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Technology and Touch: Intention and Serendipity in San Francisco and Reykjavík

Carrie Ann Plank & Robynn Smith

 

Carrie Ann Plank and Robynn Smith have been investigating relationships between technology and traditional printmaking techniques, both within the realm of their personal work, as well as in global printmaking practices. A recent lecture by the two at the Íslensk Grafík in Reykjavík, Iceland inspired a cross cultural exchange of work and ideas between Icelandic printmakers and San Francisco Bay Area printmakers in relation to this space between technology and tradition.  The exchange led to a curation of the exhibition, Technology and Touch, focusing on the variety of approaches to technology in the two disparate locales. Featuring the work of Icelandic artists: Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir, Valgerdur Hauksdóttir, Elvar Örn Kjartansson, Soffía Sæmundsdóttir, Laura Valentino, and Bay Area artists: Jimin Lee, Monica Farrar Miller, Michelle Murillo, Carrie Ann Plank, and Robynn Smith, the exhibition will travel from San Francisco at the Academy of Art University’s 688 Gallery in Union Square (November 2017) to the Southern Graphics Council International in Las Vegas at the Priscilla Fowler Fine Art gallery (April 2018) to Reykjavík in the gallery of the Icelandic Printmakers Association, Íslensk Grafík, IPA Gallery/Grafiksalurinn, within the Reykjavík Art Museum building during the Culture Night festival (August 2018).  Discussions, gallery talks and workshops accompany all of the exhibitions, resulting in the sharing of contemporary technologies and traditional printmaking practices across cultures.

Co-curators: Carrie Ann Plank and Robynn Smith Photo credit: Bob Toy

Co-curators: Carrie Ann Plank and Robynn Smith Photo credit: Bob Toy

The authenticity of art resides in human expression, in our ability to use tools to further our ideas. The hand refers to the individual. It is our personal mark, our connection with our humanity, our relationship with nature and the wild.  Technology is innovation; bright, shiny and complex. Since the advent of the printing press, a major technological breakthrough, printmaking has always reflected the relationship between technology and the hand. A mark is made, and through the alchemy of technology, that mark is transformed and transferred to another surface. That relationship is always there, from the Gutenberg Bible of the mid 15th century to today’s laser cutters and photopolymer plates, the best printmakers seek just the right balance of handwork and technology.photopolymer plates, the best printmakers

Artists from the project at the artist talk in San Francisco (left to right): Elvar Örn Kjartansson, Laura Valentino, Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir, Michelle Murillo, Carrie Ann Plank, Robynn Smith, Soffía Sæmundsdóttir, and Valgerdur Hauksdóttir. Carrie Ann Plank’s Data Rondures (Large Forms) in background. Photo credit: Bob Toy

Artists from the project at the artist talk in San Francisco (left to right): Elvar Örn Kjartansson, Laura Valentino, Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir, Michelle Murillo, Carrie Ann Plank, Robynn Smith, Soffía Sæmundsdóttir, and Valgerdur Hauksdóttir. Carrie Ann Plank’s Data Rondures (Large Forms) in background. Photo credit: Bob Toy

Both Reykjavík and the San Francisco Bay Area function as technological giants, yet in both places it is possible to feel the primitive, powerful nature of the wild. A five-minute drive out of Iceland’s capital is a primordial landscape of hot springs and lava. Standing a few hundred yards from the Golden Gate Bridge, the power of the Pacific Ocean is unfurled in an unbroken vista, all the way to Japan. Does the proximately to such dramatic landscape affect an artist’s use of technology? Does technology offer artists new tools to express their connection to the natural world?

Every printmaker must strike a balance between technology and touch. This exhibition explores that balance, showcasing printmakers from two cities with a striking relationship between contemporary technology and the timelessness of nature.

Two magnificently beautiful cities, both technology and trade hubs focused on the future, steeped in tradition and full of printmakers. Is there a connection?

This question is what motivated us to explore an international exchange between printmakers from the San Francisco Bay Area and Íslensk Grafík, the Icelandic Printmakers Association based in Reykjavík.

