Roisin Bateman usually works through her creative process alone.
So when she decided to collaborate with a team of five fellow artists, she went in with an open mind — especially considering three of them hadn’t graduated high school yet.
“There’s something different about working in a group as opposed to working by yourself,” Bateman explained. “I think it does open up new possibilities, because everyone sees things in such a different way.”
What came next was a transformation — both inside herself and out through her art, she said — working alongside collaborators Scott Sandell and Peter Solow, and his trio of students, during a printmaking workshop at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor.
“This truly extraordinary workshop allows students to act as interns working directly with variety of professional artists,” Solow said in a statement, “authentically engaging in a variety of art making processes that they can apply to their own work.”
But the takeaway was not exclusive to the students, Bateman said. Two days later, she had walked away with a taste of a new artistic language, a medium previously foreign to her, and a re-imagined digital print that will be on view as part of “Division Street Editions,” opening Friday at Keyes Gallery in Sag Harbor in support of Pierson Student Travel.
“I’m so proud of the work that’s there,” gallery owner Julie Keyes said. “I consider my gallery, at this point, to be of impeccable curation, and being in Sag Harbor, I don’t have to try. It’s a really beautiful group of work from a high-quality, modern, state-of-the-art, new printer that is available in Sag Harbor. Beginning Scott Sandell’s new venture as an art printer is a gift to the community.”
The new Epson printer was enough to catch artist Christopher French’s attention. During the 1990s, the self-described “irregular printmaker” published a number of individual prints, and two print editions, with Pyramid Atlantic in Maryland. There, the emphasis was on handmade paper, the artist recalled, which he combined with lithography, silkscreen, etching, chine collé and embossment, working with a staff that ranged from interns to master printers.
“I first worked on digital printing six years ago with Scott,” French said. “Then, like now, I did advance work by producing a bunch of hi-res digital images that he and I then edited and formatted for printing on paper or canvas. Scott introduced me to the transformative possibilities of digital printing, and I was very happy to have a second bite at the apple.”
Expanding on his studio practice, French selected a small, 20-inch-by-14-inch painting and watched it print out “in exquisite detail” as a 5-foot-by-3½-foot version — a stand-out moment for him during the workshop.
He now has it stretched and hanging in his studio, he said, “ready for me to change again when I paint on it,” but in the classroom, the goal was to let each of the students steal a glimpse into what he does once he is there.
“Whether old school or digital, printing is essentially a process of correction, working from first imprint to finished image,” he said. “The initial proof always requires alteration, which means working on a computer to create and finalize a design that is then formatted by Scott for size, clarity and color correctness before printing.
“The students are naturals when it comes to computers, and I wanted them to see me working my way through the process of creating, editing and finalizing an image,” he continued, “using the computer to transform a handmade image into a completely different and unique artwork, and how that image can then suggest another one, and another.”
Bateman left the computer work to Sandell and the students, she said, focusing instead on her pastels and photographs, sourced from her native Ireland and the East End. Cutting them into strips, they spread them into a collage on the classroom floor, trying different configurations — until the students had an idea.
“I always have the strips horizontally, and they said, ‘Let’s try putting them vertically.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s interesting. I would not have come up with that idea.’ It was a completely different feeling; it was pretty exciting,” Bateman said. “We did let it go in the end, but I was like, ‘You guys, yeah, you can make these discoveries, too — thinking in a different way and trying out something completely new that you haven’t tried before.’ You don’t have to keep it, but you can be open to it.
“I still ended up with this series of prints that’s this merge of photographs,” she continued. “It was so much fun. It was like something I’ve never done before and experienced before. It was really quite an adventure.”
“Division Street Editions” will open with a reception on Friday, March 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Keyes Gallery, located at 53 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Participating artists include: Roisin Bateman, Eric Dever, Christopher French, Hudson Galardi-Troy, Margaret Garrett, Steve Miller, Joe Pintauro, Scott Sandell, Daniella Schiff, Peter Solow and Bob Weinstein. For more information, visit juliekeyesart.com.