The portfolio, a group of prints, sent by a variety of artists from a number of countries, to be collected by artists and print lovers, or the contents turned into an exhibition, is a quiet phenomenon that has become an integral part of the ways in which contemporary artists within the international print community share their work with others. The work in creating a portfolio, as anyone who has done this will tell you, is considerable. It is justified by the potential for sharing and promoting the love of print mediums, with their inherent reproducibility making them ideal for this means of sharing.
If you are one of the contributing artists to this portfolio, then you will know from your own point of view what has been involved to reach the point at which you are reading this note. Each print has been created with different inspiration and techniques, but the commitment to participation – and the passion for print and for sharing – is a common thread. If on the other hand you are looking through this portfolio in a print room, or viewing it as part of an exhibition, then your perception of the portfolio will be different. For you it is just another collection or exhibition of prints, dating from a certain time, created for a certain purpose. However you view the portfolio and regardless of your level of interest, you may be aware that you are looking at something unique.
Connoisseurs of former centuries collected prints for viewing, alone or in the company of others of like mind, in the privacy of their library, in order to ponder not only their technique but also their relevance to history and society. Such print collections were considered to be a mark of the cultured person, and some also became – if they survived the vicissitudes of time – part of future national art collections, where they are part of the record of past cultural achievement. We live in a world society in which we are bombarded continually by visual imagery of all sorts, in which constant change can leave us breathless. For us, the contemporary portfolio offers something of an oasis for calm consideration and reflection, a chance perhaps to catch our breath.
Each portfolio is different, the sum of the individual efforts of a disparate group of people. Each will necessarily contain a different range of approaches, mediums and results, but each will add up to considerably more than the sum of its individual parts. As I write this note I am unaware of what the portfolio will contain, and for me there is the same sense of anticipation that I have experienced in waiting to see the portfolios to which I have contributed a print. Opening the box is like opening the door to a cabinet of curiosities, or in more contemporary terms to opening the packaging of a shiny new iSomething. What will be revealed contains the potential to delight, to puzzle, to inform and to gain pleasure. And that is where the strength of the portfolio lies – a small quiet universe in a noisy world.
Wales, June 2013