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Underground Impressions Souterraines, Shawville, Quebec, Canada

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A Chat with Raymond Sander-Regier of UIS

“One of my biggest concerns is education…”

Q: Your Underground Impressions Souterraines print studio (UIS) underwent some important changes last spring (2008). Would you care to tell us about them, both the what and the why?

A: My print studio is now included under the umbrella of IMPRESSIONS, my new project. UIS, by itself was only ‘myself’ and printmaking. I was also in a space that was totally underground – I had an outside entrance, but a limited window on the world.

The new IMPRESSIONS (a project still in the making) now includes my print studio and workshop, the studio of a water colour artist, a framing service, a gallery and a growing corner for selling artist’s materials. UIS is still ‘underground’ along with the other studio, the framing shop and the arts materials. The gallery is now in a well lit space at ground level.

That is the ‘what?’ The ‘why?’ has to do with a number of factors one of which is visibility. The fact that the old space was totally underground was quite a limiting factor despite being located on Main Street, Shawville, Quebec. Something else I have tried to do with the IMPRESSIONS project is broaden the scope of my overall space. This means not just doing, teaching and showing printmaking, but allowing for the doing and showing of other media on site. We also have a large per/capita population of artists in our region with no local source for artist’s materials, hence that additional corner.

Finally I must admit that I am also hoping that the new project will prove to be more self-sustaining in the long run than the previous site could have been. The broader scope of IMPRESSIONS should help UIS to prosper.

Q: Your change of location from southern Africa to northern North America sounds fascinating. Could you tell us a little bit about what your refer to as your “circuitous route?” Were you already a printmaker when you arrived in Canada? How did you find the transition from essentially warm to essentially cold? Or wasn’t the weather the most important factor?

A: I left Africa, actually the now Zimbabwe, at the age of 16. I was a teenager who loved to draw and paint . I came to Canada to finish my high-school and continue with post-secondary education. It was while at university that I was introduced to printmaking. I was attracted to it because of my love of drawing.

Leaving an essentially warm climate for a cooler climate was not a big factor. What has fascinated me is the similarities between the natural environments of the two regions. In Africa I liked drawing trees, specifically Baobab trees. I still draw a lot of trees – just not as many Baobabs. The dry season of southern Africa and the winters here both strip nature to it’s essentials. Those essentials attract me.
Q: What services does UIS offer at the Shawville location? Is it true that you don’t do etching? If not, why not?

A: At UIS I am equipped for most traditional intaglio techniques except etching (onto that later). I also am set up for stone lithography. Lithography is where I have concentrated most of my efforts. I do my own work, teach and will work with other artists who would like do work in the media I am equipped for.

Yes I don’t do etching because the method that I learned was with the nitric acid baths and fume hoods etc. Having spent a good deal of my time in litho with some dry-point, mezzotint and collagraph thrown in I found that I didn’t keep up with the developments in non-toxic intaglio techniques. Now at this stage, whether because of lack of time or just pure laziness, I prefer to work within my areas of strength. This is not to say that I would not welcome to UIS another artist who understood and used the newer etching techniques.

Q: In the gallery section of your website I see many monoprints and very limited editions, like three prints. We’re not accustomed to seeing this approach much in printmaking these days. What made you decide to take that route?

A: It seems I have been found out. There are several factors that influenced this pattern in my work, and here I must admit that two of those are laziness and boredom. To maintain the focus it takes to do large complicated editions of my own work is something I find difficult to do.

Something that first drew me to printmaking and specifically lithography was the opportunity to combine my drawing with other more painterly effects. I liked being able to layer imagery in a sort of collage. The possibility of doing more than one copy of a piece was pure bonus. As a result the doing of an edition of a piece has not always been a primary focus for me.

Finally, I have found that when working on a piece of work that it often needs time for the concept to distil. This may happen part way through the making of the piece, with the result that I will put it aside and work on something else. What will often happen at this stage is that the next piece I begin to work on starts working with the previous. Combining elements and imagery in this way plays havoc with planned editions.

Over the years I have worked in disciplining myself to follow through with editions as conceptualized. I have sometimes succeeded. On the other hand I find I most often prefer the results where the imagery itself has been allowed to have its way. I have one piece done on a very beautiful scroll of Japanese paper. It took over ten years to finish and it documents the first ten years of living here in rural West Québec. It was only after a number of years that I recognized what was unfolding in the piece. I have titled it “Finding Home”

Q: Is your gallery limited to the IMPRESSIONS artists, or do you intend to include people from outside.

A: At present the gallery here at IMPRESSIONS shows work by a number of regional artists. As part of the policy of the new space I am not limiting myself to works in print media, nor to artists who work in the studios here on site. As for exhibiting work by other artists, I am open to suggestions.
Q: You mention collaborative printmaking, or putting your master printmaker’s expertise at the disposal of artists from other media. Have you done this before? How do you propose to promote this service?

A: First of all I would not call myself a ‘master’ printmaker. I will leave that to others with more experience than myself. As for doing collaborative work, or helping other artists from other media work in print, yes I have done this before on a limited basis both when I was the print technician at the Ottawa School of Art and since.
Q: As the owner/artist of a small printmaking workshop in Canada, what are your primary concerns? What do you need? What would help you to do a better job?

A: One of my biggest concerns is education. Most people who walk in to IMPRESSIONS and UIS have no idea what a real print is. This includes artists working in other media. Another concern is getting the word out that I am here. I have local residents walk in here who never knew I existed before this even though the former site for UIS is a stone’s throw from my present shop front.

What do I need? Aside from time, finances would be nice, but that is one reason I am setting up IMPRESSIONS as I am – to help support my habit…printmaking.

What would help me do a better job? I find that difficult to answer. I know I could do a better job, but how to arrange things so that happens……? One is always juggling things to get into the studio to do one’s own work. As for collaborative efforts, even though we have a large number of artists in the area, the concept of working in a print media is quite foreign to them. Suggestions on how to get this sort of thing happening might be helpful.
Q: What is your primary method for commercializing your prints?

A: For commercializing my own work I have two galleries in the province of Ontario and then there is the gallery here at IMPRESSIONS. The commercializing of other works done here has not been an issue until now with the limited number of collaborative efforts I have been involved in.
Q: How do you feel about the current invasion of digital reproductions sold as “fine-art prints?”

A: Digital reproductions are just another version of offset reproductions falsely referred to as “fine-art prints” which have been around for a while. I find the only way to deal with it is education, education, education! It takes so long for it to sink in for some people – even some artists.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I am just the little kid on the block who loves printmaking…..Just keep printing!

Part of the studio at UIS

Contact Raymond Sander-Regier:

Underground Impressions Souterraines
305 F Main St
Shawville, Quebec, Canada
Tel: 819 503 8004

Written by Michael Booth

July 23, 2008 at 11:48 am

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