4.2; RESEARCH: Claire Nash

RESEARCH: Claire Nash

Of all the Contemporary Printmakers featured in the book: Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking,¹ Claire Nash was the artist who appealed to me most.

Nash’s Collagraph prints are bold abstractions of colour and texture. She says her process is: “instinctive, spontaneous and impulsive” ² and she clearly has a healthy level of curiosity about the textures around her, using all manner of materials. I thought this approach was a good example of the way my tutor has been encouraging me to work.

I found I agreed with Nash on one specific element of the process, she prefers not to seal her plates before printing: “I don’t want the feel of the materials to be lost, or even dampened down.”  I had had very similar thoughts about this, I couldn’t understand collecting all the textures to construct the plate and then nullifying them by applying a uniform coat of the same material. Hence I tried to avoid doing this.

Another useful tip I picked up from Nash was to paint an + shape edge to edge on the back of the plate before fully coating the front. This prepares the plate for the wetness of the materials used to construct it and prevents the curling I experienced in 4.2.2.

I admired Nash’s work but even more so her process. She inspired me to think of the final print as yet another stage in making: “I’m really interested in pushing the boundaries of the defined print.” She will sometimes use a print as Chine Colle applying it to another surface and I found a tantalising reference to casting a collagraph plate.

I went into 4.2.3, considering this statement by Nash: “Printmaking is about making works of art and shouldn’t be precious.”

***

On a more practical level, as I researched Collatypes on the internet I discovered some really useful technical information. It transpired that it had been written by an OCA Printmaking student, I wonder why it hadn’t occurred to me to cross disciplines seek out their wisdom before?!

¹HARTILL & CLARKE. Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking. (2004) BLOOMSBURY

² Same publication, Page 85.

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4.1.4; More Stencils

I wasn’t happy with my first series of prints made using stencils. At first I thought it was simply colour that was the problem, there were a lot of rather dark, muddy images, particularly when I tried to incorporate back-drawing. I was very grateful to fellow course-mate Julie for her comment that:

“the offset Paisley print is really lively and quirky, I think allowing this kind of ‘accident’ into print making is very effective – otherwise I think prints in general can be rather over-controlled and therefore static”

Julie’s observation helped me to identify that I was actually being too tight and controlling. When selecting the prints for submission I really had to fight myself not to include these:

but actually these as I find them much less ‘static’:

RESEARCH: RUTH ISSETT

To help remedy the issues I was having with colour, I looked at the work of Ruth Issett, in her book Print Pattern and Colour. What I noticed was the clarity of her prints, despite the multiple layers.

Isset uses a broad spectrum of highly saturated colours, each colour seems to have it’s own punch. There are no thick black outlines to define the shapes nor does she typically leave areas of white to allow the colours to float and interact. I think what she does so cleverly, involves layering complementary colours and exploiting the relationships between neighbouring values. She obviously has an excellent grasp of colour theory.

I decided to be more conscious of the colours I was selecting, building on what I learned in Part 3 of ATV. I think intuitively I tend to err toward more analogous colour selections, this is ok if the colours are partially blended within the same layer of the print.

I also picked up a useful tip about creating the stencils from freezer paper, which means they can be ironed directly to the fabric rather than applied to the plate. I found this made registration so much easier and resolved the problem of the mask sticking to the plate.

I printed this freezer paper mask over one of my clean up cloths, the complementary pairing of red/green has been utilised to define the edges. A black outline is not required as the warm red motif stands proud of the cool receding green.

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A limited palette of red/gold has been combined with black and white, feels like quite a sophisticated choice of colours for such a loose composition. I experimented with combining a range of techniques tearing, cutting, collage, overprinting and back-drawing to avoid a static image.

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A double triad of complementary colours yellow/purple-orange/blue has been successfully combined. Both sharp and diffuse edges are apparent. Watercolour and found objects were applied to add detail.

