Edinburgh Printmakers – Own Art
Edinburgh Printmakers is a quiet, welcoming wee place to visit, despite its proximity to the hustle and bustle of the capital’s centre. You would never guess that you were in spitting distance from the Omni Centre and a frustratingly challenging group of converging main roads as you enter the gallery’s shop front from the near-silent street.
Inside the ground-floor shop you’re unlikely to assume that you’ve entered one of Edinburgh’s foremost institutions, responsible for some of the most exciting art commissions in Scotland today, including Reflective Histories at Traquair House in the Borders that saw seven leading contemporary artists respond to the ancient property. An impressive undertaking in itself, and yet only one of the many projects the gallery’s played a hand in.
The shop has a variety of prints for sale by artists both established and emerging, and unlike the more considered gallery space upstairs, is a place where you can leaf through what’s on offer. As well as traditional prints, framed and unframed, there are a selection of other items, such as cards and notebooks for those looking for a unique purchase that won’t break the bank.
Artists represented include the author and polymath Alasdair Gray, the great Scottish photography trickster Calum Colvin, ironic poster-maker Chad McCail, the serenely grotesque Jessica Harrison and social commentator Ruth Ewan. Again, the context will unlikely give you a true sense of the importance of what’s on offer as you flick through one gem after another – a refreshing alternative to the stuffier end of the commercial gallery spectrum.
Upstairs are two modest gallery spaces given over to regular contemporary exhibitions by leading Scottish and international artists. And despite their size, the galleries have played host to some big names, including works by Damien Hirst, the Chapman Brothers and Andy Warhol.
This autumn, working alongside the artists’ book commissioner Book Works, Edinburgh Printmakers shows a selection of new works by an impressive group of Book Work collaborators, Jeremy Deller, Jonathan Monk, Liam Gillick and Susan Hiller. Each artist was invited to make a new work on A4 paper in response to Book Work’s archive, which includes 25 years of projects. Contributions are typically varied and include found objects, fictionalised letters, and imaginary proposals for artworks unlikely ever to be made.
Looking through a window in the gallery you start to understand why the shop and exhibition spaces are quite so wee. Below lies an impressive printmaking workshop, offering traditional and modern printing facilities, including etching, lithography, screen printing and digital printmaking. A busy, professional studio, it is home to a healthy community of working artists.
If you're bored of browsing and fancy getting your hands dirty, Edinburgh Printmakers offers a wide selection of courses, including introductory classes, weekend and evening courses as well as taster workshops. These run all year round and are perfect if you want to learn new skills, or supplement your already impressive art education.
Particularly exciting is the zine workshop run by the weird and wonderful Malcy Duff. As well as offering an introduction to the history of zines, and other forms of self published works, participants are encouraged to get stuck in, drawing inspiration from their own, probably strange, interests.
Like some kind of Medieval bazaar, Edinburgh Printmakers has everything you might need under one roof (although you might still need to visit Tesco if you’re looking for sausages). Great exhibitions and a fun shop, it is also the ideal place to learn new art making skills. And you never know, you might end up exhibiting there too some day.