The eight months February to September 2018 when I worked on this course was a time of confusion, stress and transition in my life. My final portfolio selection focuses on the personal journey I took – both my personal journey and my journey in terms of technique and style. Many of the prints are ‘dark’. Some deal with emotions, gender angst and family relationships – sometimes self-indulgent and melodramatic. Others are concerned with oppression and dystopian fears.
In putting together my portfolio ‘Fron the Edge of Nightmare’ I began to see how cathartic my artistic journey through the course has been. I omitted some earlier landscape, abstract prints that were possibly better technically and were brighter, including linocuts and lithographs, that did not really have ‘meaning’ and so were not part of my subjective narrative. This was partly because the course material itself was primarily technical and quite prescriptive. It was only from later tutor feedback that I learned that I should be focusing much more on underlying concepts, and could somewhat more flexible in my interpretation of technical instructions.
My artistic journey started to take real shape with the soul-searching of the ‘Self Image Reflected’ portraits in July 2018 (1 Self Image July 2018 and 2 Guitar) and my artistic expression of anger against oppression and gender stereotypes (3 Speak No Evil). These then provided more context for 4 Fury that was part of the gender-focused Assignment 2 Human Condition series and 5 Mushrooms semi-serious ‘not so still life’ musings about family relationships (Assignment 3). The next 4 portfolio images are multi-layered, exploring the potential of collage and combination printing to juxtapose meanings and in the process create new ones. In 9 Grand Arcade Revisited I decided to stay with one image, collaging different flashes of memory, colouring and playing with happy as well as painful images to see where they might lead me. 7 Fall from Arcadia and 8 Age of Ice use geometry and textures to create imaginary dystopian narratives in the stifling summer of 2018 that gave me serious breathing problems. 9 Edge of Nightmare brings these fears together – trying to keep nightmare away huddled behind a fragile screen of whitewashed recycling.The final print (10 One Mouth Kissing) started as an internal exploration of loneliness – what it felt like to be one mouth kissing. But the rather gushing image that came out from the plate I now see as one of determination to seek and give love, fighting – even if I feel at times alone – against rumour and darkness of a very uncertain world. Equally importantly it helped me to rediscover a sense of humour!
I significantly widened my technical skills from the monoprints, linocuts, collagraphs and chine colle I had produced in Printmaking 1. I made some very interesting new discoveries that are becoming part of my ‘style’, with more sophisticated use of abstract shapes and textures to enhance meaning:
- Project 1.3 Landscape Composition (linocut) and Assignment 2 Human Condition (collagraph) I experimented with overprinting of reversed images to produce more interesting abstract images with varying degrees of symmetrical balance.
- Project 2.2 Random Abstracts and Assignment 6 One Mouth Kissing experimented with water and water-based inks to produce more expressive mark-making and textures, producing very varied water-colour effects that are more vivid than those generally produced in water-colour itself.
- Project 2.1 Formal Abstracts, Assignment 2 Human Condition and Assignment 3 Life of Mushrooms developed a much greater sense of texture and shape in my collagraph work and introduced me to embossing.
- Project 5.1 Grand Arcade and Assignment 5 The Dreaming explored collage and mixed media to complement printmaking and produce more complex layers of meaning and narrative.
I developed a reasonable level of skill with some new techniques extending my use of line and mark-making in:
- Lithography used in Project 1.1 Natural Landscape
- Drypoint used in Project 4.2 Self-portrait and Assignment 4 Life in Red White Black
I started to experiment rather less successfully with some other new techniques:
- Etching in Project 1.2 Urban Landscape and Assignment 1 Willows
- Screenprinting in Assignment 5 The Dreaming
All the above have advanced my practice, but are more a beginning that has just scratched the surface of potential of these techniques. Experimenting with techniques and textures in earlier projects without worrying too much about meaning enabled me to be freer and discover more that I was then able to apply at later stages in the course. Playing in this way is important for my practice.
My printmaking process is rarely tidy and linear – except in etching or linocut editions and some collagraphs. I enjoy an element of unpredictability, where I can lose myself in the mark-making and inking, making decisions as I go along. I have often found new subconscious meanings in the final print, learning from rather than controlling the image. Leading to yet further ideas and techniques to explore.
I have been inspired particularly by my study of artists like Francis Bacon, Rose Wylie, Cornelia Parker, Tracey Emin, Louise Bourgeois and Maggi Hambling together with ‘political’ illustrators and graphic designers I studied in other courses.
Going forward, I want to further develop my printmaking skills to create images – including landscapes and portraits – with greater socio/political and emotional/psychological impact around issues of gender and identity, human rights and environment.