Anglesey print pioneer’s campaign

A pioneering printmaker is spearheading a campaign to revive the ancient art once practised by the likes of Picasso and Rembrandt.

Eirian Llwyd, from Anglesey, has helped organise an exhibition of Wales’s best printmakers the Ucheldre centre in Holyhead.

There are also going to be workshops to get more people interested and making prints.

The exhibition is on until October 6.

On at least two days members of the public can book a place at workshops run by Eirian and Lauren Burgess on Wednesday and Thursday (September 18 and 19).

Eirian said: “Wales has some really, really good printmakers who are influencing more and more people to become members of our workshops.”

In her drive to put Welsh printmaking on the map Eirian set up The Original Print Place/ Y Lle Print Gwreiddiol, a not for profit company, with fellow artists Jane Marchesi and Lauren Burgess, to promote printmaking as an important art form and began by selling original prints at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 2011.

“Our aim is to explain what original printmaking is. Everyone has to be hand inked and printed by hand; the majority of the work goes on the plate.

“You can get marks you cannot get in any other way, marks which you cannot replicate with a paintbrush or by pencil and artists are very attracted by printmaking. Most of the great artists enjoyed printmaking. Picasso made thousands of prints and Rembrandt was one of the best etchers ever.

“It’s an art which has been around thousands of years, from the time of cave drawing. It can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. A press can be expensive but that’s why  centres such as  Wrexham, Swansea, Cardiff and Aberystwyth were set up, where artists can have access to this equipment.

“People pay membership fees but each centre has different ways of funding and operating.

“Aberystwyth because membership is more spread out tends to have lectures at the university and concentrates on exhibitions. Swansea has a good membership and has applied for grants and organises artists in residence who run workshops. Wrexham is part of Yale College and has an open access policy for certain times of the week.

“There is a growing interest in printmaking. These are exciting times to be a printmaker and Wales is at the forefront,” said, wife of ex-Ynys Mȏn AM and former deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones.

At the workshops there will be an etching press and all the equipment necessary to do monoprints, there will be dry point and some relief printing.

The exhibition will be launched on Saturday at 3.30pm with a story.

Guto Dafis one of Wales’ foremost storytellers will tell the folk story behind one of the works at the Ucheldre.

The exhibition, last on show at the National Eisteddfod in Denbigh, was a huge international success when staged in Brussels and Amsterdam, where Guto first performed the folk story of the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach which was the subject of a print by Brecon artist Robert Macdonald.

Jim Creed director of the Regional Print Centre Wrexham, curated the international exhibition and The Original Print Place is organising its tour of Wales which will take it from Holyhead to Aberystwyth, Wrexham and Cardiff.

“There is a strong tradition of print making and story-telling in Wales. It’s a natural mix and one which we hope will attract people to the exhibition who would not normally attend an exhibition opening. It started for us in Amsterdam where a print by Robert Macdonald was linked to a Welsh folk tale.

“I kept having to repeat the story behind the image and we decided why not get a professional story-teller who could tell it much better than I could and so we got Guto to come over and tell the story for the exhibition in Amsterdam.

“Guto, who can work bilingually, also provides music and sings. We like the idea of combining the disciplines and it’s something we are going to try out,” said Eirian.

Guto Dafis, who lives in Canton, Cardiff, said: “I have always been interested in traditional stories, myths and legends, since an early age. I’ve always been a performer, played music and done a little acting and I suppose sometime in the mid-90’s I became aware of the existence of oral story telling when I attended the Beyond the Border festival at St Donats Castle.

“I am going to perform a traditional story from Carmarthenshire about a farmer who meets and woos a fairy lady from Llyn y Fan Fach. She consents to marry him on condition he does not strike her three times.

“I know art exhibition openings are often seen as social occasions for artists but the story telling went down fine in Amsterdam and people were really appreciative.

“I tell stories to both adults and children. I suppose many people feel story-telling is mainly for children but I like the opportunity to perform for adults,” said Guto, who has performed at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in Brittany, Lakeland Storytelling Festival, Festival at the Edge, Aberystwyth Storytelling Festival, and Suns Peraulis Musichis des Menorancis in Friuli, Italy.

As a musician and singer he has toured in Wales, Brittany, Ireland, England and Estonia. He co-hosts with David Ambrose the popular monthly evenings of storytelling and music at Milgi’s Yurt in Cardiff.

The artists exhibiting at Ucheldre, until October 6, include: Robert Macdonald, Mary Lloyd Jones, Pete Williams, John Abell, David Carpanini, Steffan Jones Hughes, Paul Croft, Annie Giles Hobbs and Eirian.

Robert Macdonald, whose work will be the subject of the story telling, has divided his life between journalism and painting.

He trained as a journalist on the New Zealand Herald in Auckland, and later studied painting and printmaking at the Central School of Art in London.

During the 1960s he worked in Fleet Street as Commonwealth Correspondent for the Scotsman, and took a specialist interest in the progress of African independence movements. For a period in the I970’s he was Chief Diplomatic Correspondent for the Central Office of Information, travelling widely overseas in delegations led by Britain’s Foreign Secretaries.

He gave up this work to do postgraduate studies in painting at the Royal College of Art in 1976.

Since then he has worked in art schools and has continued to paint and to write. He lives near Brecon.

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