Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research

Professor Stephen Hoskins

Professional Practice

Artist Residency at Frans Masreel

venue: Frans Masreel Centrum, Belgium
date: 24-30 august 2016

Professor Stephen Hoskins spent August 2016 in residence at the Frans Masereel Centre in Belgium exploring laser cutting and screenprinting within his own practice. Stephen’s kite prints are as much about the craft of making as they are a gentle delight in challenging the notions of what constitutes a print and where the perceived borders between the fine and applied arts end and begin.

Stephen first came to kites in the mid-1970s in a gap year between his undergraduate art degree and starting his Masters programme in Fine Art Printmaking at the Royal College of Art in London. At the time he had no studio facilities but had recently discovered David Pelham’s book of kites published by Penguin Books, which offered over 50 scale plans of kites from around the world. He started making kites as a substitute for making art. The first kite was a large Malay about 2 metres (6 foot 6 inches) across, made from red and black nylon which was relatively air opaque, with wooden dowel spars. Once bowed it was a beautifully behaved, tailless kite and still one of the best he has ever made for its flying characteristics.

Subsequently he made a series of Delta’s and colourful Rokkako whilst learning the basics of kite making and flying, then really branched out to make a Lecorno’s box, from Ripstop nylon, with glass fibre spars, which never managed to fly. Whilst Ripstop was a great material for the manufacture of kites, Stephen felt very little empathy for it as a material in its own right and certainly has none of the inherent qualities of a beautiful sheet of handmade paper, in addition it is a difficult material to print on. Glass fibre rod however was a revelation, it was immensely strong, came in a whole host of different diameters and was able to bend into compound curves without snapping. Also unlike bamboo, it did not need to be spliced with a knife, thus avoiding the dangerous potential of further visits to hospital when the knife slipped. Once sleeved inside an aluminium rod the aluminium could be drilled and a split ring passed through, thus making more resilient compound joints. By this point Stephen had moved to London and Tal Streeter’s book on the Art of the Japanese kite became a huge inspiration. He attempted making a glass kite by blowing very thin glass and then gluing the pieces together (an impossible task at the end of the 70’s, but technically quite possible now). He did however manage to make a 4 foot 9 (1.1 metre) Edo kite from a thin aluminium sheet, known at the time as the ‘flying razor blade’.

Stephen then gave up making kites for nearly 20 years until he was invited to take part in an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in response to handling silverware from the collection. He made a kite based on an eighteenth century toast rack, made from glass fibre rod, wood and Japanese handmade paper. This was followed by a one-man show in 1999 of three-dimensional prints that fly and kites that were printed. Paying homage to traditional kite manufacture, from Japan, Thailand, Nepal and India these works were only possible due to a marriage of late Twentieth Century technology and the unsurpassed quality of a delicate sheets of hand-made paper from Japan, Nepal and Thailand. Only delicate hand-made sheets such as these, are capable of being formed around the compound glass fibre shapes used in the frameworks. This is due to the fact that in a sheet of handmade paper, the fibres lie in random directions, unlike a machine made sheet where due to the speed of manufacture the fibres all lie in one direction. The glass fibre rods are tied and glued together using traditional knots. For many years Stephen has used a braided Dacron line that is waxed, and holds a knot really tightly. A series of kites known as ‘ears 1, 11 and 111, followed in the form of self-supporting kites, where one was not sure where the body of the kite was separate from the tail, or whether it even mattered if there was a distinction. The coverings were drawn from a stock of previously printed Japanese and Nepalese hand-made papers, Gifu Shoji and Khadi Mulberry. Once a framework is tied together and covered with handmade paper under tension, as can be seen in the Hamamatsu series of kites, it is surprising just how strong handmade tissue actually is, due to the multiple directions of the fibres. It will not only easily shape itself to the compound curvature of the frame when dampened, but is much stronger than a machine made sheet due to its multi-directional stability.

