Thursday, January 16, 2020

Spacing Out with Moku Hanga, and Without

Original moku hanga of Golden-crowned Kinglets, by Ken Januski.  Copyright 2020.

I ended 2019 with a different version of this print. In fact this version was supposed to be the same, just on different paper. "The best laid plans of mice and men...", etc., etc. I had to mix up one new color because I didn't have quite enough of the color I'd used on the 2019  version of the print. Though it looked the  same in the paint pot it looked darker when actually printed. That combined with the neutral buff color  of the Nishinouchi paper on which it's printed compared to the bright white of the original print on Shin Torinoko  made me make one other color  change. That was the last color in blue/gray that overlaps and intertwines some of the other shapes.

I made that last change because I was afraid that the print was becoming too monotone, or monotous as you might say. In doing so I think I've made a bolder print, at least in terms of design, but it loses I think some of the luminosity of the first version.

So why even bother with a second version you might ask? Well it's mainly due to my old printmaking bugbear, technique, and more specifically smooth paint  coverage. Shin Torinoko is  a much more inexpensive paper than Nishinouchi. I was completely happy using it for non-moku hanga printing. But in all my use of  it in moku hanga it has turned out blotchier and less smooth than I'd like. Sometimes this is an appealing accident in that it creates to me an almost fresco-like quality. Of course I should add  that much of this could also be due  to bad technique on my part. But it does seem consistent with Shin Torinoko.

When I switch to Nishinouchi however  the  paint seems to go  on more smoothly and also with far less effort  on the part of me and the baren which I use to rub the paper into the wood block. I think that smoother surface shows up  here, though there are still a few uneven areas. I recently read that you can improve but never master tea, tai chi and tango. I'm familiar with the first two and it makes sense to me. With tango I reserve judgment. But I think you might also add moku hanga to the list. I'm a raw beginner at it but I've seen very accomplished  work. And yet I'd guess that the creators of that work would also say that there is always something more to be learned!

Full print with border of Golden-crowned  Kinglets Moku Hanga by Ken Januski.  Copyright 2020.

Above is another photo of the same print but this time I've included the border so that the color of the paper is more easily seen. And below, for anyone who's interested, a view of my makeshift moku hanga, and just about every other type of artmaking, studio.

All Nine Paint Pots Used in printing  the Golden-crowned Kinglets moku hanga, along with part of the edition. Printed  in 2020.

Ten Terns.Original Linocut by  Ken Januski. Copyright 2020.

I also sold an old print recently, followed by a sale of the first version of this print. The older print is above. I'm still quite fond  of it and I still recollect it's source: our first sighting of a Black Tern,  almost 10 years ago at Cape May Point State Park.

Besides wanting to show a print that I've recently sold I'm showing it  for another reason. When I first started doing wildlife art I hated working from photos, something I've disliked since a youth.  But I also realized that my work from life with wildlife was  extremely primitive!! I found that linocuts allowed me to be more abstract and also expressionistic while portraying wildlife. They allowed me to include subject matter but also to treat it more abstractly. Because I abstracted so much I was able to use photos.

But, as this print reminds me, I still used photos more than I wanted. They were always my own photos, never those of anyone else. So generally they had some emotional impact, perhaps partially just due to memory. Still it bothered me then to use photos and it still does.

This may just be a personal idiosyncracy. But it is definitely real on my part. Part of what bothers me I think is that I use the default definition of space that the photograph portrays. In this instance, these birds in front of those birds, etc., etc. My newest print at top though I think shows something different. There is I think a bit of warping of  space. It is more fluid.

Many years ago I interviewed Frank Stella by phone regarding his new book 'Working Space.' Though I'd never been thrilled with his  earlier work I was interested in his seemingly new interest in creating space in art and a harkening back to the work of  Peter Paul Rubens among others. I hate to say more because I read and reread the book so many years ago and interviewed him also so many years ago. But I mention it because I'd started to move away from flat space in my own abstract work. I'd even gotten so heretical as to include abstract shapes that might connote something real. And I'd recently seen the work of  Tintoretto at the Scuola  di San Rocco in Venice. It was a revelation  of paintings that seemed to take space as one of their main themes and then play with it.

I realize that for many this may seem hopelessly theoretical and in the weeds. So  I won't continue. I'm not doctrinaire about it. But almost by accident I found myself  more interested in creating a sense of space in flat painting at just about the time I was reading Frank Stella who seemed to have a similar  interest, though in his case it was wall sculptures rather than painting.

I think this interest has stayed with me and pops up in my work from time to time. When it does, as in the recent Golden-crowned Kinglets prints, it always goes away from photographic space toward a more plastic sense of space.

No comments: