German, Ndebele, Afrikaans, Sotho, Xhosa, Tswana, Pedi., Flemish, Dutch, Shangaan, Zulu, French and English. Did you foresee this kind of universality when you started out? Did you work for it? Or did it just happen?
A: Just the way it turned out I guess. I wanted the studio to be a place where artists from all sectors of South African culture would want to work, but the wonderful international collaborations that have materialised weren’t expected at all.

Q: You seem quite chuffed having moved from your inner-city studio in Johannesburg to your new studio in the country. How has it changed they way you work and the results you get. P.S. What’s a “braai?”
A: I think being out in the country takes away a lot of distractions from artists and gives them an opportunity to really focus on their work for a while. I think that has had a good affect on the quality of our work. I think too it is good to have a cut-off date when we both know we have to wrap things up. We can’t keep projects hanging with an artist popping in and out of the studio whenever they have the time to do a bit more drawing, which gives a greater sense of purpose to the time spent in collaboration. ( A ‘braai’ is a local tradition of burning a piece of meat on a fire and then eating it. Do you call it a barbeque?)


Q: The text on your website is full of revealing and amusing anecdotes from your studio. Are you taking notes with an eye to writing a book? I’m sure it would be successful.

A: Ah no, I would have to print it then wouldn’t I?

Q: The Waterfield Guesthouse looks powerfully inviting. What do printmakers have to do in order to stay there and make prints at The Artists’ Press?
A: Anyone is welcome to book into the guesthouse. We had to have a guesthouse because we were so far from anywhere where artists could stay!, but it is only occupied about a third of the time when artists are collaborating, and we do have other guests in the quiet times. Artists who we publish are by invitation (and we focus on Southern African artists). In this case we usually cover all the costs and then hopefully recoup them when we sell the prints, (and make a bit of profit too). We also do contract work, where an artist will pay for time in the studio.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the Kuru Art Project. I know it was a long time ago (1992) but I confess I’m fascinated by that photograph of you trailering a litho press out into middle of the Kalahari Desert.
A: I was intrigued with the possibility of working with the San or Bushman artists on stone. I had all these romantic ideas about them painting on stone again for the first time in hundreds of years, so took my stones and press up to their studio. As it turned out the artists were just as happy to work on grained aluminium plates, and didn’t seem at all impressed with the concept of working on stone. They nevertheless did some beautiful prints on both stone and plate.


Q: I see you are fascinated by artists’ books, too. You mention that “the general public are not really aware of them.” Do you think any progress is being made in that respect? What more can be done to popularize this wonderful prinmaking format?

A: In South Africa the Artists’ book is still a relatively obscure concept, and it is really hard to get people to see that it is something worth spending as much money on a book as a print. There are some exceptions, we have one absolutely incredible, supportive collector of artists’ books, and a few artists who do some serious book projects, but it still has long way to go.


Q: There’s some concern about regarding the future of fine-art printmaking, especially in the face of digital competition. What’s your take on this question? Do you think printmaking is at a critical crossroads? Or is it going strong?

A: I can clearly see that artists and collectors can and do discern the difference between a print that has been done by hand, with consideration given to the tactile qualities of the materials and methods of printing. From what I have seen, digital lacks this and the prints have a sort of uniformity that just isn’t the same as a hand-printed work. I did seriously consider going digital about 10 years back, and decided against it, and still firmly believe I made the right decision.


Q: What are the main problems printmakers have to face, in your opinion? What can be done about them?

A: Hmm. Not sure If I am able to comment on this. I am really a printer working for artists, so the real problems of the printmaker don’t really crop up in my studio.


Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting up a print studio, what would it be?

A: Take the risk and put your neck on the line, and it is amazing how many people will rush to help you.

Q: Is there anything I’ve forgotten? Make up your own question, then answer it.

A: Well perhaps not a question, but a comment. I think the environmental dilemmas facing the world need to be addressed in printmaking circles too: Do we know what impact the cotton we use in our paper has on the environment where it is grown? Are there other ways of doing things that will use less solvents, less chemicals, less waste? Are we recycling everything we can? Have we considered the impact our activities have in terms of our local communities? I don’t necessarily have any answers, but think it is an area that printmakers could learn tips from each other in, perhaps on your website there might be place for a discussion in these circles? Are there any things other studios have discovered that we could share with each other? One of the things we try to do is every time an international artist works in the studio we plant a tree in a gesture to help reduce the carbon footprint of that project. Are there other good things we could do?

Contact The Artists’ Press

The Artists’ Press
PO Box 1236
White River 1240
Tel: 013 751 3225 or 083 676 3229

Email:mark@artistspress.co.za
Website: http://www.artprintsa.com

Written by Michael Booth

August 12, 2008 at 8:43 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Your illustration of the work and the workers at Artists Press is a delight. I feel enriched excited and so priveleged to be able to see your work and to get a sense of what is happening in your part of the country.

    All artists have a ‘context’ yet we often find out about it post-facto, in interviews, usually with predigested innane or predictible questions. So reading your thoughts about landscape vegetable and art markets is most instructive.

    Judith Mason’s work via your link reminds me how I physically connect with power, passion, compassion and beauty all so seemlesly connected. Wonderful.

    Good to hear you are running down the non-petrochemical pathway for cleanliness. Old recipe books got trashed 50 years ago and so did “Handy Hints” which were once part of every women’s magazine in Australia.

    But bicarb soda and vinegar are cheap and we could all do with some recipes. The other day I read an old recipe for axle grease, cheap and achievable!

    Many thanks ford the trouble you have gone to with your website, do we deserve such pleasure? I will not even ask, but please feel appreciated!!!

    A.D.

    March 31, 2009 at 9:40 am

    • Dear A.D,
      I have only just worked out there is a blog on the site, so sorry for the late reply! Thanks for the kind words about the studio and the work we do. There is always so much more we all should be doing!
      Thanks,
      Mark (The Artists’ Press)

      Mark Attwood

      July 28, 2009 at 7:51 am

  2. PLEASE Send a quotation in rigards to magazine printing cost a4 60 grams F/C 64 , 86 pages sandle stish Glossy.

    dan maphalala

    June 22, 2009 at 5:05 pm

  3. i want to be part of the print workshop in 2010.how can i…

    wellington moffat

    December 15, 2009 at 1:32 pm

  4. i am a printmaker and would like to work in a studio for a period of month. please do explain me the details to get through. thanking you,
    faithfully yours,
    viraj naik
    vasco da gama, goa, india.

    viraj naik

    March 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm


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