Yesterday, we went to the Royal Academy to see the Modern British Sculpture exhibition. Or, as it should have been called, the "Modern" "British" "Sculpture" exhibition, with liberal use of ironic quotation marks.
It wasn't that "Modern": The exhibits included Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Greek sculptures, borrowed from the British Museum).
It wasn't that "British": As well as the Egyptian and Greek works, the exhibits included work by Carl Andre (American) and Jeff Koons (American).
And whether it was "Sculpture" depends on how you define sculpture: There were two Ben Nicholson reliefs (on the wall); a collection of "Page 3" pages from The Sun, also stuck on the wall; and a "recreation of a visitors' bench from an Caro exhibition", on which we were allowed to sit.
And I haven't even mentioned the Damien Hirst flies, or the pile of Malteser chocolates in little plastic bags. Or the blatant omission of anything by Antony Gormley or Anish Kapoor.
There was something in the little Weston Room which I can't even comment on because you had to look straight into a blinding spotlight.
Image (C) Copyright Royal Academy.
Fortunately, I think the word about how bad this exhibition was has got round; it was almost deserted of visitors.
I did quite like the Victor Pasmore installation though, probably because I'd just seen some inspiring Pasmore prints at Tate Modern.
Image (C) Copyright Royal Academy.
The exhibition continues until 7 April. Don't rush.
Another, more abstract, image based on Ashdown Forest, realised as a three-block linocut.
The first block is the paler pink (it's actually burnt sienna with lots of white); the second block is the darker pink; and the third block is the black. The "black" it actually black with quite a lot burnt sienna added: pure black is too cold and hard on its own.
Then I tried printing the blocks on coloured paper. The yellow makes the image much warmer.
I liked this, so I experimented a bit more. This time, I used another square of uncut lino to print a plain black background, and then printed the blocks in a different colours:
Another collagraphed landscape, and I'm at last getting somewhere that I want to be.
Except it isn't really collagraph: there wasn't any sticking. It's printed from strips of foamboard, which has two useful features: the smooth surface makes it easier to print flat even colours; and when you bend it, it creases, breaking up the surface and creating unpredictable textures.
Still fighting to get collagraph to "work". I managed to stick enough paper and string and card and foil and even leaves to a couple of backing boards to make a landscape.
I experimented with printing the first board in white ink onto coloured paper, the second board in black, and then stencilling a circle for the sun.
It's difficult to get enough ink onto the uneven surface of the collagraph plate; you can see how the density increases with successive prints, but it's possible to have some control over this with careful burnishing.
I tried collagraph: printing from found textures. You stick stuff onto a board, and then print from it. It's a lot more difficult than it sounds.
I printed an owl.
Paper owl. Collagraph, A3.
The printing plate is made from paper, kitchen towel, tin foil, corrugated card, kraft paper... anything I could find. The interesting thing about collagraph is that makes you see things differently: anything with a texture you pick up and think, "I could ink that".
But I'm yet to be convinced that all the work involved is worth it.
Looking for easier ways of applying colours to black-and-white linocuts, I tried the chine collé method which is more commonly used in etching.
I cut the tissue paper to shape, glued the back of it with PVA, put it on the inked linoblock, and then printed it.
It didn't work. Glue everywhere, except on the tissue paper, which floated and moved around.
Then I tried sticking the tissue paper to the printing paper. When it was dry, I printed the block on top. The extra thickness of the tissue paper made it more difficult to burnish, so I tried thinner printing paper. This was more successful. For this example, I used kraft paper instead of tissue paper.
Fiddling with tiny bits of tissue paper gets frustrating quickly. So I cut larger pieces, aligning them only roughly with the image.
This is starting to work.
Even better when I didn't trim the paper to the shape of the block.
This week at my printmaking class, everyone rose to the challenge of working with found textures. Starting with the principle that "If you can ink it, you can print it", we experimented with applying ink to as many different surfaces as we could find, and explored the best way of printing them, combining collagraph, stamping and transfer techniques.