Uncovering Sydney's oddities one step (off the beaten track) at a time
Offset proof presses have become redundant since the introduction of digital printing, but that hasn't stopped a small Woolloomooloo-based collective from using a four-tonne printing press called the Big Fag for artistic pursuits. "We salvaged it from a liquidation auction," explains printer Mickie Quick. "We were the only bidders and we got it for 50 bucks!" Quick, along with Diego Bonetto, Lucas Ihlein and Pat Armstrong, are now using the press, which was produced by Swiss machinery manufacturer FAG (hence the name), to produce limited-edition prints for a select few artists that are privy to its powers.
Presses like the Big Fag are not considered commercially viable compared to digital printing because digital printing offers a shorter turnaround, fewer variations between prints and very low set up costs. "We spent quite some time explaining to our friends that we couldn't print their band posters," says Quick. These commercial failings, however, do make offset proof printing very appealing for a particular group of people: artists. "It's totally perfect for art because you're printing one quality-controlled print at a time," Quick explains. "Also, in most other printing processes the paper has to go through a rotary process and most quality art papers can't do that." Being a flat press, the Big Fag allows for paper up to 5mm thick, or even plastic or glass.
The hands-on approach championed by the collective is another big selling point for artists. "We can do things that are just not feasible in the commercial world," says Quick. "The artist can control how dark the ink is, or we can take the inks and mix in a new colour. We've even had artists that got plates scratched during the process and were like ‘fuck it, let's get some sandpaper and actually keep working those scratches back into it.'"
Prints from some of these artists, including Jason Maling, Kate Sweetapple and Ihlein, can be purchased via the collective's website and the group also show at occasional gallery First Draft Depot, which houses the press, and the Paper Mill in Angel Place.
|Venue name:||Big Fag Press|
13-17 Riley St
|Opening hours:||By appointment only|