The collaborative print studio has had a profound impact upon the production and realisation of some of the most innovative prints within the discipline of fine art printmaking. Traditionally these activities have centred upon the hand and mechanical print, two cornerstones of the fine art print industry that may have less persuasion in the digital age. With these historical print precedents as my point of reference and building off of my PhD (that centred upon practice led methods with artists producing inkjet prints) I wanted to begin exploring the broader production and realisation possibilities for the digitally mediated print edition. The contemporary print publishing market would provide the context to consider the output and role of such a publishing studio.
In early 2012 I submitted this idea as a proposal for an early career research grant that was then funded £14000 by UWE allowing me to instigate a collaborative digital print studio model and develop a publishing studio within the University. Between 2012 and 2016 I invited and worked collaboratively with fifteen artists, producing 52 separate editions that equated to 488 prints.
From a research output perspective the project has enabled me write six journal articles and present at three conferences (two international and one national). The generation of printed artworks allowed me to exhibit the work as a publisher (representing the CFPR) and as a curator of the Just Press Print show. In total I exhibit the collaborative productions at eight international and six national venues. I was also invited to speak about the research project at six international and eight national higher education institutions. The initiation and development of one particular artist edition led to two co-authored research projects that were awarded £11000 and £50000. The University publishing practice also afforded me to have two UWE internship positions during this time and I would therefore like to acknowledge the assistance of Verity Winslow and Meggie Wood. It is also worth noting that all of the print production and exhibition costs during this period were paid for by the sale of editions.
The publishing studio is still running today and is situated within the Center for Fine Print Research – and aptly named CFPR Editions. A large percentage of my projects with artists, research activity and art practice is informed by the digitally mediated print and subsequently the work produced through CFPR Editions has been instrumental in a large portion of the things you will find on this site.
Collaborative Print Project
After the successful printing of Richard Hamilton’s Typo-Topgraphy of Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass in 2004 the artist returned to the CFPR studio to produce a number of further inkjet printed works. The latter of these works was an ink-jet on canvas print entitled Shock and Awe 2010. The project was developed in conjunction with Hewlett Packard and the Getty Institute to create a specially manufactured ink-jet coated linen canvas for the output of Hamilton’s digital file.
Richard Hamilton’s son Rod Hamilton generated the digital image and the print proofing was undertaken at the CFPR. The proofing of the image on canvas was performed over a six-month period allowing for proportional revisions to the figure and colour alterations to the different Photoshop™ layers within the image. To monitor these alterations, a rigurous documentary procedure was used to archive each proofing stage, so that Hamilton could compare the different proofing states over the lengthy duration of the project.
The printings of the canvas also brought up further considerations for coating the ink-jet surface, as a means to protect the printed layer from scratches and enhance the colour of the image. The logistics for spray coating such a large surface area lead to further collaboration with the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and their coatings department.
By using the collaborative print studio method as part of a practice lead project, the artist’s aspirations for an ink-jet print have instigated the development of a new ink-jet substrate and an alternative to current canvas coating options within the fine art printing market. The project also demonstrated the identification and utilisation of external print production collaborators for the holistic practice of the fine art digital print studio.
Medium: Pigmented Inkjet Print
Substrate: HP Linen Canvas
Substrate Dimensions: Width 105.5 cm x 205.5 cm
Image Dimensions: Width 105.5 cm x 205.5 cm
Edition Size: 3
Collaborative Print Studio Project:
In 2007 I worked with the artist Neeta Madahar (represented by Purdy Hicks Gallery, London) on a two month long project that comprised of practices relating to photography, performance and printmaking. The collaborative project proposed by artists Neeta Madahar and Jo Lansley brought together their practices in photography and performance, the latter was led by Lansley and the photographic documentry component was undertaken by Madahar. The development of a print edition with the two artists discussed a number of image generation possibilities before deciding to focus on a recent project that they had undertaken that would be exhibited in Paris later that year. To begin the project Madahar brought a selection of 5 x 4 colour negatives to the studio that were to be used to begin the digital print project. From the selection, two negatives were chosen to be digitally recorded and enlarged to Madahar’s specifications for the final printed image. The project required two main production phases that included joining the separately photographed images and colour retouching the combined image.
Discussions concerning the marriage of the two digital images towards the creation of a single work examined the possibility of digitally merging the photographic images. The desired outcome was to produce a seamless photographic image rather than a print which had the appearance of a collaged photographic space.
A series of digital collage combinations were discussed and tested prior to printing the file. The initial discussions developed through e-mail correspondence and sketched instructions from Madahar regarding the methods for combining the digital files for a seamless photographic appearance. For an example of this discussion and sketch process see the following image and e-mail copy.
