Friday, March 20, 2020

Metamorphosing Amberwings and Background

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.

Eastern Amberwings I. Moku Hanga by Ken Januski, copyright  2020. 8x10 inches.

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.

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