Project 10: experimental relief prints: Runes: mark-making on lino



As planned, I cut some runes into strips of lino (specially cut for the purpose this time, not leftovers!): the words come from the Ruthwell Cross and translate as “I was with blood bedewed.”   (I studied these as part of my undergraduate degree, so it was a bit of rediscovery..)

I used a serrated kitchen blade and could only cut straight lines: this seems to echo how runes were cut into materials such as bone. The words on the cross are carved with no breaks, but I separated them into 3 parts, basically because of the size of my lino pieces and my paper- “I “ “was with blood” and “bedewed”. Unlike my earlier attempts with writing, I remembered to reverse it.

I planned to print these runes over a shape I had used for monoprinting, a standing stone. However, I decided instead it was more pertinent to revisit the  earlier “Yellow Christ” inspired monoprint and incorporate the runes into it. I sketched an outline and then tore it out of paper to make a crucifixion shaped mask. This was then placed onto the paper I would print on, and the runes printed in strips, in stages, over the top of it. The vaguely suggested white-on-white figure, visible as the printing was being done, was also rather appealing.

I like the result.

I was with blood bedewed 1

The runes are barely legible, but the straight cuts make a good contrast with the torn edges of the negative shape, and the straight lines of the lino strips also contrast with the shape of the body. As observed before, this shape is nicely ambiguous- halfway between a suffering corpse and a dancing figure. I think this fits with the ambiguous words of the inscription, which could be read as poetic beauty or torture. Only after I had finished did I realise that I had put the strips in the wrong order, so did another version, this time making the mask in tracing paper, which had a slightly softened look as it was printed over. I am tempted to leave it in place.

I was with blood bedewed 2

In the interests of experimentation, I tried using more cut masks, placing them on the inking plate, and inscribing  the runes into the ink using a nail. This didn’t work at all.  It made no impact as an image. I tried using other implements to make the runes clearer, but they were no better, so gave this up.

While I had ink left over I tried some more monoprints, as I have now realised that the reason I had little success with some of the techniques that I was trying in summer, was the use of water-based inks. The oil-based ones I brought with me this time are much stickier. This scratched crucifixion/ dancer was quite appealing to me.


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