Showcasing new work by Katy Binks and Mark McClure, Interplay is the second in our series of Duets exhibitions, and remains open at Buhler and Co ’til mid October 2019. The show features solo works by each artist whilst unveiling the first fruits of their new printmaking collaboration, Continuous Cities.

'Cities + Signs II' – unique state screenprint by Katy Binks + Mark McClure

Our Duets programme pairs artists from the Look Up roster with creatives who live and/or work in Waltham Forest, the inaugural London Borough of Culture in 2019. Mark ticks both boxes. A Walthamstow native for several years, he’s been with Look Up since our launch in July 2016, while Brixton-based Katy joined the gallery in March 2017. The last year or so has been busy and productive for Mark and Katy – alongside projects and commissions, they both celebrated their first solo shows in the UK: Mark’s Pseudo Public show at The Foundry Gallery (in Chelsea) and Katy’s Saturated Space at ASC Gallery (in south London). Interplay showcases, for the first time anywhere, a collection of stunning prints created together, working side by side.

Mark and Katy at Bainbridge Print Studios, selecting prints for 'Interplay'

Inspired by the relationship between art and the urban environment, Katy and Mark share a predilection for large murals and installations. In recent months, they’ve both been exploring a more playful and spontaneous approach to printmaking. The works created for Interplay reflect their shared interests, while showcasing the expressive energy of Katy’s recent experiments and the bold, graphic spirit of Mark’s work. When we invited them to exhibit together, we floated the idea of a collaboration and before we knew it they were booking studio time at Bainbridge Print Studios, squirrelled away amid the famous but under threat Brutalism of the Aylesbury Estate, south London. The ink flowed. Huge blocks of colour appeared. Foundations. Launchpads for further exploration. Trusting each other to embrace the spirit of spontaneity. Making decisions on the fly. Introducing layers of colour. Small details. Fast and loose...

Installation shot of 'Interplay' at Buhler and Co.

Look Up When we first floated the idea of a collab, you guys seemed bang up for it – have you collaborated like this with any other artists?

Katy Binks Never! This was a first for me.

Mark McClure Not printmaking… but I have done mural collaborations, including one with Dan Cimmermann down in Croydon. I worked with Joseph Loughborough on a one off work on paper – which was a lot harder than expected. It was tricky to relax into a normal way of working. A mistake affects both of you, and it might not be easy to rectify. Neither one of you wants to piss the other one off, so there was a lot of warm up chat. Having said that, without a tight deadline I think the process can be quite different. It’s all about relaxing and being able to go with the flow.

'Cities of Bits IV' – unique state screenprint by Katy Binks + Mark McClure

LU How did the collaboration work in the studio?

MM We had two sessions, each of us on a print bed at Bainbridge. A pile of paper. A bit of a natter. Then we took turns putting down layers on whichever print we fancied. We both had a pre-exposed set of shapes, which we masked off, and mixed and matched.

KB It all felt surprisingly easy. The first session gave us a chance to see what was working and where we might need to make adjustments. Then, when we came to actually make the work there was a slight shift. I feel like we were both quite aware of something that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s because we both make quite bold work; we knew that for it to work, we’d both have to hold back a bit.

Working progress – Mark printing at Bainbridge Print Studios

LU You’ve both admitted to being surprised by the prints you made together... what were you expectations heading into the collaboration, and how would you describe the first fruits of your collab?

MM I don’t think there was even time to think about how it might end up. We were both open to just seeing what might happen. I know I was a lot more considered and restrained with my use of colour… it could have easily been very loud, in your face work, with us both fighting for space. Luckily it didn’t end up that way, and the prints are quite different from the work we normally make.

KB The first session was a bit restrained – testing the water… It helped having a few weeks before the second session; it gave us a chance to think about ways to tweak our approach. We were both aware of how our work might clash slightly – given how our styles are both bold and graphic. That second session felt very different… It was a much more organic process. We seemed to meet in the middle, naturally, and created works which surprised us both.

Detail of a work in progress print by Katy and Mark

Energised by the process, several series of prints emerged. They were pleasantly surprised at the work created during their collaboration, but form we they’re imbued with the driving, experimental spirit that has long been evident in the work of each artist. The new works are a departure, for sure, but the mothership is still in sight. In the prints they made together, Mark’s love of black combines with hard-edged geometry – redolent of the anthropomorphic motifs in his recent Glyphic prints. Dense shapes that appear to pulsate outwards, beyond the edge of the paper.

Go squeegee, go – Katy making prints at Bainbridge Prints Studios

Katy’s love of colour and her tendency to print small graphic shapes over larger areas of colour (something she shares with Mark) also came to the fore. Side-stepping the potential pitfalls of deliberation, Katy’s approach embraces spontaneity. By setting the creative impulse free, she fosters momentum and ultimately, discovery. In recent years, Mark has been working towards a similar level of freedom in his own printmaking. The first fruits of their Continuous Cities project combine the impact of those black shapes with gossamer layers of pastel colour, nuanced textures and small, geometric forms.

'Cities + Signs I' – unique state screenprint by Katy Binks + Mark McClure

LU You’ve coined your collaboration Continuous Cities and there’s a distinctly urban vibe to the titles of your first prints… How did that come about?

KB It’s an Italo Calvino reference, from Invisible Cities. Mark and I share an interest in the built environment, so it was a natural starting point – and it really suits the work.

MM Our solo work is influenced by the urban environment, which is evident in the shapes, patterns and structural approach. When Katy introduced me to Invisible Cities it chimed with my interest in psychogeography and multilayered cities – physical, virtual, cultural.

Contemplation – Mark and Katy deep in thought at Bainbridge Print Studios

LU I understand you’re keen to collaborate again, which is great news. Do you think you’ll push the collaboration out of the studio, beyond printmaking? Murals? Installations?

MM Definitely! I really enjoyed it. It was fun to hang out with Katy and the results speak for themselves. To scale up, and become even more fluid with the process would be exciting. Working with someone else makes the whole process less internalised. The chat, the bouncing of ideas, the mistakes… it all leads to something you might not reach by working on your own. This all inevitably feeds back into our own solo work as well – introducing new ways of thinking and working, so it can only be a good thing.

KB I’d love to collaborate in other ways. To take what we did with print and translate it into a large mural would be so interesting. Maybe it could incorporate print as well… who knows where it could lead us. Personally, I’m very keen to loosen up my painting and I can already see the potential of that in a collaboration. You can be a bit braver when someone else is there. When I work alone I can be overly critical of something that I see as a mistake; another artist like Mark might view it very differently. It really helps to make that shift and open up your way of thinking.

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Duets 2 / Interplay
Katy Binks + Mark McClure

Open daily 'til 20th October 2019
Buhler and Co 
London E17 4PJ

To see our collection of Katy Binks prints, click here
To see Mark’s collection of Look Up prints, click here

Katy Binks on Instagram
Mark McClure on Instagram


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