How about a bit? - Auckland Print Studio

The primary objective of Auckland Print Studio is to initiate and facilitate projects with professional artists, architects and other design-based practitioners – to create an active laboratory environment within which these practitioners, students and the public will interact.

In 1997, as I began my undergraduate degree at Syracuse University, I saw a rich, dark and complex image in the university's art collection. It haunted me. The image was a lithograph by Federico Castellon and I was sold. I wanted to see more and attempt to make images with a similar quality. This was the first lithograph I had seen and I have been drawing on stone and printing ever since.

Working at various printmaking studios in the United States spoiled me; they were well equipped and frequented by many accomplished artists. Some of these studios also published editions and collaborative print projects, with which I naturally became involved with as the primary printer. Artists Image Resource, a large printmaking studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is where I gained the most experience, managing and printing the collaborative projects of Faith Ringgold, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Patricia Bellan-Gillen, Rick Gribenas and many others.

Auckland Print Studio (APS) is a fine print studio specialising in hand-printed lithography, and it is the realisation of a goal I have had ever since my arrival in New Zealand. There simply are no open-studios with lithographic stones or presses in Auckland. So, foremost, this is a space where I can continue my research and make lithographs. My lithographic work has won awards, notably the 2006 Team McMillan BMW Art Award and, more recently, the 2010 International Lithography Artist-in-Residence Award in the Black Church Print Studio, Dublin, Ireland. My lithographs have been exhibited in the United States, South America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Italy, and I have had regular solo exhibitions with Seed Gallery in Auckland since 2006.

After a year's work preparing the space and building equipment, I was thrilled to officially open Auckland Print Studio with the first annual Open-Stone event this past November, 2008. The small space was full of people, all collaboratively drawing (often simultaneously) on a freshly prepared lithographic stone. When enough drawing had been made with the greasy-based lithographic pencils and crayons, I processed, inked, and printed the stone making a small, variable edition and gave each guest a print to take home.

The Open-Stone event is a great opportunity to visit the studio, see lithography in action, and walk away with a print. Groups and individuals are also most welcome to visit the studio by appointment. Earlier this year I gave demonstrations to visiting groups such as Friends of the Auckland Art Gallery. APS operates on many levels and applications are accepted from artists and creative practitioners interested in making collaborative lithographs to complement their practices. I will soon be hosting an open-studio night for those who have prior lithographic experience or for those taking a workshop at APS.

The main activity of APS is initiating collaborative projects with artists, architects, and designers, which result in unique small-edition lithographic prints. To date, I have worked with architect Danelle Briscoe, landscape architect Pete Griffiths, artist Julian Hooper and artist/student Kirsten Walsh. Having a variety of practitioners in the studio making work is without a doubt the best aspect of running the studio. The studio seems to change on a daily basis: especially so when a new person is there. Most artists work relatively out of sight labouring away in personal spaces, but the nature of lithography often requires people to work in the print studio environment, making the creative process open and viewable.

Julian Hooper was the first invited artist at Auckland Print Studio and he spent many long and concentrated hours working on (and towering over) his stone, with each printed layer pinned up for critique and contemplation. Pete Griffiths, with seemingly little effort outside of idiosyncratic pencil movements and a few personal rituals, created the first layer of his evolving print on a sunny afternoon. Danelle Briscoe, seated on the stool she donated to the studio, went through numerous sharpened points to create her delicate line drawing on the stone. Kirsten Walsh, a student learning the intricacy of making and printing her own lithographs, has livened up the space with beautiful and delicate images and occasional notes, such as the one letting me know she used the counter-etch-only brush to gum her stone. Master carver and sculptor Lyonel Grant is the next invited guest at APS and I'm greatly anticipating what the world-class carver might lay onto the surface of a precision-flat stone.

A mainstay of APS is its connection with Unitec New Zealand. The studio is situated at Unitec's Mt Albert campus, where I am a lecturer in the Department of Architecture. As part of the programme at APS, I invite practitioners from the wider architectural field to collaborate in the studio and create limited edition lithographs. Practitioners, upon completing their prints, are asked to contribute to a broad dialogue on drawing and image making, and its place within creative and design-based disciplines, by engaging students, staff and the public in a presentation and discussion. Exhibitions of the work will also lend to this critical dialogue.

