Wednesday 18 November 2009

For David

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Making Mini Prints 1

I had this image that I drew with making a print in my mind, for ages and I thought I would have a go at realizing it.  The fact that I still liked it, also made me think that it was worth pursuing.  I wasn’t too sure whether I would use collagraph in combination with inkjet or drypoint  …just thought I would actually get on with the doing of it as opposed to the thinking about it –

It’s made using pencil and cheap gouache paint and was done in a sketchbook.  I don’t often use those nowadays.  It’s about 20 by 20 cm square. I love how I made the two areas of turquoise colour and left a white area, horizontally across the middle. I was thinking in terms of printmaking when I originally made it.  Actually I am now thinking I could even try it out as a larger monoprint tomorrow but that’s another adventure.

I thought I would print out this background and then make the graphic marks with drypoint on polypropylene.  Having said that I am not too sure that it does throw up a burr but I like using the material and its transparent which I like because you can see really well where you have and haven’t inked/wiped etc.

Of course when I tried to remove the black drawn marks from the image digitally – it just wouldn’t work as can be seen  and I DIDN’T like the effect I was coming up with,  despite trying various things in Photoshop.

So I removed the black elements and thought I would transfer those onto a polypropylene plate.  I was making this print or attempting to with the `littlest print exchange in mind.  I also had the green door print exchange in mind.  One of them required a 9 x 9 cm print the other a 10 x 10 cm print,

I then removed the tonal aspects of the image.

Given what I said as to the possibility of including collagraph/ carborundum in the print I was thinking about making the animal vaguely bear like creature into a silhouette shape.

But then I thought that it's weight,  tonally stood out too much visually and that it didn’t work.  So I thought maybe having it appear lighter weight in tonal terms would work better.

I used a “scribing tool” that my friend Tatiana, had very kindly made for me. Having said that acquiring the components WAS a collaborative effort.  She got hold of these “handles”, which normally have small thin, metal tools for repairing tiny computer parts.   Instead we put a cut off injection needle which I think she may have sharpened.  I’d had a visit scheduled at the vets to get my cats annual flu jab so I asked the vet if she would let me have some needles that she used for horses and large patients as I explained, what it was for.  I had to assure her that I wasn’t going to be using these for any inappropriate means which I said I surely wouldn’t.  In my mind I made a mental note that I was going to send this generous woman a hand printed greetings card, this Christmas.

So after “umming” and “ahing” I decided to scribe into the plate and I seem to remember that by then I had this idea that I would make the bear shape as a cut out mask which would be in the print as a feint shape created by the wiping process (i.e., it would be the clean area and the remaining picture space would have tone.

Blast it, I thought,  the line is too crude.  Because of the limitations of the material I couldn’t get the gestures of the facial marks precise and it really matters to me,  so that was that.

As I had already printed out these backgrounds for another print I thought I would print this “drypoint” onto it to see what it would look like and it still didn’t look promising.  So I put it aside for the meantime and went on to try out some other ideas.

I did lots of little trials like this with the "Littlest Print Exchange" in mind as well as the Green Door International Print exchange, which I will discuss in  more detail later.
I was not too sure if I would be able to meed the first of these as 50 prints were required and as I knew I would be recovering from the surgery on my spine  well I just felt it best to withdraw my commitment.

I decided to keep with the green Door exchange as that required only 10 prints and one had a further one centimeter to play around with !!

Sunday 8 November 2009

So sad to hear that printmaker, Nancy Spero died a couple of weeks ago

I don't know how she died or if she was ill for a long time and in a lot of pain.  I hope not.  But I suppose only those that were close to her would know such things.  She always looked such a slight figure in photographs that one saw of her.
She certainly looked very beautiful in photos I have seen of her when she was in her 30's or 40's but in any event of course I will remember her for her beautiful and inspiring art work.  I  can't remember exactly when I first became aware of her.  I remember being very "into" her when I was doing my postgraduate printmaking course (1999) at Wimbledon School of Art in London.  I seem to remember that I bought the book I have about her work, around about then.  It's the one that is published by Phaidon.  There have been so may posts about losing her although I don't know that she was appreciated enough while she was still around.  For example the Tate modern I believe either have one piece of work by her or none.

