Prints of work by more than 70 artists, ranging from the traditional to experimental, are to go on show in the East End this week to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a small printmaking studio run by an artist’s collective in Mile End.
For 20 years, the printworks has provided artists with studio space and estimates that a thousand artists have walked through its doors.
Susan Clarke, studio coordinator and lithographer, said: “We’re incredibly proud of how far East London Printmakers have come over the past 20 years. Through moments of adversity, we as a studio have stayed true to our vision and because of that we have become not only stronger as a studio, but as a community of artists.”
She added: “A wide variety of people find themselves at our doors; artists, illustrators, designers, architects graduates, print veterans and even those who don’t come from creatives backgrounds at all.”
East London Printmakers was founded by a collective who were interested in the artistic process of print screening and set out with the intention of setting up a studio.
Ann Norfield, one of its founders, spoke of the studio’s early days. She said: “Back in 1998 a group of likeminded printmakers held monthly meetings in Hackney’s Pub on the Park. [Eventually we started] showcasing work in atmospheric ramshackle buildings in Broadway Market.”
The original printmakers was set up by sourcing presses from various places, as well as turning to their own East London community to pool resources; leading it to grow into the studio it is today.
However, like many creative spaces in the capital, East London Printmakers has felt the pressure of gentrification. Many artists across the capital have been finding themselves financially squeezed out of workspaces.
Despite residing in an old factory building near London Fields for eighteen years, the studio was forced to relocate to Mile End in 2016 after facing a massive rent hike of 250 percent.
The Artist Workspace Study predicts that 24 percent of current sites providing areas for artists are at risk of closure within the next five years. 67 percent of the sites which were classed as being “at risk of closure” in the 2014 version of the study had closed by 2017.
Clarke said: “While London Fields was where we established ourselves, we realise
d it didn’t have to be where we restricted ourselves to. Presses can be moved, spaces can be rebuilt but the support and collective working of people is what ultimately makes us successful.”
The Annual Festival of Print Exhibition runs from November 29 – December 9 and is free to attend.