In my first post for this blog back in March I wrote about The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins’ theories about the origins of life, and the “exceedingly improbable” occurence of The Replicator – a molecule which had the ability to create copies of itself. I paused at the end of the section about The Replicators as I felt I’d like to somehow interpret this idea in my work, and began making a series of drawings working into some of the prints I made when experimenting with the photolitho technique I was learning at the time. I’ve been using a system whereby I begin by drawing a single point – a small circle (a cell? a molecule? an organism?) which sends out two stalks, each of which carries a new cell/molecule/organism which in turn sends out two more stalks each with a new cell/molecule/organism and so on and on and on…

In a more recent version of the drawing I started with multiple points of origin, each one developing replicas of itself.

I’ve often struggled with drawing in my practice (what do I draw? how do I draw? what’s it for?) but I have recently settled into a happy way of working which involves this sort of repetitive process and which can result in numerous works based around a system. This seems fruitful – and more importantly, I love doing it and can’t wait to get in the studio to get on with it. I also like the fact that I’m building on my printmaking work and combining it with something else to make new work.

The wider implications of this work are promising. I’ve been writing proposals for my project and describe how it “begins with the origins of life and goes on to speculate about possible futures” but have so far been wondering how this speculation will begin to present itself in the work. Notions of replication and replicators begin to introduce new ideas to be developed, along with new thoughts which came up in conversation yesterday about “synthetic” and “synthesis”. I do have a bit of a penchant for alliteration so I googled “synthetic aesthetic” and this came up – Food for thought.

adjective: synthetic

  1. 1.(of a substance) made by chemical synthesis, especially to imitate a natural product.



It was great to visit the BA Printmaking degree shows at Brighton recently and see some of the work made by students who I’ve had the privilege to work with at times during the past three years. The shows were a great reminder of the huge diversity of printmaking from low-tech monoprints and collagraphs and traditional etching, screen-printing and lithography to the wider interpretations of printmaking through mould-making and casting, installation, book-binding and the use of non-traditional materials and digital technologies. It was also a great reminder that no matter how long we’ve been artists, how much experience we might have, it’s still all too easy to be blinkered and narrow, settling in to an over-comfortable routine or forgetting to explore new avenues or open new doors.

Image above: Abby Mullan

Below Ruby Bateman,




Image above: Ben Egan Clements

Below: Gina Benn-O’Leary,

In my last blog I wrote about my work in progess, Pink Spread. I’d been feeling an only too familiar uncertainty about this piece of work which although almost “finished” seemed still incomplete. Taking inspiration from those graduating students I reminded myself to push things a little further, exploring combinations of images and objects alongside the work to add another dimension.




I should definitely do more blogging. I find it hard to keep it up sometimes when I’m busy, but when I do get into the routine of doing it regularly, I find it really invaluable to be able to pop back to old posts and remind myself of what I was thinking at the time. I’ve just been reading my first post from this blog in March this year when I wrote about Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, the bit where he talks about the improbability of life and the “exceedingly improbable” occurence of “The Replicator” – a molecule which had the ability to create copies of itself. I remember when I first read that phrase, “The Replicator”, thinking what an evocative expression that is, conjuring up thoughts of sci-fi horror movies and the evils of cloning.

When I began enhancing my printmaking skills earlier this year, I started by bringing together some images from my research for The New Immortals. I was using images from a range of sources put together in a sort of lithographic collage – united through a single print process. Here’s one –

– but this didn’t seem quite finished to me so I’ve started drawing on top of it, in a way that is quite familiar to me, a repetitive process based on a simple motif – in this case a little shape which refers to the molecular structure of oxygen (O2). So I’ve been drawing lots of these little O2 symbols in white ink, forming a sort of cloud of O2s – repeated… replicated over and over again.

And of course I’ve also been repeatedly making large numbers of small paper tubes for my Pink Spread work.

So… The Replicators… of course printmaking is perfect for replicating, so I must give this a bit more thought and consider where this might take me.

Also, recently I’ve been writing my Grant for the Arts funding application for my new project, Only Once in a Universe and referring to another quote, a notion expressed by Hans Ulrich Obrist, “Extreme Present”… “a time in which it feels impossible to maintain pace with the present, never mind to chart the future”* – the time in which we now live. So I’m thinking about how this affects my reseach which “begins with the origins of life and goes on to explore possible futures”. I’ve been reading The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present.

I’ve also been re-reading my GFA application and wishing I’d written more about the ideas behind my work – they somehow got over-edited in order to meet the vicious word restriction. Ho hum. I feel a re-submission coming on.

*Hans Ulrich Obrist, The Future of Art.



For a couple of years I’ve had this thing hanging about in my studio. It’s a paper construction made out of hundreds of small tubes of rolled up brown paper gummed strip ( I like low-tech materials). They are glued together in a sort of conglomeration which is formed around one of the rafters in my studio a bit like a wasps nest or one of those strange growths that you sometimes see on trees. It’s another one of those things like the Stones which doesn’t go away, and so, like the Stones, I decided it was time to confront it. So a year or so ago I started making a new, more purposeful version of it. It’s very labour intensive (first I have to make the tubes, then paint them, then glue them…) and it’s a bit complicated, there are a lot of things involved – too many – so it’s perhaps a bit confused. It’s attached to a piece of furniture, a small table, and it’s pink. I’m calling it Spread, Pink Spread – I’ve made quite a lot of things/drawings which I call Spread, because that is what they seem to do.

I don’t find colour easy and I do love black and white, but I’m interested in what colour can do, especially when you use big blocks of it, or completely cover something in it. While I’ve been learning some new printmaking skills I’ve been working in quite a disciplined way, focusing on one thing at a time and trying to get better at the actual printmaking, but now I’m beginning to feel more confident about that and starting to think about how the work might develop.

Last week, Scarett was producing a marvelous new reference resource for students, printing this great image of Jimi Hendrix on a variety of papers to show the different end results created using different quality papers.

She made these sample swatches which are now pinned on the notice board in the workshop.

This is my favourite and has set me thinking about this very simple way of beginning to introduce colour into my prints. One little step at a time.