My art is somewhat schizophrenic. My professional life is very intense – working on participatory development in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Part of my aim and motivation in my art is therefore political – how to try and make the world a better place through improving communication and understanding between people – the poor and the rich, women and men and across ethnic divides. How to make visual as well as spoken messages understandable without oversimplifying from one particular standpoint, but providing information for people to want to think things through for themselves.
At the same time my art is also a way of exploring different ways of seeing and learning about the world as part of a search for my personal individual meaning, outside my professional life. Something that communicates feelings – flashes of light darting across layers of reflection, fascination with transition states and half-glimpsed images by my brain in its attempt to make sense of random patterns and sensations. I am particularly interested in the power of suggestion and the process of abstraction. Although much of my work is detailed and figurative, I also experiment with found images and the degree to which images can be simplified in different ways for different effects and still remain readable to the viewer.
In my printmaking I have no one particular subject. I enjoy figurative drawing from life: people, landscapes, cityscapes. I have become increasingly interested in abstraction. And combining figurative and abstract elements into imaginative narratives. I am interested in exploring the specific features of different printmaking techniques compared to other media like drawing, photography and painting that I have explored in my other OCA courses.
Printmaking places a matrix or plate in between the production of the art work and its realisation as the final image. It freezes gestural markmaking, leaving time for reinterpretation before the final work is produced. The insertion of the matrix or plate also introduces an element of unpredictability – much depends on the particular state of the ink on the plate before it meets the paper. This unpredictability can to some extent be controlled through meticulous planning, experience and repetition, but is very sensitive to timing and heat and humidity in printing environment. In my work I prefer to treat unpredictability as part of the creative process – interacting with the plate as it evolves and building on what is produced as I go along. In that way I often discover new things about the image, new feelings and elements that I can push beyond what I could have planned or imagined.
Printmaking is generally done in layers. This enables both reinforcement and contrast in meaning and effects between layers. It means you can get intense splashes of light peeping through, struggling to emerge through the dark – sometimes planned, sometimes unexpected. I am interested in exploring the interactions between different types of ink, different papers and how this affects the ways that colours translate and interact to produce sharp and blurred edges to the transitions.
It is possible to push different types of printing process: monoprint, linocut, collagraph etc in the direction of their ‘natural’ effect. But each of the above can also be varied to produce a wide range of effects and mood. And the different techniques can be combined in an infinite number of variations.
- There are many different types of plate – from metal to lino to potatoes. Each has different properties in affecting the qualities of line that can be produced, textures and how they absorb the ink and interact with the paper.
- Different types of drawing implement can be used to produce different qualities of line or shape. They can also be used on the back of the paper to draw down into the ink. Or to incise through the ink on the front of the paper.
- Different types of paper can enhance or contrast with the qualities of the plate – underlying or showing through the printed image.
- Different types of ink give different layering effects, degrees of transparency and possibilities for texturing and combining colours.
- Even the subtleties of the printing process itself affect the final image – the precise pressure of the printing press, whether the paper is placed on top or below the plate, is dry or damp to absorb the ink in different ways or whether the sensitivity of hand printing is used and in which parts of the image.
I have become increasingly interested in exploring fundamental design principles – something I am exploring in depth in my OCA Book Design course:
- how different types of line can be produced and affect the mood and overall feel of a piece.
- how different shapes and underlying tonal structure interact to produce a feeling of balance and harmony or structural tension and chaotic emotion.
- how different colours can completely change the reading of an image – how they advance and retreat, combine to affect emotion and produce movement.
I need to think more about what sort of planning I do. When I plan too much things become very static and flat – like a lot of the ‘hotel-style’ prints I do not like by other people. It is a very tricky balance. I still do not have sufficient technical skill to have real confidence always in what I am doing. But I think that with more experience, both in design, contrast and composition and particularly with control of ink with different types of surface and paper, it will be easier to envisage beforehand what something will look like. Then achieve something that builds on that vision including accidents and new discoveries. So that real creativity is maintained.
I intend to incorporate these elements into my work in Printmaking 2.