Wednesday, 24 August 2011


A couple of drawings...

Each of these drawings I did over 3 days, for a couple hours each evening. The lighting changed depending on the hour, you can see this most clearly in the top drawing. 

Putting up the final show

This week we have been putting up the final show in college. There are two rooms, I'm in the smaller one. This is the second degree show I've set up, and let me just say, getting a number of frames evenly spaced and in a straight line requires a degree in itself.

My colleagues are displaying their work in a variety of ways including mounting prints onto aluminium, sticking prints to wooden boards, and pinning images directly to the wall. I've gone with frames for a couple reasons, my work is relatively small and I didn't want it to get lost on the wall. There are other obvious advantages like frames protect your work from sticky fingers and dust.

I've gone with a contemporary ash frame without mount board, so you can see the deckled edge. My work does not photograph well - so come and see it if you can!

This is Ramon, who is next to me and one along. We have quite a lot of variety in our room and I'm happy to be next to something a bit louder and brighter, I think its going to make for an interesting show!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Hammersmith and City line

Experimenting with colour

This is a sneak peak at one of the plates I am using for the upcoming degree show. One of the things mezzotint is highly prized for is its ability to produce rich, velvety blacks. It can get very tiring staring at black all day, so I was wondering what would happen if I printed the same plates in colour. 

Unfortunately, the answer seems to be: not very much. I had to mix these colours with oil and the powdered pigment myself, and its possible that I would get a richer colour by continuing to grind more pigment until the ink was quite solid but I feel the brighter colours lack the tonal qualities provided by the black and brown mix I normally use.

I added black to the purple and started to see the results I was hoping for, but of course, once you start adding black to things you lose the brilliant colour that I wanted. I didn't have too much time to experiment with this before the workshops closed but its definitely something I would want to look into in the future. There is also the option of printing in black and using watercolour on the prints to add colour.

Sjoerd Linocut Print

Before I went the way of mezzotints for the degree show I was thinking of doing a few really large linocut portraits. This is a multiplate print. I had been looking at the book "Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration" which is divided into sections based on print technique. Close seems to be a very process driven artist, his subject matter hasn't really changed all that much over the years, and in this book in particular I noticed that he uses the same photographs for source material over and over again (e.g the photo of Alex Katz from which Close has produced numerous portraits).

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Mezzotint in progress

I am back to the mezzotints. I have started with a pre-rocked plate which will save me at least 5 hours work. The first thing I have to do is file and burnish the edges of the plate at an angle so they don't damage the paper/ blankets as they go through the press. Here is my trusty burnisher (one of 3) and my plate. You also need a bit of oil to help with the burnishing.

It is quite difficult to see what you're doing, but you can get an idea from looking at the way the light reflects off the surface of the plate, as a result I take on the shape of a 'human pretzel' (as it was once described to me!).

I think this was about 2 hours in, I'm half way but starting to get tired. Lunch time!

 Almost there....

After I've inked and wiped the plate, I have a better idea of what the image looks like. I wish I could just exhibit the plate, I think it looks much nicer then the prints themselves.

The print didn't come out that well so I need to go back and add some definition to the lower left hand side of the plate. I also think I need to change the colour of the black to make it warmer, and add some oil to make it look softer. But all that can wait until tomorrow! It has taken at least 6 hours to get to this stage, I think I will need another 2 hours before I'm happy to start making prints.


Day 2 in the studio this week and I reworked some areas on my copper plate, then took another proof. I'm much happier with this version so I spent the rest of the day testing out different blacks (warmer/ cooler etc) and different papers. Last day of printing is less than a month away!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


I've been working on a couple on linocuts recently. They're not too big, maybe around A3 size, but kind of as test plates for something much larger once I get the hang of things. I've noticed a big difference in the style of image depending on if I draw from a photograph (in the case of Jess, above) or largely from memory (the old man pic).

One of the great benefits of reduction linoprinting (where you use the same block for every coloured layer, cutting away progressively and printing on top of previous colours) is that you end up with no block at the end. I feel like its a great relief to destroy your block in the process of printing an image, it allows you to cut away without feeling too precious.

I'm not too keen on the flaming background but I'm still getting the hang of things. It's really nice to have colour back in my life after all that etching.

