‘Pursuing Memory’

Tara Bradbury
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West Coast artist Audrey Feltham to share her printmaking techniques in P.E.I.

Artist Audrey Feltham with her press.

By Tara Bradbury

The Telegram

There’s something about memory that intrigues artist Audrey Feltham. Specifically, what exactly our brain chooses to retain, and how it manipulates the memory into something we’re satisfied with.

She’s particularly fond of going through old family photos: either her own, pictures she’s found online or ones she has picked up from estates sales, which caught her attention.

“I’m intrigued by what kinds of photographs we keep and why we keep them,” Feltham explains. “I don’t think that people necessarily make a conscious decision. They don’t sit down and look at their old family photographs and say, ‘That’s a really good photograph,’ or, ‘That’s got really good design potential,’ or whatever. There’s something else that goes beyond that, and it’s very emotional.”

Feltham, who operates Atelier West studio in Deer Lake, is a printmaker who uses traditional methods, but also combines fibre-based work in her prints.

A painter in the beginning, Feltham was introduced to printmaking while studying art, and was drawn to it, since it had the same interest in colour as painting, but the added sculpture aspect which comes from cutting away from or engraving a block to make a print.

It wasn’t long before she saw the possibility of including fibre in her printmaking.

“I started sewing and piecing rag papers together to create the printing paper, and I immediately realized the sewn lines were leaving memory marks of what I had done with the paper before I even started printing,” she says.

About four years ago, Feltham came across devoré, a process of creating patterns on fabric by using a chemical, usually containing sodium hydrogen sulphate. The chemical dissolves some of the fibres, seeming to etch away a layer of the fabric while leaving a thin, transparent layer behind.

Feltham received a grant from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council (NLAC) in 2010 to travel to northern England to participate in a month-long workshop on the devoré process with a fibre artist.

Recently, she was awarded an Atlantic Public Arts Funders Creative Residency, administered through the arts council, as part of a memorandum of understanding between the Atlantic provinces on co-operation in the arts.

Recognizing a common desire to foster a vibrant Atlantic Canadian arts community, the NLAC, along with arts councils in P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, have developed a program to initiate arts projects together.

Feltham is one of two recipients of the residency, and will travel to P.E.I. next May for two months. Rattling Brook actor/director/playwright Rory Lambert will work with a playwright in Charlottetown to develop scripts they each have that share thematic elements.

Feltham plans to bring a small, portable press with her to P.E.I.

“There is no print co-operative in P.E.I. anymore. There used to be, but they’ve struggled over the last two years with printmaking and trying to establish a group,” she says. “I thought it might be interesting to actually take the press across and set it up for a couple of months.”

Because her process is different from what’s seen in a typical printshop, Feltham plans to have an open studio space where people can drop in and see how she works, while she’s completing a new series called “Pursuing Memory.” She’ll also conduct an artist talk and two free workshops.

“It’s good for me, too, because it opens up a dialogue and I get feedback on what I’m doing,” she says.

The residency program is open to artists in a variety of disciplines — film, dance, music, visual arts, theatre, writing and mutidiscipline — who can apply for up to $10,000 to cover the residency for a period of one to three months.

This is the residency exchange’s pilot year. If it is successful, next year’s exchange will be with New Brunswick. Nova Scotia will be the following year.

“Audrey Feltham has approach­ed the residency in an innovative way by not only proposing a project that furthers her own artistic development, but also that of others,” NLAC chairman Stan Hill said in a written statement.

“She’s diligently worked on blending mediums she specializes in, and will share those skills with artists in P.E.I.”


Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, Atelier West

Geographic location: P.E.I., West Coast, Deer Lake Nova Scotia New Brunswick Northern England Rattling Brook Charlottetown

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