Link to Supporting statement
So, I think that’s about it for this course. I’ve enjoyed it a lot and now would like to try out other printmaking methods which use line- I’ll take a short course in intaglio this summer, and would like to go on to the second level course. I see it offering lots of ways of developing drawings. I really like lino- and wood-cutting, and have come to know and think a lot more about printing surfaces, the effects of different papers. I was a little less keen on monoprinting on its own, and with collographs (I did feel very enthusiastic at first about the idea of knitting prints, but it fell flat when I didn’t get much feedback on that, so I reckoned it wasn’t really a way to go )- I think that was because both were less than satisfactory without a press. I’m also a lot more knowledgeable now about materials, and how they are affected by external factors such as temperature and humidity. I’ve been struggling getting supplies from the start, and in fact, only now, when I’ve got to the end, do I feel that I have everything I need. My other challenge of course is having everything I need in one place! I won’t manage it all in the case to go back to Hong Kong next week. But now, I have more idea how to improvise, how to redo things, how to solve problems. It’s the nature of a level one course for a complete beginner that up until the end, you’re operating with a partial view.
Now, I have a pile of sketches for a version of a religious icon- I was inspired by the handpainted folk art images on glass in the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. These will link back nicely to my earlier crucifixion pictures, and give me a great excuse to apply more gold leaf…
This was my plan:
The final series:
- Woman kneeling (woodcut and chine colle, printed on white Sakusi A3 paper)
- Belle du Jour (3 lino blocks, monoprint and gold leaf, printed on newspaper, roughly A2)
- Meditation (single linocut block, metal leaf, printed on A3 mulberry paper)
- Hunter (3 lino blocks, monoprint, printed on papier de soie, or on Chinese calligraphy paper: still deciding which I prefer. The papier de soie is a bit of a challenge to mount. Roughly A3.)
I chose these four to form the series, as they represent different fundamental human experiences, and aspects of males and females- the kneeling woman is in pain and the colours of the chine colle evoke childbirth: matched with this, the Hunter is the stereotypical alpha male, active, reaching outside the frame, and the skin colour is vulgarly pink and fleshy, dominating nature.
Belle du jour is a kneeling pose that contrasts completely with the kneeling woman above, which is why I wanted so much to include that one. Meditation is of indeterminate gender and is meant to be a very quiet print, in contrast to the others. The colour is plain and the mulberry paper soft. I finally managed to get the gold leaf to stick, and have made various versions using gold, silver, copper and bronze suggesting the spiritual richness which contrasts with the rather etiolated body.
It was very satisfying, if a little unexpected, to be able to draw such links between life drawing and printing, and to find the quick routine sketches such a rich source of ideas for prints that tell stories. I’ve tended to paint in the past, mainly landscapes, painted en plein air, and tended to avoid figures in them. I’m now very attracted to the narrative potential of figures in imaginary settings – even the rather bland and bored straight-line anatomies that are the staple of the Hong Kong life-drawing sessions can suggest an archetypal pose or evoke an emotion. This is something I will continue to explore.
Yes, did I mention that I finally got gold leaf to stick?
One of my finds in Bucharest was a little alley way of art shops. There I found different colours of leaf, and, finally, glue to stick it on with. So I went back to complete the “Meditation” print.
I have now been able to decorate it with silver, gold, copper and bronze coloured leaf. Of them all, I think the bronze is the most effective, as it relates to the bronze bowl Buddhist monks carry, and creates the most realistic colour for falling leaves.
So here it is, at last. Here, the leaf has a much different message to the one it conveys in the Belle du Jour print, where it is tawdry, peeling, and ironic. Here it is delicate and sincere, on soft mulberry paper. Worth the wait!
Kitty Cougar: Lino cut
This was unfinished work from before the trip to Bucharest, so this is a bit of a recap before going on to discuss how this print eventually developed.
This was a departure into a different style, because the figure has a very different character. This is a burlesque dancer whom I sketched at life drawing. I’ve already used one of my sketches in a jigsaw lino print, and this is another pose that I found interesting. It’s a complete contrast to the introspective feel of “Meditation”, or the quietness of “Enchantment”. It could suggest movement, like “The Hunter”, but this is a still position, rather bold and provocative, not to say risqué.
In my earlier jigsaw print, I used brash unnatural colours, experimenting with green and blue for the skin, and reduced it to simple flat colour blocks. These colours were probably inspired by prints by Philip Sutton. I felt that the green skin and pink hair emphasised the commodification of the female body, and also gave the image something of the gaiety theatre air of a Toulouse Lautrec poster.
I had in mind something similar for this one, and wanted to arrive at something that would reference a promotional poster. I also envisaged applying gold leaf to the background to make it both gaudy and ironically iconic. I was envisaging white skin- printed, not the white of paper, as I wanted it to be a positive shape, a thick viscous look if possible. The bikini in a garish colour- emerald green. Gloves in black. A yellow background, which I would then apply gold leaf to, like a religious icon, to reinforce the boldness of the pose.
