Chine Colle and the line between outside and inside

Chine Colle and the line between outside and inside

I had already tried Chine Colle in this collagraph print, but without being aware of it as a technique. Here it made a bold pool of colour, and only approximated the outline shape, which created a nice tension between the colour and the line. It created a body where there was only an outline previously. Of course, both are rough approximations.

This conflict between colour and line is something I’ve been playing around with in life drawing sessions, imposing lines on vaguely suggestive colours and tones, or having the colours spill over the lines as if the lines can’t contain them. But both are approximations, even metaphors for the physical presence of a human body in front of us.

Having lines around things is a mysterious thing. On the one hand it would appear to be something that must have been socially constructed, developed from the earliest experiences of children’s colouring-in books (“Don’t go over the lines”).  On the other hand, perhaps we have a Platonic sense of forms- which makes  our brains look for demarcations, to establish where the “chairness” ends and the “floorness” begins, for example. When we develop our understanding of what things belong to the class of chairs or floors, we are establishing what it is and what it is not, and at least metaphorically drawing a line around it to separate it from other, similar things. We also, presumably, need to know where one thing ends and another begins so we can physically navigate our way around. But that mental construct as a black line?  Surely this must have emerged from early drawing tools, such as charcoal, plus the development of print? Anyway, without researching it further (a job for another day) I’ll just float my lay opinion that it’s a social construct which appeals to us psychologically.

At our life drawing sessions, which are untaught, everyone comes along with their own materials and their own style. Some use charcoal, and some go bigscale using acrylic. One makes massive paintings using the acrylic tubes directly onto the paper. Some of us- interestingly, the non ethnically Chinese- frequently use ink and Chinese brushes. One regular uses watercolour and absolutely no line, a style I used to favour myself. Apart from him, everyone uses a pencil at some stage, and everyone, including the watercolourist, creates outlines. So everyone is engaged in the basic binary distinction of what is and what is not the body in front of us. Positive and negative space. The body inhabits the positive space. The area around it is empty. This is how we have been taught to see the world.

But it could also be said that the human body is not a separate entity- it derives from a past which still resides in it, will project into the future and casts things out of itself in various forms as it passes along a linear path. Ideas, words, influences emanate outwards. Equally, it is hemmed in, butted in the ribs, forced to kneel by pressures outside it- illness, lack of freedom, loss of power.

This is the concept I’d like to explore in my final assignment, and just hope it will fit the brief. I would like to develop some of the sketches and paintings from life drawing, using them as starting points for prints, while at the same time, trying to use the print media I know in an appropriate way. I love the work of Xu Bing, and the way the medium and the message match so perfectly. Similarly with Antoni Tapies. Gary Hume’s prints, which I saw at the recent Art Fair, such a contrast in their plastic shininess, matched their subject matter of big bold figures.

Anyway, that’s the plan. But first I have to learn Chine Colle. I would also like to go back and revisit basic lino block printing and get things to register properly at least once!


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