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.
In creating prints, I often have the finished image in mind before setting out creating it. I don’t naturally work in this way, but many printmaking methods require this kind of planning and preparation, especially woodblock printmaking. With this collaboration though, I was able to free myself up from these usual constraints. I drew directly onto plywood, carved and printed the image, but then gave myself the freedom to experiment with the image by cutting, deconstructing, rearranging, and collaging the image. This technique suits the way I make images much more than planning and perfecting each stage. It allowed me to free up and change my mind, making decisions based on what worked together. The prints I discarded for the first stage of the collaboration, I kept aside, not ruling them out completely in working later on.
With the objective of producing 10 prints each in the first month of the residency at Kala, time began to become a factor in the making. We decided that we each needed longer to complete our aim of 10 so, aware of how quickly the time was passing, we agreed to a more organic approach of exchanging the prints. We knew we would be short of time to get all of the prints to dry flat at the end of our time at Kala, but we didn’t want to rush the making process. It was challenging producing 10 original prints each in such a short time, even though they were not ‘finished prints’. Each one needed to be left the space for the other artists’ response to create the print dialogue.