Single colour linocut
1. Spanish landscape
Going back to the sketches I made in summer while in Spain, I was still trying to find a way of printing the different textures and patterns I had observed. I had felt that the landscape had a “knitted” look, and could picture it in knitted into a woollen rectangle, with different stitches representing the different textures of ploughed fields, olives, grassland and straggly savannah, all undulating over the low hills.
I sketched this one and made a tracing, in order to organise the positive and negative shapes. I wanted it to be white in the sky and black in the foreground. Trying to create different textures, as well as drawn lines, I also experimented with a flat knife, which I used to scrape the surface to achieve a “distressed” look. By the time I was finished I felt quite impatient to try it and so used a small tube of water-based printing ink, to save on getting out all the oils and having to clean up again just for one print. This was Sakura water-based inks- a pack of small tubes in mixed colours. I chose the brown, straight from the tube and was immediately struck but how much less sticky and rich it was than the oil-based inks. The result was speckled. It was hard to tell if the “distressed” parts were ok or not. I planned to print in oils and see, before redoing the foreground if necessary.
This is it again, in oil. I’m unsure about the foreground, but feel it needs to be a quite solid black to contrast with the white of the sky. What I could do is work in some detail of grasses in close up perhaps, but this would have to be done with a very fine blade.
This is it, revised. I tried to work around the “distressed” parts- now, I would be inclined to describe those parts as “damaged”…
I was thinking about what subject matter would be fitting for this medium, and started reading around the history of printmaking, looking at the development of woodcuts in China and Mexico. This reading probably started to put ideas and images in my mind, and if anyone had said “relief print” to me I would have most likely envisaged, first, stark black and white images of suffering peasants, as in Kaethe Kollwitz’s prints which influenced the 1930s Chinese woodcut movement. Then, I would probably have visualised propaganda prints in red and black- products of socialist realist thinking, representing glorious red sunbeams over industrial scenes and human figures, portrayed as the new nobility, engaged in physical toil. By the same token, the woodcuts of 1920s and 30s Mexico portrayed the indigenous people working the land- the rough textures and primitive, mask-like faces asserting new pride in both their nationality and in their emergence as craftspeople. In both China and Mexico, the methods and materials and the choice of subject matter had historical, political and social significance.
Kaethe Kollwitz’s prints made me think again about whether to use white on black or black on white. I felt that white on black in her prints raised the emotional level of the images.
I went back to an old ink sketch I had done, in black and white, one I entitled “fragile”: this was a quick sketch a very dark photo in Newsweek showing migrant workers getting off a boat in the early morning, in the grey blue dawn of UK, and I could imagine their shock.
I felt this was a topic that would lend itself to the same treatment as I saw among the works of Lu Xun prints of Chinese peasants, influenced by Kaethe Kollwitz.
I sketched it again, thinking about the positive and negative shapes, and decided to cut it quickly- to get some of the rough, emotional feel that I felt was there in the examples of naive woodcuts. That sounds like I’m making an excuse for being slapdash, I realise..
I wondered if it was too rough, and decided to something more planned. Sketched white pencil on black paper. Envisage this as a piece made of separate “stamps”, like the stamps in passports.
It could be printed in the colours- greens, dark blues and reds of customs stamps and possibly printed on photocopies of passport pages. ( I now have the pages ready to do this- and may cut around the faces a bit more- I could create some rounded “stamp” shapes. that would look like rather ironic haloes.)
I would like to try to overprint them- overlapping each other so that the composition is the same as the single print version. Roughness wouldn’t matter, as it could like a swift and careless customs officer’s stamp- but again that could sound like an excuse for being sloppy.
Here they are on the photocopied passport pages. I printed them first onto perspex then took copies, as if making a monoprint. The ghost prints are quite effective as they look realistic, as if the stamp pad was getting dry.