A guest curated show by Robin Hardy, owner of Independent Gallery, London
“It may seem hard to believe today but in the UK during the 1960s silkscreen was considered to be not quite the proper medium for fine art, more the sort of thing used for display material and sundry other ephemera. But before the decade was out many artists adopted it with a no-holds-barred enthusiasm, all thanks to one print shop, Kelpra Studio.
In 1957 Chris Prater, encourage by his wife Rose, had set up in business as a commercial silkscreen printer. Being a joint venture, it was named after part of Rose’s maiden name – KELly, and Chris’s surname – PRAter.
After having worked on several art related posters, the transition to fine art prints was instigated by Gordon House followed by Eduardo Paolozzi who quickly came to appreciate the flexibility of the medium. It was Richard Hamilton was suggested a portfolio of silkscreen prints to the ICA. A total of 24 artists contributed to the project, which was published in 1964. Although for most of those participating it was to be a one-off experience, it did put silkscreen printing on the map. For others, particularly those of a Pop predisposition, working in the medium gave them the green light to tear up the old rulebook and open up new horizons that questioned the very definition of ‘print’.
Joe Tilson was intent on “… rubbing out the edges of what a print is and extending it.” The anti-elitist nature of silkscreen appealed to Richard Hamilton. The ability to produce perfection could be fulfilled by Bridget Riley. It was an ideal graphic medium for Patrick Caulfield because it perfectly emulated his paintings – but on a smaller scale. Eduardo Paolozzi created collages which combined a whole range of patterns and imagery. He sometimes changed colours with each printing, which meant that no two examples of the edition were the same. This was controversial as it went against the perceived definition of limited edition print where every print should be identical.
The secret of Kelpra Studio’s success was not just the innate craftsmanship but also Chris Prater offered a collaboration that gave him the ability to build a unique rapport with each artist.”