This week I arrived at KALA Arts Institute in California to begin a 2 month printmaking residency in their fantastic facilities, located in the old Heinz factory in Berkeley. I arrived here on the Amtrak train which snaked down the Oregon coast from Portland, where I’d attended the annual SGCI (Southern Graphics Council International) printmaking conference. I presented a project in collaboration with the artist Sarah Jane Lawton titled ‘Movement & Gestures’ as part of the ‘Projects and Demonstrations’ schedule of events. I also took part in the ‘Mentoring Program’, ‘Print Exchange Portfolio Project’ and the very busy ‘Open Portfolio Sessions’.
I will be using this blog space to record my thoughts and experiences about the conference, and my collaborative printmaking residency at KALA Arts.
The final days of the collaborative print residency at Kala art institute in Berkeley, California were full of productivity and decision making. We decided on a title for the series of prints, while also editing the selection from 20 to 18 print works.
We created a narrative in our selection of prints and re-worked the ordering until we felt it said what we intended. This was an enjoyable process to work together on, as we both saw different connections between one print and the next the dialogues the prints had with one another changed and evolved with each re-ordering. The image above was the order and selection we decided on over our final day on the residency. However when returning to the prints back in Manchester and Montreal we edited out 3 prints from the above selection to finally decide on the series below, of 15 collaborative print works which make up ‘The moon and the sledgehammer’ body of work.
The following text was written to accompany the print series:
As part of an artists residency at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley California, I realised a collaborative project with Canadian artist Guillaume Brisson-Darveau. The moon and the sledgehammer is a visual and emotional correspondence between us as artists. This dialogue is motivated by the desire to know more about one another and feeds from the experience of the present. From these playful exchanges a new vocabulary arises, specific to the meeting of two universe conversing to create one. This dialogue implies a particular attention to the others’ sensibility whilst inviting us to redefine our own.
15 collages combining silkscreen and mokuhanga (water based woodblock) form this print portfolio. Kozo and gampi on Stonehenge paper, edition of 6 with 2 AP’s, 2016.
Over the course of working together, in collaboration, for 8 weeks I feel inspired and energised by this new way of working for me. I see a way that we could work together again on a future project. This whole process has provided me with an insight into the way another artist generates ideas and produces work. It has been vital for me to experience this opportunity at this point in my career and has absolutely cemented a new direction in my practice, one of collaboration and of creating dialogue through print. I am so grateful for the a-n travel bursary award in supporting this important project in which I have had the unique opportunity to see how other artists, from the USA and Canada work and respond to the world through print. I hope that in the coming years I will go on to foster new relationships with artists in the international print community to create new works in collaboration.
With the final week of our residency in front of us, we both individually and methodically responded to the final prints in the collaboration. Each of us left our most challenging contributions to the last few days in the studio, leaving as much time as possible to let the right response surface.
As Guillaume kept printing, I turned my attentions to ensuring we could adopt a technique in order to get the finished prints to dry flat in the bespoke drying area at Kala. It took a few attempts of experimenting with dampness and timescale, with the help of the technical advisor in the studio. Because of the nature of the prints being a combination of silkscreen printed acrylic ink on paper alongside mulberry paper collaged with nori paste, the base paper reacted to the moisture by cockling and warping. We were desperate that this did not detract from the finished prints, so spent a day exploring options of how to get them to dry flat.
I sprayed the reverse of each print with a light mist of water and placed the prints on a bed of corrugated cardboard sandwiched between acid free board and newsprint. The sophisticated drying system at Kala meant that the 160 finished prints were dried slowly with an electric blower gently distributing air into a cloth bag and down the channels in the corrugated cardboard over a period of days. This made the prints emerge completely flat. Due to the sheer amount of prints, this process took six days to complete.
As the collaboration progressed, we both conferred about the development of our responses. On several occasions we felt stuck, or frustrated that the idea we had wasn’t working in print. At these times we talked it through, eager to glean the others’ opinion on how we could turn it around, make improvements or rethink it all together.
The above print was one of my favourites of my collaborator Guillaume’s, yet I felt that there was little room for me to respond. When I eventually settled on adding a stencil cut out circle screen printed in Japanese red, I immediately realised it didn’t work. It looked dislocated, but not in a way that I wanted it to seem unbalanced. I let the print rest for a few days.
It was after mistakenly seeing an off cut strip of paper resting across the print that I revised my response. The addition of a gold strip of paper connecting the two circles, our two universe, made sense.
As soon as we exchanged our prints I felt comfortable about responding to Guillaume’s work. The prints were open and left space enough for me to have a dialogue within them. There were a few prints that I initially found difficult to respond to, because they already seemed so complete as prints. I delayed in making decisions about these few and just committed to creating the responses that felt instinctive and confident. The prints below were the first two prints to be completed. I felt that the combination of silkscreen and mokuhanga created depth, texture and a kind of balance and perspective that held the eye. The dialogue through print kept developing, as we each explored our individual responses to one another’s works.
As the weather warmed up and the light in the studio grew longer, so did our hours spent printing. Six weeks into the residency we each felt ready to show each other our prints. The exchange of 10 prints each gave us the flexibility to be able to edit the final selection from 20 finished prints down to 16. We set the rules to trust one another to respond to each of the exchanged prints in which ever way we felt we wanted to. Only after the responses were complete would we look at editing out the less successful collaborations.
As the last of our individual prints were made using silkscreen, mokuhanga, and marbling, we set up a space in the studio to lay out our prints for the exchange.
It was great to see all of the prints together at last. The inks we had jointly chosen in the first week of the collaboration became the unifying element. Our different sensibilities were reflected in the forms we’d created, yet as a whole it felt as though there was space to reflect, consider and create a dialogue within each of the prints. We each adopted different approaches in creating our individual responses to the others’ prints. Guillaume took an image of the collection of my 10 prints and used photoshop to explore colour, form, shapes and scale in order to plan his responses. I took a more physical approach, initially by using paper cut outs and watercolour pigments to gauge my responses to his prints. This allowed me to play with each print and response at the same time, switching between what was working and what was discarded.