Medicine and technology meet art and printmaking at international Finnish art exhibit

15th International Print Triennial in Jyväskylä, Finland features UAlberta Art & Design graduate students.

Erik Einsiedel - 8 October 2019

Art & Design professors Sean Caulfield and Marilène Oliver, as well as several printmaking graduate students, participated in the Print Triennial of the Graphica Creativa festival, featuring print media artists from around the world.

Among the students is Luke Johnson, who will be showcasing his own exhibit Family Plot this February in FAB Gallery as part of the 2019-20 gallery season. We caught up with Luke to learn more about the Print Triennial, and what it means to be included among internationally renowned printmaking artists.

Luke Johnson
Luke Johnson working on the Mailänder Offset press in the University of Alberta's printmaking graduate studios.

ARTS NEWS: Tell us about this year's International Print Triennial.

LUKE JOHNSON: This year's participants include students and faculty from the Academy of Fine Arts at University of the Arts Helsinki, Finland; Kunsthøgskolen i Oslo in Norway; Geidai, Tokyo University of the Arts in Japan; and the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. All of these schools are known for the calibre of their printmaking programs.

The curatorial committee notes the differences in approach between the various artists and Universities, as well as the commonalities that unite the exhibit. This includes: "How do medicine and technology affect our body image? How is the increasing flood of images reflected in our society? What is the role of art graphics?" Despite cultural differences, everyone has a common concern about the future of our planet.

AN: How did you become involved?

LJ: Professors Sean Caulfield and Marilène Oliver (who have a collaborative installation piece being featured in Finland as part of the show) invited each of the graduate students in printmaking to be involved in the exhibit, and helped us curate the group of artworks being presented.

A collaborative installation piece by Sean Caulfield and Marilene Oliver, featured at the Print Triennial.

AN: What does this opportunity mean for you and your fellow students?

LJ: International exhibits like this allow us to share our research beyond the University - it is exciting to receive feedback on our work from our peers at other institutions from around the world.

They also create possibilities for cross-pollination between artists who might never meet or get to see each other's work in person outside of an exhibit like this. While the universities in Norway, Finland and Japan may be on the other side of the world from Edmonton, an exhibit bringing our work together highlights the ways our research is part of contemporary global discussions, with relevance both in Canada and abroad.

AN: Tell us about some of the work being exhibited.

LJ: Much of the work being shown has grown out of pieces that were exhibited in Dyscorpia, curated by Marilène Oliver this past summer at the Enterprise Square Gallery in Edmonton. Dyscorpia gathered artists and thinkers in visual art, design, contemporary dance, medical humanities, virtual reality, sound creation, computer science and creative writing in order to question what it means not to know the limits of our bodies.

The works being sent by graduate students and faculty to Jyväskylä continue this thread of artistic inquiry, touching on themes related to the body, technology, and the entanglement of historical, biological and technological time in the Anthropocene. While all work involved is rooted in printmaking, it ranges in technique from contemporary uses of traditional media such as woodcut and etching to interdisciplinary pieces pushing the boundaries of print through photography, digital imaging, video and animation.

My two pieces in the Triennial, "Four Sights" and "The Smell of Smoke and the Presumption that Once Our Eyes Watered," deal with the rapidly changing ways in which we access the archives of human knowledge in the face of digitization.

Luke Johnson, "Four Sights", inkjet, relief, hand-colouring, vintage bull-clips, 2019

Luke Johnson, "The Smell of Smoke and the Presumption that Once Our Eyes Watered", relief, solvent transfer, cut paper, chine-collé, 2019

As part of Graphica Creativa, the 15th annual International Print Triennial is on display at the Jyväskylä Art Museum in Jyväskylä, Finland, from September 27 - December 1. Be sure to catch Luke Johnson's exhibit, Family Plot, when it comes to FAB Gallery on February 18.