Print as performance

PHOTOS James Macdonald, Zhané Warren WORDS Sean O’Toole

Tonight, Thursday 17 April from 5pm to 9pm, Warren Editions are breaking the mold with a “live print performance”. Working from a live webcam feed, artist Katherine Bull’s autographic drawings will be translated into print by a team of printmakers. We asked Sean O’Toole to give us the lowdown on the cutting-edge Warren Editions print studio.

In 2006, two years before she opened her Cape Town studio, Warren Editions, printmaker and entrepreneur Zhané Warren joined Facebook. There is a point to this seemingly random fact.

“I am not part of the Rorke’s Drift, Artist Proof Studio or Caversham Press generation at all,” says this mother of two, referring to the storied printmaking studios that preceded her. Far from disrespecting their efforts, she adds that they produced some of her favourite graphics. But Zhané, who did experimental performance work in the early 2000s before graduating as a master printer in Antwerp, opened up shop in the era of iPads and status updates.

“Most of my clients are under 45,” she says, challenging the view that art on paper is old-fashioned. “It is not just the people who can’t afford the R100 000 works, I have had people who can afford expensive paintings. It is not about work on paper versus painting for them, it is about the excitement of an image.”

Her collaboration with Swedish-born Cape Town painter Tom Cullberg is a case in point. In 2008, working with Warren Editions, he produced a winsome study of an A-frame tent in blue and pale yellow tones. People still phone Warren Editions to enquire if this sold-out work is available.

All counted, she has worked with over 30 artists, among them colourist painters Michael Taylor and Georgina Gratrix. Colour, something that Walter Battiss made central to his prints, has not always found favour with local artists. Zhané hopes to correct this drift. “I refuse to print in sepia,” she states.

For the World Design Capital 2014, Zhané is planning to work with Luc Tuymans, the Belgian painter and printmaker celebrated for his washed-out portrait studies. Luc will get to work on a custom-made piece of machinery dubbed the “red lady” by Zhané’s three studio assistants. Proving that print and online are not mutually exclusive, Zhané is currently using Google to see if this press, the largest in South Africa, might not in fact be the biggest in the southern hemisphere!

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