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Durham printmaker Anja Percival is a Biennale attraction

Big exhibitions and small make up the International Print Biennale, the biggest print survey of its kind in the country

Anja Percival, her work and her studio in Durham
Anja Percival, her work and her studio in Durham

There are just a few more days to see the exhibitions taking place as part of the International Print Biennale, the country’s biggest celebration of print which takes place at venues across the North East.

Getting around everything has even been taxing Anna Wilkinson, director of both Newcastle-based Northern Print and the Biennale, and the driving force behind this major festival which first took place in 2009.

She recommends a visit to Anja Percival’s studio at Fowlers Yard, Back Silver Street, Durham.

“The opportunity to visit her studio is a rare treat,” says Anna.

“I think people always love to see ‘behind the scenes’ but there’s also something wonderful about seeing her work in Durham as she draws much of her imagery from the city.

“As part of the Biennale visitors can see her work as well as copper plates and the printing press, as well as getting an insight into the etching process.

“She’s busy making new works which will be shown at Northern Print this year (October 23 to November 8).”

Anja does through etching what only the best painters manage with brushes and canvas. As you will see from the examples of her work on the Biennale website – www.internationalprintbiennale.org.uk – she captures the subtleties of interior light brilliantly.

In an interview with the Journal a few years ago she recalled that she and her twin sister, when growing up in Durham, were encouraged to follow a scientific path.

“It was either going to be art or science but it was our teachers at school who told us not to do art because it was a dead-end job.

“It wasn’t our parents because they always said, ‘If you want to do art, do it’. They backed us all the way and it was only when I got a job in science that I realised I couldn’t do it for the rest of my life.

“All the other people were so into it and had such a passion for it and I realised I didn’t.”

Anja was good at science. After studying at Edinburgh University she took up a position at a research lab at Bath University. Half way through a three-year contract she enrolled at Falmouth College of Art.

Nature, she found, was a bridge between art and science. Both, she said, “examine the intricacies of nature, the difference between them lying in the motive and intentions behind the study”.

She tried printmaking during her college foundation year and found it suited her.

“Maybe it’s because of my scientific background. In printmaking you are using acids and copper plate and you can’t be exactly certain how things will turn out,” she said.

Anja then spent five years in Denmark, joining a print workshop there, and only returned to the North East when she decided to buy a flat and a printing press.

She and her sister, Jules, both set up in Fowlers Yard in 2010. Since then Anja has established herself as a printmaker with a substantial following.

She describes herself as a self-employed artist specialising in printmaking. On her website she states: “I produce images that represent my experience of the landscape.

“My work is the result of both physical and emotional experiences which have inspired me throughout my scientific and artistic careers.”

Her Biennale exhibition, featuring a wide range of her copper plate etchings, runs until Friday. Then there’s the Northern Print exhibition to look forward to. Anja’s own website is www.anjapercival.co.uk


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