An Artist’s Process, Contextualized: A fragmented account of Brianna Tosswill’s Installation

In conjunction with the exhibition At a Time: Tender and Tense, throughout the four week duration of the exhibition Artists will respond to each other’s work through writing – which will be made available in the gallery in print and online for the duration of the exhibition. Below is the second instalment of this writing series – Agata Garbowska’s response to Brianna Tosswill’s work.


An Artist’s Process, Contextualized:
A fragmented account of Brianna Tosswill’s installation in SNAP Gallery

I. Introduction

Brianna Tosswill’s installation is a collection of carved linoleum plates, sketches, notes, and finished prints, all assembled into a cozy reading nook complete with a houseplant, lamp, and armchair. This assemblage is a glimpse into Tosswill’s artistic practice, a gathering of the ephemera generated throughout the process of making book art, linocut and letterpress prints.

II. These fragments I have shored against my ruins1

One of my first interactions with Brianna Tosswill’s print work was screen printing over one of them. While printing a large edition, I printed an image over what turned to be a test print of Brianna Tosswill’s and Jessica Magonet’s piece, “Epilogue”. That poetic misprint, an unexpected collaboration, forgotten until I saw the exhibition, combined with Tosswill’s collection of studio ephemera in the gallery, reminded me that I appreciate sketches, colour tests, and misprints just as much as I appreciate finished works.

A simple definition of printmaking is to make multiples by transferring an image from a plate/stencil/matrix onto a substrate. Throughout this process, there are often opportunities for the process to push back—allowing for misprints, variations, and unexpected conversations.

Tosswill’s installation, prints contextualized with carved plates, sketches, and notes, provides an opportunity to look in on the artist’s process. These insights into the finished work, fragments of drawings and text, will gradually fade, as Magonet writes in “Epilogue”, “The world spins softly / churning stories / into dust.”2

When I make prints, I take into consideration whether the work is archival, usually with the goal that the print will not fade or fall apart. While I try to challenge the impermanence of my work, Tosswill’s drawings, on sketchbook pages and newsprint, adhered to the gallery wall, are a reminder that temporary works also merit my attention and care. As the poem “Epilogue” suggests, and the references to epic poetry in Alice and Antius3 reiterate, it is likely that fragments are all that will remain.

III. An Instruction Piece

Tosswill’s site specific installation of fragments and finished works includes notes to the viewer, often written directly on the wall: a clue that indicates how a drawing was made, an invitation to pull back the curtain, a gentle reminder to wash our hands before handling the book art. While reading Tosswill’s instructions, I remember Yoko Ono’s piece, “PAINTING TO EXIST ONLY WHEN IT’S COPIED OR PHOTOGRAPHED” that directs the reader artist to, “Let people copy or photograph your paintings. Destroy the originals.”4 In the spirit of the Fluxus event score, I decide to follow Tosswill’s instructions. As I sit in the provided armchair, reading an artist book, do I complete the installation?

– Agata Garbowska

1 Eliot, T. S. “The Waste Land.” Poetry Foundation,

2 Magonet, Jessica and Brianna Tosswill. Epilogue. At a Time: Tender and Tense, 23 Oct. 2021-20 Nov. 2021, SNAP Gallery, Edmonton.

3 Ingram, Kit and Brianna Tosswill. Alice and Antius. At a Time: Tender and Tense, 23 Oct. 2021-20 Nov. 2021, SNAP Gallery, Edmonton.

4 Ono, Yoko. Grapefruit: a Book of Instructions + Drawings. Simon & Schuster, 2000.