Stamp of approval for booming printmaking

Henderson's Relish by Jo Peel
Henderson's Relish by Jo Peel
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Alison Morton, curator at the Millennium Gallery, is worried about the latest flagship exhibition there.

She’s certain the public will like the show dedicated to printworks by Sheffield artists and she’s sure critics will approve too.

Into The Valley by Jonathan Wilksinson

Into The Valley by Jonathan Wilksinson

But she’s still concerned. “I absolutely love the stuff we’re putting up – but a lot of them are for sale,” she confesses. “My fear is I’m going to end up spending more than I can afford buying several for myself.”

Some dilemma.

The exhibition in question – titled Printing Sheffield – is to celebrate the city’s 21st century renaissance in printmaking. It will feature more than 100 pieces by 30 of the best artists based here including Florence Blanchard, Piers Williams and Jonathan Wilkinson.

“Printmaking is booming in Sheffield,” says Alison. “Over the last couple of years the city has gained a UK-wide reputation for being at the forefront of this technique. Artists are producing works of real breath-taking beauty. It’s only right the city’s flagship gallery celebrates that.”

A new exhibition for Sheffield Printmakers will be taking place at Millennium Gallery. Pictured is Alison Morton exhibition and display curator at the Museums Sheffield

A new exhibition for Sheffield Printmakers will be taking place at Millennium Gallery. Pictured is Alison Morton exhibition and display curator at the Museums Sheffield

Many works in the exhibition feature landmarks which will be well-known to readers – the Gleadless Valley, Derwent Valley and (but of course) the Henderson’s Relish factory, for example. Others are more abstract. A couple of works – including one by Broomhill’s internationally-acclaimed Paul Morrison – would set you back £1,000. Several will be available for little more than a tenner. One commission will take up an entire wall. Some are A5.

“They’re all different,” says Alison. “But they’re all stunning.”

The process of printmaking has grown in popularity because it allows artists to create a design and then print it several times, meaning a small number of one picture can be produced independently and inexpensively. This in turn makes the end product more affordable when selling.

As print runs tend to be cheaper it also leads to experimentation which in turn can lead to more arresting results.

South Yorkshire’s reputation, meanwhile, has grown due to several studios – including APG Works in Sidney Street and B&B Gallery in Mary Street – installing equipment for use.

“It’s a very Sheffield technique in how it puts the creative and commercial power in the hands of the individual,” adds Alison who first worked at Museums Sheffield in 1998. And for those artists involved it’s a thrill to be appearing in the exhibition. “Having your work at the Millennium Gallery is a bit like a rock star getting to play the Arena,” says Jonathan Wilkinson who produced a Tinsley Towers print. “It’s nice to be a part of this. I hope visitors like it.”

n Printing Sheffield runs January 25 to June 15. Free entry.