This body of work has sustained various strands of Stephen’s personal art practice ever since and has run in parallel with developments in new technology. In 2001 he won a commission to create a series of large kites as a public artwork, which was situated in the offices of a large UK bank. Stephen made four kites based upon the Hamamtsu construction that were over 2 metres (6 feet 6 inches square) with a tapering carbon fibre central spar that extended for over 4 metres (13 feet). These kites were too large to easily screen print so for the first time he used a wide format inkjet printer that printed 60 inches wide and very light weight (35gsm) Japanese paper from the roll Sekishu Shi. Inkjet printers at this time were not designed to print on such an absorbent and lightweight paper stock. It was like trying to print onto toilet tissue. The problems were overcome by writing a specialist profile to control the printer’s settings and combining this with printing the colour at 20% of its full strength. In order to bend the grassfire rod to the desired shape, special jigs had to be constructed to hold the spars in place whilst they were being tied and covered with the tissue covering. These kites were some of the first where Stephen created asymmetric holes in the fabric covering, so that it was obvious they would not fly.

The use of ink jet printing onto handmade Japanese paper spread into a whole series of kites using shapes that he had been using for a number of years. This gave him the opportunity to test the potential for digital printing on a number of unusual paper surfaces. He settled upon a sheet of handmade Gifu Shoji as the paper of preference that gave a very elegant ink jet printed result. The imagery used was frequently based on mathematical proportion and Euclidian geometry. The aim was to marry the traditional techniques and technological materials where the precise imagery acted as a foil and counterpart to both. The tactile surface created by printing digital ink upon traditional paper broke away from the distinctive nature of the digital image. Though conceived as prints it has always been a prerequisite that all the pieces called kite prints are capable of being flown. About half the works were based on traditional shapes with the other half conceived only on the basis that they must have some symmetry and balance in order to fly. The dynamic necessary to make a kite fly inherently creates a different approach to its manufacture. This imposed discipline has a direct relation to the logical order of the geometry and drawings used in the surface decoration.

Stephen first started laser cutting kite shapes as original prints, initially in a series of miniature prints no larger than 3 inches by 4 inches (7.5 x 10 cms) then into an original print that was a laser cut paper kite based entirely on a Edo kite with a rabbit and wave design. This was created for an invited Australian artists exchange portfolio entitled False Gods. This work was followed by a series of kites with laser cut parts as smaller versions of the large Hamamatsu kites. Stephen then discovered the delights of laser cut balsa wood taking him straight back to his childhood, where from age 13 to 17, he made diesel engine model aeroplanes, (his inspiration came from an uncle who had won the national championship control line speed record in 1951 with a model aeroplane that he then proceeded to do stunts with). The delight and difference in cutting balsa wood with a laser is the sheer accuracy and speed that is possible with this technique. In his teens it would take at least a day to cut the ribs one at a time with a knife and probably at least another day to assemble a wing. Now he can laser cut a whole wing in twenty minutes and assemble it with super glue in less than an hour, everything just slots together with no trimming or adjustment necessary.

The images here show a progression of his current prints using laser cut balsa wood combined with screen-printing to form large scale planes.

As a practising printmaker Stephen has exhibited widely throughout the world including exhibitions in London, Krakow, Taipei, Bulgaria, Tokyo, France and Malaysia. His work is held in many collections world-wide including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Tate Gallery.

Artist Residency at ZSA Archaeological Dig

venue: vrbanja forest, croatia
date: 24-30 august 2011
gallery: view images here
url: http://zsap.wordpress.com

Stephen Hoskins was artist-in-residence between 24 -30 August 2011 at the ZSAProject - a joint venture between the University of Southampton and the Zupanja Museum to excavate a Tumuli cemetery in the forest of Vrbanja which contains 104 tumuli, the majority of which are thought to date to the Late Bronze Age.

Click here to view a full gallery of Steve's sketches.

Conferences and Symposia Organised:

Chair: 3D Print Symposium, UWE, Chair. Tobacco Factory Bristol, 2009

Steering committee: Newcastle Print Biennale, 2009

Chair: Impact 6 Multi-disciplinary Printmaking Conference, UWE, 2009

Panel Chair: IMPACT 5 ‘Slices in Time” Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn, Estonia. 2007

Chair: Bristol, One day symposia demonstrating the intangible benefits of KTP for the University partner, 2007

Chair: Committed to Print Symposia, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, Chair. 2007

Plenary session panel Member: KONTAKT/IMPACT 4 International Printmaking Conference Poznan, Poland and Berlin, Germany. 2005

Chair: 2nd International Collotype Conference, UWE Bristol, 2004

Chair of International conference steering group: IMPACT 3 Michelis School of Art, University of Cape Town, South Africa. 2003

Chair of International conference steering group: IMPACT 2 UIAH Helsinki, Finland. 2001

Co-organiser with Richard Anderton: IMPACT International Multidisciplinary Printmaking Conference, RWA and UWE Bristol. 1999.

