Mezzotint Masterclass with Marc Balakjian Friday 7 & Saturday 8 February 2014 10.30am – 3.30pm
Saturday 23 November 2013, 2pm Floor 2
£60 (for 2 day workshop) Places limited, please book in advance Call 01922 654400 or ask at Reception
Marc Balakjian in conversation with Julie Brown, Collections Curator, about the work featured in the Dorothea Wight and Marc Balakjian exhibition. Saturday 1 March 2014, 2pm Floor 1 Marc Balakjian discussing the legacy of the Studio Prints workshop, and the close working relationships with Lucian Freud, Celia Paul and Frank Auerbach, amongst others. Free, please book in advance Call 01922 654400 or ask at Reception
The New Art Gallery Walsall Gallery Square Walsall WS2 8LG 01922 654400 thenewartgallerywalsall.org.uk
Studio Prints On graduating from the Slade in 1968 it was Dorothea Wight’s ambition to set up an intaglio printmaking workshop. She secured a job to print an edition of etchings for Julian Trevelyan and, with limited funding, she found a basement in a semi-derelict building in Camden to rent for £2 a week and obtained a bank loan to buy a press. This was the beginning of Studio Prints. By 1970 it had outgrown its premises and moved to one of the original Sainsbury’s shops in Queen’s Crescent, where it was to remain in operation for the next 40 years. The walls had the original decorative tiling, and the marble countertops were ideal as ink mixing slabs. In 1970 Studio Prints featured in a BBC documentary, which showed Dorothea printing an edition of etchings for Anthony Gross. A small gallery was established on the building’s 1st floor, which was opened by Lord Sainsbury, and showed the work of artists admired by Dorothea, such as Norman Ackroyd, Julian Trevelyan and his wife, Mary Fedden. As it was not a commercial enterprise Dorothea could show lots of high quality work that otherwise may not have been exhibited, but as the workshop expanded the gallery had to give way as the space was required for editioning and drying prints.
mezzotint, softground (imitating pencil) and sugar lift (similar effect to brush marks). Dorothea and Marc collaborated with a range of artists, experimenting with different techniques, and making suggestions on how they could improve their work. Their expertise and growing reputation led to them establishing a number of close working relationships, such as Dorothea’s with Stephen Conroy, and Marc’s with Frank Auerbach.
After 4 decades Studio Prints closed in 2011. However, its legacy, having played a pivotal role in the print renaissance of the 1970s and having produced a fantastic body of work for the leading Modern British Artists, will forever remain. Julie Brown Collections Curator November 2013
Dorothea Wight and Marc Balakjian 16 November 2013 — 2 March 2014 Floor 2
Studio Prints 16 November 2013 — 15 April 2014 Floor 1
Frank Auerbach, Ruth, 2006, etching, © the Artist, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
In the 1970s there was an increased demand for art at modest prices, as well as complete editions by well-known artists, which Studio Prints was able to capitalise on. Dorothea and Marc Balakjian, who became a partner in 1976, trained assistants to become excellent printers and cope with the demands of artists to get the best out of their plates, working a heavy cast-iron press to produce identical results, time after time. Studio Prints also began to specialise in more complicated multi-colour images. Intaglio printmaking offers a range of opportunities for artists from line etching and engraving; to aquatint,
Stephen Conroy, Silence, 1991, drypoint © the Artist, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art
Dorothea Wight and Marc Balakjian
British Museum; the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Government Art Collection; the British Council and The New Art Gallery Walsall.
As we enter the 40th anniversary year of the Garman Ryan Collection in Walsall, founded by Kathleen Garman and Sally Ryan, following the death of Kathleen’s husband Jacob Epstein, we also celebrate the work of another partnership with close links to our Collection. Dorothea Wight and Marc Balakjian worked together for 40 years, running the Studio Prints workshop in London, where they collaborated with many of the leading Modern British Artists of the late 20th century, such as Anthony Gross, Julian Trevelyan, Ken Kiff, RB Kitaj and Paula Rego (all artists who feature in our Collection). Dorothea worked closely with Celia Paul, who suggested to Lucian Freud that he should work at Studio Prints in the mid 1980s. Freud, at one time the son-in-law of Jacob Epstein and Kathleen Garman, then worked exclusively with Marc until his death in 2011, at which point Marc and Dorothea decided to close the workshop. The first print which was produced for Freud at Studio Prints, the etching Man Posing of 1985, is a key work in our Permanent Collection. Often esteemed printmakers have been relegated to the role of craftsman in the history of art, and the intricacies and high skill of mastering the various printmaking mediums and in taking a good impression from a plate have been overlooked. Dorothea and Marc were masters in the medium of mezzotint, and their own work won many international print prizes. These exhibitions offer a retrospective of Dorothea and Marc’s individual work, alongside a selection of the work produced at Studio Prints for other artists. Dorothea Wight (1944-2013) Scottish by descent, Dorothea Wight was born in Devon in 1944, growing up in Totnes (the view from the windows of her childhood home would go on to inspire her work.) She studied Fine Art at Dartington College of Art from 1963-64, before going on to the Slade in London (1964-1968). Although she initially went to study painting, she was drawn to the print department,
under the instruction of Anthony Gross and Stanley Jones. On leaving the Slade in 1968 she founded Studio Prints, which she would go on to run with her husband Marc for the next 4 decades. As well as producing editions and teaching printing techniques to a range of artists, she continued making her own distinctive work, specialising in etching and mezzotint.
