‘Take print off the page’: Saskatoon artists evolve printmaking with new exhibition

Kelsey Ford (left) and Zachary Knuttila (right) stand in front of their artwork from their exhibition "Huoli" at The Eye Gallery until August 15, 2023. (Supplied / photo courtesy of Zachary Knuttila)

A new art exhibition by a pair of local artists explores the importance of place and community with clever printmaking techniques.

“Huoli” is a multidimensional art exhibition by Saskatoon printmaking artists Kelsey Ford and Zachary Knuttila, in The Eye Gallery on College Drive until August 15th. The exhibition features original prints by Ford and Knuttila, as well as a 3D-printed series of beetles with 2D-printed wings.

“This was our opportunity to take print off the page, a little bit,” Ford said. “Print is so flat. It’s nice to find ways you can experiment with it.”

Ford and Knuttila have collaborated on artistic projects for other gallery exhibitions and art shows like Nuit Blanche. The pair each brought different styles and preferences to this show, and created an exhibition reflecting on the significance of space and iconic architecture in disappearing communities.

Last Home of the Lemurians – Habitat 3. 2023. (Print by Zachary Knuttila)

The content of the exhibition is varied: Knuttila’s prints are a three-image series of a rural Saskatchewan church continually warping and distorting through the series. Ford’s prints are silhouettes of beetles with overlays of gold leaf on their wings in the design of stained-glass windows found in churches. And the three-dimensional piece is an array of beetles with screen-printed wings also laid with gold leaf.

Knuttila said the themes of the show are not meant to be a reflection on the religious nature of churches, but the nostalgia brought on by such central community spaces.

“Growing up in relatively religious families means that even if religion isn’t part of someone’s life anymore, that familiarity with the geometry, the shape, the aesthetics of a church holds a nostalgic sway,” he said.

Printmaking might traditionally be a two-dimensional art form, but Ford and Knuttila found novel ways to expand on the medium.

In simple terms, screen prints are made by applying layers of coloured ink to chemically-treated paper to create the final image — one produced or rendered digitally before the print-making process.

To create the gold leaf overlay on her prints, Ford added an adhesive layer instead of an ink layer to her prints and applied the gold leaf sheets onto the adhesive manually.

Reliquary III. 2023. (Print by Kelsey Ford)

It’s the same process the artists used to apply the gold leaf to the wings of the 3D-printed beetles. Knuttila also rigged a system for the beetles where the wings would click and buzz along with audio files played through them with speaker cable. Due to technical considerations, the buzzing had to be disabled for their first show.

But Ford and Knuttila do consider this only their first show for much of this content. Their goal is to build on the 3D-printed beetles and the prints made for this exhibition and take their work to other galleries throughout Canada.

As Knuttila puts it, their themes of community connection and nostalgia for those places resonate beyond only Saskatchewan.

“People have a relationship with faith. Pretty much everyone in the Prairies has a relationship with small towns,” he said. “As we move forward in our lives, and in the way the world is changing, those things are being left behind. This is a celebration of those places of importance that are disappearing.”

Neither artist had any expectation as to what a viewer might take away from their work, as everyone sees and interprets art differently. The art might not resonate the same for everyone — the duo jokingly admitted the whole project started because of their interest in beetles and churches, respectively — but Ford and Knuttila hope an audience can find some kind of meaning from their work.

“I want people to take away that these are two artists that have an appreciation for structure, a general appreciation for these places, and they’ve decided to capture them in a way that’s meaningful and honest for both of them,” Ford said.

“Huoli” is on display at The Eye Gallery in Saskatoon until August 15, 2023. 

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