Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pine Apples Exhibition Opening

On Friday night I went to the opening event for Myrtle Street Studio, a new gallery focusing on print and works on paper, including artists books. The gallery is the brain-child of Jay Dee Dearness, a "cyber-friend" who I had the pleasure of meeting on the night.

The gallery space is small, but beautifully-appointed and purpose-built. It looks certain to fulfill a need for an ARI in Brisbane that focuses on works on paper, rather than the more common media of video-art or graffiti-style works, found in many ARI around town.

Pine Apples is a collaborative exhibition between two groups of printmakers, Impress here in Brisbane and Hunter Island Press from Tasmania. The show opened in Tasmania and has now moved up here, where it will remain open until April 3rd.

Attending the show gave me an opportunity to get a feel for the work produced by the members of  the Impress group. Not being a trained specifically in printmaking has made me hesitate to join in exhibitions, and while I'm a financial member of the group, and I've been to two workshops and used the studio equipment, I haven't made any personal connections with the group as yet.

I did see some inkjet pigment prints included in the show, and from the general talk around me, it seems that people regarded these works highly. This is an area I feel more confident about, so I am hoping to participate in the Impress annual exhibition, Impressions 5, in April. Hopefully this will enable me to meet a few people and get the connections going!

To finish off, I thought I would highlight a few of the artists whose work I most admired in this exhibition. I've attempted to find links for you that take you to the actual work shown, but where this was not possible, I've linked to work that has the same flavour.

First off from Tassie, I loved Deborah Asmather's gentle etchings. The works she is standing in front of, at the top of this page, have a similar feel to No North or South2 and Pencil Pines on the Central Plateau1 which I saw. Andrew Donahue showed a number of linocuts printed on black paper, which utilized simple design and colour schemes to great graphic effect. Jo Sculthorpe's drypoint collagraphs Tassie Girl and Queensland Girl  also appealed.

The prints I really loved from the Impress group were monotypes by Sandra Pearce. She combined colourful transparent inks and texture, to create vibrant meditations on the pineapple. I've discovered that she has a blog and has some photos there from the printmaking session that resulted in these works. There were also some strong and detailed hand coloured linocuts, which caught my eye. There were two artists doing work which was similar, Judith Borrick and Elizabeth Burton.

There were a lot of other excellent works at the show and if you are in Brisbane, I recommend taking a look. I'd like to congratulate Jay Dee and wish her every success with this venture.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ehon = Artist book in Japanese

I was recently able to borrow this beautiful book entitled Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan by Roger S. Keyes, through the inter-library loan system. It came to me from the Sydney library and I hope to buy my own copy one day.

It's a large format book, with beautiful colour illustrations and text descriptions of seventy, yes! 70! Japanese "picture books" dating from 770-2005. The books were exhibited at the New York City Library - can you imagine! There is more information about ehon, the exhibition and the book on the library site, here, here and here.

Keyes' book begins with a 20-odd page introduction, which highlights the most prestigious authors and books, providing some context and discussing what is distinctive about Japanese artists books. This is followed by the presentation of the 70 books, some with several pages of images and/or discussion.

Before I returned the book, I couldn't resist copying a few of my favourite pages to share...

Of course, I don't have permission to do this, and I hope that the copyright holder will view this transgression in the light in which it is intended.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Gocco prints on acetate

I had a lovely time on Friday afternoon printing these using a screen made with my gocco machine and taking photos of the process to show you all. I didn't realize that it was all a waste because of the ink I was using...but I'll explain that later.

For those of you unfamiliar with a gocco, this is what one looks like. It's a Japanese crafters tool which allows you to create screens for printing, in a process closely related to silk screen printmaking.

I bought my machine probably 18 months ago, enticed by the fact that you can print both on paper and on clay (using different inks). I only recently got around to testing it out, and this page for "Judy and the Jacarandah" is my first use of the gocco for a project.

The pages are wet media acetate, and herein lies some of the issues I've been experiencing. The printing process required a bit of refinement and a move to "off-contact" printing. If you've done screen printing, you'll know that this means that when you pull the ink across the screen, the screen doesn't actually lie on your paper or whatever substrate you are printing on, it sits above it, and then snaps back up into place after the squeegee passes over. Working with acetate also requires this, because otherwise when you lift the screen off the acetate, the screen pulls up most of the ink that you have just applied.

The gocco site in Australia, has loads of information and I soon worked out what the problem was and set up a printing "station" as suggested. Below you can see the white foam core guide I've glued to some strawboard for the acetate and the blue non-slip mat to stop the screen from moving. I also used some double sided tape to hold the acetate down and stop it sticking to the screen.

Below is the screen in place over the acetate. You can see it is sitting about 5mm off the surface. I've taped a border of foam core around the frame to achieve this height.
Here you can see the ink I used and the gocco squeegee. I mixed the brown using my new Akua Kolor inks and the Akua intaglio transparent base to achieve the desired consistency. I decided to use this ink because it is non-toxic and clears up in water, but stays open for ages and wouldn't clog the screen. I was really happy with the way it printed, and if this project had been on paper, there would have been no problems.

I finished about half the print run on Friday and was feeling pretty pleased with the result. Then I re-read the Akua ink user guide and saw this:

"Akua Intaglio ink does not contain dryers. These inks dry by absorption unlike other inks which dry by evaporation....Glossy or coated papers are not recommended for use with this ink."

So now I am concerned that these pages may never dry!! Certainly they haven't had much hope these past 3 days with the rain pouring down and the humidity through the roof. Ah well, I guess I can consider it printing practice. If anyone has any suggestions or knows whether these prints will dry, please drop me a line.

Postscript Wed March 10th

Thought I should add that I emailed Susan Rostrow who developed the Akua inks to see what she thought about using the inks on acetate. She answered very quickly and confirmed my fears. She offered a few suggestions and I thought I would share them with you. I've cut and pasted her thoughts below:

Akua inks are formulated not to dry on plastic so printmakers have endless time for creating the image on the plate. I don't think a fixative would actually dry the inks. I have 3 suggestions:

  1. You could try several coats of an acrylic spray. It would form a skin on top of the ink. You would still need to handle the print on acetate very carefully.
  2. Apply a light sprinkle of baby powder or corn starch to dry the ink on the acetate. However, the white powder would sit on top of the ink and change the color. You would still need to handle the print on acetate very carefully.
  3. Sandwich another acetate sheet on the side where the ink lies. This would offer protection from rubbing off.

The "sandwich" works well, but I'm still deciding between this and re-doing the print with some other inks, seeing this is to go in an artists book and will therefore be handled. I should finish this post by saying that the Akua worked beautifully with the gocco screen, and if you are printing on paper, it's an excellent non-toxic choice.