Thomas Lynch was first introduced to the world of print when a friend turned up at his house one afternoon with a box of shirts, a few screens and a bit of ink. Together they hand pulled a set of shirts, creating instant merch for his friend’s band. Lynch was so impressed at the immediacy of the process that he purchased his own equipment and started doing hand cut Rubylith (separable two-layer acetate film) fan shirts at home on his kitchen table. This experience landed him a job while on his OE in London, printing shirts for Europe’s biggest music industry screen printer. From there, he moved to the United States where he worked in a range of print studios for international and local clients including Levi’s Jeans. It was at this time that Lynch started making screen-printed music posters, which were an integral part of the West Coast music scene. Almost all the local indie bars and music venues employed their own personal screen printer to make posters for their upcoming shows, and although it didn’t pay the rent, it was a great way to be immersed in the exciting, burgeoning music scene there.
On returning to Aotearoa, he continued to create hand pulled screen-prints for local clients, including Weta and Tuatara, as well as producing limited edition hand pulled prints for artists. He likes the multiplicity of prints, but is conscious not to exploit it, preferring small editions of between twenty to thirty. Over the years, Lynch has observed in the art industry what he refers to as an abuse of the sanctity of the edition, where artists, often prompted by galleries, will make several editions of a single work by editioning more than one set of artist proofs or altering the colour slightly so as to create more than one version of an edition. In his view, there should only ever be one version of a work so to maintain the integrity of the print media, the artist and the work.
As a full time, commercial printer by day, his personal artistic screen-printing projects provide an opportunity for Lynch to break out of the strict requirements when trying to meet a brief and do things differently. When mixing colours for his own work, he has a more haphazard, instinctual, approach in contrast to the meticulous measuring of colours required for commercial projects. Not having to make a living as a full time artist, gives him the freedom to have a fun, exploratory approach to his art practice, without having to bow to the demands of the art market or a particular audience. This has resulted in a diverse body of work, clearly seen in his twenty-year retrospective exhibition Live to Print, Print to Live, October 2020, Wellington. The show included one of his last pre-computer artworks from 2008, which was a circus-style music poster advertising two of his favourite Swedish bands – The Hives and The Helicopters. He had made it while living in England where he had met them, been to their concerts, and printed their merchandise. Although computers are now a necessary part of the design process, the printing is always done by hand, and he prides himself in being a non-digital artform. A poster in his studio reads: Death before Digital.
Lynch also teaches term classes at Inverlochy Art School, which allows him to see the screen printing-process with fresh eyes, reminding him that everyone has their own way and of doing things and being able to embracing happy accidents as they arise. These classes are also a reminder that anyone can simply come into a class with an idea and with just basic equipment and minimal skills and can come away with something they are really happy with in a short amount of time.
In 2010 Lynch set up Artisan Screen Print Studio and Gallery in Shelly Bay, Wellington. The studio is completely solvent and plastic free, using water based Permaset inks for printing both flat stock and textiles. Lynch switched to Permaset due to personal concerns about the effect that solvents were having on his health, in addition to environmental concerns about the sustainability of the amount of plastic in the sea. Lynch has also been involved in using his screen-printing skills to fundraise for social causes close to home. In 2016 he teamed up with Kaikoura artist Matt Moriarty to create a fundraiser print with all the proceeds going to the Takahanga Marae Charitable Trust in recognition the work they did to support the community in the wake of the Kaikoura earthquake. In 2019, he held an exhibition – Thou Art Us, featuring prints by seven local artists in response to the mosque attacks and to show their solidarity with the Muslim community. This initiative raised over five thousand dollars donated to local Muslim organisations. Lynch recognises that making prints is a powerful tool for highlighting and engaging with social issues, as well as supporting communities.
Artisan Screen Prints:
Permaset eco-friendly screen-printing inks:
Inverlochy Art School: