Artist Spotlight: Ian Chamberlain

We caught up with Flourish 2024, Printmaking in Excellence award winner Ian Chamberlain recently and asked him more about his work and practice.

Have a little read to see what he had to say:

Ian, Congratulations, on being selected for the Flourish 2024 Printmaking in Excellence Exhibition & Prize!  Can you tell us a bit about your winning piece? 

I have been continually developing a body of work dealing with communication  and investigation for several years. For Network I , II and Cellular 2nd state ( and others )  I  focused on the repetitive design and sculptural qualities of mobile phone masts. A necessary yet controversial structure to allow the ease of communication.  

They are a dichotomy: a celebration of the fast pace the technology and the slow pace of making with the etching process juxtaposing the quick and slow aspects of communication. 

They have become subjects of my own artistic inquiry, questioning a deeper reflection on the role of technology and the overlooked infrastructure in our contemporary lives. 

Your work has a unique style. How would you describe it? 

Over the last few years there has been far more consideration into surface qualities and a move away from linea graphic imagery. This is mainly due to the choice of subject matter such as the Maunsell Sea forts, Acoustic sound mirrors and the The Atlantic wall . These are all very brutalist structures and it is more about the form and effects of weathering, human interaction and ageing that I am trying to capture. There has thought been a slight combination of the two linea and weathered elements in the two pieces Sat.I and Sat II. 

I have started to use the rubbings (frottage) as way of physically transferring the textures of concrete/metal to paper. This can then be included alongside drawn studies or used a positive to take in to print. This will be especially important in the Atlantic wall project where the concrete used to make the bunkers were formed by using planks of wood. The grain of which is still visible and evident on the surface of the structures. I will be able to create my own wooden textures which could then be incorporated into the image. 

The way I record reference from the locations I visit has also altered. I still use drawing and photography but I have now included the use of film and sound. This allows me to record different angles and viewpoints with more ease but also I able to refer back to sounds that can trigger particular memories. This is not always visible in the work but is a real help in remembering certain  atmospheres and feelings during the research process.

   

 What draws you to printmaking as a medium? 

The unique graphic and tonal qualities that are achievable and the facility to disseminate to a wider audience.  

I am also interested how printmaker gather and work around the printing press. It seems to be a safe place to talk about and discuss processes and ideas.

 

 Can you walk us through your typical creative process? 

I begin by finding my way around the subject, evaluating the form through the quick use of light and dark charcoal or pencil studies. These are then taken into the studio where, if required, more sustained line studies are made. 

The scale of the prints is important, the majority of etchings I make are traditionally very large and I feel helps give the work prominence. There is an intense level of reworking required to build up the layers of information and detail, the original drawings and studies become more evident due to this constant revaluation. I have also made use of a Dremmel drill to add elements of the industrial and unknown. As it can never be fully under control, the marks the drill produces and the energy it has and gives to the work can reveal exciting results. I have learnt to embrace this element of chance and include it as part of my working process.

 

 How do you stay inspired and motivated in your artistic practice?

I am continually being introduced to new themes that feed off my core interests on boundaries, borders and frontiers. 

I love to discuss and share work with a circle of friends and my creative peer group . This always excites me and gives me the energy to want to make more. 

My role as lecturer on M.A Multi-disciplinary printmaking, UWE , Bristol continually feeds my practice and I hope in turn I help influence their own work ways of thinking. 

 

What role does storytelling play in your work? 

The focus main focus of my work is the exploration of manmade forms, many of which have been gradually superseded, forgotten or abandoned. They were at the forefront of technology for their time but technology and purpose have left some of these structures behind and they have become architectural metaphors or reminders of a past.  

The history and function of a lot of my subject matter is unknown to most of the wider public. The work can act as a way in or introduction to these locations and their back history. 

The role of my drawing/printmaking helps me to visualise my interaction and connection with these monuments in order to create my own visual historical document. 

 

How do you see your work evolving in the future? 

I want to explore relief printing more. I love the graphic quality and how it differs to Intaglio processes. I would like to see how the two approaches could work in dialogue. I have done some trials but would like to work with a master Printmaker to make these happen. There is only so much I can learn and take on board at the moment. I love working with others who have skills that I don’t and create something new or better. 

 What advice would you give to aspiring printmakers?

Immerse yourself in your process and develop your visual language, then decide what you want to use that language to talk about.  

Make it more about the why than the how. 

 

How has participating in the Flourish 2024 exhibition impacted your career and artistic practice?

I am very proud to of been awarded the Flourish award and I have received some really nice feedback and acknowledgements. 

Receiving the award has given me validation to apply and make future creative plans. 

 

Ian’s mastery of traditional handmade print techniques such as etching, coupled with his originality and innovation, captivated the judges and earned him this esteemed recognition.

As the Flourish 2024 Award winner, Chamberlain will have the opportunity to present a solo print exhibition in Huddersfield next year. Additionally, he will benefit from a two-week period of access to the facilities at West Yorkshire Print Workshop and we look forward to welcoming him to his residency.

Flourish will be showcasing at the Huddersfield WYPW gallery until 29th June. It will then go on tour at Hot Bed Press in Salford and conclude at 20:21 Gallery in North Lincolnshire in the Autumn.

You can find out more about Ian’s submissions for Flourish 2024 here.

For more information on all the shortlisted artists and work take a look at our dedicated Flourish 2024 page here.