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Finally, a full spectrum of highly saturated colours has been balanced by considering the relationships between them. The motifs were applied using freezer paper directly onto fabric to ease placement. Small stitches were added for interest and too address the similar scale of the printed marks. I tried to avoid ‘outlining’ each motif, allowing the colour to do the work.

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ISSETT R. Print, Pattern and Colour. (2007) BATSFORD

 

4.1.3; A BIG Idea

My contextual research of contemporary monotypes led me to discover this article about working on a really large scale: Printing Really Big Monotypes by Steamroller, Skateboard and Breaking Dancing. I loved the idea of using machinery and movement to create marks. The final prints remind me work done to music, they have a similar sense of rhythm and repetition. The project transported the process from the print shop (or in my case kitchen table) to an outdoor festival atmosphere, the marks and colours reflect this. The venture presented some difficulties, but interestingly they seemed to be the same problems materials pose no matter what scale one is working at.

I love drawing on a large scale, which is something I have not done during MMT. There is something about having a large space to fill that encourages speed and fluency in mark making… you have to use more than your hand and wrist, the whole arm and upper body become involved. It can feel like dancing, which very much links to the project above.

This was in the back of my mind on holiday, when I happened to notice sea-gull footprints in the sand:

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I love the random nature of the pattern made by nature (I can see the link to the Colour of Hair Project, that my tutor directed me to look at also). I wondered if I could ink up some paper and persuade my chickens to perform the mark-making dance for me?

In short, NO, chickens don’t perform. I also tried to involve my dogs, who never fail to stand on my work if I leave it on the floor… typically they didn’t want to cooperate either. Once I finally got them to stand on the prepared paper/plate, I discovered that they actually weren’t heavy enough to leave any trace of a mark (so the chickens wouldn’t have been any good anyway). Re-reading the article Rostow states the steamroller couldn’t apply as much pressure as an etching press, so I don’t know what made me think a chicken could!

(The article was actually helpful in answering another of my problems, in my last post I described how I couldn’t shift the ink from the plate, they used an Akua Release Agent).

It was such a shame to waste the paint/ paper I had prepared, it took two tubes of oil paint to cover the A2 paper so I decided to sketch the sunflowers in my garden:

DSCF5520The first drawing was lovely and soft, the Burnt Umber suits the loose lines and reminds me of Gauguin’s prints. Black would have been too dark and heavy. I am particularly pleased with the composition, I like the way the heads crowd together at the top and the leaves cover such a large area. This is so much more reflective of sunflowers in the garden, than brought from a supermarket in a vase. The sketchy quality also suggests movement of the tall stems in the breeze (which links back to the idea of dance and movement in the Steamroller/skateboard project).

DSCF5524I had a lot of fun with the mark making in the second drawing (again A2), there is a lot of energy but I think my fondness of pattern still shows in the scribbly marks. There is some difference in the thickness of line, afterward I wondered if I had really exploited the scale of the drawing? Could the lines have been even thicker at this size?

DSCF5519A final test showed me I could have been more ambitious with the mark making. It required a lot of pressure to generate lines this thick with a lolly stick, but the broad smudgy lines were worth the effort. Considering the drawings were made in an attempt to salvage the materials from the failed chicken project, I’m not too disappointed!

ARTICLE: By Susan ROSTOW: http://www.akuainks.com/printing-really-big-monotypes-by-steam-roller-skateboard-and-break-dancing

 

4.1.3; Back Drawing

I knew I was going to love Back Drawing before I even started this exercise! I have used a similar process in the past, drawing on the reverse of a sheet that I have covered with oil pastel or wax crayon. I like the quality of line that is transferred to the paper beneath, I have also found that the process has the effect of loosening the drawing rather like a non-dominant hand exercise.

I thought I knew what to expect but I surprised myself; what I learned from my investigations is the versatility of this technique.