"Her continuous engagement with contemporary political, social, and cultural concerns is renowned. 
She has chronicled wars and apocalyptic violence as well as articulating visions of ecstatic rebirth and the celebratory cycles of life. Her complex network of collective and individual voices was a catalyst for the creation of her figurative lexicon representing women from prehistory to the present in such epic-scale paintings and collage on paper as Torture of Women (1976), Notes in Time on Women (1979) and The
 First Language (1981)."  
from the entry about her on  Wikipedia

For me, as an artist and developing printmaker, I found her inspirational.  I say this in the sense  that her work was formally speaking "beyond the frame".
Although I had become interested in printmaking because of the beauty of the embossed qualities of intaglio and the immaculate white pass par tout, I soon became aware of how much it limited and frustrated me.    It was by looking at artists such as  Nancy Spero and others like Annette Messager, that  I eventually became encouraged to create my own printmaking based installation.

In addition to this, I had also recently visited a wonderful exhibition of printmaking at Whiteleys' in West London.  It was presented by  the Printmakers Council.    There I saw a host of contemporary printmakers who were printing onto all kinds of substrates and onto soft and rigid surfaces.  There were people making printworks  into three dimensional forms, incorporating "ready mades"  and really experimenting with the possibilities.  I felt really excited!!    I think it was then, that I decided to make a printmaking installation to submit to the next such event hosted by the PMC and I did.  

It was kind of scary -  I made it about the war in Kosovo and the basis for it was, polarized perspectives and extremism. though it was motivated by my response to what was being reported from the break up of the former Yugoslavia it became a piece about the pointlessness of war.   

It was called "Silent Apocalypse".   I had recognized in my own work a preoccupation going back a long way and linked to me own origins with the "abuse of power" by all sorts of means .  This being from interpersonal relationships right through to international policies.

Getting back to the works of Nancy Spero, I was particularly "taken" with the gouache painting /drawing (works on paper)that she did - not so much her early oil paintings.   It was their idiosyncratic nature and the way she,  for example would make a helicopter part human part bird and part monster.  They also had that manic quality that my little brothers drawings had, that he made while he played with his toy soldiers and tanks and guns.
Overall her pieces  appealed to me because they seemed to represent themes that are universal and some of them were quite gutsy.  These  represented the tools of government policies in theaters of war such as eg Vietnam  Only the players were real people getting displaced traumatized raped disappeared and brutalized.  The works were also made from the perspective of a woman and how women are affected by war and violence.
Her husband and long term partner  (painter) Leon Golub,  also worked with similar issues.  She also represented those peoples whose lives were oppressed and smashed by repressive regimes - sadly it's still going on today -  all over the place.

Even though the concerns within her work were often bleak there was a wonderful inventiveness  and beauty to it.

I was fortunate enough to be able to see Spero's work in person when I went up to Newcastle in 2004 to see the exhibition presented by the Baltic centre, in Gateshead.  The show was called "other Worlds and featured 2 of my favorite artists i.e., Nancy and Kiki (Smith).
Taken from the publication that accompanied the exhibition 

"Nancy Spero is a respected feminist artist whose practice has greatly influenced a younger generation. Her work on paper and her installations are an acknowledgement of the power of the carnivalesque, and an exploration of the potential recoding of space and architecture through a visual poetics of word and image. 
Never abandoning the figure, even at a time when images of women were thought to carry only negative connotations, she has systematically refigured the feminine as collective, social and empowered. 
Coming from the generation of artists immediately following Spero, Kiki Smith has always acknowledged a liberating impulse in her art.   Both artists have turned vulnerability into strength (*), making art that represents the female body, but in forms that avoid objectification or narcissism ( *: which particularly appealed to me) , and that can speak to the universal without idealization or reduction (*: ditto) . Both artists make art from the histories, fantasies, legends and myths of the feminine, reclaiming the female body as an expressive vehicle of emancipation and desire".

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Printmaking Opportunities

I have posted several print making opportunities which may be of interest  at the FDPW workshop blog which I run on behalf of the membership and interested parties. Briefly listed below with closing dates

Mini Print exhib.  Hull UK    
Nov 12th,  2009

Black Church Print Studio Open
16 Nov 2009  

Postcard Show Torpedo factory, USA                                  
Dec 1st,  2009

Bookart Competition, Canada                                                   
Jan 18th, 2010

Cadaques Miniprint  Spain and Europe                                     
March 2010

Highland Print Studio  - work on consignment ?                       

East London Printmakers Residency                                         
Dec 6th 2009