Printer’s Proof is pushing the boundaries of a rare artform
By Lena Hunter | Photos: Printer’s Proof
Valby, Copenhagen: in a one-storey building designed by Danish architect Ole Vinter in 1953, printmaking experts Olga Zolin and Kell Johan Frimor are running Printer’s Proof – an etching studio, publishing house and gallery. But something unusual is happening in their workshop. Since its establishment in 2013, the studio has been quietly nurturing a bygone form of printing.
“When we say we work with printmaking, most people assume that it’s lithography. But it’s deep print – an intaglio method in which motifs are etched into copper plates. It’s a much older technique that originated in the 1400s,” says Olga.
Though Olga and Kell are experts in printmaking, neither are artists themselves. Olga studied art history in Italy and the Netherlands, while Kell is a qualified Master Printer. “Perhaps the only qualified intaglio printmaker in Denmark,” says Olga. At Printer’s Proof, the pair collaborate with artists of all disciplines, facilitating the production of etchings in their studio.
“I think the reason why artists – whether they are a painter or a sculptor – don’t go into printmaking is because it requires such huge know-how. So this form of collaboration is extremely important because, when artists come to our studio, our ambition is not to create something that imitates their existing production, but to facilitate the creation of a completely new body of work, while staying true to their studio practice,” explains Olga.
“It’s a very close collaboration from beginning to end,” adds Kell. “It may be my hands doing the printing, but it’s their thoughts and ideas. You could say that they’re the head and I’m the hands, until we have a finished work that hits the mark.”
“Often, something exceptional occurs”
Olga and Kell actively seek out artists who have never worked with etching before. “There’s something exciting about bringing an artist over to a new medium. Often, something exceptional occurs when finding an approach where they can work as freely as possible with this new material. Our job is to solve the technical transition,” says Kell. Etching can be complex. It’s a slow process that requires patience. “A day can pass from the moment an artist finishes working on the plate, to seeing the finished result,” explains Olga.
A recent series of 22 monoprints by the Danish artist Ruth Campau, called This Moment for You, particularly embodied this spirit of exploration. “She’s known for her big installations, made from metres-long panels painted with her signature brushstroke. But here, the brush mark is registered on the copper plate as an etching, then printed on the paper. The result brings forth her brushstroke in an entirely unique way, with a delicacy she wouldn’t have been able to achieve any other way. Yet, she worked with the same tools – a broom-like brush – and made the same sort of mark,” says Olga.
Likewise, Olga and Kell point to their collaboration with London-based artist Erin Lawlor, who is renowned for her masterful works of oil on canvas. She produced an arresting series of three ‘non-figurative’ aquatint etchings – distinctively sculptural, monochromatic compositions that capture interplay between empty space and solid forms.
A nexus of the art scene
Printer’s Proof counts amongst the youngest generation of fine art publishers in Copenhagen. Many of their collaborations have been with young artists fresh from the Art Academy, or still studying. “By working with young artists, we’re not only nurturing etching in a broad sense, but raising the profile of Copenhagen’s print scene. So I think it has had a hand in that shift.”
As a printing studio, publishing house and gallery, Printer’s Proof cultivates close and multi-layered relationships with its collaborators. As a result, it has become something of a hub for artists across generations and disciplines to meet and find inspiration in one another’s work and processes. “All those artists we work with – that’s because we believe in them 100 per cent. We invest our own money into these projects, so we run the risk along with the artist. In that sense we’re much more than a gallery,” explains Kell.
Visit the gallery
With rolling exhibitions of recent projects, special events and an open studio, the Printer’s Proof gallery is indeed a little universe of its own. “In other galleries you have the works on the walls and maybe someone who’s available for questions, but here you can see how the work is created, and then you can see the finished work,” says Olga.
“The printing process requires a lot of concentration, so most of the time it’s just the two of us. But we welcome visitors. You can come down and we’ll explain our work and open our drawers.” More than a gallery, more than a studio, Printer’s Proof is a modern incubator for a 500-year-old art medium.
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