I began by looking at the works of Gauguin, Klee and Emin. It was actually Emin’s monotypes that elicited the strongest response from me. Once again I had to grit my teeth and consider art work that is not pretty, doesn’t make me feel good but is very powerful. I intended to write up my research in an academic manner on the blog but considering my tutor’s comments about how wordy my last assignment was, I decided to do something different. This is my response to Tracey Emin’s monotype “Something’s Wrong”:

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Mimicking Emin, I wrote my thoughts backward and forward onto a sheet of glass and printed the result. I had a bit of difficulty with the ink being far to thick at the beginning, so I was actually able to create a whole series by pressing papers together. It was hard to decide which print was the most successful, so I photographed them together. This made me realise their strength lay in them being a collection. The hidden benefit of producing a multiple was that the relationship between the text being the right or wrong way around was more fully exploited.

Aesthetically the monoprints were not at all what I expected because the backgrounds feature so heavily. Usually the motif in a monoprint is suspended in unprinted space, with only incidental marks being present.

The patchwork of linear patterns showcases the text that appears haloed in ink. I decided to reference more of Emin’s work (the neon signs) by overpainting with vibrant colour:

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Whilst I am pleased with how my prints look and with the concept of responding via art work instead of a formal analysis, I felt drained by this whole process. Emin’s shock tactics make me feel irrationally angry. It was sort of cathartic working on the prints trying to decide why. I seethed and hated as I printed-It took a lot of energy and actually I felt like I had crossed over to a darker place. When I looked at them the next day, I felt almost hungover with embarrassment about them. (And no, I hadn’t been drinking.) This was a strange new way to work for me- very raw and uncomfortable.

The prints I made surprised and shocked even myself! I was in two minds whether or not to share this experience, no offence is meant by it! All power to Emin who has consistently provoked reaction from the public throughout her career. Brave!

 

 

3.1; Research: Victoria Ferrand Scott

Ferrand Scott’s sculptures cast in plaster and concrete are minimal. The surfaces are polished smooth and the shapes are organic and sensual. I feel quite reverential towards the sculptures, torn between wanting to touch and afraid to reach out.

Restraint (2001) reminds me of a Georgia O’Keeffe landscape. In both cases the bulges are curvaceous and feminine, line is eliminated and definition is provided through light and shadow.

Restraint is an installation, arranged in a grid format that naturally appealed to me.  Looking at how the modules are formally arranged on the floor reminded me of Whiteread’s Untitled Floor (1992). Having spent several months during Part 2, considering how to join elements within a design, I now seem to be attracted to those that interact more freely and are interconnected only by the space that travels around them.

The open space between the components is where the similarity between these two seems to end. Whereas Whiteread incorporates the marks of everyday wear and tear, Ferrand Scott seeks a flawless surface. This use of perfection has been counteracted by the spontaneous shapes that gravity has pulled the casting material into.

I enjoy pattern but am beginning to appreciate how highlighting certain features can disturb rhythm to dramatic effect, for example: the subtle variation in shape and height of each cluster of peaks in Restraint. In ‘Pointers for the Next Assignment’ my tutor advised:

“Push yourself to keep exploring imperfection and irregularity.” 

I learned a lot about when and how perfection can be used, by comparing these two artist. If Whiteread’s finish was as smooth and polished as Ferrand Scott’s her sculptures would lose their reference to humanity. If Ferrand Scott’s surfaces contained pocks and flaws this would detract from the subtlety of the forms.

My plaster investigation in Project 1, actually drew more from Rebecca Fairley’s work than Ferrand Scott because the domes I created included texture and loose fibres. In Project 2, when the casting medium is contained within a vessel, I hope to create some smoother shapes that focus more on form than texture. This will give me an opportunity to explore the link between perfection and imperfection.

3.1; Research: Rachel Whiteread

I gained a good appreciation for the development of Rachel Whiteread’s work from reading Charlotte Mullins book¹. What impressed me most is how it has evolved over time: the scale of her plaster sculptures grew until she cast an entire house, then shrank again as she explored new materials. Once more her ambition becomes apparent as small resin sculptures were replaced by enormous projects, previously considered impossible in that medium. I love her rebellious refusal to be contained by the apparent restrictions of a given material or object.