Public Lectures

Prints that Fly. Lancashire Artists Network, University of Central Lancashire: Talking prints Lecture Series. 2009

Underglaze: Tissue printing a potted history. Southampton University Archaeology Department. 2008

‘When is now’ Series of lectures Tank Loft Arts Centre Chongqing and Chongqing University, sponsored by the British Council to accompany the exhibition ‘As is When’ of British Pop art Prints of the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies. 2007

‘When is now’ Series of lectures National Fine Arts Museum Taichung and National School of Fine Arts Taipei Taiwan, sponsored by the British Council to accompany the exhibition ‘As is When’ of British Pop art Prints of the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies. 2006

‘Why we do what we do!’ The surface, aesthetic and tactile qualities of printed artefact. Inaugral Professorial Lecture. HP laboratories, Bristol. 2004

Selected Exhibitions

Celebrating Paper

Place: Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
Curated by: Peter Ford
Date: 17.1-20.2.2010
URL Links: www.rwa.org.uk/paper10.htm


Last year a group of American ex-servicemen, Iraqi war veterans, were encouraged to pulp their cotton fibre uniforms, turn that into paper and then make expressive artworks from the transformed material. You can see these works by the now increasingly well-known Combat Paper Project displayed at the galleries of the RWA as part of a new exhibition ‘Celebrating Paper’.

It is about sixty years since paper and paper pulp were first recognised as fruitful materials for making art. Chuck Close, David Hockney and Frank Stella are amongst the many notable artists who have used paper as a medium. Anthony Caro is another and he is represented in this Bristol exhibition which provides, through the work of more than thirty artists, an opportunity to assess the potential of paper as a medium.

Here are some snapshot impressions of the objects and images that will confront the visitor. A massive assemblage of remaindered books spirals up from the floor in the form of a Tower of Babel. A Japanese artist has provided unexpectedly solid sculptures made from folded newspapers, suggestive of modernist architecture. A huge composite mural by exhibition curator Peter Ford, spreading across the width of the gallery, joins together over 200 versions of a woodcut printed on handmade paper. This marks the Chinese Lunar New Year, which occurs during the last week of the show. Ford’s motif, using Chinese characters, also celebrates paper itself and its origin in China nearly 2000 years ago.


'Enamel Experience' - International Badge Exhibition

Place:Museum Der Arbeit, Hamburg, Germany
Curated By: Elizabeth Turrell
Catalogue ISBN: 978-0-9547025-9-5, 96pp
Date:13.11.07 – 15.1.08
URL Links: www.velvetdavinci.com

See Badges. Make Badges. Wear Badges
The Enamel Research Centre - CFPR - has been invited by Dr Juergen Boenig, curator at the Museum der Arbeit in Hamburg, Germany, to initiate Enamel Experience: International Badge Exhibition at the museum.
Twenty-four highly regarded artists from Germany, United Kingdom and the USA, have been invited to create a group of badges inspired by the museum's enamel badge collection.

As a starting point and source of inspiration for this work, the artists were sent photographs of various categories of badges from the museum’s collection, which includes badges produced for the military, societies, commercial organisations and charities. This collection prompted the artist to re-consider aspects of traditional enamel badge manufacturing applicable to their own work, as well evolving new ideas for the contemporary badge. An added bonus for us are the two major exhibits at the museum that relate directly to our areas of research at UWE, the history of the printing industry and the focus for this exhibition; the museum’s unique acquisition and installation of an Enamel Badge Factory - Mettallwaren fabrik Carl Wild.

