Indelible Traces

Edinburgh Printmakers: Until December 20th

Indelible Traces is a collection of printmakers’ work concerned with the industrialization of Edinburgh, primarily through a history of the Fountainbridge area.

The exhibition is a celebration of the workers of Fountainbridge, an area best known as the home of the Northern British Rubber Company from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century. The company employed over 10,000 people at the peak of its prominence. Besides being home to the rubber factory, Fountainbridge was infamous for its tenant housing. By the early 20th century the area became known for having the worst slums in Edinburgh. During WWI and WWII the rubber industry boomed causing Fountainbridge to take on a unique personality in that it was the centre of industrialization and was also the cheapest place for American soldiers to be stationed, additionally causing an infamy for partying and dances. While it is not necessary to know this history to enjoy the show, the works make much more sense with this historical background.

The works themselves were all unique, yet the series as a whole was a cohesive depiction of Fountainbridge’s history. Some of the most memorable works, were Paul Charlton’s screen-prints on rubber tires. The Northern British Rubber Company fascinated Charlton, especially the fact that they were at the forefront of tire technology in the early and mid 20th century. He incorporated adverts from the factory in his pieces. His screen-prints depicted dogs with gas masks on overlaid with text and images referencing the rubber company. The works gave a nuanced depiction of the balance between the playfulness of the parties and festivities around Fountainbridge during the time soldiers were stationed there, and the tragedy of war. Furby’s work depicted a rubber bottle that the company would have manufactured with an image in the centre of a woman tending to her household. From far away the viewer is unable to see the woman. It’s only on closer inspection that her figure becomes visible, implying how the woman is at one with her work and further highlighting the familial ties to the rubber company.

Edinburgh Printmakers is a beautiful combined studio and exhibit space in New Town. Members of Edinburgh Printmakers can use the printing facilities, a cavernous room with high windows, and show their work in the upstairs, traditional gallery. The gallery looks down onto the studio giving patrons an aerial view of the printing presses, adding a valuable insight to this recommend show.

Image: Joe McDonnel

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