Project 10: experimental relief prints: Gauguin Self-portrait with Yellow Christ: markmaking on lino

Project 10 Experimental relief prints

1. Gauguin Self-portrait with Yellow Christ

In this self-portrait, Gauguin portrays himself against two images, the Yellow Christ, and a grotesque head, perhaps representing his own savage identity (Gauguin, Maker of Myth, Tate 2010). He is turning towards the latter. I like the composition here- the overlapping forms, and the easy flow from very different images in an ambiguous space. I thought it could be something to experiment with, trying to use different markmaking techniques to bring out the contrasts.

It’s not very successful, because I was being too rough and trying things for the sake of it. I chose mainly the traditional cutting tools for the portrait, using directional cuts to suggest contours, sometimes following the brushstrokes of the original. The sweater is “distressed” using a flat blade. The Yellow Christ was also done with lino cutting tools, with a large blade, to fit the rather simplified rendering of the image in the original. I used sandpaper on the loin cloth and the chest, to soften the ink a bit. I also tried to roughen the wood on the cross. These were attempts to bring the three parts of the picture together in some way.

The main development I tried to achieve with the use of different marking making techniques was a movement from clear definition to a more subtle gradation between light and dark. This was achieved by using sandpaper, scissors and serrated knife cuts on the left side of the picture, while the right side is sharply contrasting through the use of traditional cutting tools. At the first printing, the pagan god image was not clear enough, so I added more cuts to bring it out, and used more sandpaper. This has almost rubbed away the image though, and it’s now too light.

Another effect I like- unrelated to this exercise- is not going right to the edge of the lino, and leaving the rolled ink edges visible. I exacerbate this on one print by rolling the ink on in diagonal lines.

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