Islington Green

Been drawing - at last! I've been thinking about the spaces that people occupy together, I sketched this image quickly trying to get a sense of people in transit.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Dan Hays Talk

Harmony in Green, 1997

Dan Hays gave a presentation about his work and ongoing practice based PhD. I was intrigued by the idea of an arts based PhD... His thesis will take the form of an exhibition plus a relatively short written component. He received funding for 3.5 years to do it; of course with the cuts now I bet the money for this kind of thing is gone.

Colorado impression 11b (after Dan Hays), 2002

Hays works using pixelated video stills and a projector, and low resolution imagery sourced from the internet. The imagery for this painting was sourced from a photograph on a website of another man named Dan Hays who lives in Colorado. Hays the painter mentioned formal links with landscape artists and tapestry, where images are also created using a pixel system. The irony is that these oil paintings take Hays hundreds of hours to make, and they are based on an image that was made in a fraction of a second.

Colorado Impression 16d (after Dan Hays, Colorado), 2007

There were certainly aspects of this talk that interested me more then others. For example the painting above was created with a single continuous snaking line, a technique Hays refers to as "the Caterpillar technique", it gives the affect of tiles or hidden depth.

Colorado Impression 12b

The colours of this image have been inverted and the image has been flipped vertically.. you can see traces of the original source material in the shape of trees in the top left hand corner. I was interested in the idea of landscapes that make sense visually when upside down.

I find it hard to engage with these paintings. I think the choice of source material is a little strange.. Dan Hays has never been to Colorado, and the only link between himself and the source material is this other man that shares his name. It almost seems like Hays is removing his own interest from his work by letting someone else produce the source imagery. I also find it hard to engage with what Hays referred to as 'the pixel club', artists such as Susan Collins who works from a live video feed, and Christiane Baumgartner, who creates the most incredible large scale woodcuts from video stills. Hays said that "screens are disappearing landscapes" - and this is an interesting idea, but I feel saturated. After being bombarded with screens all day the last thing I want to do is look at paintings of nature through a screen.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Gauguin at Tate Modern

The Ancestors of Tehamana or Tehamana has many Parents

Went to see the Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern. My favourite part was his drawings, which were rounded and heavy with simplified forms, bold line and smooth faces with an emphasis on contour. I really like his sure of colour to describe space.

When Gauguin moved to Tahiti and was disappointed at how Westernised it was. As a result, Gauguin invented a lot of the narratives and beliefs that he used as inspiration in his paintings. I had not known that before seeing this exhibition, and after I found out, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. On the one hand he seems to present life and belief and stories side by side, and I enjoy that, but on the other hand, who knows how much of it is false?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Miro at Tate Modern

The Farm, 1921-22

I wrote a long piece about the Miro exhibition only to have it disappear when Blogger closed down for routine maintenance... but never mind. I will write the gist of it again. I'm not a huge fan of surrealism in general but I did enjoy this exhibition. I do love Miro's colour schemes and the symbols he used in his work. I was surprised by how quickly his surrealist style developed, the first image I saw in the exhibition was quite literal and not abstracted much at all. In the space of a couple years Miro's painting radically altered. Miro lived through turbulent times and kept returning to themes of his Catalan identity, using imagery such as his family farm and Catalan peasants in his work. He considered his painting The Farm to be a breakthrough in his work, calling it 'a resume of my entire life in the country.'

The Head of a Catalan Peasant, 1924

The exhibition guide informed me that this piece can be seen as a displaced self-portrait, and an act of defiance against Miguel Primo de Rivera who staged a military coup in Spain and proceeded to suppress Catalan identity, even forcing limitations on the use of the Catalan language.

The Conductor, 1976, Intaglio print on paper

My favourite parts of the exhibition were (not too surprisingly) the prints. In them Miro's work becomes very pictoral, with large fields of colour and simplified forms.

The Barcelona Series, 1944

The most impressive part of the exhibition in my mind was the Barcelona Series, a collection of over 50 lithographs spanning the adjoining wall of two gallery spaces. Although only printed in 1944 they were initially created in 1939 against the backdrop of Hitler's invasion of Poland and the escalating conflict in Europe. Miro was living in France at this time. These lithographs show an array of ogres and dictators as well as the victims of conflict.