I had in mind here lino prints by Gary Hume. When I saw these at the Hong Kong Art Fair I was impressed, first of all, by their sheer scale. That I can’t aspire too, obviously. The other aspect of them that I would somehow like to emulate is their – I’m not sure what to call it- thickness, plasticity. Their sheen. They have no need for outlines, as the layers of ink create edges in relief. The ink is built up in layers, it seems. In order to try to do something similar, the only ways I can think of using are:
- Using my oil based inks, which seem to be shinier and more viscous, and
- Layering colours one over the other, as in a reduction print
- Using a less absorbent paper, perhaps with a sheen.
I decided to use the biggest size lino I have, which is A3, and which would be harder to handle, printing by hand.
My problem at the time was lack of suitable paper of a size to print on. I had to scratch around for anything that might do.
Now I’m just going to show the different versions of “Kitty Cougar” in order to talk about the different finishes that arise from using different papers at the linocut stage.
I printed this in oil-based inks, and used the following papers- white tissue, coloured tissue, newspaper, wrapping paper and cartridge paper.
This worked quite well, with the ink sitting on top of the paper and preserving its sheen. There’s a lot of texture in the ink though- not a smooth finish at all- due to that resistant surface. The ink shows the suction marks where the paper was pulled from the plate- I’m not sure if there’s a name for these kinds of marks, but there needs to be…! I’m sure in professional printmaking terms, these are to be avoided like the plague, but I have a certain liking for them- they do serve to draw attention to the medium, pinpoint the relationship between print and surface, and yell out “This is an artificial construct” but I’d be worried about submitting it for assessment as it would probably be judged as inept, and I can’t in all honesty say it was a planned effect. I like the colours though- it’s garish- the yellow is battling against the blue in strength of hue, as well as showing its viscosity/ tenacity.
This was another one I liked. The transparent yellow background couldn’t hide the newsprint, so it has a back story and another layer of pattern. I like the contingent fact of it having a centre-fold too, and, like the wrapping paper above, it has a texture of its own from folds and creases. The paper is shiny so the sheen I wanted is there. It is a smoother finish than the wrapping paper- no suction marks this time- well stuck!
This next one is on plain cartridge paper. It has a less smooth print and no sheen because of the surface of the paper, and I’m altogether less keen on it. It has a lack of definition.
Finally, a ghost print on red tissue. Since the tissue paper is so sensitive, it can pick up the remnants on the printing plate, including the texture that is created by lifting off a previous print, here on the skin tones. This is a less brash image and I like the contrasting tones on the flesh itself as well as how they contrast with the flatness of the clothes.
Four prints on a theme
Right, back after a break, refreshed and restocked. I have had new supplies of paper, from Bergerac and Bucharest, as well as having found a nice selection of gold leaf in different colours (it’s still called “gold leaf” although it’s in silver, copper and bronze) and special paste for glueing it. This came from a wonderful little alley in Bucharest- cobblestoned, arched at both ends with cafes down the middle, and entirely given over to art shops. No printing ink, but it does seem to be very specialist, so that’s fair enough. (Lots of tempura paints though, which must be the in thing in Romania…)
And I’ve narrowed down my choice of prints for the final assignment on a theme. My choice was firmed up after visiting the Storck Museum in Bucharest and seeing the paintings of Cecilia Storck. She painted at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th, and the Storck museum is the family home, with rooms entirely covered in her artwork- walls and ceilings.
She spent time in Paris at the end of the 19th century, and the influence of Gauguin can be seen in her paintings of figures in fantastic landscapes, as well as a bit of a decorative motif that is reminiscent of pre-Raphaelites. But her subject matter is spiritual and emotional. Her landscapes are imagined, as she did not, like Gauguin, travel to the south seas, but she created tableaux that take elements of traditional religious art but which suggest a modern mythology based on the cycle of birth, life and death, and celebrate the fundamental emotions of joy, sorrow, love, pity.
Her figures, like Gauguin’s, are realistic but simplified. They exist in colourful idealised landscapes, and perform simple but dramatic gestures, like characters in a mime.
I want to make my selection of final prints based on simple, elemental poses and gestures. These will all have originated from sketches done from life, and will be placed in different imaginary contexts depending on the emotion or attitude being portrayed. I will have tried out several versions in order to choose the techniques that work best. A lot of this will be trial and error. Yes, sketching is important, but there is only so much that can be predicted in a sketch. The difference the texture of paper makes, for example, is not something that can be sketched, and I have found that the more rigorously I plan through sketching, the less successful the print appears to be. At this stage, still a relative beginner at printmaking, I feel it’s better to try things out and respond to results.
I’m going to reorganise the work done so far, and will bring in a print done as part of the earlier chine colle experiments to be part of the final series, as I think it fits too well to leave it out. Meanwhile, I have done a lot of other experiments with chine colle, so can hardly be accused of skiving. Being mindful of the assignment brief, I’m confident that the final series will show a mix of techniques and materials, while also having clear relationships to each other.