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Reduction / Variations

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

I wrote a blog on the process of making a collage and then another on converting it to a reduction linocut. My Afghan mountain collage is on the left, and my one of three editioned linocuts on the right.

The second part of this assignment was to make variations of reduction linocuts as the project evolved. There were a number of variations that developed as I worked through the assignments, and what follows is a journal of each of them:

Exploring the effects of using coloured paper

I used smaller pieces of coloured paper as I began to create the reduction linocuts. I was interested in exploring the cool colour spectrum (although I tried out a bright orange too - and it jarred) and enjoyed seeing how the same coloured inks changed their hues on the different coloured papers. I also enjoyed being a lot more intuitive and playful with my colour choices. One week I had a had a thing for royal blue, another for aqua or teal or lime green, and as I went I was able to playfully explore how they looked together.

Often I would use the little tubs of pre-mixed inks that others had discarded in the studio as a starting point for the colours so that there was a spontaneous and collaborative element to the colour choices. Making these coloured prints after the stressful perfection needed for the edition was a pleasure each week. I loved seeing how they built up and was inspired to use colours that I saw around the studio on other people's ink slabs (they were kindly allowing me to roll my lino with their inks!).

For the last layer I explored blended rolls and in some ways wished that I had utilised them more throughout these prints. It was nice to explore some contrasting colours at the end - the warmer colour tones and the blended rolls, and over the texture of the paper there was some interesting effects. I would like to frame these in a longer landscape or in groups of three or four.

The final work in a harmonious set of nine.

Overprinting with white mountain shapes

Given I had made so many editions on white paper (and given so many didn't make the grade due to little smudges that I didn't like, I used them to experiment with white overlays and creating atmosphere through knocking back the crispness of the lines and colour of the original linocuts. I was very inspired by the prints in Belinda Fox's Kailas Mountain series from 2002 (see below).

The subtle layering effects and the way that each layer brought forth a new set of shapes and colour hues was something that I wanted to develop. First I ripped out smaller mountain shapes and rolled a new, uncut lino block a creamy white. But I noticed that the large albion press couldn't apply the pressure needed to make the mask work properly, and the creamy yellow white clashed with the cool colour tones of the print.

I trialled just putting a whole white inked up block over the print and running it through one of the etching presses, and it worked better, except that without a mountain mask there was a limited opportunity for complexity shape and tone building. It also made the work look a little flat.

I ended up finding a very large sheet of lino and ripping three much larger mountain masks in newsprint. I tore down the prints so they had no borders and then inked up the whole large lino sheet. I lay out the newsprint mountain masks and then assembled the eight prints on the lino. I wrote their order on the backs so I would be able to put the piece together again later. I then carefully put the whole thing on the etching press and ran it through. It was a bit complicated. The project took up most of the press bed and I needed two press blankets to cover the whole thing. I had to make sure I didn't run the bed off the press or miss the edges. Anyway, I made it and I really liked the complexity of the piece. I ran it through again with the ghosts of the masks and again, there was another subtle layer of shapes and tones created.

The end work has some of the original prints upside down to create gullies and landscape vibes - and break up the monotony of the repeated original composition.

Experiments with the finished lino block

In the subject Out of the Matrix, we have been looking at combining print with other artistic techniques. I have been especially inspired by Jasper Jones combinations of paint and print. His 1983 Racing Thoughts, featured below, is one of many examples of how he has been able to 'collage' different techniques for a more interesting and complex result.

As part of a mini workshop with teacher Joel Gailer, when we were locked out of the studios due to Covid, I took a small oil painting which I had painted in Ruby earlier this year, and combined it with my finished reduction lino cut block. I liked how both pieces seemed more sculptural when combined and the white blotchy ink which I had used to hand press underfoot in my courtyard. The purple tinge and torn paper elements are because I also tried to print onto an old paper work, but it didn't work. I like the added layers of complexity this 'mistake' created. The olive and teal colours that remained on my stratchy old lino block complimented the painting's colours and rough texture. The blotchy print component of the white mountain shape reminded me of a pathway or a journey. The images also in a way inspired a little by Ben Quilty's Rorschach printed / painted canvases such Irin Irinji, 2018 seen below and brilliantly captured in the ABC documentary Ben Quilty: Painting in the Shadows. My work depicts different landscapes and different violence and war, but it reflects a similar theme of trauma, history and landscape.

Over printing with a new lino block

The last variation was a link back to some of the first works I did at RMIT. I'd used a rubber floral table covering I'd bought for a few dollars at Daiso for my Afghan mountain monoprints. These monoprints had found themselves included in my collage, and the lacework was replicated in my linocut. I surprised myself with the intricate carving I could accomplish in the first linocut assignment, and I wanted to challenge myself to do something more complex. I spray-painted the table covering, using it as a template for the next linocut, and began the slow process of carving. There were sunny mornings in my courtyard eating danishes and nights watching Clementine Ford's Friday Night Bites as I worked. My daughter, Imogen, had to isolate for over a week after a Covid exposure at her school, and whilst this derailed most of my art studies, it allowed me to quietly carve in snatches of time. It was a soothing and surprisingly fun activity. It felt like a form of colouring in.

Later when I returned to the studios I looked forwards to giving the linocut a test print. I liked it immediately first time around! I tried it with a darker grey colour on white and coloured paper, and over the original linocut, but it looked flat and overpowering. I tried dappling the ink coverage with eco wash cleaner and blotted colour, but the result wasn't what I was after.

But when I tried a cool light dove grey over the original prints, the results popped. I loved how the light colours contrasted against the white of the paper and how the textures of the mottled sky peeped through the flower shapes.

Lace work over lace work created a really interesting texture, and the Arabic writing looked so pretty when exposed from the flower cutting. Small mistakes which I was not happy with, seemed to harmonise with the rest of the image, and the component which I had not carved so it looked like a hole in the lacework, looked like another mountain peak in the background.

This subject was an enormous amount of work, but I learnt so much and had so much fun. I was inspired to finally purchase my own press so I can do more printing at home, and now that the subject is finished, I am excited to make more work at home with reduction linocuts! I feel that the collaging process was an unexpected but delightful way to create an abstract and unique idea for a linocut. I still have so many compositions from that original work I would like to reproduce in a linocut. I feel that I didn't fully explore the beauty of doing a blended roll on each layer, having only gotten into the blends at the very end. There is still so much I want to explore with linocuts in particular and can't wait to try them out on my new press!

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