On the 25 September 2014 Artlab Contemporary Print Studios (ACPS) and The Silicate Research Unit (SRU) at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) welcomed guests for a four-day International print and refractory concrete symposium.

Hosted by Tracy Hill and Alasdair Bremner this symposium provided an important step into exploring further the possibilities of working across the ancient disciplines of fine art printmaking and contemporary ceramics.

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Inspired by the research already undertaken by Hill and Bremner, on the use of refractory concrete to create large scale ceramic relief prints, this symposium brought together experts Erik Kok and Rudi Bastiaans from AKI/ArtEZ art Institute for the Arts in Enschede, The Netherlands, UCLan students and staff from the fine art printmaking and ceramics courses. 

The symposium aimed to be a practical, problem solving collaborative workshop involving multidisciplinary artists.  The 4 days incorporated the dissemination of practical information on safe use of materials and the opportunity to explore and experiment using the specialist studios at UCLan. 

The invited artists were given the opportunity to cast off etched, found and formed surfaces.  During the first couple of days over 70kg of refractory concrete was cast creating the basis for printing with silk screens.  These explorations established a familiarity with the new materials and built a confidence between the artists to share ideas and discoveries.

Hill and Bremner’s earlier research and experimentation had explored the use of creating a successful printing ink using oxides and plate oil.  Mixing oxide as if it were pigment in the traditional way and applying to an etched plate the artists were able to transfer the image and intaglio surface by then pouring wet refractory concrete onto the surface within a mould.

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As the concrete set and the form removed from the mould the oxide was pulled from the surface becoming embedded within the concrete.  During firing the plate oil was burnt off leaving a permanent print of oxide embedded within the refractory concrete surface.

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The guest artists took these starting points and pushed them further, applying the oxide inks in different ways and experimenting with different ratios of oxide to plate oil.  The ceramicists soon responded to working on the etched surfaces and explored the ideas of applying oxide and glazes to the intaglio surface as well as to the relief areas.  Once fired some of the new cast pieces were then taken back into screenprinting where alternative layers of oxide images and glazes could be applied.  

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For the printmakers the process of applying ceramic glazes was a challenge.  Applying coloured oxides and glaze, which, would change both physically and visually during firing was a completely new concept to artists who rely on visual and tactile strategies to produce surfaces from which to produce their work. The two groups of artists collaborated and worked together sharing, exploring and embracing the chance to produce an exciting fusion of ideas.

Historically, within both disciplines there has always been a sense of innovation, discovery, adaptation, resolution and development. During the symposium the artists proved that when their knowledge is shared it pushes artists beyond the perceived limitations of their field and continues to challenge their respective traditions. 

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International artists Erik Kok and Rudi Bastiaans have returned to The Netherlands to continue developing these new processes with their own students.  Results from their explorations will feed into a wider research project between UCLan, AKI/ArtEZ art institute and UWE where it is hoped artists and students will continue to explore and disseminate their discoveries by using the project website to post developments and outcomes. As a result of the successes achieved and to further explore the potential for the process a second symposium has been planned for July 2015. ACPS 

To view the full image Gallery for the First Permanent Print Symposium please click here.