Miniaturisms; A Retrospective Exhibition of Miniature Prints

Michelle Griffiths began working in the mini-print size convention in 1989 in response to the call for entries to the first British International Miniature Print Exhibition which was initiated by South West of England Printmakers Council members, The Off Centre Gallery and Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. The limitations of scale imposed by this and the various international mini print exhibitions sets artists a challenge if they are not accustomed to working within such extreme restrictions. Griffiths at this time was producing large screen prints and paintings on canvas measured in metres rather than millimetres.

The small scale is a challenging change in practice for some artists, and for others as miniaturists, it is their preferred way of working. Either way, it is the quality of the imagery, technical expertise and just a certain indefinable special something that determines whether prints have been included. The size requirement for this exhibition is that the prints are no larger than 70cm2 (for example, 7x10cm) but not all the prints are this optimum dimension, there are even smaller images and they come in many shapes and sizes. (From the catalogue introduction of the 6th British International Miniature Print Exhibition, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, 2005)

Griffiths chose to work on a square format for the 1989 exhibition and enjoyed the challenge of miniaturising her marks and gestures to fit the tiny 80 x 80 mm square. That format has become a personal standard for the small prints ever since in Griffiths’ practice.

The 1989 exhibition in Bristol was not the first of these mini print internationals. A few had been established during the preceding decade: Lodz, Poland 1979, Cadeques, Spain 1981 and Malbork, Poland even earlier in 1963 (though strictly speaking an exhibition of contemporary ex libris plates it was a forerunner of the mini print exhibition and continues tri-annually to this day).

Since then, many more open-submission mini-print exhibitions have been established throughout the world. Most of them are juried and work submitted has to be selected by the jury to go forward to the exhibition. They provide a relatively informal and easy platform on which artists of numerous nationalities can send in and show current work and communicate with their peers.

Griffiths says of the mini prints, “Because they are so small, the composition and relationships of colour and form need to be clear and well thought through in these little prints. They are relatively quick to work on and encourage a more experimental and playful approach. They can be seen like working in a sketchbook, ideas can be tried out, variations experimented with and concepts developed over a connected series of prints. Like sketchbook work, they can inform and influence other projects such as larger scale prints or paintings. They become a testing ground for visual language and a personal iconography.”

Since 1989 Griffiths has returned to the small format frequently and most years have seen production of new images and editions of the miniatures. Consequently, Griffiths has had work included in numerous mini print exhibitions throughout the world.

Griffiths has also shown larger scale prints in numerous international biennales and triennales since the 1970’s as well as a continuous history of solo, mixed and group exhibitions featuring drawings, paintings and prints. She is a member of the Printmakers Council and is Vice President of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers.