So, a couple of practice sessions. That felt a bit better. Meanwhile there was the fact of my village “landscape”, dirty, dug up, with nearly all the trees cut down. Those that were to be saved- a handful, with a laminated label reading “retain” on them.
These are the photos that inspired this series of prints. A rubber plant grown into a giant tree that is to be “retained”, iron mesh eating into its bark. Kapok flowers, heavy and fleshy, fallen on the road, look like hands, like the workman’s glove. These flowers decompose into a thick brown mush, like a dead animal. A trunk like a claw, clinging on, but it has no “retain”sign. Marks of dog’s paws in the scraped concrete, the marks in the cement the human traces. Rough, careless, like the dropped glove. Well, the whole series is a kind of horror story if you care about nature.
I thought I’d revisit some old techniques, in fact revisited an old collagraph which was still lying around. This was my first collagraph plate, made on corrugated cardboard, as can be seen, and featuring plants and leaves picked up around the roadside in France. It was still in good nick, so I thought I’d add to it, a layer of colour, wet paint rolled on. This changed it from an encyclopedic entry type array of plant life, to a squashed flat, rolled over by trucks view of flattened nature, much more fitting to my landscape here.
I had a quick go with the school press one day, and ran some real objects through on an inked plate: a piece of bandage, a feather, and a couple of sprigs of rosemary. Nice ghostly images from where the real objects block the ink, and then the ghost prints of the impressed sheet of perspex. I like the embossing it creates. Need to use better quality paper, and experiment with pressure of the press. What technique is this?? Just monoprint I guess.
Materials: Sakura water-based inks, perspex sheet (A5), cartridge paper
This is another picture that inspired me in this project- it was taken here, and is photoshopped to heighten the ghostly effect. Well, they are all ghosts now.
A Romantic View of Nature
Another influence on me tends to be poetry. I couldn’t consider nature without referencing the Romantic poets, specially Coleridge, my personal favourite. Once more, I am referencing “Frost at Midnight” and in particular the passage where he talks about the beneficence of nature and how he missed it when he was growing up, as he lived in the city “mid cloisters dim”.
Evoking the romantic ghostly image of trees, this print also required the use of a press. Made from cut strips of a carrier bag with a ribbed texture, plus string, this was meant to evoke a forest of silver birch trees. Blotches were caused by me rushing and inking too heavily to get into the ridges.
Materials: Sakura water-based inks (students quality), coloured sugar paper, cartridge paper.
Monoprints: Human Traces
I decided to go with monoprinting for this project, and to do it at home, without the press, so I could use oil inks and not worry about drying time or having to rush to let the janitors leave after work.
I started by monoprinting trees, focussing on lines and texture, and liking the smudged effects of ghost prints:
This was an attempt to use text, part of the poem, written backwards: less successful:
This was better, with a cement-like texture:
So, what I wanted to do was use the earlier techniques (1.1) of brushing and oil dipped string to create a bark-like texture, which would also echo the cement ridges left by construction. I was also keen on representing the fallen kapok flowers, which I did with inked thread and shapes painted into masked areas:
All images are 30 X 40 cm.
The thread and the oil made some good effects, although when using tissue, it did leave a very shiny residue.
I was starting to bring together ideas of flowers/ hands/ traces/ prints/ print… conceptual links:
I decided to morph the flower into a hand, and to use an actual hand print to create a mask. I was thinking of Tapies’ prints, and of the exhibition I saw a while ago: Rupestres
I did this several times, starting with ambiguous hand/ flower/ paw/ claw shapes:
These morphed into realistic hands and flowers, so there were two panels, suggesting both an imprint in cement and growth on a tree. I started using turpentine dropped onto the plate to life the ink off and create vein-like patterns, as well as backdrawn and scratched-off lines. The masked parts were then printed into by using a ghost print as a template under the perspex printing plate. The Ingres pattern on the paper was effective too.
From this I started to have the idea of adding text. I carved the quotation “mid cloisters dim” in lino. (I liked the palindromic look of this, as well as thinking it fit the context of nature spoiled by human hand). The semi-transparent paper was a help in registering the hand and finger-prints: they were printed onto the plate then lifted off, using a ghost print in reverse as the template.
This as all getting a bit dark though, with the hand shape losing distinction, even with the backdrawing in a contrasting colour, and so I thought of creating panels. I tried to create the effect of the hand pressing against the surface, as if trying to get out, or trying to stop something. The mesh is a good contrast to the more organic shapes on the right, and i could have created more drama by distorting the mesh to suggest pressure. I was quite pleased with this, apart from the accidentally large blob caused by dripping too much turps. I particularly like the ghost print of the lifted threads.
The panel idea was interesting though- getting back to the idea of a “series” of prints, as inspired by Xu Bing’s Series of Repetitions. I liked the idea of three panels, each with a contrasting texture and style- from straight line text layout, to fluid, to linear/ organic. I made an intaglio print with the text of the extract from Frost at Midnight, as above.
Ideas in the sketchbook: to be continued in the next post…