The Barcelona Series, 1944

Individually these lithographs are not particularly large but the collective effect of 50 of them shown together is overwhelming. The individual images are full of turmoil and confusion but the pieces are hung in an ordered grid shape.

Blue triptych, 1961-62

A lot of this exhibition was devoted to Miro's ceramics and sculptural pieces which I will not write about here. This triptych had an entire room to itself and was quite an experience! It was like swimming in colour. I found it very relaxing to sit there surrounded by blue. There was another triptych that was white, that I was less interested in because it seemed to fade into the walls which were also white.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

In what ways are artists working with both the concept and the reality of the crowd, and what does this mean for the plight of the individual?

Antony Gormley, Domain Field, 2003

Productivity in the print rooms ground to a halt in March as we were writing our main essays for the course. I have been looking at identity and the crowd but feeling a bit all over the place, its hard to know what research is relevant until you have the benefit of hindsight. This essay was a chance to collect and review ideas in depth as well as maybe gain some kind of order in my work, which I feel has been a little chaotic. I have been reading books such as After Identity by Jonathan Rutherford, and I am finding it very difficult to link the academic and the visual aspects of my research. I suppose this is the most basic problem faced by every visual communicator responding to a brief (even if they set the brief themselves, as is the case here).

Antony Gormley, American Field, 1991

For my essay I looked at 3 case contemporary artists, Antony Gormley, Ai Weiwei and Spencer Tunick. They each explore the themes of identity and crowds in their work, although their starting points and ambitions are very different. One of my tutors also pointed out that each of these artists rely on other people to produce their artwork, so the identity of the makers is sacrificed in a way the identity of the artist never is. For example, American Field by Antony Gormley was created by an extended family of bricklayers in Mexico. There are around 40,000 clay figures, each one unique. In earlier versions of Field Antony Gormley 'finished' the figures by poking the eyes himself. American Field relied on collective making by individuals responding to a set of basic instructions provided by the artist.

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, Tate Modern Turbine Hall, 2010-2011

Ai Weiwei's work has many layers. I'm not going to rehash my entire essay but one thing I did find interesting was in an interview for the exhibition catalog Ai talks about the idea that in China objects are mass produced for the west without an understanding of the context for what these objects are intended.

Spencer Tunick at Newcastle Gateshead 2005

Spencer Tunick creates large installations of naked figures. His work explores our relationship with our surroundings. His installations take place in cities such as in the image above, which was for his 2005 exhibition. Tunick states that the intended audience for his work is the participant. All films and photos documenting the installations and shown in galleries after the event are a by product of the actual artwork. He aims to create ties in communities. Personally I find this image and the others on his website ( both amazing and disturbing. There is something vulnerable about mass nudity, and especially when the individuals are lying down or are piled up on each other. In the documentary for this event you see the odd clothed individual with a megaphone herding the participants. There is a certain tension there which is a little uncomfortable.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Mezzotint Cloth Studies

Cloth 1, March 2011
Cloth 2, March 2011
Cloth 3, March 2011

I have been making these mezzotints throughout march, they are very, very small and its difficult to see what you're doing. I love the moment after I've inked the plate, when I gently wipe away the excess ink and the image is revealed to me for the first time.

I have been working with themes of identity and the crowd, and after my mid term review I decided I needed to take a bit of a break from working on images of people, and do something a little bit more intimate. I showed these in a crit recently, and it was commented that they seem to have little relationship to the ideas and research I've been working on up to now - quite true! I think sometimes its healthy to take a bit of a break. I probably will not return to mezzotint this year, although I find it a very calming and beautiful medium, I just can't see it fitting in with what I'm doing at this stage.

Tate Modern: Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds

Ai Weiwei exhibited Sunflower Seeds as part of the Unilever Series in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern. Ai deals with the theme of individualism in society, particularly in the context of modern China. I found this work interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, because it was created by several families in a village in China renowned for its porcelain making. It made me think about skills that have been useful in the past but maybe now are less in demand, or have perhaps been replaced by machinery. Secondly this work was intended to be viewed in two ways, up close or from the Turbine Hall bridge. By the time I saw the exhibition people were no longer allowed to walk on top of the installation due to health concerns about the porcelain dust. I thought that was pretty interesting... the intention to have the public interact with the artwork, but to be censored in the end by safety regulations.

