When choosing materials to take to Collemacchia I was limited by a number of factors; transportation, additional equipment, and practicality. I ended up with a selection of drawing materials (pencils, ink, pens, brushes, pastels), lino, block printing ink, and cyanotype. I chose to take cyanotype formula with me as I knew there would be strong sunlight; it was also an opportunity to try out something new.
I ended up making about 10 prints using cyanotype with varying levels of success; my first experiments were made using some found wire to block out the light. The wire was picked up close to a village farm during my first exploration of Collemacchia and I liked the formation of the overlapping lines; they reminded me of the knot and thread prints and drawings made by Anni Albers.
There wasn’t much of a relationship to my practice beyond this link and some of the linework that I have been making back in Bristol, but the wire stood out to me and felt like an appropriate way to begin experimentation. I wasn’t sure how the prints would turn out using the wire; a part of me hoped (or maybe naively expected) there to be crisp white lines in the shape of the knotted wire. The results were very different as the wire did not lie flat on the surface of the paper and the combination of this with the movement of the clouds led to ghostly, delicate lines that faded from light blue to white (shown in the final image). The results were interesting, more so than a clear representation of the wire would have been and the experiment provided an understanding of the unpredictable nature of using cyanotype with an uncontrolled UV source.
For the next experiments, I used acetate to create the negatives and blacked-out most of the A4 surface with a combination of painted ink and Posca pen (shown in photo 2). Using found string as a guide I left a thin line in the blacked-out surface to allow the sunlight to pass through to the cyanotype coated paper. Once again, the results were varied; due to the cockled cyanotype coated paper, one acetate blocked out most of the light creating a strong blue line alongside 2-3 lighter lines caused by shadows. The second print also featured a dark blue line however a lot of light had leaked through the blacked-out acetate because of the thinly applied ink and there were a number of blue marks on the paper because of this.
After experimenting with A4 sheets of paper I began to use smaller sections of the cyanotype sheets as a way of documenting some of the natural objects found during walks in the villages and along the mountain trails. I made a black papercut of the silhouette of each object adding some additional detail by cutting into the solid shape. I also made prints with the objects themselves applying them directly to the paper, the objects produced varied results, most impressions were unidentifiable shapes and further demonstrated the effects of using natural light to expose the cyanotype images.
The final work progressed from the acetate experiments, but the imagery was developed from drawings made at the archaeological museum in Venafro. I used the painted acetate sheets and cut out shapes of large pots that I had seen in the museum; the lines and marks in the ink mimicked some of the cracks and decorations that characterised the pots. These six acetate cut-outs were used as negatives creating white silhouettes of the pots with the cracks and detail in blue.
After visiting Venafro for a second time during the trip and taking photographs in the small agricultural museum I experimented further with acetate cut-outs. Rather than drawing and then recreating in print, I worked directly with the acetate, cutting out the vessels and equipment and adding further detail by scratching into the ink. The result was a collection of objects, I was pleased with this although I’m not sure if the medium was the most appropriate for the imagery. I think the drawings/cut-outs of the pots may work better with screen-print as positives as the blue doesn’t really add anything to the images.
I think it’s unlikely that I’ll use cyanotype further in my work, possibly as a process for creating shapes/marks to develop further but only as a developmental stage rather than a final output. For the residency it was a useful tool for bringing uniformity across the body of work; as I knew that I would be working with cyanotype and limited to the colour blue, I chose to only use blue, black and white throughout my sketchbook and the printed work made during the trip. This limitation was good for me as it allowed me to make quickly without feeling overwhelmed by colour or the need to interpret the colour immediately. It also created a strong identity for the work made during this research trip and clearly defines this stage of the project. The shades of blue also linked serendipitously with some of the reading material that I took with me to Collemacchia, particularly with Rebecca Solnit’s ‘A field guide to getting lost’ which heavily referenced the particular blue of distant mountains which I was able to experience first-hand in Italy alongside attempting to recreate in my work.