Thursday, March 31, 2011

Printmaking as Painting / Matrix for Abstraction

Understanding the difference between a monotype and a monoprint gives tremendous insight to what my work is often about. The short definitions are that a monotype is a one-of-a-kind image/print using a given matrix only once, and a monoprint is a one-of-a-kind image/print using the same matrix as other images/prints. The distinctions are subtle, and leave a lot of room for interpretation. Wondering about that interpretation, and being curious about the dividing line between monotype and monoprint leads me to explore the difference between original and reproduction.

This exploration can be related to work that is exploring difference, original work, and reproduction through the continuing dialogue of appropriation and copyrights. The relationship is only cursory, as I prefer to look at the boundaries with my own work and ideas as the origin instead of getting into the discussion about stealing other people's work. I must admit that I cannot be entirely insulated. The work of other artists will surely influence my own work. I want to be careful to give credit when the influence exists.

That was a bit of an extreme divergence, so back on topic...

Using the series of screenprints from last spring as an example might be useful for clarification.
which can be seen here
I started with a single drawing, and enlarged it to be burned onto a screen.
here is the drawing
I then printed the image in three different colors, each color on a different color paper. This started three series of prints from the same matrix. Five additional screens were used to complete the series. But, I used a few of the screens to apply different layers of color in different locations. At some point in the middle of the printing process, I modified screens and split each of the three series of images into two, creating six series with subtle differences. A practical question: are all of these prints labeled as a single edition, or are there 6 editions?

I did a series of monoprints that had fewer variables earlier.
It was simply the same image, same screen, using the same order of colors, on four pieces of paper, each with a different color (creating a different color ground for the image).
This series, though simpler in execution, brings up equally complicated concepts. From a printmakers perspective, I wonder if these are monoprints or just some oddly defined edition. They might look good hanging together as one piece. Hung in a square; 2 x 2, would evoke some Warholian pop art idea, and I want to stay away from that aesthetic that is now a frequent tactic of interior decorators. I am far more interested in the moment in which the combination of screen, ink, and squeegee stop being a means of reproduction and start being mark-making devices that are used for drawing something new.

Look at digital "drawing" or "painting" applications. A popular application is "Brushes" for the iPhone. The "brushes" that are offered are really draggable stamps that make the same repeated shape. Some simple variable exists, but the artists using this application is making hundreds of repeated stamps to create something new that is seen as a line, a field, a composition. At what point does the stamp cease to be a repeated image and become a real mark-making device which is used to create a new drawing?

Of course, I'm prone to driving myself to obsession about his topic, and it continues to adjusting color reproduction.
see this blog post

This all gets very abstract, so I want to share what grounds this for me; my favorite subject: water. This might seem like a divergence from the topic to some, but this is where I start. And, no matter how far out I get, this is the point to which I return.

Water is an excuse to work on formal issues. I need an object from which to abstract; a recognizable shape, and set of patterns to work with so at least some non-artists will accept the odd shapes and repeated patterns that I want to manipulate. But, even before I am thinking of any audience, I choose to work with something that is close to my heart; something for which I have a deep fondness; something in which I have seen both infinite variety and constant repetition: turbulent water.

Water is the matrix. Every wave is different, but the idea of "wave" evokes a broad and universal shape. Each ripple of turbulent water is different, but the idea of moving water is universal enough that a visual language exists which is both specific enough to define water, and full of enough variables to create combinations that outnumber the days in one human's existence.

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