The Mechanical Hand

  • Gary Hume

  • Christopher le Brun

  • Stephen Chambers

  • Paula Rego

  • Catherine Yass

Artists' Projects at Paupers Press

The Mechanical Hand was published to mark the 25th anniversary of the opening of Paupers Press, also celebrated with a major retrospective exhibition at the Kings Place gallery, London and then Northumbria University Gallery, Newcastle.

The book includes interviews with artists and essays on the nature of the print within contemporary artistic practice.

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Extract from The Mechanical Hand

A book exploring the notion of the artists' print as a means of visualising original thought, published by Blackdog to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of Paupers Press

An original is a creation motivated by desire. Any reproduction of an original is motivated by necessity. It is marvellous that we are the only species that creates gratuitous forms. To create is divine, to reproduce is human.
Man Ray ("Originals Graphic Multiples", circa 1968; published in Objets de Mon Affection, 1983

You could say making a print is like preparing a pizza. You start with a white sheet of paper- that is, the 'dough' – to which you add layers of images: cheese, mushrooms, saugage bits, tomato paste, immersed in overprinted inks. In the end, the pizza is 'editioned'- that is, sliced and distributed for consumption
Claes Oldenburg

The printed image continues to appear everywhere within our culture today. Even as we move into an ever more saturated digital age, the printed multiple remains central to our need for self documentation and expression. The visual equivalent of speech, it is used to convey information and ideas, the beautiful and horrific, the mundane and prosaic. Through print we articulate and speculate, attempt comprehension and create meaning

Artists can be found using print, in all of its technological and mechanical forms, for the production of posters, flyers, billboards and fanzines; transferred and downloaded information sheets and political pamphlets; the recording and communicating of documentary evidence of an event or performance and as a photographic multiple translation. It appears as part of a sculpture and becomes itself an object in space. It is made to be mobile and portable, to wrap and contain, to be open and revealling.

With a visual landscape so dominated by reproduction, what then constitutes an artists print as a means of visualising original thought? Where does prints relationship to technology and consumerist culture place it within the wider canon of contemporary artistic practice, and does a collaborative studio, one essentially immersed in processes and materials of the C19th, have any role to play in mapping out this landscape?

For many contemporary artists, the pluralistic nature of their relationship to technique and process, materials and technology defines their practice. It is not unusual to find painting, object making, film, performance and print, all within a single artists oeuvre. Shadowing the binary globalisation of image and text, where instant access to digital multiplicity seems all pervading, why do artists continue to return to technologies of image making that predate their own generation by, in some cases, several hundreds of years.

Is it a form of retro culturalism, a harking back to cosy, pre industrial fireside crafts; an engagement with the romantic spiritualism of the handmade Enlightenment, rather than the dehumanising industrial mass production of the Modern Age that followed? Is it the visual arts equivalent of slow food or real ale? Original, genuine and authentic.

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