This has been very long and dragged out, and I have become quite obsessed with a few new techniques, to the extent that I’ve had little interest in cutting wood or Lino, or in making monoprints. I think it’s the relative sophistication- or so it seems to me- that can be achieved using these techniques- the possibility of layering in so many ways, and the use of photographs, always a bit of a thought to do, as they have to be justified and defended, even with their status as “ready-mades”.
That’s all very well, but they need a press to print, and that severely reduces the chances of working and experimenting.
I have been studying other people’s prints, and despite admiring their technical expertise, have at times felt bored with them… I really liked the work of Marc Quinn though, that I saw at Art Central in Hong Kong recently, and this was what made me want to experiment with photos, as I was doing recently, using portraits of my mother, but that’s for the next assignment as it falls under the title of portraits. I’d really like to nail the process of putting photos onto photopolymer plates, but without all the gear, it’s really hard. Even though you’re not looking for technically high standards.
What interested me was Marc Quinn’s etchings from photos of meat- I believe he used laser printing from photos though. I also loved his etching of the frozen wave, made by embossing.
Anyway to get back to this unit- it was called chiaroscuro, and therefore invited exploration into light and dark, black and not-black in print, with all the practical technicalities and metaphorical imagery related to that. In terms of print-making I guess the “solid black” is the holy grail. I have managed it, using copper plate etching, with aquatint created using an air-brush, and a deep etch, which can create a velvety black.
What was interesting was to use my practice plates as a mezzotint layer and smooth them back into white. Photopolymer is much harder to get blacks with. They are so delicate, and I am still working on details such as whether to expose a plate in the sun after developing, or whether to clean with vinegar, as I have had disasters with both. Climate and other variables also make a difference. I’ve now got a bee in my bonnet about this process, and although I could probably get on with something else more successfully, I won’t until I’ve got somewhere with it.
I know I haven’t resolved the images of David and Goliath, and the idea of the truth and perception gaze. I’m just stuck, and have had to move on. There’s a worthwhile idea there somewhere, but it needs more work. I am reasonably happy with the “Facets” piece though, and think there is definitely something in this sculptural approach.
My earlier prints, the Newton’s apple and hand, were getting to know the materials and processes, and were much closer to a traditional interpretation of chiaroscuro. But even here, the connection to photography was latent.
Moving on from here
I am feeling very dissatisfied with myself at this stage, and feel I need a radical rethink of my ways of working. I have been far too obsessed with thinking and not involved in enough making. Everything is in my head, and part of that is the need to conceptualise what I’m doing, which is something mostly done in words, but it’s also because of embarked on techniques for which I don’t have the materials to hand. I am going to have to step back, sketch more, make more, find ways of making substitutes. I’ve signed up for a weekend workshop in Japanese woodcut printmaking- which has a focus on the printing process itself, including preparing paper for hand burnishing. At long last I hope to get to grips with what the paper is that’s for sale here, and what it’s good for, how it can be treated etc.
One of the more fun things I did as part of this was the Cyanotype project with students- the issue there being that it’s difficult to have control over the output, while still respecting their rights to self-expression… This is something I will have another go at in the coming autumn, as I’m planning another project week on the theme of printing with light… but it depends on whether the school is going to actually get an exposure unit, which would mean we could be more ambitious. Without one, it will still be sun exposures.