Spain and bulls
Wanted to go back to the Spanish theme, and include some reference to bulls- I know it’s a bit of a tourist cliché, but I wanted to include the vibrant reds and yellows that you see on touristy stuff (and blacks- though I don’t have black ink..) I was also remembering the big black cut-out bulls that dominate the countryside- perhaps because of their being cut-out, they always put me in mind of masked monotypes.
Started by looking up artists who have celebrated Spanishness in some way- Picasso and Miro and did some sketches, copying their images of bulls. Also looked up the internet for the cut-out ones, and found they are available as bumper stickers, t-shirts and everything. There was a cut-out conveniently provided on the internet too, which I must admit tempted the lazy part of me for a moment… Then realised it would be stupid to take something mass-produced and turn into a monoprint.. (I am resolutely not going down the “irony” route here…)
Played around with some shapes and did a plan for a print using a bull shape in the background of Miro’s “La terre laboree”, planning to use red, black (or as near as I could get), white reserved, and yellow overpainted.
But kept going back to the Picasso etchings, which were amazing, so full of life and movement. There were two that I liked- one showing a defeated bull about to be killed by the matador, the other showing a victorious bull rearing up. I sketched these and tried to turn them into more solid shapes than the light-of-touch etchings.
Using the defeated bull picture, I made masks and did two contrasting pictures. I was more ambitious with the mask this time, using small cut-out shapes, as my plan was to mask the printed page, not the glass.
Version 1: White bull, black shadow and yellow overpainted sun. “Espana” written down the side as backdrawing. It’s not supposed to look like a smooth tourist poster – the writing is more like spray painted graffiti, of the kind we saw often in Northern Spain, thought usually for Basque separatism. And the bull is a defeated one. (Although it is a bit ambiguous now- looking like it might also be about to charge.)
Black bull on red. I placed the mask onto the printed page with a bit of misalignment created so as to have some white highlights. The red is more solid this time and the shape of the bull is more direct, iconic, dramatic. I decided to leave it, and like the ambiguity of the image.
The registration on this one still went wrong though, as one of the small shapes moved during printing.
I painted a glass plate with a dark grey mixture, and left it overnight to dry. Then I set the two bulls, the victorious and defeated, against each other as a backdrawn print. I like the soft effect- it’s rather reminiscent of the charcoal cave paintings in places like Lascaux, or spray paint graffiti. I was tempted to add text again, as backdrawing lends itself to that, but couldn’t decide what to add. Captioning is difficult: saying something that’s obvious is pointless, and titling can reduce the potency of an image. Again, I could just put “espana” which could be politically apt. Or “Victor”, placed centrally on the page, begging the question of what victory amounts to. The defeated bull image is one I am attracted to, with the idea of dignity in defeat.