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Lino cuts hand painted and chine colle

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

I have enjoyed injecting some colour into my lino cuts through two techniques: hand colouring and chine colle. It was good timing on the course because this part of my practice aligned with the Technologies of Colour lecture and I enjoyed painting my prints in front of The Wizard of Oz (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939) and Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958). Both films used technicolour and were masterful in their use of colour as symbolic motifs.

Firstly I tried hand painting my design using a combination of felt tip paint pens and gauche. This is a painting I did of the Australian War Memorial in the earthy tones of the Middle East, the anxious face of the building in the foreground.

Once I had my palette set up with the colours mixed from my painting, it was interesting to paint on the back of the print, looking to reflect the colours of my Afghanistan deployments - the earthy colours of the landscape and the mauves of the Afghan burkas.

I left the teeth white as a focal point. The head covered in a mauve-esqe burka colour.

I was inspired by the red and green binary motif in The Wizard of Oz. In military symbology, red represents the enemy, blue friendly, and green an unknown entity. When I was in Afghanistan there had been a lot of 'green on blue' attacks, where Afghan soldiers had killed their Coalition partners. One of the ways we tried to counteract that was through the use of 'guardian angels' - Coalition soldiers who worked as body guards for us as we worked with Afghans. Some of the Afghans wanted their own Afghan 'guardian angels', so often we were working where there were many armed and ready soldiers. It never happened, but sometimes I imagined a Tarantino-style showdown if someone was spooked. The colouring of this print represents the danger of red amongst a sea of unknown green.

I don't really love the following hand print. The colours seem too varied and I think that the blended wash in the background is distracting and non-effective.

Next I tried my hand at linocut chine colle.

The definition of chine colle on the MoMa website is:

A technique, used in conjunction with printmaking processes such as etching or lithography, that results in a two-layered paper support: a tissue-thin paper, cut to the size of the printing plate, and a larger, thicker support paper below. Both the tissue and the support sheet are placed on top of the inked plate and run together through the printing press, sometimes with a thin layer of adhesive between them to reinforce the bond produced through the pressure of the press. The process creates a subtle, delicate backdrop to the printed image. Chine is the French word for China, referring to the fact that the thin paper originally used with this technique was imported from China. In addition to China, paper was also imported from India or Japan. Collé is the French word for "glued."

Because of COVID-19, we are hand printing at home without a press with lino. It is a totally different situation and I am not sure how it will go. I YouTube some artists doing this and shop for some tissue papers, rice glue and some more ink. I trace the exact shape of the Australian War Memorial, and find it extremely fiddly to get it to lay on the inked up lino at the exact place it needs to be. An old proof print of the image is useful to trace and design the look I am after.

First results are not good. I'm beginning to see why Richard didn't make a video of a chine colle demo. There would have been way too much swearing! Some of the glued paper sticks onto the print, some stays on the lino and tears. I decide that larger pieces of tissue paper will work better for this project, with a simple design, plenty of ink and glue and no little bits of 'fluffy' paper. I try again.

This little slide show details my second attempt. Again, too much detail, I loose the red dots I built into the design. I do really like the mountain shapes though, and it is promising that these are a successful addition to the piece.

For the third time, I keep it mega simple! I devise a new way of gluing the tissue paper. I lay it on the lino first, and then blob heaps of glue (with a smidge of water) onto the tissue paper. I also leave some overhanging on the sides of the lino to ensure I can help prey it off the lino after I have used the baren.

Success! It is a little bit plain, but I know I can do it. Maybe I can hand paint this piece later for a more interesting effect.

My final two chine colle prints I am very happy with. I stick with painting the glue onto the laid out paper and I stick to the simple mountain design with overhang where possible. Some of the paper I use is the map cut offs from my map prints, and I like how they are incorporated into the implied 'terrain' of the mountain motif.

The stringy fluff of this torn paper adds a collage-y texture to the piece which I like.

After revising the themes I have visited this semester (memorials, mountains, Afghanistan, burkas, Place, Colour and Materiality) I decided to add to my first successful chine colle. I took the purple burka image and added a layer of bright, life-affirming colour in water colours and pencil. I added one of the red circles that didn't stick to one of my early chine colle attempts, representing a sun.

Whilst it looks a little psychedelic, I think it expresses something about the end state of this project to me. This project has given me space to think about the meaning of commemoration and what 'coming home' really means, on your second mountain - the one you choose for yourself.

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