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The Flower Smeller

Steve Hubert The Flower Smeller

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Marking his first foray into printmaking, Steve Hubert’s solo exhibition includes improvisational prints that whimsically combine a variety of printing methods—silkscreen, inkjet, collagraphy, monotype, chine colle, and intaglio—with collage, drawing, decolage, and painting. Although they use a wide variety of techniques, they are all technically monoprints, a form of printmaking that does not result in an edition. Hubert started working on these prints in Malaspina’s studio and then continued in his private studio using DIY print’ish equipment.

The Flower Smeller contains artworks that have resulted from the artist’s sincere commitment to exploration and play. Hubert’s work is highly reflective of a studio-based artistic process whereby materials and ideas are put through transformative stages that are spontaneous and surprising.

Unlike most printmaking, which allows for multiple originals, monoprints use a matrix that is used only once. Some of Hubert’s prints could be editioned, or could at least form a varied edition, but he chooses to employ the only printmaking method that is counter to the conventional purpose of printing, to make more than one.

The content of Hubert’s prints have a poster design quality: hand-drawn clipart, text headings and subheadings, diagrams, varying border formats, and repetitive motifs. Existing outside the milieu of fine art printmaking, posters were intended to be cheap, promotional, commercial, and highly reproducible. While the content of Hubert’s work references the most commonplace type of print (the poster), the medium makes use of the most unique type of print (monoprint).

The prints are mounted in frames, but are not behind glass, rather the edges of the frames are handmade using acrylic glass, and are adorned with reflective foil tape. While most of the works are not signed, two of the works are marked in the typical print fashion—the edition number written in pencil on the bottom left side of the image, the title in the middle, and the artist’s signature with the year of production on the right. One print is marked twice, but upside down at the top and right-side up at the bottom.

The hazy imagery intersects to create a loose narrative structure: a woman smelling a rose; a portrait of a dragon; a figure glancing at a flower with electric bolts emanating from their eyes; a vignette montage of admirers of the flower smeller; a man standing on the popup headlight of a car while gazing into the distance; an overlay of a bazooka tube from a subwoofer; and, hieroglyphs taken from short stories by the artist (candles, ropes, and coffee cups). The depicted scenes are an accumulation and somewhat random selection of sketches and source material from Hubert’s previous work, work still in progress, or schematics for work not yet produced.

Through the variety of printing methods, the resourceful studio processes, the hesitation to edition, the reference to poster design, the framing, the signing, and the whimsical imagery, Hubert unabashedly pushes and prods the tight notion of technical mastery in fine art printmaking. It’s as if the work questions the significance of printmaking, but not to make fun of or diminish the role of traditional printmaking conventions within a contemporary context, but to expand the potential for printmaking to be utilized in inventive and improvisational ways by artists who may not identify as printmakers.

 

Steve Hubert works in painting, sculpture, mixed-media, theatre, video, sound, installation, and performance. These form a constellation around such notions as the studio, history, networks, chance, the shape of thinking, technology, and power. His work has appeared in Akimbo, The Bartleby Review, Young Adult, SETUP, LAN: R-T, Decoy, Videographe, The Fillip Review, and Pyramid Power. He has exhibited in Vancouver at Artspeak, DUPLEX, Unity, Field Contemporary, 221A, Sunset Terrace, MODEL (back patio), INDEX, CSA Space, Or Gallery, Helen Pitt Gallery, VIVO, Shudder Gallery, LES, and Jeffrey Boone Gallery, and across Canada at Eyelevel Gallery (Halifax), WWTWO (Montreal), Ministry of Casual Living (Victoria), and 2of2 Gallery (Toronto). Hubert lives and works in Vancouver and teaches at Simon Fraser University, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and Langara College.