Aberystwyth Printmakers 2004 - 2014
There is in Aberystwyth, a strong tradition of printmaking. The School of Art, which celebrates its centenary in 2017, has a long history teaching printmaking and the subject remains a popular choice, attracting students and practitioners from across the UK. Both the School of Art and the National Library of Wales have important prints in their collections and these are useful resources that are used regularly for teaching purposes and in support of studio practice and training.
It is perhaps significant that Aberystwyth Printmakers was originally constituted as an exhibiting group in the 1980s, established by the then Head of School, Professor Alastair Crawford. Since then, there have been several initiatives to set up studios and workshops in the town, first at the Barn Centre and later at the present Aberystwyth Arts Centre. In 2001, the formation of the Aberystwyth-based group known as fforma, which aimed to promote local artists and set up studios, helped to pave the way for the reconstitution of Aberystwyth Printmakers as the active group we know today.
Since 2004 Aberystwyth Printmakers has become a well-established group, with currently over sixty members, professional artists, printmakers, students and print entusiasts, many of whom live and work in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion and mid Wales. A few others hail from as far away as Porthmadog, Carmarthen and Swansea in Wales and from further afield - London, Ireland and Germany.
From the outset, the group has been important, vital for supporting local printmakers, providing a forum for discussion, exchange of ideas and above all opportunities for everyone to meet socially. Wherever possible, the group has managed to hold regular monthly meetings at which members can present their current work and receive all important feedback and constructive criticism. There have also been oportunities to incorporate lectures from visiting artists including: Anne Desmet, Marcelle Hanselaar, Norman Ackroyd, Wuon Gean Ho, to name just a few.
For students at the School of Art, Aberystwyth Printmakers has presented opportunities for networking, to meet with professional artists and to exhibit their prints - often for the very first time. As such the group acts as a bridge into the wider world and quite a few of them have gone on to set up their own studios and workshops. It has not all been one-way traffic however and curiously, quite a few AP members have also enrolled on Masters courses at the college.
Over the last decade, exhibiting has been a key activity, important for promoting the group and member's work throughout Wales and further afield. Generally it has been possible for the group to hold at least one major annual 'open submission' exhibition and some of the more notable of these have been at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, The Cardiff Millenium Centre, The Courtyard Gallery in Hereford, Oriel Mwldan in Cardigan and at Maesmawr Gallery in Caersws. Further initiatives have been organised by individual members and some of these have involved international and exchange shows in Vermont USA, Wharepuke in New Zealand, The Hong Kong Graphic Arts Fiesta and Brisbane in Australia.
Provision of printmaking facilities and the development of a workshop in Aberystwyth has been an important aim for the group. Having access to space, presses and materials is essential for any artist who wants to make prints and unless they have their own studio, opportunity to use shared facilities at an open access print workshop is crucial. Currently the group has a well-equipped studio at Old College in Aberystwyth and provides facilities for etching, relief printing, screenprinting and lithography.
To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Aberystwyth Printmakers took over the entire upper floor of MOMA Wales in Machynlleth, and put on an impressive exhibition showing the work of 53 members. It was a fitting tribute to have this show at such a distinguished venue and the exhibition was very well received.
In the ten years that Aberystwyth Printmakers has been in existence, it has certainly made its mark and it continues to thrive and serve the local community.