One of the highlights of the Galway International Arts Festival 2017 was the Impressions Print Exhibition held in the Centre for Creative Arts and Media. The quality and variety of the work on show  was stronger than ever. With every example of both traditional and contemporary printwork displayed  the exhibition was a excellent showcase and opportunity for national printmakers.

As the Impressions website explains, ‘Twenty-eight years ago, Galway based artists Leonie King and Sioban Piercy organised the first Impressions print exhibition.

Their idea was to highlight the quality of printmakers throughout the island of Ireland.  Since then it has evolved to become a major showcase for emerging and established print artists.’

This years’ selection of work by guest curator Jason Hicklin (UK) had some particularly interesting pieces both visually stunning and technically excellent.

Margot McNulty’s work Legacy located on the left corridor was a wonderful example of photo etching. The arrangement of the prints in grid structure gave an interesting dynamic quality to the  piece.

 Wiglefortis 1 by Niamh McGuine captured the attention both through  scale and technique. Her use of layering and what appeared to be a variety of materials came together to great effect.

As the work exhibition continued Leo Boyds work The Medium and The Message had a slightly grittier feel  with graffiti work referenced in its style. Nearby a beautiful print by Norah Brennan, Underneath use of colour implied texture and embossment to create an understated aesthetic.

The exhibition continued into the larger college canteen area, which had some spectacular prints. David Ferry’s work, Connected Forms/Torso of a Young Man injected  skill and a lighthearted use of materials into the exhibition with his use of pure pigment inkjet printwork, glitter and gold leaf. The work is a riot of colour and invites the viewer into a scene of potential public artworks.

Aisling Conroy’s two pieces  were a beautiful example of mixed media work. Both Lost At Sea and Lost From The Arc had nightmarish undertones with an intriguing quality brought to them by the use of stitching and block colour.

The right corridor held some excellent prints, artists’ books as well as installation work. At the top of the corridor was a triptych of etched plates by Emma Zukovic. It was a stunning example of the intricate work which goes into not just a finished print, but the plates.

Aidan Flanagan’s piece, Oilean Thorai was striking. His use of carborundum and watercolour chine colle made for a visually impressive and captivating work.

Throughout this area of the exhibition there were strong examples of both artists books and installation work. Siobhan Percy’s book Tantalus or Other Stories was an excellent example of a beautifully made book of printwork which, in tandem with the two framed screenprints became a stunning collection. Another of the artists books which was particularly striking was Irene Uhlemann’s Fragile and Precious, a delicate book of printed feathers with such detail that you would dare not breathe too heavily near the pages for fear the feathers might blow away.

The installation piece by Michelle Ryan entitled Message Beads Installation was a wonderfully curious way of exhibiting printwork, rolled up in glass beads within a cabinet. It gave the work an air of mystery and invited the viewer to both physically and aesthetically view the work differently.

The Galway Print Studio members had their Annual Members Show as part of the larger exhibition which was a welcome addition to the wonderful collection of print work on show, with excellent work from Gerry Fahy, Mary Ryan, Brendan O’Sullivan and Heidi Reich to name but a few.

The White Room was the last stop on my way through and had some very exciting pieces and installation work. Bill Penny’s Night Flower and Barbed were amazing, visually stunning examples of screen printing done to best effect. One of the most magnetic pieces in the room was Catherine Hehir and Noelle Noonan’s work, Escape Shift. This installation piece dominated the far corner of the room with a paper installation displaying an array of techniques such as etchng, silkscreen, drypoint, lithography, cyanotype and laser cut work. The many elements and display of the work, enticed the viewer to get up close and engage with the piece on quite an intimate level.

The entire exhibition was a glorious display of all the varied and different examples of print techniques and talent from across the country and beyond. Although at points, some areas of the exhibition felt quite loaded with work making it somewhat difficult to fully appreciate the pieces in their own right, all of the work included in the show this year was of the highest standard and I can see why it would have been almost impossible to not include any of them in the final selection.

Susan Roche is an artist based in Galway

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