An Interview with Lilian Ptacek
An email sent out of the blue proposing a studio visit set up our meeting with the talented Glasgow-based artist Lilian Ptacek. A graduate of the famed Glasgow School of Art and member of the Glasgow Print Studio, (of which we've also been lucky to spend some printing time) Lilian produces work that pushes up again assumptions around traditional methods of printmaking, assumptions around authorship and collaboration and assumptions around the sites of art's production and display. She has shared some very thoughtful responses to our questions below.
When did you start printing?
I was exposed to basic printing at secondary school, where I became hooked by the possibilities of reproduction as a way to develop an idea. Later, when studying at the Glasgow School of Art, I engaged in the process and industrial techniques of print, spending most of my time working across printmaking and casting workshops. About this time, I took part in the workshop group Print Lab lead by artist and tutor Ciara Phillips, and came to understand that print was not simply a creative technique but also a collaborative medium. In that workshop we used print as an experimental means to capture and stimulate rigorous discussions, questioning pedagogy in art education.
Where do you make your work? Home studio? Shared print space?
I’m making work both at my studio and at the Glasgow Print Studios. I like these different environments which have a significantly variable impact on my practice. In the studio, I regard the image as a ready-made material for manipulation, whereby most of my prints begin as collages. These collages are composed from a diverse collection of source imagery, ranging from 19th century fairground figureheads to DIY construction manuals. The elements of these collages are transferred into digital format for screenprint. The Glasgow Print Studios is where most of the printing actually happens; here I use their world-class facilities to work with multiple screens on a large scale. I am attracted to the industrial setting of a workshop, where artists can work together and share ideas: for me this is an ideal space for productivity.
However, sometimes the workshop setting can lead to a fixation on process and comprehension of print that I find limiting. At this point I would take works back into the studio where I can challenge the process of print, test its ability and generally, misuse, adapt and subjugated these processes. I am interested in how the limits of the process not only dictate outcomes but foregrounds the methods of production itself. In my studio, unconventional print materials enter my practice, for example, I print directly onto setting cement and Jesmonite. This change in the actual space of production encourages me to experiment and question the work, as it develops.
How do you see your print background informing your more expanded practice?
My prints and sculptures are displayed together to form installations. My sculptures are often formed from casting techniques; I am interested in the close relation between the processes of printing and casting. They are both industrial-come-craft techniques, where the imprint is used to capture a mark or the essence of an object or a state. For a recent group exhibition in Glasgow, I created a series of gargoyle-like sculptures from concrete, whereby I cast concrete in large fabric tubes to produce hybrid objects with animal heads and coiled tails. A dialogue emerges across 2-dimensional and 3-dimentional works as motifs used to create sculptures also form collages and prints.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
A key aspect of my practice is collaborating with other creative practitioners. Sometimes these collaborative relationships aren’t easy but it is this challenge that has led to engaging discussions and a commitment to mutual exchange and support. In 2015, I co-founded the performance collective Bart Waltz with fellow graduates from GSA. As part of the 2016 Edinburgh Art Festival we staged an exhibition and event that considered a current craving for public celebrations.
Out of this, Bart Waltz has been invited to make work for a wide variety of cross over events in art, music and theatre. These opportunities often demand a performative skill-set we don’t have or ‘haven’t yet mastered’ for example, choreography. This is welcomed. We tend to draw on each other’s interdisciplinary specialisms and approach these ‘haven’t-yet-mastered’ skills with commitment and sincerity. I am constantly intrigued with what emerges when we place ourselves in these vulnerable settings. I’m also deeply appreciative of my collaborators and our collective range of specialisms. For the future, I would like to investigate new collaborative relationships with practitioners in textiles, dance and theatre, working in a way where we can share our skillsets and specialisms.
Where are some of your favorite spaces in Glasgow for contemporary art or design?
Festivals like Glasgow Open House and Glasgow International offer up exciting artworks from emerging and established artists. During these festivals, Glasgow opens up in geographical ways, as artist make use of disused or unusual spaces for exhibitions and performances. However, it seems important to mention here that I think festivals pose a big problem for communities of artists, specifically funding, as it has to stretch to cover a great many art events happening simultaneously. This means that many of these ‘exciting artworks’ are in fact, created at the artist’s expense. The perception is, however, that the public purse is funding everything, and that’s just not the case. Aside from the problems that festivals present, they are still a positive opportunity for demonstrating the quantity and quality of artists working on projects across Glasgow. In this year’s GI, I am very excited about the different events happening across the WaveParticle Venues. WaveParticle is an organization that has a non-curated approach to managing multiple outdoor venues, located on the Southside of Glasgow, including 16 railway arches. This unique approach allows artists to work in these unusual settings and often results in many innovative and adhoc exhibitions.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I am working towards the group exhibition ‘Say What I Am Called’, at the Caledonia Road Church, for the Glasgow International. I am thrilled to be collaborating and exhibiting with Bryony Rose, Frank Polatch, George Ridgway, Jessie Whiteley, Lewis Prosser, Lizzie Watts, and Megan Jones. Together we take inspiration from the riddling culture of the Middle Ages which found delight in paradox, inversion and the unexpected. When a riddle is spoken aloud it posits a momentary disruption of the received social order, whereby seemingly disparate things are intricately woven together. For this exhibition we are inviting audiences to navigate an interactive outdoor sculpture garden in the remains of the Caledonia Road Church. We are working collectively to make a series of large structures that will direct and dictate the flow of audiences around this liminal space. In addition to collaborative making, I am creating a series of screenprint banners to be hung atop the walls of the church. These banners pictorially interpret riddles from the 10th century Exeter Book, an Anglo-Saxon book of poetry written by monks.