Plank and Smith’s explorations connected them to ten artists using technology in a variety of ways, at the same time committed to the power of the human touch, the mark of the hand.  This is what connects these ten artists to printmakers worldwide, wrestling with new technologies while digging deeply into the tine honored traditions that draw them to printmaking. While the curators researched artists exploring these ideas, they were continuously struck by serendipitous moments. The process of creating this exchange mirrored that of making prints: Focused intention meets magical moments of chance and fortune. As the curators were discovering that the deepest connection between the printmakers from these regions of resonant natural beauty appears to be a deep connection to landscape, the Southern Graphics Council International announced the theme of the 2018 conference to be Altered Landscape.

 

As Plank and Smith opened crates in the 688 Gallery, they were daunted by what at first seemed to be a disparate collection of artwork of all sizes, shapes and approaches. As the work was laid out on the gallery floor, the formal and conceptual connections became intriguingly apparent. The resulting exhibition looks as though the artists have been working together for years.

Plank and Smith interviewed several of the artists from the exchange discussing the idea of technology and tradition in printmaking practice and the practices of individual printmakers involved in the project. The artists were asked how technology is utilized in their studio process and how technology is expressed within the work.

Michelle Murillo’s At the Golden Gate I-III Photo credit: Carrie Ann Plank

Michelle Murillo’s At the Golden Gate I-III Photo credit: Carrie Ann Plank

Michelle Murillo’s At the Golden Gate I-III Photo credit: Carrie Ann Plank

Michelle Murillo’s At the Golden Gate I-III Photo credit: Carrie Ann Plank

Carrie Ann Plank/ Robynn Smith: Describe the use of technology in your studio practice.

Jimin Lee: Today's rapidly evolving print media encompass some of the most advanced technologies in art today --while retaining the ethos and practices of a traditional hands-on artistic craft. At each stage, complex procedures and decisions require the artist's profound expertise and intuition. As an artist-practitioner, I have intensively investigated the latest print media strategies since I first began using them in the early

90’s. While the use of various digital tools and their applications has been a critical part of my image making, my printmaking remains closely tied to touchable, material work.

In this era of globalization, awareness of other cultures is accelerated through such means as satellite transmission and the Internet.

Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir: First and foremost, I work conceptually without specific regard for technology. However, I am intrigued by new/modern techniques and equipment and how these things offer new possibilities of implementation/expression. I hate repetition and try to reconcile ideas/concepts with technological means.

Carrie Ann Plank/ Robynn Smith: How is technology seen/expressed in your work?

Michelle Murillo: Technology is sometimes present in the end product such as a digital print. But it is often hidden in ways that are invisible. For example, the cyanotype photographs were taken with a digital camera and then were edited using software. The negatives were printed digitally as well. We tend to forget that even analog and older technology such as the cyanotype process was avant-garde for its time.

Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir Technology is never at the forefront of the work but simply a means to an end, a solution to implementing and expressing the artistic/conceptual idea at hand.

Carrie Ann Plank/ Robynn Smith: How does your studio process influence the content of your work?

Laura Valentino: Every step of the process has an influence, from the type of camera used to capture the image, to the amount of touching up on the computer, to the paper and colors chosen in the final printing.

Soffia Sæmundsdóttir: While driving I see landscape coming near and far looking at the horizon through the window. I take pictures on my phone (my husband is usually driving) and on the screen the landscape is blurry and there are mountains that seem to be moving. I try to capture this movement with two copperplates that I repeatedly print on top of each other on a piece of paper. This creates an “out of control” touch. It is haunting and the outcome on the paper varies.

Michelle Murillo: I am foremost inspired by ideas and then seek the best medium to express them. Process also informs and influences the final piece just as materiality is important to me. Materials have the ability to amplify content, message and meaning.

Carrie Ann Plank/ Robynn Smith: How does the physical location of your studio practice influence your work?

