In a bid to showcase Canada’s rich print culture, internationally decorated print artist Liz Ingram curated the “International Print Exhibition: Canada and Japan” with the help of April Dean, executive director of the Society of Northern Alberta Print-Artists.
The exhibition includes art from 120 artists, featuring 82 prints from Canadians, and 75 from Japanese creators. It first debuted at the Kyoto Municipal Museum last October, with the Japanese art selected by the Kyoto Print Exhibition Executive Committee. It’s now on display for Edmontonians to take in the diverse artwork.
“Edmonton, specifically, has a really long and vibrant history of print making and really sort of progressive ideas in print making,” Dean says.
The Canadian prints were selected by Dean and Ingram, using a mixture of invitations to artists they knew, and open calls for submissions to include artists outside their immediate network.
“We probably could have programmed twice as many [artists] really easily,” Dean says. “I’m certain there are incredible artists working in Canada whose work we’re not familiar with, just because the country is so expansive.”
The exhibition is part of a series coordinated with artists from Japan and one other country every two years since 2001, in an attempt to showcase the local trends in print artwork.
Unfortunately, Dean says, “to be totally inclusive across Canada just ended up being impossible for us.”
Instead, they did their best within limitations to assemble a representative cross-section of Canadian print culture, albeit one a bit biased towards Albertan creators.
“If they had asked curators in Quebec, or potentially on the east coast, or maybe even in Vancouver, they might have had a very different show,” Dean says.
In both the Japanese and Canadian portions of the exhibit, Dean says modern techniques clash with the old to create new styles of prints, unique to the art of our times.
“Layers of digital printing or digital manipulation combine with more traditional practices,” she says. “It’s being used throughout the exhibition in a lot of different ways and a lot of innovative ways.”
Much of that innovation comes from a cultural approach that spreads between artists working in distinct regions.
“Print artists from Alberta seem to be interested in this marriage between their idea, or their concept, or their philosophy, and the way that the image is being produced, so there’s a real synthesis between idea and medium,” Dean says. “It’s not necessarily about technique, but it’s about the right expression of an idea though the technique.”
Contrasting that approach is what she describes as the decidedly technique-focussed works from Japan.
“There are some wood engravings in the Japanese portion of the exhibit that are really incredible,” Dean says. “The attention to detail, and the real sort of soundness of craft is really mesmerizing.”
An example of this comes from some of Akira Kurosaki’s work. While his work is rooted in many famous Japanese print approaches from the 20th century, Dean views his woodblock prints as a modern attraction that print appreciators will look forward to seeing.
“He’s using this traditional technique, but his works feels incredibly contemporary to me in their use of colour and the sort of abstraction and shape they have,” she says. “They have a ton of energy in them.”
(As the chairman of the Kyoto Print Exhibition Executive Committee, Kurosaki also organized the exhibit.)
Both the Canadian and Japanese prints will be displayed for the duration of the exhibition, but additional programming and workshops will be scheduled on the fly within the exhibition space, too. Check the University of Alberta’s Museum website throughout the exhibition’s run for more information.
University of Alberta Museums Galleries at Enterprise Square, 10230 Jasper Ave.
Gallery Hours: Thursday / Friday: 12:00pm – 6:00pm, Saturday: 12:00pm – 4:00pm
Admission by donation.