Dorothea Wight sadly passed away in May 2013. She is survived by Marc, and their two children, Tamar and Aram. Marc Balakjian (b.1940)
Dorothea Wight, Cotyledon, 1974, mezzotint, courtesy the Estate of the Artist
Much of Dorothea’s work is inspired by her memories of the Devon countryside, and her longing for the freedom of that landscape, as a contrast from inner city life. Rolling hills are often presented as seen through a London window sill, where she experiments with light and the changing seasons and times of day, depicted through different window frames, curtains and blinds. As well as her own work, and running Studio Prints, Dorothea also taught at Morley College in London, the Royal College of Art, and the Cambridge School of Art, amongst others, and exhibited widely in the UK and internationally. Her work has been collected by many public institutions such as the
Armenian by descent, Marc Balakjian was raised in Lebanon. His parents were survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. He spent his early years in the small town of Rayak, next to a French military airbase, before moving to Beirut at the age of ten. He came to England in 1966, to study architecture with a firm in Oxford. After working there for a year as an architectural draftsman he decided to study Fine Art, and from 1967 to 1970 studied painting at Hammersmith College of Art (where the fees for international students were more affordable than some of the other colleges). He then took up a postgraduate degree in printmaking at the Slade School of Art in 1971. After graduating from the Slade, Marc began working at Studio Prints in 1973, just as it was establishing itself in Queen’s Crescent. At this time he concentrated on making his own work, until 1976, when due to the growing demand he began offering problem solving technical help for developing other artists’ prints.
Much of the iconography in Marc’s work is ambiguous in nature, but seems to have undoubtedly been influenced by his Armenian culture and having grown up in Lebanon. Flags, stones, cones, ropes and other barriers predominate, giving notions of conflict, territories and ‘otherness’ - frontiers between the known and unknown. It was deemed too foreign in Britain in the 1970s, leading him to exhibit his work more widely abroad, where he was a prize winner in many International Print and Drawing exhibitions.
Marc also taught printmaking in art schools such as Chelsea Art School, the Slade and the University of Brighton, and was Head of Printmaking at Watford College of Art, as well as being asked to lecture abroad, both in Europe and America. His work is held in many public collections both in Britain and abroad, including the British Museum; the Victoria and Albert Museum; The New Art Gallery Walsall; the City Art Centre, Edinburgh; the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, USA.
Glossary of Printmaking Terms Intaglio Intaglio printmaking means an image is created by cutting, carving, etching or engraving into a surface, such as a metal plate, and the incised lines hold the ink, which then prints as the image. This is opposed to relief printing, when the ink is held on the surface, as in the medium of woodcut.
Etching Etching is an intaglio printmaking technique. The general principle is that a waxy, acid resistant ground is applied to a metal plate. A needle is used to draw into the ground, scratching through to expose the metal. Once the drawing is finished, the plate is placed in an acid bath. The acid ‘bites’ into the exposed lines and when the incisions are deep enough the plate is removed from the bath and the ground removed with a solvent. Ink is applied to the plate and pushed into the lines with a dabber. The plate is then wiped clean, leaving only the ink in the lines. Dampened paper is placed on top of the plate, before it is put through a press. The pressure forces the paper to pick up the ink from the incised lines. The image prints in reverse, and the indentations left by the edges of the plate are known as the plate marks.
Marc Balakjian, In the Silence of Passing Years, 1980, colour mezzotint, courtesy the Artist
Mezzotint creates rich varietes of tone and texture, without the sharp lines of an etching. It requires an elaborate preparatory process. A copper plate is covered with lots of tiny indentations made by a flat steel tool with teeth along its edge known as a rocker (as the tool is slowly rocked from side to side) which roughens the surface. A dense network of dots is formed across the plate, which if printed would print completely black.
After the plate has been covered with an even pitted texture the image is developed with a scraper or burnisher, which smoothes the surface creating areas of varying depths, which hold less ink, thus creating lighter tones in the resulting printed image. In this technique the artist is working from dark to light, rather than light to dark.
Aquatint An etching technique that creates areas of tone through the use of powdered resin sprinkled on the etching plate prior to it being bitten by the acid, resulting in finely textured tonal areas.
Drypoint Similar to etching, but the lines are scratched directly into the plate with a needle (no acid is used). The burrs made in the metal create soft, velvety lines.
Edition The total number of prints produced from one plate. The tenth print in an edition of fifty would be written on the print as 10/50, for example.
Artist’s Proof Printer’s Proof
It was the Studio Prints workshop tradition to receive a printer’s proof signed by the artist instead of a number, or an A/P.
Bon à tirer
Instruction written to the printer on the version of a print to form the edition, meaning it is ’ready to print’, please match this one for the rest of the edition.
Exhibition guide for the Dorothea Wight and Marc Balakjian, Studio Prints exhibitions