Play with possibility

08/04/2022
by Simon McClelland Morris
Creativity, Direct to media, Inspiration, Large format, Print, Retail, Window

“Like nature itself, there are no limits to what can happen. You can spend a lifetime on a print.” Helen Frankenthaler

Now while it might sound appealing to take your time over a print, everyone in our industry knows, time is a luxury and deadlines come thick and fast. So although we resonate with the second part of this quote, believing that the longer you have to produce something, the better it can be (more on this further down), it’s the first part that personally caught our eye when visiting the Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery after a meeting this week.

When we rebranded a few years ago, the concept behind the visual identity was Play with Possibility. To the uninitiated, a large format print company may seem very one-dimensional, but that’s why we aren’t just a print company. While print certainly isn’t dead (a much-used term to push back against the digital world) it is just a part of what we do. We’ve come to recognise, and experience, that a graphical display is often made up of a plethora of components including cut vinyl decals, bespoke made items, and yes, a host of printed elements too. You only have to look at the recent Harvey Nichols displays we have been involved with to see what we mean.  The Graphical Tree is a commercial production service, but we are recognised as large format print and display specialists within our field. We can also be artists, and skilled technicians producing beautiful, sensual, captivating and thought-provoking work.

We’re no strangers to trying something new or printing something unusual, which was really where the inspiration for Play with Possibility originated as a concept. Astroturf, wooden front doors and ceramic tiles spring to mind as some of the interesting mediums we have printed for a display. We encourage creativity without bounds and we're happy to listen to all proposals for print and production. As long as it's feasible and won't cause our kit to malfunction then let's see what is possible. It inspires us to push the boundaries through creative ideas and inventive play.

When Hello Flamingo and Oasis asked us to cover the ornate stone store facade with optically clear conformable vinyl for their To The Moon And Back campaign, we said, "sure, let's give it a go." And after some initial tests, finding the media and print process worked, we were in business to carry out the task as requested.

Even using white + CMYK ink was inventive when we used it for our own VM Display Show stand, we certainly hadn't seen it done before, or used it since.

Now back to the second part of the quote, 'You can spend a lifetime on a print.' As the Dulwich Picture Gallery describes, ‘Helen Frankenthaler (1928–2011) is recognized among the most important American abstract artists of the 20th century, widely credited for her pivotal role in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting. She experimented tirelessly throughout her six-decade-long career, producing a large body of work across multiple mediums.’

Frankenthaler was an extremely thoughtful and open-minded artist, who chose to work with skilled printmakers, both in the US and Japan to achieve some of her ideas in the printed form.

The exhibition explores some of Frankenthaler's artistic processes, showing the timeless work behind her woodcuts on show, and ‘revealing just how accomplished Frankenthaler was in modulating control and spontaneity in her art.’ It reminded us of the process we went through with project designer – artist and sculptor Kate Henderson and the diligence involved while producing the wallpaper graphics for the Picasso and Paper exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. 

The 5m high walls of the Vestibule room were treated with collaged layers of eco-friendly, digitally printed, ready-pasted wallpaper, all PVC-free, FSC certified and made using 10% post-consumer waste. Before printing the 180 linear metres of wallpaper we carefully produced a large number of colour tests, which we meticulously adjusted as requested by Kate, and signed off on-site at the RA in the actual light of the exhibition space. 

The results were well worth the effort. The project was a great success and both the RA and designer were happy to have entrusted us with the graphic production for the show.

And then there is our giclée printing for artists, often combining the physical art of a painter or illustrator and producing it into a digital format. But why stop there, let’s use the technology to break boundaries in fine art printing. What could we do the take this further – try different media; use the digital print as a base to work on top of again, or perhaps turn the printed form into a sculptural piece? Who's ready to be a pioneer in giclée art and see what is possible with us?

One thing we know is that it's fun to be involved with all the great projects we are involved with. It helps to push us as a company, and also helps to make the seemingly impossible possible for our clients.

Helen Frankenthaler's Radical Beauty show is on until 18 April 2022