For this research point on experimental methods, I have confined my research to relief printing in order to be manageable and relevant to my current work. I can find very exciting works in areas such as collagraph combined with etching, monoprinting combined with drypoint, carborundum and etching etc, so some narrower focus was necessary. One key point stands out instantly from initial research; combining techniques produces exciting and rich results. I have chosen the work of four printmakers to discuss, all working in very different ways:
- Peter Green
- Michael Kennedy
- Steve Edwards
- Gail Mallatratt (discussed at more length because she has kindly given me permission to use her images, and because they particularly appeal).
Anthony Dyson’s ‘Printmakers’ Secrets’ contains lots of inspirational contemporary work, including Peter Green’s. Working with his wife, he combines woodcuts with stencils and prints these by hand using a large roller rather than a press. He then uses a pad of rag to press the paper down in selected areas to pick up deep texture. Offset images might be incorporated using a large roller to collect textures from found objects. He says ‘I work from what the initial proofed image may suggest….but the nature of the final print is not known when I start’.
Michael Kennedy also works with stencils but combined with lino. These prints stand out for:
- dynamic cutting
- vibrant flat colours
- level of abstraction.
I like the fact that they speak clearly and honestly of being a linoprint, whilst being nothing like the traditional concept of a linoprint.
I found Steve Edwards’ work at Nick Morley’s excellent ‘Linocut Boy’ website. He gives an excellent discussion of Steve Edward’s working methods, which centre on the use of caustic soda etched lino combined with more traditional cutting techniques. I enjoy the unpredictable effects of this etching and the contrast it makes with the more linear traditional cutting. He exploits it mainly for sky and water in his cityscapes, to dramatic effect. In ‘Angry Suit‘ he has used the etching to texture every part of the print. Chaos is avoided by the use of strong tones and colours for the face and suit.
I was immediately drawn by Gail Mallatratt’s use of colour and mark making. Her woodcuts have very free marks, made, I suspect, with a variety of printmaking cutters and conventional wood working tools; saws and chisels. The variety and scale of marks argue for a variety of tools.
The multiplate woodcut, ‘Goat (Orange)’ has used at least 5 colours/layers where block areas of colour have been designed and then loose, linear marks applied to suggest the rhythm and texture of the landscape. Texture has also been introduced by uneven and light inking. Complimentary, transparent colours have been used to great effect, particularly the strong, clear orange highlighting the goat. The sun and shadows on the goat have been interpreted freely, which has avoided any suggestion of twee sentimentality. The broad colour masses are deliberately overlapping, with the goat shapes intruding into the surroundings. This gives life and movement. One can see that the overall registration isn’t perfect if you look at the bottom edge, but with a plate this size, that hardly matters and, indeed, enhances the liveliness of the image.
This next print is a joyful orgy of mark making. I think this is a two plate print with pink, yellow and grey being applied to the first plate selectively. Similarly, variations of density and local inking on the blue final plate have been used to give changes in texture and tone. The colours are very thinly and subtly applied. The marks are used to describe the light hitting the structures and the volume of the tree is beautifully described with piled up linear marks. The irregular marks, for instance in the stilts holding up the shack on the right, speak of the wood of which both the shack and the plate are made. I would love to see the sketches or references from which this print was made and to understand the process of going from one to the other. There is a very clever combination of careful planning and spontaneous mark making going on.
‘Kirchner’s Valley’ demonstrates a different approach. It is a reduction woodcut where the pieces have been jigsawed up, inked separately, then further sawn up and reduced before printing at least a second layer. The bottom piece has three layers. I think there are five pieces initially and then the central yellow area was cut into two for the second pass. I particularly enjoy the change in scale of marks between the distance hills and trees and the foreground tree, and that some areas are left completely flat. The way the cutting is used to suggest the habit of the tree is wonderful.