Sunday, 29 April 2012

Paul Coldwell print edition series

I’ve been really lucky over the last few weeks to be able to work with the print research department at UWE printing an edition for the artist Paul Coldwell. It’s been am interesting experience for me to see how a print studio goes about dealing with an artist and for myself, working with someone elses work. Compared to my usual movements in the print centre. This job required that I take a more considered approach to the layout of the space, the tools I used and more frequent reflections on progress. At times I felt like I was in an operating theatre as I’d be asked to pass the scraper for fishing dried ink or dust off the block.
Of course one of out main considerations was which music would be most efficient in aiding the job. I didn’t have a huge amount of say in the choice of Absolute radio but I didn’t mind, although I wish their no repeats policy extended to adverts. Time was spent documenting which 80’s classics were most effective to role to. Notably Gun’s ‘n’ Roses is not.
Thinking about what I’ve learnt from working on this project so far. There are lots of little things, like experimenting different ways of packing the Columbian press, practicing inking up the block and changing ink consistency, how many disposable gloves one must get through to keep the ink where it’s meant to be. Also evaluating and discussing each print, and learning what to look for; Theorising how we might over come issues is something that you don’t tend to do when you’re working on your own work, so I’ve enjoyed being part of that discussion.
This is a link to the CFPR editions twitter page and an image of me trying to look intelligent.!/CFPR_EDITIONS

lino workshop with the experimental drawing group

I had a fun evening last week doing a lino cutting workshop with the Experimental drawing group in Bristol. I think everyone had a good evening, and the prints they were producing looked fantastic. There will be some more photos appearing on their blog. But until then, this is the link for their facebook page:

Thursday, 12 April 2012

On the way to Freedom

As a printmaker I feel governed by the rules of good practice, however the artist in me is always fighting to break free from these ideals & push the boundaries of what my images look like and how they are produced. I'm lucky that I have the artistic freedom and the freedom of expression to explore more or less as I like. The challenges I face developing my artwork don't begin to compare with the choices Bonhoeffer had to deal with in Nazi Germany, when he chose to stay and was ultimately imprisoned and executed for his stance against the regime. His poem, the way to freedom comes from his oppressed musing during his incarceration. In his writings at this time we can see how freedom itself felt very distant and remote, and how hopeless he must have felt his situation. But at the same time it is as if Bonhoeffer is trying to draw strength from an abstract sense of freedom, probing the depths of his mind and even his spirit to find something more aspirational in his solitude. This manifests in his writing with an intensity that I don't think he could have achieved had he not been under that sort of stress. 

As part of my residency at Tyndale Baptist Church in Bristol I was asked to respond to the lent series the church was following on The way to Freedom. The text had been divided into six sections, one for each week in the build up to Easter. I decided to do one print for each section and this evolved into a diptych of the first and final images and four smaller portraits. Unlike the images I produced for the church at advent, which were more spontaneous; a new image made during each week and then presented, I opted to spend more time planning the series and exhibit them in entirety on Easter Sunday. The medium I used was reduction lino prints, and I hand burnished each print.

Now, I'm very influenced by German and American art, usually the graphic styles of the early 20th Century, but with the concept of freedom I thought alot more about their attentiveness to atmosphere, escapism and the way- particularly the German romantics could express with in a visual way. In the first print: "The way to Freedom," I wanted to present openness and optimism and the buzz you get when you feel there are no boundaries. The image is from a drawing I did in Canada from the Sunshine Coast near Vancouver. The viewer is looking out across the bay at mountains on the far shore. I made the sky busy, and to contrast, via Warhol, I made the water flat and geometric.

I said this paired with the last image- titled "death". I found a quote from Bonhoeffer which said "Death is the supreme festival on the way to freedom." This says two things to me, it's a celebration of life and purpose in life, and a statement that death- in whatever form should not be feared. The print is another landscape, but i find it hard to describe because it was a very intuitive thing to develop. The path is an extension of the sky from "The way to freedom" thus making more literal the writers quote. Aside from that at the horizon is a series of plums stretching out into the sky. I suppose it makes sense to be mysterious and awesome. 

The first of the small portraits is called "Discipline" and in more detail the text talks about the freedom that can be expressed through self-discipline. This brought back memories of Philosophy lessons, in which I believe it was Kant who promoted virtue ethics and the importance of understanding ones self and one's limitations. With this in mind I turned to the course material which talks of Jesus being tested in the desert, and I simpily tried to illustrate that. It links to another Biblical story as well- Jonah and the responsibility we take in the choices we make, and so i decided to illustrate Jonah being swallowed by the Whale for the third image- "action." Jonah must have been on Bonhoeffer's mind too, because he wrote a poem about him in his prison letters. Number four talks of the community, for this and with thoughts on palm Sunday I decided to portray a couple of donkeys with Jerusalem in the background. Finally image five was called "Suffering," I chose to illustrate Bohoeffer in prison. Influenced by some of the portraits of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, who was very affected by the first world war in a way that's very apparent in his prints, and I thought that fact translated well. 
Of course there is meaning behind these prints, but I wanted to make something which didn't force any particular statements on the viewer, I wanted something that might be thought provoking and reflective, and something that could be presented with or without the poem. 

The series before and after they were presented at Tyndale Baptist Church. I'll be putting better photo on my flickr account soon. Also this is a link to the lent course, including the poem and details of the background reading: