Notes on the Selection of the Second International Printmaking Festival, 2009
Chinese printmaking over recent years has gradually achieved international recognition. Chinese curators are looking outside of their country and beginning to host international shows. Qijiang is located in a relatively unknown region in southwest China, but in fact has been a centre of printmaking for many years, with a local Farmers’ Printmaking Movement. The 2nd International Print Exhibition in 2009 is marking a trend towards China playing an important role in the contemporary printmaking arena.
It was a surprise to be called in at a relatively late hour to help with curating the 2nd Qijiang International Print Exhibition, but I was pleased and privileged to be involved in the project. I was invited by Li Yili, general secretary of Chongqing Artists Association located in China, to join Weimin He, co-curator, artist and author based in Oxford, UK.
At first we thought about gathering work from printmakers who we knew, or perhaps asking print workshops with which we had a personal connection to submit work, but soon realised that this would not have fulfilled the objective of an international show. As many artists now have computer access, and are familiar with processing their images in digital format, we decided to run a solely digital selection process, with a very short two weeks between the call for entries and the deadline date.
The call for entries was greatly aided by the internet- allowing the email to fly around the world at an incredible speed, and a dedicated website was soon created to deal with publicity and to provide details. We were fortunate to have friends with extensive address lists, in particular Brian Lane from Print Zero Studios in Seattle, who contacted around 10 key institutions in the US, perhaps explaining the strength and numbers of the north American printmaking cohort. Cara Forrler of the Davidson Gallery, Tamla Mah of Art Beatus, and Brenda Hartill of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers also helped spread the word.
The standard of submissions was higher than we had expected, with many technically excellent and ambitious works. We decided to choose a greater number of prints, rather than concentrating on a few artists, in order to showcase the diversity and talent in contemporary printmaking. While we hope we chose a good balance, there was also a portion of compelling prints that was unfortunately rejected.
Again, use of the internet made it possible to establish quick and easy communication between London, Oxford and Chongqing. It was a pleasure to work with the Chongqing Artist’s Association, whose generosity and enthusiasm for the project has been inspiring. In particular it has been great to connect with Li Yili, who is a celebrated Chinese printmaker and who has made Qijiang a well known centre for folk printmaking. Being involved in this show has really opened my eyes to the sheer range and beauty of creative expression in printmaking today.