A Life in Letterpress @ The Lighthouse

Credit: Felicia Bengtsson

Alan Kitching is currently exhibiting a retrospective collection of his work at The Lighthouse.

Felicia Bengtsson

Kitching is one of the few key artists using traditional letterpress techniques today. In a culture that is increasingly focused on the digital form of media, Kitching is able to retain his relevance while remaining steadfast in his use of old-school techniques of typographic design and printmaking. The work he creates is colourful and lively; the colours capture the eye but it is the words that retain it. His compositions of words and experimentation with fonts on a page tell a story about the global and urban world we currently inhabit: street names, letters and numbers, calls for social action.

The relevance of Kitching’s work – moreover, his refusal to cast typography as an obsolete art form – is apparent in his collaboration with magazines, newspapers and publishing companies. The exhibition places emphasis on his close relationship with The Guardian – from his first cover image, Amis on Porn in 2001, to designing a full-page advertisement used for placards in the 2003 march against the Iraq War. Kitching’s engagement with contemporary issues, and a unique style combination of captivating colours and fonts, reinstates his status as an indisputably current artist.

Kitching makes his own typefaces out of wood and metal – they can be arranged and rearranged to create an infinite range of patterns, words and messages on the page. His creative process is documented and presented in a short film at the exhibition, the five-minute clip inviting all who are curious about the artistic process that lies behind Kitching’s compelling pieces.

Kitching has made a conscious choice to publish a monograph and exhibit a collection that retrospectively looks back on his career despite being a living artist who continues to create new material. Arguably, his career spans over fifty years – he has plenty to show for his age and experience. The exhibition presents short snippets of various stages, from his first apprenticeship at age fifteen to his work today. That being said, it is not only experienced and well-established artists who use exhibitions as a commentary on their progress achieved so far; all art exhibitions are in fact a type of presentation of artistic progress. Inviting the public to take part of this progression – allowing various interpretations and prompting discussions – is only part of the brilliance and the allure of retrospectives such as these.

The exhibition is on display until the 5th of March at The Lighthouse.


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