“The studio can boast of a very successful internship program. The interns have ranged from students to young professionals, artists, musicians, designers, illustrators, producers, photographers, writers, mothers and all ranging between 16 and 61 years of age.”
PHOTOGRAPHY: HAYDEN PHIPPS
INTERVIEW : RICK DE LA RAY
WHEN DID YOU ESTABLISH WARREN EDITIONS AND WHERE WERE YOU SITUATED BEFORE THE STUDIO IN ROELAND STREET?
I established Warren Editions in 2008 on the top floor of a derelict building in Bree Street, affectionately called by Capetonians – ‘The Loft’. Many people have fond memories of the activities in The Loft space. The space has been used as a club, a design quarters for ‘Daddy has a Pony’ owned by Peet Pienaar and a home for photographer Pieter Hugo.
WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOUR LOVE FOR PRINTMAKING CAME FROM AND WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO TAKE IT ON AS A SERIOUS PROFESSION?
My love for printmaking was ignited at university, second year, when I was introduced to etching and lithography. I was sold and smitten. To print was all I wanted to do and for the first time something really made sense to me. So being a printer came to me naturally, for me it was a case of having been chosen by the printmaking gods and not the other way around. Almost 20 years later it is my profession.
YOU ATTENDED THE KAREL DE GROTE HOGESKOOL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ANTWERP, WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO RETURN TO SOUTH AFRICA AND START YOUR OWN STUDIO?
No other place is like South Africa. I returned with a vision. It just made absolute sense to me to have a printmaking studio in the heart of Cape Town.
WHAT ROUTE DID YOU TAKE TO FULFILL YOUR PASSION, HOW LONG DOES IT NORMALLY TAKE TO BECOME A MASTER PRINTER?
After I graduated with a BAFA, I just continued making work in the printmaking medium. My journey started as a third year fine art student, printing for my fellow students. All I then wanted in return was a printer’s proof. You see it’s not everyone’s idea of fun to slog away at pulling prints from etching plates. Besides a way to start my art collection, it was exhilarating for me to be spending my time at an etching press and hand-wiping ink off an etched plate. The path that started here led to Belgium where I studied and lived in Antwerp, while I assisted and headed up projects with artists and other printmakers. The path from there has taken me to where I am now – the director and head printer of Warren Editions. It has been a long road filled with many challenges. In order to achieve something, hard work must be done.
The term Master Printer in some respects is archaic and outdated. It smacks of a guild system that no longer exists, and is used flippantly by people that have been printing professionally for a few months or a year. To really be using the term Master Printer, a person must have been doing the print ‘thing’ for 20 years in a professional setup. The title must be earned. I think it can be earned through the level of skill, knowledge and understanding gained about a particular field in printmaking, but more importantly coupled with the printer’s ability to have insight into the development of a body of work in print with an artist. And, the printer’s ability to run a project successfully and collaborate with an artist on works in print in a manner that ensures that the artist feels that they are working with someone that understands their intentions for their overall body of work. Achieving the ability to observe, listen and to be conscientious is at the core of becoming a great printmaker. A Master Printer is most certainly not the person that hides his ‘secret’ techniques. But, in actuality I view myself rather as a ‘midwife’ or as ‘the caretaker’.
THE STUDIO SPECIALISES IN THE INTAGLIO TECHNIQUES OF ETCHING AND PHOTO-POLYMER, AS WELL AS MONOTYPE, RELIEF AND SILKSCREEN. WHICH ONE OF THESE TECHNIQUES ARE THE MOST DIFFICULT TO EXECUTE AND WHICH OF THEM DO YOU PERSONALLY PREFER TO WORK WITH?
The most difficult technique in my opinion, and will surprise most, is monotype. The technique that I personally prefer is etching.
REGARDLESS OF ALL THE TECHNIQUES THAT THE STUDIO SPECIALISES IN, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU SAY THE STUDIO IS MOST WELL-KNOWN FOR?
The studio is known for etching and monotype.
WHICH ONE OF THESE TECHNIQUES HAS PROVEN TO BE THE MOST POPULAR WITH THE ARTISTS THAT BRING THEIR WORK TO THE STUDIO?
THE STUDIO REGULARLY WORKS WITH ESTABLISHED ARTISTS BUT ALSO WITH EMERGING ONES, WHAT SORT OF APPLICATION PROCESS IS INVOLVED IN ORDER TO COLLABORATE WITH THE STUDIO?
There is no application process. I invite the artists to come to Warren Editions. There is however an organic process supporting the interest that I have in certain artists. I really appreciate their work and their work inspires me to want to make prints (or even art in general). I can visualise prints resolved in their style and imagery, and pertinent to the process is that the body of prints produced should fit into the vision I have for Warren Editions and contribute meaningfully to contemporary printmaking and art. Last (but not least) the artist’s profile does play a role.
Many of the successful prints that have been created at Warren Editions manifest the achievements and success of the studio. They contain within them the particular strategies I have as a printmaker, the adaptability of the studio and means of insight, by the artist and I, required to produce quality fine art prints. These prints have also helped to shape the image of Warren Editions. Choosing what to produce is often an organic and intuitive process. The artists would usually explore thematic concerns and imagery found in their other works, but the parameters set by printmaking changes the approach and methodology that usually would be followed by the artist. The process entails required elements to come together for producing a successful print. These include how particular techniques are employed, stylistic aspects, will the image translate well into a print and will the eventual print heighten the profile of the artist and reinforce the existence of contemporary printmaking.
