Posts Tagged ‘binary’

chalkboard 002

August 16, 2013

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You will recall, that I made myself a new chalkboard way back last summer.  The idea of the chalkboard is that it is a way to ‘free up’ drawing practice.  By using such an inherently ephemeral medium, not intended to be kept as a finished ‘work’ takes away all sense of anxiety over how a proposed drawing might turn out.  Trouble is, this process does its job all too well and so I end up making a drawing I like and wish I could keep.  So, this drawing was made last summer, and has just now been washed off, but not before a new version has been produced as a woodcut.  A woodcut is of course a very different medium to a chalk drawing, and so off course they are quite different images.  To see the woodcut, you had better take yourself along to the next show at The Left Hand Gallery in Braidwood, NSW.  Open on weekends, 24/25 August, 31 Aug/1st Sept, 7/8 Sept.  As Julian Davies, the resident curator at The Left Hand says of relief prints, “Once something is sliced away it cannot be put back. This is way of making pictures that asks for daring and imagination.” So the antithesis of a chalkboard really.

 

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woodcuts, Dürer and the desperate man

June 13, 2013

durer

I’ve been looking at a lot of Albrecht Dürer images lately.  I acquired a secondhand book about Dürer recently, and I already had a book of the etchings and engravings.  One day I must get the companion book of the woodcuts.  I’ve also been able to see some of the woodcuts ‘in the flesh’ a couple of days ago, since the Queensland Art Gallery has the entire Apocalypse series, plus a few other woodcuts, on display at the moment. (on show until 21st July 2013).  Dürer is of course, one of the greats of Western art history.  Born in 1471 in Nurenburg, he was part of the great revolution in image making and distribution brought about by the development of the Gutenburg Press around 1450.  One of my favourite Dürer images is the one above, sometimes titled ‘The Desperate Man’, though Dürer himself gave it no title.  It is not a woodcut, but an etching done in iron plate, and possibly his first use of this medium which was in it’s infancy at the time.  So, with all this as background, and having just bought some ply wood with the intention of making some new woodcuts, and armed with the love of reversals and contradictions perhaps common to printmakers, I set about making a new work based on The Desperate Man.

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So, in making a woodcut homage to one of Europe’s first great woodcut artists, I’ve chosen to base it on one of his etchings – a medium he seems to have made infrequent use of (there are many intaglio prints by Dürer – mostly engravings).  When I teach relief printing, I seem to end up talking a lot about ‘black line’ and ‘white line’, and indeed I thought about this again in making this print (and I wrote about black line way back here).  You see, when Dürer made woodcuts, along with those that followed for many many years, his designs were ‘black line’.  An image would be drawn on the wood in black ink, and then the negative spaces lowered by carving, so that the lines would be left in raised relief (and hence the term relief printing) where they would receive black ink to then be transferred to paper.  Lately I’ve been preferring to make images with a ‘white line’ approach, thinking of the marks made by the carving tools as positive white lines on a black ground, coalescing to create and image delineated in white lines.  This doesn’t alter the nature of the way the process works – it is still the raised areas that receive and transfer the black ink, it’s just a different way of thinking about the creation of the image.  A lot of my recent images have been made in this way, from drawing with white chalk or pastel on black paper, to the monotypes of white clouds and skulls hovering in black spaces.  Indeed with this new print of The Desperate Man, I have continued my recent liking for bleed printing, that is printing right to the edges of the paper rather than leaving a white border.  I think this enhances the idea of the white line, making up the white object floating in a black field.  Viewers are sometimes fooled into thinking these prints are printed in light ink on dark paper, so used are we to the idea that the ‘negative space’ of an image equates to being ‘left blank’.  I love to watch that moment of confusion as people viewing these works figure out the mechanics.  To come back to that idea of printmaking being an inherently contradictory beast, this is indeed the case with a relief print, in the sense that the areas that print are those where no carving has taken place, but this is often masked in the way the conceptualy active parts of a design often seem to be made up of the blacks.  In a black and white image of course, as with any binary system, one side cannot work without the other.

Confusing?  Perhaps now you feel like The Desperate Man.

The Desperate Man (after Dürer), Woodcut, Peter McLean, 2013

The Desperate Man (after Dürer), Woodcut, Peter McLean, 2013. Printed in black ink on grey stonehenge. 28x65cm

(Yes, I know, I’ve left out his head. All the better to display the wonderful pose of the hands, which somehow makes me think of Child with a Toy Hand Granade by that rather more modern master image maker of humanity, Diane Arbus.  The Queensland Art Gallery, incidentally, also has some Arbus photographic prints on display at the moment).

last days for ‘In Place’

February 7, 2013

There are only a couple of days left of my exhibition In Place at Brisbane Institute of Art.  It is by far the biggest show I have put on to date, with 63 items listed in the catalogue, including prints, drawings and artist books. I will be in the gallery again on Saturday from 10-4 if anyone wants to come and ask questions, hear my spiel, or bring me tasty treats like Cecily and Elliot did last week – thanks so much, it was very yummy.

A few more gallery install shots for those who couldn’t make it.

