The fourth International Print Biennale will feature the work of artists from across the world and a packed events programme
Every two years the focus for everybody interested in the art of print falls on the North East, home of the International Print Biennale.
It is the only major UK event celebrating contemporary printmaking and this year more than 130,000 visitors are expected to attend dozens of different exhibitions and events at 25 venues across the region.
For printmakers the Biennale offers competitions to enter and awards to be won.
There are many reasons why the North East should host such an event.
Looking to history, there’s Thomas Bewick, late 18th and early 19th master of the woodblock print and astute observer of the natural world.
Often cited as the region’s greatest artist – although this could be the subject of a great debate – his intricate tail-piece engravings will form the backdrop to readings of new poems by Joanne Clement who has been inspired by them.
This event, one among many, is on October 15 at Great North Museum: Hancock which is also hosting a Bewick-inspired workshop on October 21 and 22.
But in the here and now, the prime mover behind the Biennale is Newcastle-based Northern Print and its director, Anna Wilkinson.
“It’s clear to us already that this year’s Biennale will be a striking showcase of the wealth of printmaking currently being created across the world,” she says.
“For centuries artists have been drawn to print and its allure is not lost on today’s contemporary artists.
“The work that will be on display from the artists shortlisted for the awards alone shows the diversity of approaches of an enduring artform.
“We have received more entries this year than ever before which tells me that the medium remains relevant internationally.
“In particular I’m looking forward to seeing the work from Birgit Skiöld who established the first UK open print studio in 1956.
“Birgit was instrumental in the creation of the British International Print Biennale in Bradford in 1962, the original inspiration for founding the International Print Biennale.”
The 2016 Print Awards are an integral part of the Biennale and this year 31 artists have been shortlisted by a specialist panel from among 785 entries from 16 countries.
On this year’s panel were Sune Nordgren, founding director of Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, artist Christiane Baumgartner and David Cleaton-Roberts, director of the Alan Cristea Gallery.
Each of these was asked to invite an additional artist to be represented in the exhibition. They chose Marina Bindella, from Italy, distinguished Royal Academician Cornelia Parker, from Britain, and Dane Adam Saks, all of whose work will add lustre to an already impressive event.
As well as these established artists the Biennale will feature emerging talent.
A highlight of this year’s Biennale will be the first public showing – at Newcastle City Library – of the world’s longest lino cut print which was initiated by Northern Print. Measuring 33.5 metres in length, it was made last year to mark the Rugby World Cup.
Also at the library you will be able to see a body of new work by Ellen Heck, who has twice won Biennale Print Awards, celebrating Alice in Wonderland.
Meanwhile Rachel Ramirez, a member of the international Nature Print Society, will demonstrate Gyotaku, a Japanese method of printing from fish, in a programme of workshops, demonstrations and participatory activities to mark the annual migration of salmon along the Tyne.
This really is just scratching the surface of a massive visual arts extravaganza taking place from September 16 to October 30. For full details, go towww.internationalprintbiennale.org.uk
Printmakers colonise church
A reminder that printmaking is alive and well in the North East comes with twin exhibitions featuring the work of people who pay to use the well-equipped studios at Northern Print, based in Newcastle’s Ouseburn Valley.
They include Margaret Adams, Allan Barnfather and Barbara Kennard.
As part of the International Print Biennale, the studio users are holding an exhibition at St Dominic’s Church, Shields Road, Byker.
You can see it on September 30 (6 to 8pm), October 1 (10am to 4pm, when there will be have-a-go activities) and October 2 (12.30 to 4pm).
A second exhibition, Engaging with Print, will take place at Gallery 45, Felton, Northumberland, from October 8-23.
It will be open Tuesday to Saturday (10am to 5pm) and Sunday (11am to 4pm).
There will also be printmaking workshops on October 16 and 22 (1 to 4pm).
Ring the gallery on 01670 783424 to book.