Camberwell 12/12 show and Mid Term Review

We recently had an interim show at the House gallery in Camberwell, which doubled as our mid term review.

This etching is the piece I submitted for review, which takes the form of 10 minutes of discussion of your work among your peers, during which you are not allowed to speak, followed by someone reading a statement prepared by you, outlining what you hoped your work would convey.

This piece was not well received. I was surprised by the strength of negative opinion towards it, however I will say that the criticism was constructive. Among the things pointed out were:

If it is a crowd scene, why are there so few people?
There is no real subject matter or focal point, and your eye simply skirts across the image and off the end.
The background makes the whole image look flat.
It looks like a test piece.
The issue of size, this image is slightly larger than an A4 piece of paper, people felt I should work much larger.

Certainly gave me a lot to think about!

Victoria and Albert Museum: Shadow Catchers, Camera-less photography

Susan Derges, Vessel No. 3(1), 1995

The Shadow Catchers exhibition at the V&A showed work from five artists who share similar mediums. In terms of variety of technique, this is similar to me saying "they are all painters" or "they make sculpture", each of the artists approached the medium in very different ways. Processes included in this exhibition were: Photogram, Chemigram, Digital C-Print, Dye Construction print, Gelatin Silver Print, and Luminogram. My interest was mainly in the photograms, which are made by placing an object next to light sensitive paper in the dark, and then briefly exposing both the paper and the object to the light. Where the object and the paper touch, either a full or partial shadow is recorded. I found the photograms especially interesting because they involved physical contact with the object; the shadow left behind is like a memory of what was there.

Susan Derges, River Taw

Susan Derges captures nature. Images featured in this exhibition were of frog spawn and frozen rivers, waves, and more imaginative images pieced together from various other pictures. I liked the works taken from life. The images of the River Taw were created by holding a piece of light sensitive paper underneath the water, and quickly exposing it to the light of a torch. These frozen moments combine an imaginative world with the physical world. They are both dynamic and still.

Floris Neususs, Untitled, Berlin, 1962

There were a couple of these floating nudes in the exhibition. I enjoyed their dreamlike quality, and the variation in shadow that suggests the gentle curves of the subject. The identity of the person is removed and the figure becomes a simplified mass, which I found made it more enjoyable to notice the delicate detail of the hair and the toes. Although the images were made with the subject lying on the floor, the resulting image could be one of floating or falling.

Floris Neususs, Be Right Back, Installation, 1984

Actually took me a little while to notice this, and when I did it gave me a jump! This piece acknowledges that the making of a photogram is a sort of performance. The title of this piece becomes more pertinent the longer time passes. I found it quite amusing at first, but it also made me think about absence. This is a great example of the photogram's capability to capture a memory of an object!

Pierre Cordier, Chemigram 8/2/61, 1961

I thought this piece was interesting because Cordier's work did not fit visually with the rest of the exhibition (in my opinion!). These pieces were very abstract and painterly, evoking desert imagery or strange alien landscapes. This chemigram was made by pouring photographic developer and fixer onto gelatin-silver photographic paper that had been oiled. In terms of the imagery, there was very little said about it, and commentary focused mostly on technique. I gathered that these images were considered exciting because of their novelty and pleasing aesthetic; sometimes experimenting with technique is reason enough to produce artwork, without some conceptual meaning or research attached.

Garry Fabian Miller, 'Breathing in the Beech Wood, Homeland, Dartmoor, Twenty-four Days of Sunlight, May 2004', 2004

These are dye-deconstruction prints. Each vertical line was printed on one day. I do not fully understand the process but here is how it is explained on the V&A website:

Dye destruction print

A print made using direct positive colour paper. This paper was originally introduced in 1963 for printing colour transparencies or negatives. It is coated with at least three layers of emulsion, each of which is sensitised to one of the three primary colours. Each layer also contains a dye related to that colour. During development of the image, any unexposed dyes are bleached out (hence 'dye destruction'). The remaining dyes form a full-colour image.

I liked this work because it is cyclic, and because of the way the artist has managed to physically capture the passing of time. This is a simple image and yet very effective, as a printmaker I was also interested in his use of multiples.