, For its twenty-first birthday,
I Glasgow Print Studio has been given the key to the door of the McLellan Galleries. Sue Wilson previews the celebrations.
With so much financially-induced gloom around in the arts world (will any of these fabled green shoots be straggling in that direction. I wonder‘.’). it‘s heartening to find an exhibition striking a loud celebratory note. Alive and Printing. at the McLellan Galleries throughout May. blows the trumpet for Glasgow Print Studio‘s twenty-first birthday with Scotland‘s (possibly Britain‘s) biggest-ever exhibition of prints. illustrating the many different aspects of the studio‘s work and history.
Now an important fixture on the Scottish art scene. offering exhibitions. artists workshop facilities. the Original Print Shop sales outlet and classes in all printmaking techniques. the GPS began life in 1972 as a co-operative of Glasgow School of Art students. brought together by Head of Printmaking Philip Reeves. Aiming to provide printmakers with access to equipment far too costly for an individual to afford alone. it was originally housed in a West End basement flat. but rapid expansion forced a move to a disased lngram Street factory after two years. There. the in-house press was established. printing books by such as Liz Lochhead. James Kelman and Alasdair Gray. the first gallery opened in 1978. and the evening class programme was launched. Under Callum Mackenzie‘s outgoing direction. the GPS was also the hub of a vibrant social scene. organising the popular ‘l.oveliest Night of the Year' midsummer balls. Exhibitions included LS. Lowry (fortuitously coinciding with the ‘Matchstick Men and Matchstick Cats and Dogs‘ single and breaking even despite huge security and insurance costs). and Unique and Original — new prints by major Scottish artists. shown alongside work in other media.
Chronic structural problems were the one fly in the Ingram Street ointment. and when the building was condemned in 1987. new premises were found in King Street. first at what is now the Original Print Shop. then across the road in another old factory. which houses the current spacious gallery and workshop. The gallery opened in 1988 with Adrian Wisniewski's Mayfest show. and the operation continued to ﬂourish. today boasting 200 members and an international reputation for its facilities. its editioning programme and its exhibitions.
The public face of the GPS is its airy. elegant gallery. but for artists it offers much more — cheap. high-quality facilities and. perhaps most importantly. the chance for neophytes to rub shoulders with major-leaguers. ‘One of the things that makes us unusual is that you‘ll often find recently graduated artists using the workshop alongside people like Adrian Wisniewski. Elizabeth Blackadder. Ken Currie. who we‘ve invited to edition prints for our publication programme.‘ explains exhibitions ofﬁcer Katherine Shaw. ‘I think that has a very positive effect. meeting people like these on totally neutral
ground: it offers a lot of scope for people to learn and bounce ideas around.‘
Throughout its 21 years. the studio has helped many a Scottish artist on his or her way to international status — John Bellany. John Byrne. Peter Howson. Stephen Campbell. George Wyllie. Barbara Rae. John Houston. Bruce McLean. [Elspeth Lamb — and has worked hard to raise printmaking‘s profile within the an world. ‘That‘s always been an integral part of what we do.‘ Shaw says. ‘lt obviously works to our
Throughout its 21 years, the studio has helped many a Scottish artist on his or her way to international status.
advantage to have big names associated with us. but I think these artists becoming well-known has been partly why printmaking has come on in such leaps and bounds in the past twenty to thirty years. It‘s now recognised as a bona tide art-form in its own right. whereas before it was always seen as the little cousin of painting or sculpture. and 1 would say we've played a big part in that.‘
The 45()-odd exhibits in Alive and Printing will be divided into several sections — one covering 1972—82. with prints by founders and early members. a second featuring selected studio publications and work by invited artists. a third being a members‘ art market. with ZOO-odd prints. mostly for sale. A press will be set up in one ofthe galleries. with printmakers-iii-residence working away and conducting workshops and demonstrations. pan of an education programme funded by Strathclyde Regional Council. ‘There‘s nothing better than having people actually producing work during an exhibition.‘ says Shaw. ‘1 hope putting the process on display will break down some of the mystique which surrounds printmaking. because although it can be a very technically demanding medium. it‘s also very accessible - with our evening classes. at the end of
Peter Howson: “Studio Etching’
Ruth Greer: ‘Weighing the Balance' (lithograph) five weeks. everyone goes away with a print.‘
A dynamic cross-section of the studio‘s various activities over the years. the exhibition is a carefully thought-out celebration of an artistic institution which clearly came of age long ago. ‘lt‘s really gone from strength to strength all the way.‘ Shaw says. ‘ln twenty-one years we‘ve gone from a small group of artists in a basement to a beautiful gallery. a retail outlet and an excellent workshop — it‘s a real success story. and at a time when things haven‘t been easy for any arts organisation.‘
Alive and Printing is at the McLe/lun Galleries. April 3 (J—Muy 30.
50 The List 23 April—6 May I993