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Red Deer museum exhibit shows printmaking at its wackiest

Some unorthodox, even foolhardy, methods used to make art prints

Taking their cue from TV’s Jackass or MythBusters, two guerrilla print-makers have smashed a pickup truck against a wall, dropped a cinder block onto paper, and steamrollered over a print block — all to demystify art making.

The wacky results of Patrick Bulas and Jordan Schwab’s labours can be seen in the Making a Good First Impression exhibit at Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.

The two artists, respectively from Edmonton and Prince George, B.C., came up with the collaborative idea of taking the stuffiness out of the printmaking process — while having some laughs doing it.

Schwab admitted he always found technical explanations ponderous — especially when prints come from the simple act of slapping a piece of paper onto a carved print block (that’s been inked), and applying pressure.

You don’t need a printing press, he contends — only imagination.

For their experiments, Bulas created some beautifully carved print blocks of wood, lino and copper. His intricate images were etched in various styles — from Japanese to German Expressionist.

Then Schwab, an installation artist, came up with novel ways to bring the print blocks into contact with paper.

The most obvious method was having the two artists run straight at each other, with Bulas holding an inked woodblock, and Schwab holding a piece of paper affixed to a board. Their human collision created a none-too-perfect image of It Takes Two — a print Bulas carved in medieval style, showing knights jousting from tractors.

A ripped impression of Airborne came from actually dropping a cement block (with an inked print block affixed to its bottom) from a height of five metres onto paper.

If It Ain’t Broke involved attaching Bulas’s print block showing a truck with a wave rising over it, to the back of a real pickup truck. The vehicle was backed at 30 km/h into a piece of paper taped onto a temporary wall.

“This is the one we were most excited about — they one where we hoped no one gets hurt,” said Schwab.

The resulting imprint from the crash was negligible — not nearly as clear as the print that resulted from driving an industrial steamroller (with paper affixed to the roller) over Bulas’s lino block Overdrive, of four Horsemen of the Apocalypse driving steamrollers.

The two Western Canadian artists, both with masters degrees, say getting high-quality images wasn’t the point. They wanted to prove printmaking can be done even by the high-fiving method they taught adults and children at their Saturday workshop at the museum.

Both artists hope to burst the perception that art is an elite pursuit by showing that everybody can be creative. The exhibit runs to March 19.

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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