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A Suite of Prints in Celebration of the Tripitaka Koreana

A FESTIVAL and exhibition took place in Korea, in September 2011, to celebrate the millennial anniversary of the first Tripitaka Koreana.  The festival served to promote the value of the Tripitaka Koreana and Janggyeong Panjeon to the world. The Tripitaka, and the Haein-sa temple that owns them, have UNESCO World Heritage status.

The Tripitaka are the Korean collection of 80 000 Buddhist scriptures, carved onto 81 340 wooden printing blocks. The original set took 77 years to complete, and was finished in 1087. However, it was destroyed in 1232 by a Mongol invasion. King Kojong ordered the set remade and work began in 1236. It was felt that replacing the wood blocks would convince Buddha to intervene and help repel the Mongolian invaders. Originally carved on Kangwha Island, they were moved to Haein-sa Temple during the early years of the Yi dynasty in the late 14th century.

The blocks were carved by monks using wood from silver magnolias, white birches, and cherry trees from Korea’s southern coast.  They soaked the wood in salt water for three years before cutting the individual blocks.  Each sections was boiled in salt water then dried before being planed and carved.

The blocks are stored in four storage halls in the northern side of the Haein-sa temple.  The foundations are reinforced with charcoal, lime, and clay to help maintain a constant temperature and control humidity.

When they were made, relief-printing from carved wooden blocks was the most progressive and efficient way of duplicating text. As well as celebrating the history of the ancient blocks, the Tripitaka Festival celebrated the technological and expressive advances made in print, internationally, during the thousand years following the production of the Tripitaka.  To this purpose, 72 artists were invited from 42 countries to produce artworks on the theme of “the mind” for exhibition during the festival.  Artists were invited to interpret this theme in the broadest possible way.  Prints, book art and installations were part of the 130 pieces in the exhibition. Bill Viola, Sonam Dolna, Blake Carrington and Zu Bing are among the artists invited to make work during the festival.  I was invited to represent the United Kingdom.

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I made a suite of prints, Ghosts, that use the positive and negative forms of three photographs.  The photographs are ofsmall-scale models made in my studio. The figures stand or walk, alone or in pairs.  They are silhouetted against the light from the studio window and a translucent paper is positioned between them and the camera almost filling the picture plane. I want to emphasize their existence in another space, a fictional, imaginative space behind the picture plane, which they are close to, but always behind. The small gap at the bottom of the paper screen allows glimpses of what might be feet, but might easily be clay, The creases and folds of paper are detailed and ‘real’, but the human forms behind are intentionally more difficult to interpret.  The paper is my interpretation of the barrier between people, between one mind and another.

Blueprint @ Glasgow Print Studio

I will be showing new work at Glasgow Print Studio in February.

Initially conceived as an exploration of the links between alternative photographic processes and fine art photographic printmaking (printing with ink), Blueprint has grown in scope to encompass seven exhibitions, organized visits to five important archives, a programme of lectures and tie-ins with various engineering organizations.

Cell 16 is part of a series of works exploring the depth from the picture plane created by the photographic image  in comparison to the richly textured planes of abstract colour printed from etched steel plates.  This combination of digitally-printed photographs and traditional etching show very clearly the intermedial possibilities available in contemporary printmaking.

Low Sun and Man on Chair are shown here for the first time.  They are archival pigment inkjet prints, the first I have printed on Canson Photographic Digital paper I received as an award from the Krakow International Print Triennial.  I use the representation of the human form, rather than a metaphor for the figure, here.  The photographic quality is essential to my play with ‘realism’ in these images.

Krakow International Print Triennial 2012: the opening!

The main exhibition of the Triennial opened on Friday 14th September in the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art in Krakow.  Other exhibitions are in the main Museum of Krakow, the International Cultural Centre and the Palace of Art.  During 2013, parts of the main exhibition will travel to Istanbul, Falun and Vienna.

All kinds of graphic art were evident, digital images now one with the more traditional media of etching, lithography and screenprint.  The opening event was crowded with people wanting to see the cornucopia of images.

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I wanted to explore the photograph as a window into another world in this series of images.

Archival inkjet prints of photographs are over-printed with very deep, rough textures: these are printed from steel plates deeply etched with cross-hatched lines and rough aquatints.  The surfaces block your view of the ‘scene’ beyond them and create a distance between the space of the spectator and that of the subject. They bring attention to the framing of the image by the camera – to the kind of selection of subject matter made by the photographer.

Krakow International Print Triennial

The Krakow International Print Triennial opens in September.

Three of my works will be exhibited there and in the following touring exhibitions in Vienna and Istanbul.  I’m very happy to say that Walking has won the Canson Polska Ltd Award, worth 5000pln.  It is the first state proof of an image I want to develop. The contrast should be greater. The scale also is not sufficient for the space here and, for practicality I varnished it and hung it unglazed. I hope to develop a better system of presentation for it.

Walking, archival inkjet print on Somerset Satin, 98 x 148cm

Dusk Man

Dusk Man is the name of an image that I have created a number of times in different scales and different media.  It was initially a small model on my studio window sill in UMass, Amherst.  I photographed it as the sky turned pink in the evening. The colour was amplified by the vast expanse of snow outside.  The image is symmetrical and parallel to the picture plane. A screen exists between the picture plane and the figure that has been folded horizontally and vertically.  This first image of Dusk Man is an intaglio printed by hand from two photopolymer plates.  It is a contemporary technique that mimics photogravure, one of the earliest forms of photography.  Photography has always been used to record people.  I want to create a suggestion of something real but, at the same time, to produce an ambiguity that causes the spectator to work: to wonder what kind of reality they are looking at.