International Print Biennale 2014: Is printmaking on the up?

Polly Checkland Harding

It’s clear from the International Print Biennale that changes are afoot in the world of printmaking.

Printmaking, like the UK’s publishing industry, has had some hard knocks over the last decade. Yet still it comes back fighting; bruised, changed, its face in a rather different shape. The slogan-like phrase currently popping up in all sorts of fonts is “Print is not dead” – or not yet. It has, however, adapted to survive. Turning away from mass manufacturing, printmaking has become more artisan, a niche and specialist thing. “The nod towards the handmade and the artistic vision is coming way back into the mainstream,” says Artistic Director of Hot Bed Press, Sean Rorke. “Printmaking at the moment is undergoing a massive resurgence,” he argues, explaining that exhibitions and festivals such as the International Print Biennale have helped to raise its profile.

“Printmaking at the moment is undergoing a massive resurgence”

The International Print Biennale has its centre in Newcastle, but extends to events across the north east. “It’s a very good way into the whole diversity of printmaking, from different approaches to techniques – to its whole history,” says Rorke. The focus of the biannual festival is the IFB Awards, which, this year, have narrowed 740 submissions from 42 different countries down to a shortlist of just 37 printmakers. Their work will be on show in two Newcastle locations: Northern Print is hosting seven, including Ellen Heck with her Forty Fridas (prints of women and girls dressed as Frida Kahlo) and Annie Bissett, whose work explores financial cliché’s using her dead father’s handwriting. The Hatton Gallery will take on the other thirty, with the subjects explored spanning the tracks of ocean cruise liners to the war in Syria.

The programme of other events ranges from an exhibition of contemporary Japanese prints at the Queen’s Hall Arts Centre in Hexham to a mixed media show by the De La Torre Brothers – using hot blown glass, found objects and digital printing – at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland. All in all, it’s a varied festival, and one that Rorke argues represents “the present picture in printmaking”. It’s a lovely, meta phrase that seems custom-made for this distinctive, bespoke event.

Culture Guides


Indian independent cinema, shadowy film noir, cult queer classics and trip under the sea. Film fans are spoilt for choice this month.

Exhibitions in Manchester and across the North


Like the 58th Venice Biennale which opened earlier this May, our latest pick of exhibitions across the north also has a strong ecological bent.

RNCM Young Explorers event. DJ Switch is shown by turntables in front of an orchestra. Included in family things to do guide.


Avoid the post summer holiday blues with our latest top picks of family things to do. Enjoy some quality family time together this autumn.

Artist Dan Berry and writer David Gaffney.


The books are back in September with one-off reading events, some much-anticipated launches and the return of the Northern Lights Writers’ Conference as we gear up for Manchester Literature Festival in October.


Manchester’s Autumn months are always chock-a-block with great gigs, and this year is no exception.

Theatre in Manchester


The English National Ballet, Emma Rice’s Wise Children, Liverpool’s LEAP Dance Festival and much more feature in our new theatre guide.

Food and Drink in Manchester and the North

Discover the best food and drink that the North has to offer in our expert guide to food and drink in Manchester and beyond.

Tours and Activities

Tours and Activities

Explore the mindful tours and activities Manchester has to offer in this month’s Tours and Activities guide.

Things to do right now

Powered by culturehosts