A look back at Caversham’s output

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TO commemorate 25 years of the significant art institution, the Caversham Press Educational Trust and Centre for Artists and Writers, the Durban Art Gallery is hosting twin exhibitions, People, Prints & Process: 25 Years at Caversham, and Hats Off: 25 Years Linocuts from Caversham, which run until July 21.

According to a statement by the exhibitions director at Boston University’s School of Visual Arts, Lynne Cooney: “Caversham Press was founded in 1985 in the Caversham Valley, Balgowan, to afford South African artists access to a professional collaborative printmaking studio for the production of limited edition prints. The press was the first comprehensive facility of its kind in southern Africa and has become highly regarded not only for the range of processes it offers and the expertise of founder and print master Malcolm Christian, but also for its reputation as an accessible and collaborative art centre.”

Established as a non-profit organisation, the Caversham Press Educational Trust, its mission was to offer accessibility and skills transference and to nurture emergent artists from disadvan- taged backgrounds. It operated until 1999 when the Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers came into being.

The Durban Art Gallery recently held a walkabout with Malcolm Christian, during which he explained the art and its significance in greater detail.

“The exhibition People, Prints & Process is about people. I think of myself as a collaborator. I use print as a way to build relationships with people. I just see the people in this exhibition, the collaborations they have and their sharing approach.

“It’s the concept and the idea that drives it and you have to manifest to create it. This is the reason for being of art, to feed the creative soul. And in a way, this somehow becomes a legacy of not how old you are but about what you’ve actually done. The idea of immortality is based on what you do.

“So the exhibition is about celebrating Earth and what’s been done but also celebrating the human condition and how it feeds you. It’s about people, about what they were saying and what they were passionate about.”

Coming to the Caversham centre, Christian says the whole point of Caversham was to open access to all races.

“From 1985 to 1990, it was a time of necessary individualism because everything was bolted down and strained. Then from 1990 to 2000, it was a time of openness and sharing. So it’s about how we put history and visual art together – that’s where the tradition is from.”

In a press release, Christian says: “These exhibitions emphasise the multifaceted processes that channelled creativity at Caversham but my intention is to introduce the inspiration behind these processes. The most valuable gift in this time of immediacy is an opportunity to reflect.”

The exhibition Hats Off: 25 Years Linocuts from Caversham, focuses entirely on the simplest of print mediums. The selection of limited edition linocuts in this exhibition includes works produced by young aspiring artists as well as notable South African artists.

From the foundation of his initial career as an artist and lecturer in printmaking, Christian has taken on the mantle of full-time collaborator and educator, growing his contribution of skills and understanding through assisting others in realising their own visions and potential.

• The exhibition runs until July 21 at the Durban Art Gallery on the second floor of the Durban City Hall. For details, call the gallery on 031 311 2264/9.

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