APS is equipped with a 30" x 50" Charles Brand lithography press and a variety of stones. The stones are the matrix upon which the image is made and from which the ink is transferred to paper or like surfaces. I find a latent beauty in these stones: whether inky with remnant drawings having just been printed, or freshly ground to a smooth 220-grit surface. The backsides of the stones echo their respective business letterheads histories: their prior uses printing beer labels, or pension fund forms, all lettered by hand. The majority of these labels were from Pittsburgh or Chicago, the cities from where I collected, crated and shipped the stones. On a technical note, these stones are of the lithographic limestone group originating in the Solnhofen quarry in the German state of Bavaria. They began forming around 150 million years ago!

At APS, I also use positive-working photolithographic plates that are made by exposing drawings and washes developed on drafting film. Once these plates are made, I ink them up and print them in a similar manner to the stones. A major benefit of using these photo-plates is the ability to work away from the studio and a number of long-distance APS projects are dependent on this capability. One extraordinary fund-raising project in progress involves a group of children from an International Humanity Foundation orphanage in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Regan Potangaroa, a colleague of mine who is involved in many humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, engaged the children to make a series of drawings. He collated these and transported them back to APS where I exposed them on to the photo-litho plates and printed them as editions. An additional yet-to-be-realised component of this project is the pairing up of a New Zealand artist with each child's drawing. The artist can add to the image by creating an additional printed layer or by making a separate piece in response, to be utilised as a diptych.

APS's fundamental interest is in how print and imaging processes connect with broader contemporary practice and how better to enable this. APS champions drawing, experimentation and, ultimately, open and creative collaboration.Work and studio info can be accessed on the website.

Describing my lithograph: Figure from Ground By Danelle Briscoe

Architectural drawings tend to depict the compression of built space - through representation of the relations between objects and space. To common perception, the figure is what you notice and the ground is everything else. The landscape (or universal space) of New Zealand calls upon the aesthetics of ambiguity where the relationship between figure and ground is reversed. The focus is the ground/landscape and remains dominant to any built object upon it.

The overlay of the digital body stands apart from the figure/ground almost like an apparition. It almost serves as a reminder of the strong traditional relationship of the figure to ground by its role as figure from ground.

I found the APS studio to be a meditative space of calm and reflection. It has been some time since I have experienced my first love of architecture: the act of drawing by hand. Armed with computers, architects today do not always have the luxury and time of translating their thoughts and ideas through this medium. How lucky I feel to be asked to contribute to the work being done in the studio. The atmosphere and detail that has gone into the APS has without a doubt made it a memorable experience I will cherish now that I have moved from New Zealand.

Marianne Uptown By Julian Hooper

Marianne Uptown is an image of some things that together make up a figure of a girl in a city. I have stayed in many big cities, and wanted to capture the excitement of stepping out on a bright sunny morning. This was my first experience of lithography, and I was surprised by the flexibility and versatility of the medium. Making this print involved many decisions in progress. John suggested many processes for working on the stone, including ways of editing and revising, which made for a really interesting and involving collaboration.

Lithographic prints by Pete Griffiths

Phase transition: the point at which creative the and critical analysis phases of design coalesce. Stone lithography: the ability to capture the freshly drawn stroke of a pencil with its characteristic qualities intact. It seems to me the serenity, the poetics, the jubilation, the contentment, the freedom, the accidents, the precision… are words and characteristics so often missing in circumspect sets of standard-sized banners or sheets depicting landscape schemes and landscape architecture…the words of Billy the Kid spring to mind, "I'll make you famous"… he said, as he raised a six-shooter clasped in his outstretched hand… a bold and confident phrase that mirrors what I believe lithographic technique can offer to landscape architecture. Where is the danger, the risk, the instinct, in landscape representations? So often it is the mundane, the safe, that wins tenders or is associated with public works. Where are the schemes that open up issues about the landscape? Critical point: landscape and lithography share traits similar to systems containing liquid and gaseous phases. In these systems there exists a special combination of pressure and temperature, known as the critical point. Near the critical point, the fluid is sufficiently hot and compressed that the distinction between the liquid and gaseous phases is almost non-existent which = landscape architecture and its transient qualities… landscape is not a thing to be designed, to be arranged, or to be figured out or solved, a thing to be put away as finished. Landscape exists: continually moving nearer to or farther from a critical point. In the same way, the chemical processes associated with lithography capture an almost sensuous, yet definite, physical life force… pooling, sediments and capillaries… veins, skin and flesh… grinding, washing and pressing… inconsistency, surprise, and the unexpected.