Monday, March 16, 2015

phase 6 - each art-thing is a responsibility, on-going

The theme for this post is magic. If it seems odd, working on phase 6 concerning art-responsibility to be bringing up the importance of magic - bear with me :)...

Let's start with this fabulous creation -  one of my favorites, Albrecht Durer's Hare,  (also called Young Hare, and Wild Hair) from 1502:

This piece has been on my mind as I've been thinking about this year's Christmas prints - collages of individualized linocuts of animals. The pieces turned out well, and I'm proud of them.... but there's an issue having to do with phase 6 and magic.  

Making these pieces is a labor intensive process (no surprise there) - I hand printed the blocks, drew on them, cut them out, and collaged them. Even after cutting the block, each piece takes about 5-8 hours (not counting the time it has to sit under weights and depending how complex cutting it out is, how much drawing, and how many elements there are).

Therefore, a group of 5 or 6 easily takes a big chunk out of a week. I'm happy to do this once a year out of love for family and friends, but working on phase 6, I've been realizing that I don't think it's going to work for me as a model on a broader scale. 

At first, I blamed myself for being inefficient, because, of course, I know ways to streamline the process; for example - if I did the same step for all the pieces at the same time. But to me, each piece is an individual, so I only work on as many as I can physically keep track of at once (usually 2, 3 at most), and move them through steps in small groups (2 printed and set aside, 2 being cut out, 2 under weights while the glue dries, 2 packed and signed, etc)

Looking at Durer's Hare, it occurred to me that the problem isn't that I couldn't make the process faster, because I could, it's that I wouldn't want what an expedited process would produce. The Hare  is magical. Even in the millionth reproduction on screen or badly printed on crappy paper, it brings to mind the beauty of the original. It resists being reduced to efficient adequacy, and I love it for that. 

Even if it's not possible, I want to try to make work that has magic like that. (Dumb as it seems, I'm not kidding about this -Walter Benjamin uses the more academically respectable term "aura" for the transference of geist/spirit from the artist onto the artwork, in "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" and maybe I'd be taken more seriously if I said [lifts chin and takes on academic accent:] "I want to retain the aura of the original" (Hahaha!) But really, it's all about magic - so let's call a spade a spade ;).

If magic is the goal, then greater efficiency is not helpful - even if it results in something that looks similar because it's not the same in this intangible way. I only want to make things that have the magic of something that was loved and cared for and had my full devotion while I was making it. 

This is not particularly convenient. 

It's been in the background of my mind since December - what can I do so that the large pieces lead to descendants without compromising the level of magic in the offspring or sacrificing too much time toward making new large scale pieces?

It came to me as a picture (like most good ideas - I woke up at like 5 am, and wrote it down - please excuse the pre-coffee messy handwriting).

The upper right is what I was doing with the Christmas edition - using the blocks that are part of the large pieces, but breaking with the process very early on. - I was not benefitting from the magic of the large pieces, only the labor that went into the raw materials of process (the blocks). But what if I broke off much later, so that I can start off building from the magic of the primary process? (ding, ding, ding!)
Thinking about the history of maps (that I've been reading about in "Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Dürer and Titian, ed. by Larry Silver and Elizabeth Wyckoff, 2008,) and how these pieces are about places, I think I have an idea for how to do this! It relates to the updated techniques chart from January, and the way the digital bubble changed - I think I can take digital photos of the finished piece, transfer them onto photopolymer plates, and then possibly hand color the resulting etchings (just like Late Gothic and Renaissance maps and playing cards!) Peeerfect!!

On the one hand, I feel like I may be going off on a tangent and getting over-art-excited, but on the other, this could be important if it frees me from needing to (try to) make the large scale pieces efficient/commercial (For the record - collages sewn together from multiple, intricately-carved linocuts do not lend themselves to efficiency - at all. I've tried, and no, just no. ;) ). If they could have descendants though....that would change things. The large pieces can be whatever they need to be, and then I can use digital photography and photopolymer etching to turn the photos into beautiful, unique, process-laden, finished pieces. 

I am so excited (!) 

I'm headed to Zea Mays this summer to work on photopolymer plates (going for it!) The mission until then will be to build things worthy of having plates made of them!

The question of how to turn finished things into new things or incorporate secondary processes wasn't all theory, I put it to the test right away and made these by carving a secondary window into the animal plates:

Then, why wait to get started? - going for a full-scale human, piece by piece...

A little teaser for how it might start to come together (and [not?] coincidentally, it includes a bunny - haha)