Why Make Prints? is the second series in our journal. We ask our artists why they choose printmaking and also why the particular techniques and processes. First to feature is Theadora Ballentyne-Way – the Bristol-based artist works across medium from photography, video to installations, but printmaking is inseparable from her work.
I grew up in a small Suffolk village surrounded by my father’s antiquarian art books, and I always remember being told to be careful when reaching for particular hardback relics. I loved seeing the art work of Samuel Palmer and the silent tension of Paul Nash’s landscape paintings from the Western Front. It was there that I first discovered woodcut prints in an enormous tome with flat, colour plates that could only hint at the lines and the depth of real printmaking.
After finishing school, I moved to London to do a foundation at Central St Martins before going on to do a degree in Fine Art and History of Art and Architecture. I spent the later years of my degree experimenting with sculpture and video art but I was always drawn to printmaking and would sneak into the typography department to use their printing facilities. After a few grueling years teaching in Hounslow I finished a MA in Printmaking and never looked back.
My work is a type of photomontage, a medium that stretches back to the Surrealist montages of Dora Maar and the agitprop collages of John Heartfield. I use photo etching or screenprinting to unify the parts and create an unexpected illusion that invites a double-take and a closer inspection. I think the combination of printing’s antiquated processes with my work’s everyday absurdity, creates a kind of false legitimacy, that illuminates the processes of contemporary image making.
Domestic objects pop up a lot in my work. Usually lonely kitchen tools, assigned one single job to grate cheese or to crush garlic and spend most of their time imprisoned in drawers or dusty cupboards. Now when I go to people’s homes, they get out their random lemon squeezers or dig up some weird utensil they haven’t used for 5 years. But as much as I want to liberate the lobster cracker, the humour should always exist with the work’s more unsettling elements.
See more of Theadora’s work here.