Valgerdur Hauksdóttir: The subject matter is consistently influenced by the laws of nature, the beauty/cruelty to be found everywhere in the environment, as well as by the effect the surroundings have on each individual and on entire civilizations throughout the millennia. The artwork can be compared to a window, simultaneously peered through in two directions, outward and inward, in an attempt to sense and understand the origin of oneself as that of others. Every other week or so I go to my summerhouse in the south of Iceland or other places most often with my husband who drives the car while I take photographs out of the car window while we are driving. The photographs are blurry of course but at the same time it is haunting and I feel like the landscape is moving when I browse later through the photographs. I am inspired by landscape and it influences the way I work.

 

Michelle Murillo: My education as an art student was in the tradition of making work from observation. I was taught to create from life and I quickly developed an affinity for landscape. The landscape or place has been an infinite source of inspiration for me. I developed a special relationship with the San Francisco Bay when I moved to the area and learnt to sail. 

Elvar Örn Kjartansson: I travel a lot and work in different Ateliers around the world, which I find stimulates new project ideas. At the end of my stay in one place I leave rich with ideas of future projects. Being in a print studio for a certain amount of time, I start to deviate from the linear working flow of the process. 

Carrie Ann Plank/ Robynn Smith: How is your work linked to printmaking tradition?

Valgerdur Hauksdóttir: I am drawn to the handmade imperfect print. I want my work to touch the past

in a way and I think traditional printmaking methods help me achieve that.

Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir: As little as I think of print the final work is usually done in all or larger parts done with inks, paints in a printing press, which is my specialty. I work as untraditionally as any printmaker you can think of but in the end, it is firmly rooted in tradition.

Co-curators Carrie Ann Plank & Robynn Smith

Bios:

Carrie Ann Plank/ Robynn Smith: Describe the use of technology in your studio practice.

Jimin Lee: Today's rapidly evolving print media encompass some of the most advanced technologies in art today --while retaining the ethos and practices of a traditional hands-on artistic craft. At each stage, complex procedures and decisions require the artist's profound expertise and intuition. As an artist-practitioner, I have intensively investigated the latest print media strategies since I first began using them in the early

90’s. While the use of various digital tools and their applications has been a critical part of my image making, my printmaking remains closely tied to touchable, material work.

In this era of globalization, awareness of other cultures is accelerated through such means as satellite transmission and the Internet.

Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir: First and foremost, I work conceptually without specific regard for technology. However, I am intrigued by new/modern techniques and equipment and how these things offer new possibilities of implementation/expression. I hate repetition and try to reconcile ideas/concepts with technological means.

Carrie Ann Plank/ Robynn Smith: How is technology seen/expressed in your work?

Michelle Murillo: Technology is sometimes present in the end product such as a digital print. But it is often hidden in ways that are invisible. For example, the cyanotype photographs were taken with a digital camera and then were edited using software. The negatives were printed digitally as well. We tend to forget that even analog and older technology such as the cyanotype process was avant-garde for its time.

Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir Technology is never at the forefront of the work but simply a means to an end, a solution to implementing and expressing the artistic/conceptual idea at hand.

Carrie Ann Plank/ Robynn Smith: How does your studio process influence the content of your work?

Laura Valentino: Every step of the process has an influence, from the type of camera used to capture the image, to the amount of touching up on the computer, to the paper and colors chosen in the final printing.

Soffia Sæmundsdóttir: While driving I see landscape coming near and far looking at the horizon through the window. I take pictures on my phone (my husband is usually driving) and on the screen the landscape is blurry and there are mountains that seem to be moving. I try to capture this movement with two copperplates that I repeatedly print on top of each other on a piece of paper. This creates an “out of control” touch. It is haunting and the outcome on the paper varies.

Michelle Murillo: I am foremost inspired by ideas and then seek the best medium to express them. Process also informs and influences the final piece just as materiality is important to me. Materials have the ability to amplify content, message and meaning.

Carrie Ann Plank/ Robynn Smith: How does the physical location of your studio practice influence your work?

