Pret-a-printer: Letterpress by The Officina Athelstane
5 August - 5 November 2017
Letterpress printing (the process of transferring ink to paper via raised letters) is in essence an industrial craft, and it has not changed markedly since Gutenberg printed his first book in 1453. Like many an obsolete process it has been taken up as an art form and has undergone something of a renaissance.
In Pret-a-printer: Letterpress by The Officina Athelstane, the artefacts of letterpress are used to give expression to a quirky typographic exploration of things “fashion”. Before the advent of computers, and for most of printing’s 570 year history, design was undertaken by printers and compositors at the printery, rather than dedicated graphic designers. Pret-a-printer honours this off-the-peg method of design, where the printer produced something eye catching and original from a limited palette of (metal and wood) design elements employing both practical skill and imagination. Large flat areas printed from wood poster type overlap with transparent, opaque, metallic and marbled inks, and juxtaposes with elaborate pattern built up from small pieces of decorative type (“fluerons” or “printer’s flowers”).
Typographic fashion, like the sartorial variety, followed the times: from overblown Victoriana into Art Nouveau, Art Deco and sober modernism. The Victorians industrialised the type casting process and their obsession with decoration brought a cornucopia of exotic fonts and ornament into the hands of printers, and thence onto the printed page.
Derek Lamb is a contemporary letterpress printer living and working in Rockhampton.
Pret-a-printer: Letterpress by The Officina Athelstane is the sixth exhibition to grace the walls of the Merilyn Luck Gallery for Central Queensland artists. This new initiative honours the contribution of Rockhampton Gallery supporter Mrs Merilyn Luck, who has long recognised the Gallery as ‘the cultural heart of our city’.
Where: Rockhampton Art Gallery, Merilyn Luck Gallery
Parking: Victoria Parade or Bolsover Car Park behind the Gallery