National Print Exhibition

Place: Mall galleries. London (Invited Artist)
Curated By:
Date: 2007
URL Links: www.mallgalleries.org.uk


Committed to Print

Place: Sharples and Winterstokes Galleries, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
Curated By: Dr Paul thrikell
Date: 2007
URL Links:

This exhibition features prints and print-related artefacts resulting from some of the Centre’s many research projects. It includes artworks that explore the possibilities of several almost forgotten high quality nineteenth century printing processes through to the latest cutting- edge digital printing techniques. One of the over-arching themes of much of its research involves the integration of the best of the old with the advances of the present to facilitate new and increasingly comprehensive means of expression for artists.
As well as work exploring the possibilities of combining digital imaging techniques with rare old processes such as collotype, printed enamels and an obscure photo ceramic printing technique, the exhibition aims to reveal the potential of some of the newer imaging technologies that have recently emerged.

Besides work from its diverse projects and collaborations, this exhibition features prints commissioned by the CFPR from five artists especially for this show. Working in conjunction with researchers from the Centre, the five artists: Susan Collins, Charlotte Hodes, Paul Hodgson and Neeta Madahar and Jo Lansley - selected for their innovative work with new forms of digital imaging - all produced a series of ambitious prints that, along with the other pieces in the exhibition, reveal some of the exciting new horizons in print currently being explored by contemporary artists.

A Perpetual Portfolio

Place: Museo National Del Grabado Buenos Aires Argentina
Curated By:
Date: 2005
Catalogue ISBN: 0 954 7025 0 6, 48pp
URL Links:

Abstract: For the fine artist, wide format digital printing promises new potential for the creation of print based artwork. However, although some common ground exists between the industry led function of this technology and aesthetic concerns of the printmaker, to date little has been done to define how it may be effectively employed to incorporate qualities which have become unique to the domain of fine art print. This project seeks to quantify existing methods of processing digital images and develop imaging and colour systems which may assist in broadening the current scope of digitally based printing from a fine art perspective.

The Artist and Radio 4

Place: Bankside Gallery London
Curated By:
Date: 2005
Catalogue ISBN:
URL Links:

Radio 4 has been part of my artistic life for as long as I can remember, from working in print editioning studios during the 1970s, when everything stopped for The Archers, to listening to the Afternoon Play in the 1980s, where one was always firmly convinced they used the same sound effect for sex and historic battles. A good play on the radio (sound effects notwithstanding) is always a far more intense experience than film or television, like a good book the pictures are so much better.

Open Print

Place: Royal West of England Academy, Bristol
Curated By: Peter Ford
Date: 2004
Catalogue ISBN:
URL Links: www.rwa.org.uk/pastfrm.htm

An exhibition of contemporary printmaking selected by some ofBritain’s foremost print exponents and print curators.

Altered Images

Place: Stoke on Trent City Museum and Art Gallery
Curated By:
Date: 2004
Catalogue ISBN: 1 900999 21 8, 32pp
URL Links:


‘New Directions in Print’

Place: Gallery of Miskolc Museum of Contemporary Art, Miskolci, Hungary.
Curated By:
Date: 15.4-12.5 2004
Catalogue ISBN: 0 9543810 3 3, 48pp
URL Links: www.miskolcigaleria.hu/Kiallitas-CFPR.html

Making Prints at the Centre for Fine Print Research / Works in Show and "A Borderless State"
New Directions in print was a dual exhibition of printworks from the Centre for Fine Print Research and international artists which took place at the Gallery of Miskolc Museum of Contemporary Art, 15th April - 12th May 2004, Miskolc, Hungary. Carinna Parraman and Paul Thirkell went to Hungary to hang the show and to make presentations during the private view.
The exhibition showed work by Steve Hoskins, Paul Thirkell, Carinna Parraman, Sarah Bodman and Richard Anderton from the Centre for Fine Print Research, University of the West of England, Bristol. The second half of the exhibition, curated by Paul Thirkell, was entitled 'The Borderless State' and included artists from the UK, Norway, Argentina and Australia.

Wrexham Print International

Place: Memorial Gallery, Wrexham.
Curated By:
Date: 2003
Catalogue ISBN: 1 903409 02 0, 36 pp
URL Links: www.wrexham.gov.uk/english/community

Since 2001 Oriel Wrecsam and Yale Memorial Gallery have jointly organised, exhibited and toured two very successful International Print exhibitions. We have now created this Virtual Tour to enable you to take a closer look at the Print International 2007 exhibition. As always, the aim was to produce an exhibition representing the best in contemporary international print.