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Under the banner of the Festival of Muslim Cultures:UK 2006, Swansea Print Workshop established the Festival of Muslim Cultures Print Project; a year-long programme of printmaking activities, artist residencies, workshops and exhibitions

This catalogue is now out of print but it can be accessed as a pdf file

A powerful and unique partnership developed with printmakers from Pakistan as the Contemporary Pakistani Printmakers exhibition, curated by Sarah Hopkins and Sameera Khan, showcased the work of the country’s best printmakers. Designed to inform the West of current practice, the prints and the artists who made the work had a significant and lasting impact on the host communities, who embraced their diverse talent and rich culture. The exhibition was brought to Swansea, Wales in January 2006 and completed its UK tour in January 2007.

 Exceeding all expectations, the Print Project functioned as a catalyst for exploring new cultural connections and reciprocal opportunities for Welsh artists. Sharing Wales’ talent, culture and heritage with the communities of Pakistan, Swansea Print Workshop orchestrated Contemporary Welsh Printmakers, the sister exhibition to Contemporary Pakistani Printmakers; a selection of work that acknowledges printmakers from across the Principality.

 Much can be learned about a country’s culture through the images that artists use; the sharing of ideas, attitudes to life, a sense of history, a comment on current events and not least humour, which can forge vital connections with an immediacy that transcends language barriers.

 Contemporary Welsh Printmakers represents 20 artists living and working in Wales and includes 45 original prints reflecting aspects of culture and heritage, lifestyle and contemporary themes.

SARAH HOPKINS


  Welsh Prints to Pakistan : Wales and its Artists

ROBERT MACDONALD is Chair of the Welsh Group and a director of Swansea Print Workshop

Robert Macdonald                Bert Isaac: The Dorothea

Robert Macdonald                                                   Bert Isaac: The Dorothea

Wales, painting its crags, castles and misty mountains, the Principality attracted artists from across the border in England and from further afield. The English Neo-Romantics were fascinated by the Welsh landscape and in the 1930s and 1940s artists such as Graham Sutherland and John Piper were inspired by its hidden valleys, tangled woods and hump-backed hills. They came to Wales to paint, but did not stay.

Welsh-born artists often travelled in the opposite direction. Augustus John and his now equally famous sister Gwen moved far from home in the early 20th Century, attracted by the bright lights of London and Paris. This was the pattern until comparatively recently, with visiting artists looking for inspiration in the Welsh landscape and many of the native-born painters and sculptors seeking success and recognition beyond Wales.

All this has changed in the last 35 years as the artistic community within Wales has grown as never before. Major artists such as Sir Kyffin Williams and Bert Isaac came back to Wales to paint after many years spent working in London. Another leading Welsh landscape painter, Peter Prendergast, studied in England but then returned as a young man to Wales with his wife Lesley, and, despite many hardships, made an international name for himself as a powerfully expressionist oil painter, working in isolation up in the mountains of Snowdonia.

These three artists all drew strength from the dramatic local landscape. Their presence encouraged younger Welsh artists to have the confidence to remain in Wales, though not necessarily to follow in their shoes as landscape painters. The work of younger generations is notable for its diversity, though particular aspects of Wales's life and scenery still attract many artists. While the home-grown artistic community has expanded there has also been a great influx of creative talents from beyond the Welsh borders. The artistic scene in Wales is now a vibrant one, though in many respects the artistic infrastructure has not grown tokeep pace with the larger numbers of artists working here now. There is no Welsh National Gallery of Contemporary Art and no Welsh Art magazine. The one exception to this dearth of provision is in printmaking, for Wales is now well-served with printmaking facilities. Swansea Print Workshop is the newest of these, and when plans for its expansion are completed it will be one of the best in Britain.

During the last 12 months Wales has suffered the loss of its artistic core, with the deaths in rapid succession of Bert Isaac, Sir Kyffin Williams and Peter Prendergast. All three of them were printmakers as well as painters and Bert Isaac in particular has left behind a large body of linocuts and etchings. Though he loved landscape painting Bert was a great experimenter, particularly in printmaking. He would be delighted to see the diversity of work in this exhibition, the enthusiasm of the young to rediscover traditional skills and the adventurous techniques explored here by his artistic successors.

ROBERT MACDONALD is Chair of the Welsh Group and a director of Swansea Print Workshop

School links

Further to the activities that were part of the Festival of Muslim Cultures Print Project and with the purpose of promoting valuable interaction and cultural diversity in those who are at a formative stage in their development, a 'twinning' has taken place between two schools: Coed Hirwaun Primary, Neath Port Talbot in South Wales and Mountain School, Gilgit in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The children are currently corresponding and exchanging cultural information and experiences from their unique viewpoints.

Children from Coed Hirwaun school visiting Swansea Print Workshop

Children from Coed Hirwaun school visiting Swansea Print Workshop

Their interest in each other has been enhanced by school visits made by our artist in residence Aleem Khan. He surprised the children of Coed Hirwaun with a documentary film of MountainSchool and its pupils. The MountainSchool children introduced themselves on film, which made a huge impact.

Children from Coed Hirwaun School watching Aleem dad Khan Screenprinting

Children from CoedHirwaunSchool watching Aleem dad Khan Screenprinting

With regards to the film and Aleem’s visit, Mr Rhys Harris, Deputy Head teacher said, ‘The response from our kids was unbelievable; we are now in the process of making our own documentary, which we will be sending to Gilgit after Christmas. We have also asked Aleem to come back to our school to share more information about the communities in the Northern Areas. The children are keen to taste Hunza apricots and kernels and to find out more about Pakistani lifestyles.’

Prints from Coed Hirwaun School

Prints from Coed Hirwaun School