Placed: Cruz de Ferro Stones
Extending my Camino artwork,
I wanted to develop the ideas around what is left at Cruz de Ferro.
Each stone, shell and momento comes from a place far away, carried with earnest over time, representing something different from the next stone or momento. All of these items create a new place, the mound of stones made over centuries of pilgrimages. I climbed up upon these stories to leave my stone up on the top. In my Photo Etching work this semester I have unpacked how some (usually the white, male and 'victorious') are afforded memory, recognition and monument, but the Other is often not.
Cruz de Ferro is opposite to a monument, it is where you relinquish something to make a new place, of which you can walk away lighter.
I was inspired by my artist friend Vani Newry's beautiful artwork Untethered because she freely worked with screenprinting to develop a large installation of abstracted and colourful birds. It was so bright, layered, harmonious and light. I wanted to use screen printing again but in a far more freeform manner.
My last work introduced the stone as a physical object. Now I wanted to focus on the stone through other visual means. The TarraWarra Biennial 2021: Slow Moving Waters was inspirational in its gentle, measured often conceptual art about the Birrarung (Yarra River) and land. I felt it also resonated with my theme of journey and place. Brian Martin's charcoal work invited the viewer to walk on it, portraying sites of personnel significance and asking viewers to consider how it relates to physically walking on Country.
I was also inspired by this beautiful work that placed stones that represented the ebbs and flows of river systems and life. I couldn't find the artist's name, sorry, but the piece is very memorable:
I found a photo of some stones at Cruz de Ferro online, and I used Photoshop to crop and dissect it into the CYMK channels. When I exposed the four transparencies onto the emulsion covered screens, I purposely didn't note which was what colour layer - I wanted to mirror Vani's more carefree and less technical style.
I used lots of vivid colours, having enjoyed my Warhol inspired full-spectrum colours in my last Cruz de Ferro artwork. I felt that the bright colours reflected the Camino journey, the interesting things that you thought about, the people you met, the things you saw, and how you felt after completing the 700km pilgrimage to Santiago. I layered the stones image, deliberately using often jarring colours and turning the papers so the layers didn't match. I wanted the images to build like a mound of stones forming at Cruz de Ferro.
The end results looked a little less clear than I wanted, and disappointingly for me, at least initially, very different to the results Vani had mastered. The works certainly didn't seem resolved.
I explored a number of ways to digitally print a copy of the original stones photo onto the papers. First I nearly jammed the studio photocopier. The image looked really good - the matt black of the photocopy carbon looked low tech and newpaper inkish over the screenprinting. I liked the way it meshed the bitsy screenprinting background colours together, and some of the stones came up looking like parts of bruised flesh. But I knew I would be on borrowed time before ruining the machine!
The fine digital printer overtook the screenprinting element initially, but I played with the transparency of the printed image overlay, and it sat a little more harmoniously. Still, I felt that it didn't seem organic enough.
I decided to replicate the image of the stones onto a linocut to overlay with the screenprints. I recently saw Castlemaine artist David Frazer's exhibition Another Night on Earth at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. I have wanted to practice building more texture in my linocutting technique so it seemed like a good process to move on with as well. I think Frazer is incredible in how we can create so much atmosphere and texture in his work:
My initial cut was ok but too blocky on the bottom half. The two halves seemed disconnected and there wasn't enough free-style sculptural texture and movement happening. I also felt that the black blocked out the nuance of the screenprinting layers behind it.
I made a happy accident by adding the black roller to white ink and the noticed that the resulting grey made a more harmonious result. I decided to try a pure white next linocut test.
Seeing the exhibition of tonalist master Clarice Beckett at the Art Gallery of South Australia gave me ideas on how to indicate form through subtly instead of hard lines. I took so many photo notes of the amazing exhibition, I have to share some of my favourites of the show here:
Then COVID 19 lockdown number 4 happened so at home I cut into the lino more, trying to move away from replicating the initial internet image of the stones and creating my own looser technique. Because I was at home I couldn't easily proof it with ink so I frottaged the image instead. It was difficult to read the difference made, so it was wonderful to be let back into the studios after lockdown and test the linocut with white ink. After some testing and adjusting, I was happy with the result.
I really enjoyed the happy accident of embossing that press made through the process. The stones seemed to create a 3D object feel.
I also experimented with a purely transparent ink, and whilst I liked the shiny embossing, I felt it linocut work was a little lost in the vividness of the screenprinting layers.
I felt that the white ink on the linocuts worked well. It blended with the screenprint aesthetic harmoniously. To me it represented themes of purity and innocence I have explored within my overarching themes.
With my works resolved, I spent time experimenting with the best ways to install the work. Should I lay it on the ground and ask people walk on it pilgrimage-style, layer the papers in a stack to represent the mound of stones at Cruz de Ferro, pin them up so they formed a mound formation on the wall, form a Cruz de Ferro reference crucifix with them? I also wondered if I should collage shapes cut from some of the prints, or overlay the transparencies over parts of the images like I had done with my other Cruz de Ferro artworks. Some of the works looked better together because the colour ranges worked together, so I grouped them separately. I considered doing a number of installations. Below are some of my explorations:
Finally I decided to use the shelf in the studio space like I did for my other Cruz de Ferro work. They are linked then, and I like the pared back presentation. The deliberate spacing of each print and then the stone in front represents the conscious movement of steps, progress and journey of pilgrimage. The stone references those that were used in the last work, and also the embossed and printed stones behind them on paper. There is another layer to be seen and felt. The six images also reference six moments in my life that I relinquish to the past, I don't need to live these times again.
When I set out to traverse the themes of the sacrifice and suffering of the Other through the non-monument, I thought the resulting work would be heavy. Certainly my photo etchings this semester have bore witness some of the harder themes I have explored. However, I am really pleased with the colour and lightness my final artwork has delivered. It has been a journey. It didn't look like I intended it to look like, but it reflective of my own style and experience and I like it!