|Eastern Amberwings II. Moku Hanga by Ken Januski, copyright 2020. 8x10 inches.|
I've just finished the second of two Moku Hanga based on Eastern Amberwing dragonflies. Above is the second version. I got the idea for it as I was printing the background blue for a second time on the first version(below) and accidentally printed it upside down. I'd done the same thing on my recent Golden-crowned Kinglets Moku Hanga and both times was intrigued by how it changed the print.
This time I decided to finish the first print without the upside down overprinting. But when I'd finished the edition I kept wanting to explore the overprinting and see where it would lead.
One of the odder things about both prints is that the first print is printed on much better paper than the second. And yet the first print looks sloppier, especially in the background. So at the moment I much prefer the second more abstract print. But it's possible another printing of the first would make it look stronger.
Something I continue to realize about my work -- it almost catches me by surprise -- is that I really don't like traditional space in my own work. Perhaps this is just a matter of the influences of the time when I first started making art. Much twentieth century art rebelled against a confined flat space in painting, particularly an illusionistic one. Instead either complete two dimensional flatness with no hint of depth was admired or more of a pulsating space, as for instance in Piet Mondrian or Stuart Davis where various parts of the canvas/picture, no matter how abstract, seemed to intermittently call out for attention. Similar to the latter I think was the popularity of collage where fragments of different pictures or representations were pasted together to create something new.
Though I did go through an abstract period of wanting absolute flatness and no hint of space I've always been more attracted to the broken, often pulsating space of collage or painters like Stuart Davis. Perhaps if I'd never left the small town I grew up in and had spent less time in large cities my perspective would be different. Certainly large cities do have a more pulsating environment with something new always catching your attention.
And yet when I look, very briefly, at video games or even commercials during some televised sporting events their wild cacophony and chaos make the pulsating space of Mondrian and Davis look positively bucolic. That type of non-stop activity seems to me to lead to mental chaos. No wonder so many people have short attention spans.
But I digress!!!!! I really went through all of that to explain why I have what may seem to some to be a perverse desire to ruin a good picture. Again this reminds me of painters who made sure that their paintings, even when realistic, showed signs of process, most noticeably in paint drips. And of course paint drips eventually became one of the biggest cliches in modern art. It's hard to say how much coming of age when showing process was de rigeur in art has influenced my own ideas of what art should be. But I'm sure I still have a bias for signs of process and for collage.
All I can say is that there is an intuitive desire to prevent my own work from having a space that seems too confined, too settled. So I often do things to prevent that. I do it because is seems right to me. It gives the picture the ability to breathe, not to be claustrophobic.
So when I mistakenly printed the background upside down in my last too prints I was very happy with the result. It seemed to open up the space in both, to give the prints some room to breathe. But that in itself doesn't make a good painting or print. It can just look completely out of place. So for me the challenge of the second Eastern Amberwings print was to develop the broken background with the rest of the print so that it all looked cohesive, like it belonged together. That is what I think I've done.
I have great admiration for many artists who work with traditional space. But for me I always get a bit antsy when I see it in my own work. There is a desire to try for something else.