THE STUDIO BOASTS THE LARGEST PRESS IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE, WEIGHING IN AT 1,2 TONS AND MEASURING 3 X 1,5 M. WAS THE PRESS LOCALLY MADE OR HOW DID THE STUDIO COME ABOUT ACQUIRING SUCH A LARGE PRESS?
A stocky and ‘to the point’ Afrikaans engineer operating in Meyerton outside Johannesburg made the she-monster (the name given to her, after the monotype titled She-Monster by Georgina Gratrix). I have been ordering presses from him since I was 22 years old. Interestingly, he made his first etching press for his then art student girlfriend, when he was an engineering student in Pretoria.
YOU CHOOSE TO USE BRASS INSTEAD OF THE PREFERRED METHOD OF USING COPPER TO DO YOUR ETCHINGS WITH. WHAT MADE YOU START USING THE BRASS AND WHY WOULD YOU SAY IT’S FAR BETTER THAN COPPER?
The facts about Brass:
- metal alloy of copper and zinc (containing approximately 70 – 80% copper)
- harder than copper
- light gold in colour
Opinion about Brass, based on years of experience with the metal:
- does not tarnish and oxidise at the fast rate that copper does and is excellent for print production because the etch and non-etch areas can clearly be discerned on the metal surface.
THE STUDIO STARTED A VERY SUCCESSFUL INTERNSHIP PROGRAM IN 2008. HOW DO STUDENTS APPLY FOR SUCH AN INTERNSHIP AND HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT CHOOSING POTENTIAL INTERNS?
The studio can boast of a very successful internship program. The interns have ranged from students to young professionals, artists, musicians, designers, illustrators, producers, photographers, writers, mothers and all ranging between 16 and 61 years of age. More than 40 interns have turned a flywheel at Warren Editions. The details for the application is on the website. The most important component of the application for me is the letter of intent, if I like what I read then I try and meet the applicant so as to get a face-to-face impression.
THE STUDIO HAS COLLABORATED WITH AN ABUNDANCE OF ARTISTS. WERE THERE ANY OF THESE THAT PERSONALLY STAND OUT FOR YOU?
Christian Nerf, Michael Taylor, Georgina Gratrix
YOU ALSO HOST VARIOUS WORKSHOPS AT THE STUDIO, HOW OFTEN DO THESE WORKSHOPS HAPPEN AND WHAT DOES THE PROGRAM ENTAIL IF SOMEONE WISHES TO ENROLL IN ONE OF THESE COURSES?
The studio has through the years attempted at creating a workshop program and has had successful workshops, but the workload and studio activities always outweigh my intention. In 2014 the studio did not host any workshops because there was just too much going on. I would however really like to host an etching and aquatint workshop in 2015. I hope this is obtained. Watch this space.
YOU PRACTICED AS QUITE A PROMINENT VISUAL AND PERFORMANCE ARTIST UNTIL 2007, WAS IT A CONSCIOUS DECISION TO STOP AND DO YOU SEE YOURSELF TAKING ON ANY MORE PERSONAL PROJECTS AGAIN IN THE FUTURE?
Yes, it was a hard decision to make. My view then, and still so now, was that I wanted to focus on either one, that being either a successful artist or a successful printer. I had juggled being an artist and a printer in my 20s. By the time I was 31 I knew I needed clarity. Being a printer offered this to me. My strong need to start my own studio and the vision for this studio was far clearer than what I needed in order to be an artist. Do I see myself taking on personal projects, yes I do. Although, these will not entail me standing naked for hours or being down on my knees for days, as I was willing to do then. So, watch this space.
THE STUDIO ALSO ACTS AS A GALLERY. DO YOU ONLY EXHIBIT PRINTED WORK THAT HAS BEEN PRINTED BY THE STUDIO OR DO YOU SOMETIMES HOST OTHER WORK IN DIFFERENT MEDIUMS?
The gallery is in-house, the space allows for the showcasing of the prints produced by Warren Editions.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HAVING YOUR OWN GALLERY ALONGSIDE THE PRINTING STUDIO? WAS IT A DELIBERATE IDEA TO HAVE A JOINED GALLERY WITH THE SPACE OR DID IT JUST EVOLVE OUT OF NECESSITY?
I always had the need to show-off the prints after I worked so hard on them. I yearned for a separate space that contains the print drawers and a large display table to pack the prints onto when visitors and potential buyers come to the studio. The gallery fulfills both for me. But, has also subsequently gained more purpose, the space allows for an artist and I to work on a body of prints while being mindful of the working methodology of the artist and their other mediums. An example of this is the work produced in collaboration with Katherine Bull and Christian Nerf with the exhibitions and performances that formed part of the body of prints.
ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC FUTURE PROJECTS OR EVENTS IN THE PIPELINE FOR THE STUDIO?
WATCH THIS SPACE!
LANA DEL RAY
Born To Die
VIVE LA FETE