Tuesday, 26 February 2019

"Forest has the Blues" - NZ Clematis Linocut

"NZ Clematis - Puawhananga" (detail)
Linocut by Toni Hartill

2019 has begun, for me, with a steady graft towards an array of upcoming deadlines.
One of the biggies for this year is an all-new-look presentation of the group show 
"Forest has the Blues"
- coming July, 2019 at the Steel Gallery, Franklin Arts Centre, Pukekohe.

Our team of artists are again collaborating towards this year's event which includes an even larger installation than last year's, in a completely different colour palette and style, plus a collection of exhibited works by each of the seven artists. This year we are also including 2 groups of students from 2 Auckland secondary schools: Pukekohe High School and Westlake Girls High School. 

To view previous posts about last year's "Forest has the Blues" exhibitions 
or click on the link in the right hand "Exhibitions" column.

I will write more about the kaupapa (purpose) of the project in coming blogs but for now I thought I'd share my progress thus far on a new large linocut I have created with the installation in mind.

 Last year I created a even larger linocut of the invasive weed the moth plant, complete with nasty ol' seed pods. I think, despite its invasive nastiness its a rather pretty plant with its grey green foliage and its unusual sculptural white flowers. However, we are not meant to admire it - we are meant to rip it from the earth and destroy any we see - pods, roots and all!

This year, for a complete contrast, I thought I'd move to the bright side and create one of my favourite native plants: the NZ Clematis. This plant likes to have its roots sheltered in the cool shade but reaches for the skies forming a lush display of starry white flowers above the canopy of the forest - a much more uplifting metaphor!


 As always, beginning a new project after a hiatus from using a particular technique, I feel the fear of failure looming over my shoulder. Carving an image  which will be read in just one colour does not come naturally to my brain and it takes quite a bit of psyching to be able to think in terms of positive/ negative, light/ dark, near/ far, etc. Anyway, best way forward, I find, is to begin with a detailed drawing, then simply dive on in and hope for the best! 

My greatest apprehension with trying to render a clematis flower was how to tackle the complicated centre structure. I began with some close up sketches to grasp the idea then experimented on some scrap lino til I was able to simplify the positive and negative areas in a way that still "read" correctly.

A super exciting moment is always proofing the lino for the first time. 
This is also a chance to stand back and view the image for a couple of days to contemplate if it all reads as I'd hoped or if any further carving is necessary. (I also worry that I could just as likely ruin it by making changes - this can be a bit of a stressful, dithering stage for me!)

" NZ Clematis - Puawhananga" (detail)
Linocut by Toni Hartill

 I was reasonably happy with the image at this point so I decided to "whip up" a small edition 
 in black (as it was looking quite striking, if I do say so myself... and before I risked ruining it!) 
By the way, I rarely use black in my work and actually this (like most of my work) was never intended to be printed in black.

Next step was to test it in pale blue as I had envisaged it for the installation.

Hoo-hoo, another of my favourite things to do
is to roll new ink onto a clean lino block!
Reminds me of those magic colouring books we had when I was a kid
- just add water and an image appeared - only this is much better, 100 fold!

Next task was to print multiples of the image in pale blue...

and then to cut them all out.

Lastly I need to decide on how they can be installed en masse 
by experimenting on my studio pin-board.

 Plenty of time to to let ideas percolate 
so in the meantime they are quite happily
blooming on my wall.

Cleaned Clematis lino block - by Toni Hartill.

Updates on further progress
"Forest has the Blues" 
to come
 so watch this space.

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