Exhibition review: The Printing Girls, At The Table, Spin Street Gallery, Cape Town, April 17 to -May 8, 2021

At The Table- exhibition by The Printing Girls…a collective of female printers

April 17 to May 8,  2021
Where: Spin Street Gallery, Cape Town
On until: May 8, 2021
Closing event: Finissage on May 8- 11am to 1pm. This ‘finishing’ wrap up event will include taking the first print of a collaborative table block that will be carved by the participating artists during the exhibition

Website: www.theprintinggirls.co.za
Facebook: www.facebook.com/theprintinggirls
Instagram: theprintinggirls  

One day and everything is reasonably okay and the next and everything shifts. Yesterday, April 17, 2021, I was at the opening of The Table, an exhibition, presented by The Printing Girls. As one enters the gallery, there is a table. It is a commonplace table one might find in a kitchen. An image of Signal Hill and surrounds, has been drawn/sketched onto the surface, with what looks like a marking pen (Koki is South African speak and Sharpie in American argot). This exhibition centres on the ‘table’ and its associations of home, belonging, displacement. There is the table in relation to Table Mountain, Cape Town. I was told that during the course of the exhibition, the Printing Girls – a collective of artists -will collaboratively carve into the landscape sketch on the wooden table. Each artist will add to the drawing on the table- shaping and imaging from the rudimentary sketch.  At the end of the exhibition (May 8), a limited edition of prints (possibly hand pulled), will be made, from the ‘completed’ image on the table. Workshops are part of this exhibition and visitors will be encouraged to take rubbings (frottage) and will be able to take their pieces of paper home.

It is a lovely idea: The artists working together and inviting interaction from gallery visitors. That intervention has taking a turn with a fire that erupted on Table Mountain, today, April 18. Around 10am, a fire erupted on Table Mountain Devil’s Peak, apparently near Hospital Bend. The fire has spread – with parts of UCT (University of Cape Town) in flames. As I write, around 8pm Sunday, April 18, I am watching footage on TV and social media, with horrific images of the beautiful landscape and iconic buildings in flames. UCT’s library is shown on TV, burning. Imagine, all the priceless and irreplaceable texts, up in flames. One may be able to replace buildings built it is impossible to replace archives; much of it from the African continent. The fire today, heightens this exhibition’s table centre-piece – in ways which were obviously not in the frame, when the exhibition was conceptualised. The landscape image was laid out – a sketch with space for input. Here we are in Covid, with so much loss, poverty and desperation and now there is the fire to contend with; incinerating nature, property, heritage, art, culture. Yesterday, I viewed The Table – sketch on the wooden table at this exhibition- as a scenic landscape. Today, part of the scenic landscape is in flames. With this exhibition, The Table of Cape Town has become heightened in so many directions –how fragile we are; vulnerable. I will be interested to see how the table is imaged in the weeks ahead, feeding off the grief and loss in our city.

Moving away from the table and the fire, the exhibition surprised and delighted me- with its diversity and use of print expressions – paper, ceramics, installations. The work ranges from small to large scale. The Printing Girls is a collective – which was established by Rhodes University print alumni. Read about the story here: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/art-exhibition-the-printing-girls-at-the-table-april-may-2021-spin-street-cape-town/ The Table exhibition, features Cape based artists from the collective. I walked in and saw ceramics and passed that section by, assuming that it was an add-on. I was put in the picture by Lucy Stuart-Clarke. Working from her studio in Noordhoek, she transfers print to clay. Her process, she likens to making a tattoo. The label on one of her works, states: “Glaze-painted earthenware with transfer prints and gold lustre detail.” Watch the story on TheCapeRobyn Instagram page, to find out more. She says that the great thing about The Printing Girls collective is the way it invite’s its members to “play” with print –beyond the traditional parameters of a printmaking on handmade paper.

There is so much to look at this exhibition and unfortunately my visit was short. Works that nabbed my attention in my quickie interaction: Stirring installation by Emma Willemse from Riebeek Kasteel and her beautiful The Things We Leave Behind; Mariette Momberg’ s Displaced – digital linocut collage (imaging displacement and forced removals from District Six); Everything will be alright by Neeske Alexander (with figures hugging -love this).

The Table is emblematic of Cape Town on so many levels. Impressive work by the artists, huge effort in installing the works and setting up conversations between images and bodies of work- across the gallery space. Support the innovation and artistry of these creatives and interact with the table at The Table, Cape Town, in the time of Covid, April 18, 2021 fire, Lockdown 1. Art is an experience. It is how it makes us feel; how we respond and relate to the landscape around us; to our milieu. This is therefore not a simple “review” of the art on exhibition. The ‘art’ is deeply considered and the exhibitions and its armature of ‘the table’ happens to ping in relation to the fire today. It is a visually layered, technically innovative show and it also happens to present an intersection with the Table of Cape Town, at this moment, now.

The Printing Girls, at their exhibition, At The Table, Spin Street Gallery, Cape Town, April 17, 2021. They are standing in front of the installation by Mariette Momberg’ s Displaced – digital linocut collage.© TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.