THE idea that art should be affordable is good in principle, but can be hard to define.

Whether £50, £500, or £5,000 is affordable depends on your income and expenditure, but as a marketing buzzword ‘affordable’ has been in vogue since 1999, when the first Affordable Art Fair was launched in Battersea, London. Now they are everywhere.

The principle that people should be encouraged to buy original art from living artists is one I approve of, yet the cynic in me suspects other forces are at work.

One is that buyers are hoping to get in early on an undiscovered new artist, and make a profit. Another is that people imagine artists make too much money, and for little effort, anyway.

Artists have been making work in an affordable way for centuries.

I’m thinking of Dürer, his woodcuts, and prints of all kinds: lithographs, etchings, screen prints.

An exhibition displaying prints in all their variety is now on show at Salisbury Arts Centre. Prices are between £100 and £1,000, with the majority being between £200 and £300. In most cases these prints have been made by the artist’s hand, and are a suitable size to hang in an average room.

Of course, they are inexpensive because the artist can make many of them.

Most print editions will be limited in number, but I’m not sure that's important.

As all those TV antique dealers keep saying: buy what you like, not for investment.

The prints in the show were selected with an eye on including a broad range of printing techniques, and the arts centre has provided a useful information sheet. I counted 15 different varieties.

One of the main attractions of printmaking for the artist is that many processes contribute their own texture and surface qualities, and the prints that exploit this best are my favourites in this show.

Catherine Bloomfield’s ‘Late Spring’ uses collagraph techniques (adding other elements to the plate) to create a subtly coloured panorama.

I rarely like animal pictures, but Meg Buick’s ‘Dog’ is a different beast; it’s a large and loose lithograph, in black only, which reminds me of the work of Sigmar Polke.

'Artefact IX’, an etching by Tonia Morrison, uses tertiary tones in an image redolent of an alchemical illumination.

Screen print is represented by Sue England’s ‘Walk to the Quarry’ with well-chosen earthy colours.

‘Longing Cabinet’ by Gemma Lacey is unusual - printed on cloth, it combines an image of furniture with landscape motifs.

All these are in the mid-price range. I’m sure the arts centre would love to sell a few, as would the artists.

Martin Urmson

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