From the provisional tests, Madahar felt that the space presented in the image appeared contrived, this was partly due to the fact that the presentation method had not been considered when taking the photographs. After a number of variations were tested, Madahar decided that the separate images may be better presented as a diptych. Madahar referred to the panel works of David Hilliard as an alternative method for combining the separately recorded images.
The combining strategy meant that the images were printed separately although the adjustment methods for the printed proofs were considered collectively. This meant that the two prints had to look as if they were from the same timeframe, so that the quality of light and tonal information appeared consistent. To begin matching the tonal information between the two files, a number of colour adjustments were made to large areas of the images before the full-scale proof was produced. The proceeding adjustments made in response to Madahar’s assessment of the full-scale proofing gradually became smaller as the process was refined to specific locations of the image. The refinements to the smaller areas were proofed in strip sections to be compared with the previously full-scale printed image.
Madahar was only present in the studio on three occasions throughout the duration of the project, so in order to manage the studio time effectively, the proofed sections were printed ready for Madahar’s inspection on each visit. To manage the large number of printed proofs, each printed strip was labelled with information documenting the date, print parameters and Photoshop™ adjustment methods.
Recorded with traditional Photography formats, the digital rendering of Scape enables the work to traverse the fields of photography, painting and printmaking. The increase in scale of the 5 x 4 photographic image draws parallels with the scale of paintings, whilst the magnification of the colour negatives’ grain adds a painterly appearance to the surface of the photographic image. Together with the soft, matt-printed surface, the photographic image reflects printmaking’s interests in surface quality and the physicality of ink on paper.
The photographic recordings of the tableaux environments together with the image adjustments for the Scape image share similarities with digital retouching methods used in the fashion-advertising industry, for example tonal and colour adjustments used to enhance the appearance of an image. The two retouching methods only begin to differ in relation to the production and parameters of the printed artefact. Within a fashion context, retouching is often confined to a screen-based image and determined by the parameters of mass production printing for magazines and advertising displays.
Within a fine art print context, the retouching methods are intrinsically linked to the physicality of the image surface and the digital rendering of the image as a limited edition fine art print. The production process is also susceptible to the varying changes that are brought about through the artist’s decision making process.
I have always had a fascination with copies, reproductions, facsimilies, replica’s, translations and multiples in the visual art’s (and beyond). Perhaps an obvious link as to why I work in print. Anyway a few years ago I was incredibly fortunate to work on a fine art digital print edition with the late artist Richard Hamilton who (at the time) had created a digital drawing of Duchamp’s Large Glass work. More specifically Hamilton had constructed a graphic representation or ‘blue print’ of Duchamp’s image to be printed at a 1:1 scale.
For this project post I’m not going to discuss the printing of the file (you can find out more about the printing element in Chapter 5 in my thesis here), instead I want to discuss the reproductive procedures that Hamilton employed in the ‘remaking’ of Duchamp’s Large Glass – Painting / Sculpture.
Prior to the generation of the digital file, Richard Hamilton had collaborated with Marcel Duchamp between 1957 and 1965-6 towards the translation and reconstruction of Duchamp’s sculptural piece The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915 -1923. In 1957, together with the art historian George Heard Hamilton, Richard Hamilton began translating Duchamp’s notes from The Green Box (1934) into English, which were later published by Hamilton as The Green Book in 1960.
In 1965 Hamilton, aided by Duchamp, began a reconstruction of The Bride Stripped bare by her Bachelors for a Duchamp retrospective Hamilton would curate for the (then) Tate Gallery in 1966. The reconstruction was aided by the fact that Duchamp’s sculpture was too fragile to travel from its permanent installation in the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, USA.
Hamilton’s reconstruction took around a year to complete, prior to being signed by Duchamp at the opening of the exhibition in 1966. Using the previously translated notes as a guide, Hamilton sought “to reconstruct procedures rather than imitate the effects of action.” Subsequently the results of Hamilton’s approach does not afford a direct visual copy but a transcription of Duchamp’s making instructions. From this perspective, Hamilton’s reconstruction used the same materials as Duchamp’s Large Glass to replicate the original work rather than copy the effects of age.
The replication of colour in the Sieves for instance, was a system- based procedure using “’time’ and ‘dust’ to produce a transparent pastel colour”. Hamilton later used these kinds of colour descriptions when we were proofing the digital file at CFPR for Typo-Topography of Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass, 2003, requesting that colours be formulated as ‘chocolate’ or ‘lead’ in reference to Duchamp’s text. The print allows two separate works to exist together, the text from The Green Book and the image of the sculpture The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) 1915-23, reconstruction by Richard Hamilton 1965-6.
Going back some years with this print studio collaboration, and although inkjet technology has advanced somewhat I believe the projects sentiments are still valid: Thinking through making and working outside of industrially defined print parameters.
