Assignment 2: Abstraction: the questioning mind

I have already said, that I interpret abstraction here as a process, and have explored different processes, letting the  processes determine the outcome, to a degree. It’s like trying to “automate” the work- a bit like how Surrealists came up with their abstract images, except without the Freudian element.

So, it’s a case of putting the plate materials together with the things that will damage or degrade them and trying things out. I am particularly keen on the copper plate and ferric chloride process, and wanted to see how far I could go in damaging/ degrading a plate.

So I used this plate, the small one that had already been experimented on, on both sides.

I had used it as a test plate in Capileira to determine times for aquatint etching, with brushpainting of stop-out at 5 minute intervals. This would be the front.


Then, also in Capileira, trying out hard ground with etched lines, to add areas of dark and outlines.


Then the other side had been used at home to test my materials and solution:


Now I wanted to experiment with degrading the plate to the point of break-up.

I masked one side – the one immediately above- with a plastic shape, roughly like a wave, covering just over half, then masked the other side with a layer of Lascaux hard ground, mirroring the same shape. On the hard ground, I etched lines, concentrating on the already weakened areas, and adding shapes suggesting holes. Then I put it in the ferric chloride overnight.

And got the most exciting result.

There is still a trace of the original etch, and the curved lines complement the cut holes. The ragged edges, and the marks, suggest to me a brain, but also echo the “moon” images I’ve been working on, with crater-like shapes and shadows, looking ahead to  the “Chiaroscuro” assignment. The shape is beautiful, and can be printed in multiples to create new shapes, with a pleasing organic quality, but just a hint of a graphic question mark shape, which is why I’m calling it “the questioning mind”- but beneath what might appear to be a celebration of curiosity, there is also the idea of degradation, of things being eaten away, deterioration. technically, I love the softness of the etched surface against the crispness of the edges, and the way those edges hold the ink.

the questioning mind: copper plate etching on Fabriano Rosaspina
the questioning mind: copper plate etching on Fabriano Rosaspina

Printed in multiples:

IMG_3748 IMG_3747 IMG_3745

The plate itself is a thing of beauty, with the colours of the copper and the contrasting grey green of the verdigris; just lovely.

What I take away from this is the value of testing materials to see what happens. The shapes have ended up again, like the experiment with breaking perspex, organic, because they represent what happens rather than what I have designed. This again, is an almost  “automatic” image, in the tradition of using unconscious processes to create (yes, there is some intervention, but it’s reduced.)

If only I could get hold of the materials (getting the ferric here is proving a challenge even though it’s standard in the electronics industry); I’d love to do more of this.
This will be the technique I use in my final piece for this assignment.



Author: chrisocaprintingblog

Studying visual arts part-time with the Open College of the Arts

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