Updated: Jun 25, 2021
This semester I have explored new photo etching techniques and looked to find additional ways to represent redactions of truth and the experience of the other in war.
Each week, sometime a couple of times a week I masked out the edges of my plate and then sunk it into ferric acid, face down, for often hours at a time. I seemed to do a lot of edge blocking, filing, paper ripping and test printing all semester! As the acid made new marks and exposed more of the stubbornly resistant image, open bites began to occur and film remnants began to detach, giving opportunity for more scratches and noise to develop over the image.
As the image developed I prepared chine colle papers for adding to the images. I found that soft white papers gave a tiny subtle depth to the image and the purples and reds emboldened the image in a stronger way. I liked how the torn fibres of the paper, when laid against the image gave a sense of subtle fraying, vulnerability. The white was for innocence and purity, the addition of white ghostly figures so faint that they were almost lost in the prints. The red symbolised the blood lost and the different shades of purple reflected the burkas of the Afghan women. The effects of war on women has not been as documented as it has been for men. Germaine Greer has talked how women can express suffering in a way that men culturally can't (and men can express anger in a way that women culturally can't). The female figures point to this.
I began cutting Afghan figures out of the chine colle paper, using the stencils I had used for monoprints last year. When added to the prints they spoke to the missing figures in the redacted report, the lives lost and damaged lives that the Australian War Memorials doesn't remember. Germaine Greer has talked how women can express suffering in a way that men culturally can't (and men can express anger in a way that women culturally can't). The female figures also points to this.
I also experimented with using the old monoprint stencils to mask the ink from the print. I loved how they embossed their shape onto the paper, leaving their mark in more than just one way. Sometime the embossing overtook the bounds of the print, the Afghan checkpoint image taking up most of the page, one way or another. I also enjoyed how over time the ink from the printing process made its way onto the figures, showing how experiences and the frameworks, culture and institutions in which we reside and tell our stories (or don't), make their way into our beings. Another unexpected addition to this process was how sometimes the stencil embedded its way deeply into the paper and I instead of peeling it off, I left it in there.
I also experimented with different inks. Transparent, colour and graphite.
Here is a print with graphite ink and an embossed stencil coming out of the frame of the image. I liked how quick and smooth the graphite was to wipe on and off the plate.
It is so light and subtle, the upside down Australian War Memorial and the figure stepping out of the print and onto the paper, on her own journey, away from the redactions and institutions that do not reflect her.
Whilst this was happening I also made a second plate. I wondered if getting the image that I wanted initially in this project was possible. I adjusted the contrasts on PhotoShop and ensured that I printed the transparency using the studio printer instead of the Officeworks printer I used last time.
The transparency image looked stronger and I put the film onto the plate, exposed the image, developed and etched it.
This time the image transferred beautifully. The only problem was, now that I was used to working with a highly abstracted image, I didn't like the conventionally looking outcome as much! One of the more endearing parts of the image was the mistake the film air bubble made on the top right hand corner, but I had to cut the plate down to match the other plate, so that part was discarded anyway.
I like this cropped purple ink print though:
I noted that the bottom of the plate had no image on it. I had a fairly failed attempt at trying to aquatint the blank part of the plate to create tone. Not enough tone created. I then made a mistake by putting the plate completely into the acid without masking the part I wanted to keep. I think I was so used to sinking the other plate in for hours it was just a learnt reflex! Even though it was only a short dip into ferric, much of the fidelity of the image was erased.
To remedy my mistake and to add complexity to the image, as well as cover the still remaining blank part of the plate, I put second film onto the place and exposed and etched the same image onto the plate again - but just dropped down a level so the whole plate now had something on it, albeit overlapped, half erased and complicated.
The result looked like this, in my opinion, too monotonous and vague:
I managed to enhance the outcome by adding more stencilling work, and actually I really like this one, as it evolved with more ferric acid dipping and allowing the peeling film to create interesting remnants. The embossing created by a really tight press also made for the work feel more object over simply 2D.
So once again this project has been enhanced through missteps and experimenting and not being too precious about the outcomes. The more abstracted the result, the happier I became with the result.
I had wanted to make 39 unique images which would represent the 39+ killed through war crimes in the Brereton Report. After much acid dipping, paper ripping, inking and experimenting, I finally had 39 images I was happy with. I cleaned them up a little with an eraser to remove the ink around the edges (happily I noticed that my work has become tidier and cleaner as I have progressed!). I took time arranging them in different ways, and decided that having lightest to darkest in a left to right manner worked for me. I thought about making the layout random, or even right to left which would reflect the direction Arabic is written, but I decided that the work was for a Western audience and would make sense to be 'read' like a book, or a report - left to right and down the page, or wall. Here are my experiments on my studio floor:
Here is an image of the work installed!