Saturday, March 30, 2013

Back to Moku Hanga

He's Monkey - woodblock key - image size 11 x 17"

I had to put this woodcut on hold for a bit over a month while other studio projects with deadlines took precedent.  But this image which accompanies the exquisite corpse blog I contribute to finally got some attention this past week.

Analogue Narratives is currently an online project in search of a physical exhibition space.  It began three years ago as a collaborative writing project based on the premise of finishing Rene Daumal's unfinished novel, Mount Analogue.  Daumal passed away leaving his surreal tale of the search for enlightenment without an ending.  Our story picks up on the fabled mountain of no certain location and the artists I work with contribute writings, illustrations and video concerning our own search for an ending.

Stack of 5 clear acetates with a ghost of ink remaining after transfer to the plywood blocks. 

I depart from the traditional methods of transferring image to the blocks.  After I work out my colors and the number of blocks I need to get those colors, I print each color as black on acetate and place them on the blocks while the ink is sill wet. 

The image at the top now carved - (black ink from proofing)

Block for deeper violets and lemon yellow on monkey.

Block for ochre in sail area

Block for background gradients
Carved area allows white of paper to form the snow pack on the mountain.

Block for orange/reds (almost finished)

This image began as a combination of several ink drawings that I scanned into Photoshop, combined, experimented with coloration and later separated the colors for the blocks.  This forms a starting point as I begin to work with various inks this coming week.  

Admiral He's Monkey © William Evertson 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

Altered Book

Three Little Kittens, altered book, 7.5 x 9.5" tooled leather cover with gold leaf, © William Evertson

In preparing a piece to exhibit in the Gordon-Nash Library exhibition of "The Book Remade" I had to make a detour from my usual bookmaking habits.  The exhibition concerns the "altered book" as a core principle; re-worked, reorganized, painted, cut, ornamented or embellished.   
I re-imagined my usual start from the beginning, handmade approach.  I began to think of the history of books, their transformative power, their methods of construction and their means of distribution.

The desire to record and transmit our thoughts to others is a major evolutionary accomplishment and the concept of book fundamental to that continuing process.  In an equally fundamental way, the means of distribution of knowledge and opinion via the written word has aspects of power that define access and control. The secrets of paper-making where once closely guarded, limiting accessibility, while  Guttenberg's movable type increased accessibility.

My thoughts turned to the most current revolution in the production and transmission of books - the e-reader.  

My piece, titled, Three Little Kittens Rekindled, began as a download from the multinational corporation Amazon.  I purchased the Paul Galdone illustrated version of Three Little Kittens for $4.99.      Although Galdone illustrated many children's books I remember from my childhood, Three Little Kittens actually belongs to no one. It began with oral roots in the British folk tradition.  The rhyme was first published in Britain in 1833 as an anonymous addition to a volume of Eliza Lee Cabot Follen's verse.   Eventually it was absorbed into the Mother Goose collection of nursery rhymes.  

Illustration from Ballantyne's 1858 version

My alteration is a meditation on ownership and transmission.  I have re-appropriate the Kindle electronic version and have returned it to the roots of bookmaking in the form of a handmade book. 

Paul Galdone illustrated version as viewed on kindle. 

Scanned images printed on Arches Text Wove

Starting with images scanned directly from the kindle, they were pigment printed on Arches Text paper, a fine art paper used in bookmaking.

The pages are collated and are sewn into two signatures. 

Spreading paste on the book leather cover.

A cover illustration from a 1952 Golden Book version of Three Little Kittens was used a basis for my pixelated version.  This was printed on glossy stock and pasted into to the screen area of the book leather cover.

The cover was embossed, tooled and gold leafed to bring out kindle keypad details.

Three Little Kittens Rekindled - an altered book © William Evertson 2013

An endless dance of a common tale that has become common property and used by authors and illustrators alike to make a living.  Once a rhyme that you could say aloud for free now exists on Amazon in an endlessly repeatable electronic format which renders it essentially free but now can be purchased for $4.99. 