In 2003 I worked as the Master Printer on a residency program that was organised by the CFPR as part of an AHRC research funded project. The Master Printer role also extended to the reviewing of residency applications, which is when I came across Jack Youngblood’s work. Highlighted as an artist who would advance the CFPR’s knowledge for generating digital images were evident in the virtuoso qualities of his submitted work. Youngblood’s practice was originally based in painting before developing over a number of years towards digital processes. Because of this incremental development, and his experience with digital technology, Youngblood’s practice had now become based in digital technology whilst referring outwardly to other disciplines such as painting and photography.
The initial discussions for the printing of the Spate image took place during the production of The Exhausted Spaceman. Having made relatively swift progress with the printing of The Exhausted Spaceman there were a few days of the residency remaining for us to try proofing the Spate image. Prior to our work on the Spate project, Youngblood had described his disappointment with the lack of tonal depth in the darkest areas of the image in his previous attempts to print the digital file. This, I believed, was partly due to using a cotton-based paper, although Youngblood was insistent that this was the paper that was to be used for this image. The specific printed realisation for the Spate image had been put on hold until the technology either improved or a solution was found.
Youngblood’s original image for Spate was based on a traditional oil painting by Jacob van Ruisdael from c.1660, housed in the collection of Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. The elements that contribute to the composition of Youngblood’s image are obvious on comparison in the following images.
The clouds are replaced by a black, star-filled sky, generated in Photoshop™ with the aid of some celestial charts. The house in van Ruisdael’s painting has become the space module (downloaded from the Internet), which has been integrated with a range of land details from photos of actual moon missions, in particular Apollo 16. The surrounding cliff profile was kept as close as possible to the original painting’s view, with the river and trees transformed into rock formations. Each of these landscape elements was created in Bryce, a three-dimensional landscaping and animation programme. The software and its capabilities were best equipped to deal with the metamorphosis from one form to the other.
As with The Exhausted Spaceman, Youngblood had created a hugely complex image comprising of a mixture of imported files and generated components made within and outside the programme (see following selection of screen grabs from the process).
Prior to Youngblood’s residency, the CFPR had been experimenting with the possibility of multi-pass printing on a wide format inkjet printer. This required mechanically adapting the printer’s industrially designed function as a single pass printing device. The adaptation meant that the printer would be able to layer a succession of individually printed colours on top of one another, creating colours that could not ordinarily be achieved through the single pass process. The initial CFPR experiments concerned layering areas of flat colour on top of one another using a pin registration system (as used with traditional printmaking) that allowed for the specific placement of colour within the space of the paper. Although the multi-pass printing method had not been used for photographic imagery up until this point, I believed that the printing method would lend itself to solving the issues and concerns that Youngblood had with rendering his digital file for Spate as a printed artwork.
The needs of the artist and the project:
The hybrid multi-pass method that was used for the Spate image added a further dimension to Youngblood’s usual digital proofing strategy. The Spate print was created by separately printing two images with one image printed on top of the other. This method is similar to traditional printmaking techniques such as screenprint or lithography, where the separate layers do not work in isolation. The success of this process in digital print depends on the tonal and colour alterations made in Photoshop™- proofing through printing, and then subjectively assessing the quality of the work.
The final decision can only be made through the printing of both layers and the physical relationship that these layers have with one another. Proofing through looking at the image on a monitor does not offer enough information to make the final decision. The proofing of one image printed in this way was time consuming and required some ability to predict what one particular adjustment would produce once the second layer had been added.
Observations towards forming the collaborative strategy
Throughout the residency Youngblood worked intensely at the computer for long periods of time. This intensity was equally matched when revising the printed proofs, as Youngblood would produce sketches and notes of the digital alterations that were needed prior to returning to the image on the computer screen. The production of Spate was by no means straightforward, as the process was essentially new territory for both the artist and the CFPR studio. The proofing of the image in this way was time consuming and required plenty of speculative thinking when pondering how an adjustment to one of the Spate files would render within the double-pass printed image.
During the production of the Spate print, Youngblood and I discussed how the physical layering of ink on paper would dictate Youngblood’s adjustment methods and the successful blending of the two files as a printed image. For example, the order in which the files were printed, ink-drying time between printing, and airing of the paper prior to printing all played a significant role in ensuring that the two prints registered with one another.
The realisation of the Spate print was achieved through the assessment of Youngblood’s aspirations for the work, the utilisation of a bespoke digital printing method and the collaborative development of the process for a specific image. The Spate print was a particular project that pushed the boundaries of the CFPR’s knowledge and digital print methods, and was the closest to a collaboration of shared knowledge rather than a division of labour or simply technical assistance. The project started with a focus, a shared goal rather than pure experimentation.