From Paper to Gold is Edinburgh Printmakers’ 50-year anniversary celebration. The name itself is a play on the traditional wedding anniversary gifts, with the first year being marked by paper and the fiftieth with gold. For the festivities, the studio and gallery has invited fifty resident or former-resident artists to contribute a piece of their work, the only specification being the size of the print.
Edinburgh Printmakers itself was founded on similarly broad-minded and far-sighted principles. Upon its opening in 1967 it was the first and only printmaking studio and gallery in the country which was open-access.
The broadness of the brief is reflected in the curation of the works; they are set out over the two rooms of Printmakers’ upstairs gallery space in a seemingly unplanned order. From the second room the studio itself is visible, emphasising the feeling of closeness to the production of art which makes the studio-cum-gallery so special. Aside from the pieces themselves the walls are completely empty; the exhibition brochure acts as a kind of treasure map, detailing only the name of each print and the artist responsible.
This format successfully showcases the diversity and depth of styles printmaking, contrasting works like Mark Doyle’s tactile, complex ‘Transition’ with Angie Lewin’s distinctive dreamy ‘Rock Pool’. Though at first glance this feels overwhelming the relaxed curation invites you to take your time, and each piece reveals itself to be a delight worthy of its own review. The brochure proclaims that From Paper to Gold is not an exhibition but rather a celebration, and in this regard, in the sheer richness and quality of work displayed, it certainly feels like one.
However, the minimalism of the presentation does have its drawbacks. Though the arrangement of the exhibition seeks to be unobtrusive and let the works speak for themselves it means that in places From Paper to Gold feels quite loud and crowded. There are multiple narratives spread throughout the show; some pieces, such as John Heywood’s ‘Stockbridge’ speak to local history and the beauty of nature and architecture in Scotland. Others tell a story that seems highly personal and intimate, notably Jenny Martin’s ‘Grandma’s Button Box’. There are distinct themes which run throughout, and it feels like Printmakers have missed an opportunity by not using them to craft the exhibition more coherently, especially when it seems like so many of them throw light on the journey and significance of the place itself.
It is rare to have the chance to see such a varied collection of work of such a high standard. From Paper to Gold offers up an inviting insight into printmaking and succeeds in showing off the best of what Edinburgh Printmakers has to offer.
Until 31st March 2018
Image credit: Olivia Langhorn