Facebook event page for The Book Remade.  Gordon-Nash Library, New Hampton, NH. Running through April with a closing reception on April 24th.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

No Laughing Matter

Yue Minjun -Woodcut 1 The Grasslands Series - woodcut 47 x 34" - 2008

Smith College Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibition titled, Collecting - Art of Asia. While I found fascinating work throughout the exhibit, I spent most of my time in the Sacerdote Gallery on the main floor with Prints: 1950 - 2013.  The artists, representing Japan, China, Korea and Pakistan use a variety of printmaking techniques.  Of special interest to me as a printmaker was a chance to see some practitioners of sosaku-hanga.  Sosaku-hanga, which literally means "creative prints" is a 20th century departure from the traditional division of the labor of producing a woodblock print with the artist taking control of all three of the main tasks of producing a woodcut print. In the ukiyo-e genre that most of us are familiar with you actually have a collaborative process involving an artist, a carver and a printer. In sosaku-hanga the artist works all three disciplines.

Munakata Shikō Sand Nest 1938 (printed in 1957) 13.5 x16 woodcut
Munakata's small block printed simply in black is a wonderful example by one of the artists associated with sosaku-hanga.  Munakata was known for often spontaneously creating his image during the carving process. As a printmaker who plans the image but is open to change inspired by the carving process the idea of just beginning a a carving to see what emerges is both frightening and intriguing.  

Another favorite from the show was a print by Kiyoshi Saito.  It's hard to describe the difference from seeing this in person to here in thumbnail, but the detail, textures and subtle coloration have an impact that brought me back time and time again to marvel at its creation.

Kiyoshi Saito - Winter in Aizu - woodcut - ca1940

Another post Mao approach to woodcut inspired by western abstraction was a piece by Goto Hidehiko.

Goto Hidehiko Silent Night - woodcut

Silent Night is from a a suite of works commissioned by collectors Mary and Norman Tolman who hoped the collection containing eight artists working abstractly on the subject of "Hope for the Future" would help restore Japan in the aftermath of the 2011 disasters (both political and natural).  Goto's piece with its small white space which seems to reach through various surfaces is both a subtle and yet powerful example of the woodcut process.

Fang Lijun  2000.6.25   woodcut 2000 47 x 32"
Another twist to sosaku-hanga was the development of what is termed Cynical Realism. The works typically tend to the ironic or display contempt and disillusionment with Chinese society.  Fang Lijun uses jigsaws and power tools to fashion these large and rough figures.  

                                      Yue Minjun -Woodcut 2(?) The Grasslands Series - woodcut 47 x 34" - 2008

The piece on top and this are part of the Grassland series by Minjun who is also associated with Cynical Realism.  Quoting Minjun, "Smiling is a refusal to think deeply when you feel there are things about which you have no way of thinking deeply or which are too difficult to think about and you need to get rid of your thoughts."

Annie Bissett, woodcut artist and blogger also has a great review of this show.

Smith College Museum of Art - Collecting - Art of Asia - though May 26th (North Hampton, MA) 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

This Lautrec is Damned Brazen

La Vache Enragé - 1896 - color lithograph - 79 x 57.5 cm

So begins a critique from 1893 by Félix Fénéon in the introduction to the catalogue for the Toulouse-Lautrec & His World exhibition.  A powerful exhibit now on view in Connecticut's New Britain Museum of American Art highlights a collection of over 150 works on paper.  Drawings, many lithographs and a handful of original posters comprise the show.  Fénéon continued, "he couldn't care less about outlines or colors."

  Edmée Lescot - 1893 - lithograph - 27 x 19 cm

After viewing the exhibition, and at a distance of over a century, it is difficult to asses the scandalous nature of Lautrec's subject matter or his line.  In fact what is most striking is the incredible economy of line that was used to create the frenzy of his favorite subjects, the actors, dancers, circus performers and prostitutes of Montmartre.

Surrounded by the survey of his work one realizes that Lautrec not only was a man in touch with his times but had a major role in defining those times.  He lived at a time of rapid developments in lithography which made possible the large scale posters he is famous for.  In turn his posters made his subjects recognizable throughout Paris.

The piece above shows his use of crachis, a splattered ink technique that helps define gradations much like the moku hanga woodcuts from Japan that he admired and collected.  The celebrity and courtesan were also  favorite subject matter in many Ukyio-e prints.

Utagawa Kunisada - Lady Naruto no mae - ca 1847-1852

While not intended as a survey of Lautrec's work and there are no painting included here, it did strike me that his brief 36 years were those of unceasing output.  The many pencil sketches attest to his penchant for evenings of Paris nightlife followed by days in the lithography studio.  The lithographs appears to be worked directly on the stone rather than traced of copied, giving them an extraordinary spontaneity.

Jane Avril - color lithograph - 124 x 91.5 cm

And of course without Lautrec's attention to celebrity where would Warhol be?

Toulouse-Lautrec & His World