Two new exhibitions, Dorothea Wight and Marc Balakjian, on display until 2 March 2014 and Studio Prints, until 15 April 2014, have gone on display at The New Art Gallery Walsall. The exhibitions offer a retrospective of Dorothea Wight and Marc Balakjian’s individual work in which they specialised in the difficult technique of mezzotint, alongside a selection of the work produced at their workshop, Studio Prints, for other artists.
Dorothea Wight and Marc Balakjian worked together for 40 years, running the Studio Prints workshop in London, where they collaborated with many of the leading Modern British Artists of the late 20th century, such as Anthony Gross, Julian Trevelyan, Ken Kiff, RB Kitaj and Paula Rego (all artists who feature in the Gallery’s Collection). Dorothea worked closely with Celia Paul, who suggested to Lucian Freud that he should work at Studio Prints in the mid 1980s. Freud, at one time the son-in-law of Jacob Epstein and Kathleen Garman, then worked exclusively with Marc until his death in 2011, at which point Marc and Dorothea decided to close the workshop. The first etching produced for Freud at Studio Prints, Man Posing of 1985, is a key work in our Permanent Collection.
Often esteemed printmakers have been relegated to the role of craftsman in the history of art, and the intricacies and high skill of mastering the various printmaking mediums and in taking a good impression from a plate have been overlooked. Dorothea and Marc were masters in the medium of mezzotint, and their own work won many international print prizes.
In the 1970s there was an increased demand for art at modest prices, as well as complete editions by well-known artists, which Studio Prints was able to capitalise on. Dorothea and Marc trained assistants to become excellent printers and cope with the demands of artists to get the best out of their plates, working a heavy cast-iron press to produce identical results, time after time. Studio Prints also began to specialise in more complicated multi-colour images.
Scottish by descent, Dorothea Wight was born in Devon in 1944, growing up in Totnes, and much of her work is inspired by her memories of the Devon countryside. She studied Fine Art at Dartington College of Art from 1963-64, before going on to the Slade in London (1964-1968). Although she initially went to study painting, she was drawn to the print department, under the instruction of Anthony Gross and Stanley Jones. On leaving the Slade in 1968 Dorothea was determined to set up her own printmaking workshop and secured a job to print a set of etchings for Julian Trevelyan. She found a basement in a semi-derelict building in Camden to rent for £2 a week and obtained a bank loan to buy a press. This was the beginning of Studio Prints. In 1970 it had outgrown its premises and moved to an original Sainsbury’s shop in Queen’s Crescent, where it was to remain for the next 40 years.
Armenian by descent, Marc Balakjian was raised in Lebanon. He spent his early years in the small town of Rayak, before moving to Beirut at the age of 10. He came to England in 1966, initially to study architecture with a firm in Oxford. He then decided to study art at Hammersmith College of Art. Marc took up a postgraduate degree in printmaking at the Slade School of Art in 1971 and after graduating began working at Studio Prints in 1973, just as it was establishing itself in Queen’s Crescent. By 1976 he became a full time partner, collaborating with other artists as well as continuing his own work, much of which is inspired by his Armenian and Lebanese culture and heritage.
The New Art Gallery
Walsall WS2 8LG United Kingdom
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- Stephen Conroy, Silence, 1991, drypoint, the Artist courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art
- Dorothea Wight, Far from here, 1979, colour mezzotint, Courtesy the estate of the artist
- Marc Balakjian, Elegy for a Forgotten Day, mezzotint, Courtesy of the artist