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Movable Type: A Celebration of Print

'This article is written by Abhilasha Sharma, an MA Conservation Studies of Historic Buildings student, and member of the NRG blog team. Throughout, she explores the presentation and purpose of the Norman Rea Gallery's current exhibition 'Thin Ice Press', as in conjunction with the Department of English and Related Literature' and their Press.'

Matilda Bentley

Movable type: A Celebration of Print

Abhilasha Sharma

*All photographs are taken by the author, rights reserved with the artists, as named*

Successful in celebrating the art of ink and paper, the exhibition ‘Thin Ice Press’ at The Norman Rea Gallery, takes the onlooker on a journey through the ages and vast horizons of printing.

‘The death of print has been greatly exaggerated’ says the opening line of the exhibition. That is in fact true, not only in United Kingdom but all around the world.  Printing press had brought about a revolution in terms of expression, art and reaching out to masses. As the technology developed, it seemed that the value of print didn’t stay as popular as before, but something that joined so many masses together can’t just fade away. The different textures of paper, the boldness of lines, the strong font and the smell of new books or paper can never be replaced. A revival of printing can be seen everywhere in forms of exhibitions glorifying the different forms and methods of printing. Lithography, linocut, each having their own style and leaving a mark of their existence in our hearts.

The entire exhibition takes you on a journey of so many different vistas. The different relationships of paper and ink, how they form different expressions and communicate through minds differently.

A wide variety of printing has been beautifully laid out in the exhibition. Portraying a beautiful contrast with the kind of paper and playing with colours in textures. The expression of word shown through the beautiful monochrome word art in ‘When’ contrasts the means of depiction to the piece by Virginia Woolf and The Hogarth Press  displaying a variety of colourful textures in one frame expressing so much in just frame. From minimalism to a wind of expression can be seen on one wall. ‘Accession on Winter Hill’ and ‘The transformation of Walney Island’ by David Armes, Red Plate Press is a beautiful amalgamation of using word art along the lines of geography, the pieces standing out as a unique art.

Mending Frost by Robert Frost’, ‘Adlestrop by Edward Thomas’ and ‘ Thy gift, thy tables by William Shakespeare’ by Katy Stavreva, Foxden Press.

Thinking of printed books, stirs up nostalgia in everyone. It takes us back to our school books, the morning newspapers. Reading what the brilliant literary minds penned down that moved souls and still continue to do so. Also, the books that aren't that interesting, but we made them by scribbling, drawing in them, making our own personal art out of it. The novels that we held so dearly that they can still be found in our shelves holding a lot of memories. This series of frames on the wall, does exactly the same. The composition of the frames binds together all these emotions. ‘Mending Frost by Robert Frost’, ‘Adlestrop by Edward Thomas’ and ‘ Thy gift, thy tables by William Shakespeare’ by Katy Stavreva, Foxden Press, are some of the texts that we’ve all read, but it is further glorified with some background graphics, different frames, fonts and artwork adding to the self description of each of the literary texts.

In middle of these, two frames ‘Not Anymore’ and ‘Addiction’ by Jukhee Kwon  are art pieces made using pages from books, the art made on these pages, go a step ahead than just scribbling by the way the cutting out of the pages and use of words of the printed page which are highlighted to add value to the scribbled art.

Jukhee Kwon, "Not Anymore" and "Addiction"

As one proceeds further, with brilliantly curated books, prints in form of postcards, the different perceptions of print can be seen. Print hasn’t only been about informing the masses, but it is also about the relatability and creating a typhoon of change and a movement of making a statement.

The series of the three print works by Brooke Palmieri, Camp Books ‘Susan Sontag’, ‘Sylvia Rivera’ and ‘Queer Nation’ is one such set of bold statements. Known for their work towards celebrating the lives of LGBTQ+ people, the series of prints exhibited, bring a fresh wave of thought and difference that leaves the viewer awestruck.

Brooke Palmieri, "Susan Sontag", "Queer Nation" and "Sylvia Riveria", from the series “Sloganeering”. A3 Poster, letterpress printed by Brooke Palmieri. London Centre for Book Arts, 2019. Edition of 20. 297 x 420 mm

The above mentioned are just a few of the many exhibited works of wonderful art. The exhibition was a set of beautifully curated work of various artists covering a broad spectrum of styles and subjects throughout, each piece being a different story in itself. So, the death of print maybe exaggerated, but its ability to move, make a difference and evolve escalates with time.

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