Translating empty spaces, (for example beneath furniture) into tangible sculptures that can be seen and felt, forces the viewer to regard the world differently. The changing the relationship between space and negative space, or object and space fascinates me. Untitled: Floor (1992) is my favourite example of this.

I feel much less emotionally involved with the destruction of the domestic objects in Whiteread’s work than I did with the sacrifice of natural organisms in Rachel Dein’s. However, I think it is really important that Whiteread’s chosen objects are domestic as this makes them accessible and relatable to the human body. The human link is vital to the plaster sculptures in particular, without it I think they would just be solid lumps of material, the imperfections caused by the human body add life and soul. This is a really important observation for me and my perfectionist tendencies!

The resin pieces are more forgiving because colour and translucency have already made them attractive. Of this collection of works, I found Untitled: One Hundred Spaces (1995) to be my favourite. The spaces beneath chairs have been translated into glowing, jelly like forms that are hard and solid. As well as being beautiful in their own right, the grid like arrangement is very satisfying, not least because it adds another layer of ’empty space around solid space that should be empty’.

One Hundred Spaces, is also testament to material led investigation:

“A lot of the work I do involves pushing materials to the limit. With the resin pieces, the people I spoke to about the material, the chemists, were saying that the scale of what I wanted to do was impossible. The materials were designed for making paperweights, very small objects. I spent a lot of time figuring out how I could push it. Playing with materials is very much part of my ongoing investigation.” ²

This actually reminded me of the cutting edge technologies Janet Echelman has had explore in order to actualise her vision. If I am honest this dedication to problem solving scares the life out of me- sculpture is not for the fainthearted!

Whiteread’s book sculptures had the biggest influence on me and I found this strange because I actually like them the least of all her work. I find them really creepy and looking at them makes me feel uneasy, deep down in my stomach. I am beginning to notice that I am able to sit with works that evoke unwanted and undesirable emotions. When I first started with OCA, I would have simply bypassed these pieces. I now understand that I don’t have to ‘like’ it, to judge it successful. Perhaps it is the power of the response illicit that measures success?

¹ and ² MULLINS, C. Rachel Whiteread. (2004) Tate Publishings.

 

3.1; Research: Eduardo Paolozzi

I am really interested in the subject matter and the themes addressed in Paolozzi’s collage and print works, particularly as many still factor in our lives today. I found identifying these themes really useful for understanding his three dimensional work.DSCF4842

Putting Paolozzi into the context of Post WW2, with the threat of the Cold War looming helped explain why fear seemed to play a such a huge part in Paolozzi’s work:

” a lifelong exploration into the many ways humans are influenced by external, uncontrollable forces.” ¹

I feel the presence of fear particularly strongly in his three dimensional biometric forms. The 1950’s was an era where people believed machines and technology could take over the world. Cyclops (1957) deals rather sympathetically with the human form, yet encrusts the surface with cogs and bolts.

The surfaces of Paolozzi’s sculptural works, whether 3-D form or relief, are constructed from composite shapes. They are literally littered with mechanical looking parts. There seems to be no logic to the arrangements- no suggestion that the ‘machine’ could ever function. To me this reinforces the theme of fear: there is no reason, just a fractured representation of a frightened mind.

As far as construction goes, Paolozzi welded and bolted components together, then used Lost Wax Casting to recreate the surface. This seems like a necessary step to unify the collection of ‘found items’ into a cohesive structure. I found this interesting because it seems at odds with the way I would have previously considered building a surface. I would normally think about the production of ‘modules’ which I would then connect in some manner (like a Karen Margolis structure).

My realisation that a collection objects could be assembled and cast, led me to design a Paolozzi-style tile. I evaluate this decision here.