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skull

lace bark

January 3, 2013

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Walking in Conondale National Park recently, one of the many delights to be seen was the large flowers of Lacebark (Brachychiton discolour) trees, scattered on the forest floor.  Lacebark are a large rainforest tree which at this time of year, along with their better known cousins the Flame Tree, are almost leafless but covered in spectacular flower.  Being usually very tall and often emergent from the top of the canopy, it is quite difficult to see the flowers looking up into the tree, but they make an impressive display on the ground when they drop anyway.  The underside of the flower was particularly inspiring with the contrasting dark and light pink, so a little ephemeral land art was in order.

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A little later there was an even more spectacular carpeting of flowers beneath one of these forest giants, but it was time to push on with the days walk towards a swim at ‘Artist’s Cascades’.

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the creative face of New Zealand

March 29, 2012

 

I haven’t shared many images from my recent travels in New Zealand – and there are plenty that fit into the eclectic parameters of Art out and About.  Like these delightfully modernist faces painted onto the cross sections where branches have been pruned off trees.  Like so much of this type of creative output, they were in something of a random spot.  Just a bit of a track beside the road where I decided to stop and take a few photos of the coastline, and I was rewarded with these faces.  I don’t remember a name for where it was, but it was just south of Dunedin.  I found many such traces of creative activity out and about in New Zealand, and often having taken on a greater significance when subsequent travellers (for it seemed like it was mostly travellers out on the roads in the South Island) would take their cue from an existing creative work of some kind and repeat it so the motif was displayed on mass.  Perhaps this will all make more sense as I share some more in future posts.  For now I hope you enjoy these faces of perhaps ambiguous expression.

 

site

October 30, 2011

Posts have become sparse lately, a symptom of having too much fun travelling and exploring.  Recent weeks have allowed the resumption of an ongoing project that has been latent for too long.  Whenever I camp, I take a photo of  my tent to represent each nights camp.  Just now I am wondering if this project has a title?  I haven’t considered it before, since so far it hasn’t had any physical outcome, just a growing file of photo’s to be used for something one day.  They are closely tied to some past drawings titled ‘sites of occupation’ which also documented camping sites, so perhaps it is part of a larger project under that banner.  Like much of what I do, these photo’s, taken as a set, contain interesting binaries.  In this case, the consistency of my familiar* set of camp equipment contrasts with the changing locations and my old theme of Nature/Culture is there too of course.  So, as I sit in the Auckland Library, having just arrived in New Zealand, here is the USA subset of tent photo’s.

 

(*those few readers who are very familiar with my two old tents may have noticed I have splurged on a new one! A two man ultralight from Big Agnus with a sagebush coloured fly.  The orange tent belongs to my fellow traveller for part of the way)

it comes it goes, but it’s always lurking

September 12, 2011

The Fog!  Of course the San Francisco region is famously foggy, and West Marin is no exception.  Sometimes it comes sneaking down the long narrow Tomales Bay, following the line of the San Andreas Fault.  Sometimes it comes streaming up over the Inverness Ridge driven by a cool breeze off the ocean.  Sometimes it is clear and sunny with not a cloud in sight, but you know the fog is waiting just off shore, ready to reclaim the airspace once the day cools or the wind changes.  How could I spend time here and not try to capture this ever-present but ever changing element of the landscape.

Fog drawings are chalk on black paper, and on the white paper are charcoal drawings focussing on the forest shadows.  Each sheet is 56×76 cm half sheet of stonehenge.

forest tunnels

August 11, 2011

clouds on a black sky

May 27, 2011

I know the blog has been pretty quiet of late, and I apologise to regular readers.  I hope a few of you at least has persisted and check back in now and then, secure in the knowledge I’d eventually get back to posting.  Rest assured I have been busy, in fact blog posts are probably somewhat inversely proportional to general business.

Peter McLean, Untitled (clouds), 152cm x 56cm, monotype, 2011

One recently emerging project is large monotypes, continuing on the themes of clouds and skulls.  I think I have written about skulls and bones here before, but why clouds?  For a lot of the same reasons really.  Clouds are ephemeral of course, coming and going with every one unique, and yet adhering to recognisable forms.  And where do these forms come from?  The interactions of physical materials (water vapour, ice crystals etc) and nature’s processes (convection, condensation etc.) all operating beyond ordinary perception leaving us these fleeting objects in the sky which often promise but don’t always deliver life-giving rain.

Monotypes are a form of printmaking, though unlike most print forms can not be made as multiples.  Flat plates of metal, glass or perspex form the matrix on which the image is drawn in stiff ink.  The positive image can be applied to the plate using brushes, rags or a range of implements, or ink can be applied to the entire plate with a roller and a negative image drawn by removing the ink through similar means.  This second approach is the one I have been using.  While monotypes can be printed by hand, the best results are achieved by passing the plate and paper through a press in a similar way to an etching.  I’ve been using the Hilton electic press at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Canberra, which is just big enough to allow me to print up to a full sheet of Hahnemuhle paper edge to edge.

Inking up on the Hilton press at Megalo Print Studio

feather circle

May 22, 2011


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