Valgerdur Hauksdóttir: The subject matter is consistently influenced by the laws of nature, the beauty/cruelty to be found everywhere in the environment, as well as by the effect the surroundings have on each individual and on entire civilizations throughout the millennia. The artwork can be compared to a window, simultaneously peered through in two directions, outward and inward, in an attempt to sense and understand the origin of oneself as that of others. Every other week or so I go to my summerhouse in the south of Iceland or other places most often with my husband who drives the car while I take photographs out of the car window while we are driving. The photographs are blurry of course but at the same time it is haunting and I feel like the landscape is moving when I browse later through the photographs. I am inspired by landscape and it influences the way I work.

 

Michelle Murillo: My education as an art student was in the tradition of making work from observation. I was taught to create from life and I quickly developed an affinity for landscape. The landscape or place has been an infinite source of inspiration for me. I developed a special relationship with the San Francisco Bay when I moved to the area and learnt to sail. 

 

Elvar Örn Kjartansson: I travel a lot and work in different Ateliers around the world, which I find stimulates new project ideas. At the end of my stay in one place I leave rich with ideas of future projects. Being in a print studio for a certain amount of time, I start to deviate from the linear working flow of the process. 

Carrie Ann Plank/ Robynn Smith: How is your work linked to printmaking tradition?

Valgerdur Hauksdóttir: I am drawn to the handmade imperfect print. I want my work to touch the past

in a way and I think traditional printmaking methods help me achieve that.

Greta Mjöll Bjarnadóttir: As little as I think of print the final work is usually done in all or larger parts done with inks, paints in a printing press, which is my specialty. I work as untraditionally as any printmaker you can think of but in the end, it is firmly rooted in tradition.

Co-curators Carrie Ann Plank & Robynn Smith

Bios:

 

Carrie Ann Plank

Carrie Ann Plank is an rtist working in the medium of printmaking, painting, and glass.  Plank's work is included in many private and public collections including the Fine Art Acrhives of the Library of Congress, Fine ARt Museums of San Francisco, Achenbch Foundtion for Graphic Arts, the Guanlan Print Art Museum in China, and the Iraq National Library in Baghdad.  Recent and upcoming shows at DZINE Gallery in San Francisco, The Academy of Art University, Bullseye Projects in Portland, OR, and Fourth Wall Gallery, Oakland, Ca. Residencies include Edition / Basel:  Printed in Cuba at th Taller Experimental de Grafica de La Habana in Havana, Cuba, the Íslensk Grafík in Reykjavik, Iceland, Edition/Basel: Printed in Basel at Druckwerk in Basel, Switzerland, Mullowney Printing in San Francisco, CA, Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Deer Isle, ME, and Bullseye Glass in Emeryville, CA. Additionally, Plank is the Director of the Printmaking MFA & BFA Programs at the Academy of Art University. She is active in the local arts community as a participant, juror, and volunteer, and is a board member of the California Society of Printmakers. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking from East Carolina University and her Masters of Fine Arts in Printmaking from the Pennsylvania State University.

Carrieannplank.com

Robynn Smith

 

Robynn Smith is an internationally exhibiting painter/printmaker and a Studio Art Instructor at Monterey Peninsula College. The source material for her work is based upon her travels and observations. She utilizes a wide variety of photographic, print and painting techniques in her mixed media paintings and prints.

Robynn Smith received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA  from San Jose State University. Robynn grew up in New York and has lived her adult life in Santa Cruz, California.

Notable solo exhibitions include the Monterey Museum of Art, the Triton Museum of Art and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Robynn has been included in a number of international exhibitions including Galley EF in Tokyo, Japan, Bank Studio Gallery in Queenstown, Tasmania and The National Museum of Belarus.

Robynn’s artists’ residencies include the Frans Masereel Center for Printmaking in Belgium, the Kala Institute in Berkeley California, the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois, Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass, Colorado, Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts in Saratoga, California, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and Open Studio, Toronto, and LARQ, Queenstown, Tasmania, Australia.

Robynn travels extensively and has taught many workshops including courses at Anderson Ranch, Casa Nambe, New Mexico, Donkey Mill Art Center, Hawaii , Magpie Studios, Adelaide, Australia and Las Maison Verte, Roujan, France. Robynn is the founder of International Print Day in May and runs Blue Mouse Studios in Aptos, California.

Robynnsmith.com