In challenging times such as these it is truly a milestone to be able to celebrate the longevity and success of an art institution. The Artists’ Press print studio originally opened its doors in Newtown, Johannesburg 30 years ago under the direction of Tamarind Master Printer, Mark Attwood. He followed in his father’s footsteps, Bruce Attwood, a well established printer who worked with, among others, artists Walter Battiss and Norman Catherine. After completing his apprenticeship at his father’s Broederstroom Press, Mark chose to focus on the fine art side of lithography and printing. He went on to train in hand printing at Lowick House Print Workshop (UK) and at The Tamarind Institute, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (USA).
Since its inception in 1991, the Artists’ Press has grown steadily and today offers a variety of print processes to artists as well as publishing and selling original prints and artists’ books via its website. It is a small print studio dedicated to offering artists the very best in personal attention with all work done by hand. Lithography involves weeks of collaborative effort to produce hand-printed limited edition prints which are carefully curated and documented. Artists spend an average of two weeks drawing on plates or stones and creating a series of proofs which they will hone until they are satisfied with the final product. Once that is done, a series of 20 to 50 prints is printed and signed and the originals are defaced thereby preserving the integrity of the edition and ensuring that no second editions can be printed.
In 2002 Mark and his wife, Tamar Mason, co-director of the studio and responsible for the marketing, decided that a more environmentally friendly and sustainable working environment would be preferable to Johannesburg. The Artists’ Press relocated to a farming area just outside of White River in Mpumalanga where a beautiful purpose-built studio now offers artists an ideal working space with lithography, letterpress, mono printing and relief printing facilities.
The print studio has been internationally recognised for its contribution to developing the culture of printmaking in Africa. TAP works with professionals who have successfully exhibited work of a consistently high standard and who are among the top South African artists. The original prints that are available from the studio are carefully selected and individuals who are published by The Artists’ Press are published by invitation only. An emerging art practitioner is also selected once a year to work at the studio with the aim of developing fresh talent from the contemporary art scene in South Africa.
TAP has worked with a vast range of artists too numerous to list but amongst others includes Deborah Bell, Willem Boshoff, David Koloane, William Kentridge, Claudette Schreuders, Diane Victor, Robert Hodgins, Pat Mautloa, Sam Nhlengethwa and Banele Khoza.
Work printed by TAP can be found in numerous private and corporate collections around the world such as: The Smithsonian Institute, The National Gallery of Australia, Tate Modern (London), Bodleian Library (Oxford University), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The Victoria and Albert Museum (London), US Library of Congress, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), University of the Witwatersrand Gallery Collection, Botswana National Museum and Art Gallery, South African National Archive, Museum of Modern Art (New York), University of Cape Town, The Art Institute of Chicago (USA), Winterthur Library (Switzerland), Durban Art Gallery, University of Johannesburg and Yale University (USA).
Celebrating 30 years is a milestone indeed: “We have so much gratitude for the network of people that we depend on and who have supported us over the years by buying prints and seeing value in the work that we do; without them we would not still be hard at work today, thirty years on. South Africa is a remarkable place to run a print studio in”, says Mark Attwood.