Colour Fields – Final Submission 2

After researching the meeting of colours and colour field work by Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman I was keen to experiment with these on a printmaking day at Sherwood Printmakers.

I wanted to try out Chine Collé. Because I wanted to use large swathes of colour, the sheets of paper were too large to adhere to the base paper and stuck to the plates instead. I later used some smaller bits of paper either stuck to the top of the print (i.e. adhering after the pass over the plate) or on the plate as per the technique (which worked). I spent the afternoon playing with layering of colours, making plates from textured card and ripping paper to create ‘resist’ sections. It was interesting to note how paler colours often obliterate colours underneath because they contain white and therefore become opaque.

I really like the addition of the small areas of colour and may later choose to do these in paint – or even gold leaf. However they are very ‘graphic’ in their outcome with these additions and would have to be carefully managed to retain a ‘fine art’ feel. This was an excellent lesson in ‘letting go’ and allowing the work to evolve as the material dictates. The meeting of colours and how they overlap is fascinating – what shows through, what is obliterated and how the colours react and interact giving some unique effects. The unpredictability of the technique means the only certainty is that the colour on the plate will appear somewhere on the sheet – not how much, where or how intensely. This unpredictable interaction and layering makes the work interesting to get lost in, creates depth and intrigue. The unique element of each piece is also indicative of mood – both in the created outcome and the marks, motions and force used to transfer the colour from the plate by my hand. I also prefer those where the registration is not perfect at the edges. One thing to remember about the use of tissue paper is that it often bleeds colour and it’s colour stability and duration cannot be guaranteed for any period of time unless specific paper is used (often Japanese papers rather than tissue).

At home I decided to concentrate on expanding the work I did at the last Sherwood printmaking session. I mistakenly mixed oil extender with water soluble oil paint to use as printing ink making them a nightmare to clean. The blue experiments were conducted with the paint, watered down a little.. However, the happy accident revealed some interesting effects.

I tried taking some consecutive colours from my diary and overlaying them being conscious of the opacity of the colours, but since I was working with stripes over a base colour, it didn’t really matter too much.

I used normal cartridge paper for all and newspaper to mask the stripes and in some instances left the edges of the inked colour unmasked to see what effect this had too. The extender really loosened up the colour and made it easier to spread around and create a solid colour. This also allowed for interesting marks from both the spreading of the colour and the impression. I don’t have a drying rack, so have used my washing airer with the prints pegged up which has worked really well as an alternative! I haven’t allowed the prints to dry before each following pass and all the impressions were made with dry paper. I like these most when the colour has worn off and thinned out a little. I also like them best when the colours don’t quite register – so the stripe overlaps the edges. The gold leaf doesn’t work (I tried it on ones that felt a bit ’empty’ and not well-developed) as I feel it makes them look too ‘crafty’ and kitsch. I didn’t clean the plate off after each colour (mostly as the colours had been thoroughly transferred) and it makes for an interesting final couple of passes with all the colours that are left on the plate. As I was mostly placing stripes over a base colour, I only transfer those areas.

As the initial pass is too dense, I could continue with this as a ‘waste’ pass OR try pulling colour off the plate with newspaper or cloth to lighten the colour and make further expressive marks.

I moved on to trying out the paint thinned with water and also tried using watercolour paper for a couple of passes. The paper I had is ‘laid’ on one side and ‘wove’ on the other (laid appears as lines and wove is a consistent, regular surface) so I tried out the effects of both. This time I tried making a blend of 3 blues which was overlaid by a separate pass of masked orange – as per my diary reminiscent of Newman’s Canto VII.

The use of the paint with water is interesting as it makes ‘spiky’ marks and the laid texture of the watercolour paper picks up the colour with a lot of texture and leaves the marks in the colour for the next pass. The colour is thicker in this technique and less consistent, but gives really interesting marks. I also like the blended colours with the one pass of contrasting colour over the top. With this format I mind the gold leaf less (it reminds me of something Japanese) but still don’t think it is necessarily right.

They are still reminiscent of Barnett Newman, but his colour is far flatter (being done with screen printing rather than mono) which is therefore slightly more consistent than my work. I also like the mis-registration; that I can’t see what I am doing and it is reversed as an outcome. Newman’s work can be seen as it is done and is the ‘right way round’ as it is made, so is much more considered and contrived in a way. My work is dictated far more by chance – which is better for me, as I can over-control work and take away its spontaneity and interest.

I particularly like the works on the laid side of the watercolour paper. The marks on these (and on the subsequent print made afterwards) remind me of Richter’s Cage works – only in reverse: he scrapes away to reveal the layers underneath, I allow the chance marks on top to cover over what was there. Both Newman and Richter are using screen printing techniques and tools to create their works, whereas mine are with traditional litho offset printing.

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