Monday, 22 August 2016

A Knavish Lad: artwork from the exhibition

My exhibition A Knavish Lad featured the largest piece of book art I've created to date: a wordless, visual retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Today I thought it was time to give a bit of space on this blog to the other pieces of artwork from the exhibition, as there was so much etching involved!

The first few etchings taken from the plates after aquatinting them came out so well that I decided to create a small limited edition of nine from each of them.  Each of these prints has been printed in black intaglio ink on Hahnemuhle paper.  They were the first prints taken on the plates after the aquatint had been scrubbed off, and the tonality on them is wonderful - none of the colour prints I subsequently took from these plates seem to match up to the contrast achieved on these first monochrome prints:

Inking up and removing ink from the zinc plate with scrim
Running plate through press
first proof from the second plate

It took over two years to build up enough visual material for this project.  Research for it took me in to the woods of Northumberland's National Park with a sketchbook; to pouring over Victorian flower dictionaries; and to looking up indigenous costumes and headdresses of far off places. The Beltane Fire Society was consulted for their library of books on costume, and there were numerous conversations with a certain English teacher on the text and the characters.

'Methought a serpent eat my heart away'

The text's imagery informed a lot of detail in the etchings, especially in regard to animals, flowers and plants.  For instance in the scene when Hermia awakens, she speaks of a dream where a serpent had devoured her heart, and a small reference is made to this in the bottom right hand corner of the second print.  (An apple was substituted for a heart.)

Act I Scene I

The Roman gods Diana and Cupid are referenced many times in the play, and especially in the opening scene.  I didn't want to include them as characters anywhere in the etchings, as I felt that it would look too obvious.  Each of them appears in the opening scene as a laser-cut silhouetted statue, looking on while Helena sits alone underneath.

Puck closes the play by addressing the audience directly - the only character in the play to do so.  As a result I let him be the only character who makes direct eye contact with the viewer.

I could go on about the characters for longer, but I won't do it here.  However I can't finish this post without talking a bit about one of the most central characters, the instigator of the play's magic and mayhem...

Oberon, one of two prints 
Etched illustration on zinc plate

Above is a separate character portrait I created of Oberon.  He thieves like a magpie; he acts out of jealousy; and (believes himself to be) a cuckold.  I imagine that he is the sort of character who might have a collection of stolen, shiny objects in his possession, which is why magpies became his motif and they appear in a couple of Oberon's scenes:

These last few framed etchings in the exhibition are my favourites.  They are also very precious because they cannot be printed again, thanks to a series of accidents in the print room with the plates.  Only a few copies of each print available:

Oberon; one of two prints

Etching of Bottom and Queen Titania; one of two prints

One-off etching 

The exhibition A Knavish Lad is on at McNaughtan's Bookshop and Gallery in Edinburgh until Friday 30th September 2016.

If you'd like to know more about any of the artwork or have questions about any of it, then drop me an email or leave a message in the comments section below!

Friday, 12 August 2016

A Midsummer Night's Dream: new book art

This latest piece of book art is finally complete!

A Midsummer Night's Dream is retold as a wordless narrative using a combination of old and new technologies: intaglio printmaking and laser cutting.  The result is a panoramic piece of book art that visually narrates the story and draws inspiration from the imagery of the text.

The book itself will be in a very small edition of only seven (eight including the display copy pictured here).  The display copy of it is currently on display as part of my exhibition A Knavish Lad at McNaughtan's Bookshop and Gallery until the end of September.  The exhibition also includes framed work, etchings, laser cut art and a black and white (pre-aquatinted) version of the book, which I will share more on in another post.

Enjoy the photos!  Any questions, comments or queries about the artwork are all welcome.
The finished book (on wall) measures over 2 metres in width