Collaborative Print Studio Project
A little over a year ago I began discussing the possibility of producing a print edition with the artist Stanley Donwood as part of CFPR Editions. A year later we were pleased to edition two new laser engraved artworks (February Holloway, 2013 & Wait here we will come for you, 2013) that later coincided with Donwood’s Solo exhibition ‘Far away is close at hand in images of everywhere‘ at the Outside Gallery, Soho, London 2013.
Intro to the project
The project was developed from a body of work described by the artist as his ‘tree period’ and inspired by Holloways (hidden country footpaths) and other arboreal scenes; this work is also featured in a bestselling book of the same name and formed the artwork for Radiohead’s latest record, The King of Limbs. So just to clarify Holloway lanes are characterised by an over-arching avenue of fauna that creates a natural tunnel effect. ‘In the lead up to making these pieces I became fascinated with the idea of a cathedral of sound,’ says Donwood. ‘I was working with Radiohead on the record that was to become The King of Limbs, and my early hearings of the music seemed to suggest an over-arching canopy of detail.’
Whilst working on the Holloway book, Donwood slept overnight under some of the canopies in south Dorset, most of which have since been cut down. He then drew the canopies from memory back at his studio. It was this body of arboreal drawings that were used as a starting point to develop Donwood’s edition with CFPR Editions.
For those of you who may not know Stanley Donwood he is best known for his work with the band Radiohead who he has created artwork for since the group’s inception in 1985. Donwood and frontman Thom Yorke met at Exeter University and the two are often thought to be one and the same, despite accepting a Grammy award together for the band’s packaging in 2002.
When approaching an artist about producing a print edition our studio approach often begins by showing the artist a process, material or tool that they may not have encountered before. This technically led approach can sometimes offer a different, new or novel option for the artist and is often considered to be the main collaborative contribution of the editioning studio. In most cases the studio’s affiliation with print process is a pragmatic one yet this form of practice based activity often initiates dialogues that reveal rich insights about the artists practice and the realisation of printed matter.
This practice based engagement with making and production considerations has become central to CFPR Editions philosophy and subsequent area of contribution concerning; the production of digitally mediated artworks and the fostering of practice based insights within this emerging arena. With this in mind (and given that Donwood has produced both mechanical and digital prints in recent years) I hoped to develop a project that would offer the artist a different digital process but perhaps more importantly a resulting image where the binary fused with the organic.
As previously mentioned the dialogue between studio and artist is central to developing further insights about the discipline of printmaking and I therefore felt it only necessary to ask the artist about his interest/observations/ position /relationship with new and old technologies. The artist offered the following thoughts,
‘Each generation is seduced to an extent by the technology of it’s own time; if our civilisation doesn’t collapse in the near future there will presumably come a time when 3D printing is perceived as quaint and old-timey.
I think that when what we see as ‘technology’ first began to develop at a rapid pace, during the Industrial Revolution, people saw a dizzying parade of developments in almost every field. Suddenly there were machines for everything from sewing to locomotion, and I suppose that something of that almost magical essence remains present in the cast iron of printing presses, steam engines and so on.
There’s a sense in which that level of technology is ageless; if something breaks any semi competant engineer can figure out what’s gone wrong and then fix it. If we are no longer able to generate sufficient electricity it won’t matter, as these machines were never designed with electricity in mind. There are no silicon chips.
There’s also the problem of mathematics and the binary nature of digital technology. Digits are what we have attempted to replace everything with, but the things, objects, and aesthetics we are demanding were never digital to begin with, and something unnameable in the human spirit is well aware of this. People instinctively prefer the human-generated curves of a classic car; the sweep of the arm is more beautiful than a digitally created vector.
I could go on and on, but I have now put on my tshirt that says DON’T GET ME STARTED’.
To be continued…
A quick overview of the production
The engraved editions (February Holloway & Wait here we will come for you) were developed from two separate pencil and ink drawings that the artist had produced prior to discussing any potential editioning of the images. In this instance the CFPR Editions team were supplied with high res scans of the drawings that were then digitally adjusted for the laser cutting process. As part of the proofing procedure the digital files were engraved in to a number of paper substrates that produced varying tactile and tonal qualities – through different paper manufacturers, weights and colours. This paper testing procedure offered a number of qualitative material considerations for the engraved image and gave the first indications as to how certain hand drawn qualities had been recorded, translated and rendered for the new eidtioned work. Once the paper tests were complete the digital files were then rendered as ‘raster engravings’ – taking around 6 hours to cut and produced as a limited edition of 6 artworks on paper.
Upon viewing the completed raster engravings Donwood commented that, ‘the results are quite mesmerising; to me it looks as if trained paper-eating bacteria have been told to make a picture. The vaporised images look very organic.’
Technical laser bit
The laser process uses carbon dioxide that is excited in a chamber. Emerging as light from an aperture in the chamber, the beam is focused by a series of mirrors, a lens and through a nozzle down to a thickness of approximately 0.2mm. When the beam comes in to contact with a material it cuts through by vaporising it. The nozzle moves across the surface of the material on an x and y axis that allows designs to be cut or engraved with a high level of accuracy and complexity in a variety of materials. In summary this specific laser cutting technology involves the use of a powerful laser to cut, etch or engrave into textiles, paper, card, plastics, vinyls, glass and some types of wood. A computer controls the path of the laser over the bed to melt, burn or vaporise the material.
CFPR Editions would like to thank Verity Lewis for her assistance with editioning, documenting, marketing and over all enthusiastic contribution to the project. Also Sarah Barnes and Tom Sowden for their technical advise with the laser cutting process. I would also like to say a special thank you to Stanley Donwood for his poetic engagement with the translation process and general enthusiasm around the possibilities for the work – that made the collaborative relationship all the more enriching for the editions team.