Posts Tagged ‘black and white’

The Endless Transience of Being

September 3, 2015

sp-paint-seeking2

This blog may well have been in a state of inaction, but believe me I haven’t !  A new solo show titled The Endless Transience of Being opens tonight at Megalo Print Studio & Gallery.  Every show is important of course, but this one feels especially so.  It’s my first solo show in Canberra (where I currently live) since 2012, and the first big showing of a new body of work since a rather serious crisis of confidence and subsequent withdrawal from making much new work through 2013 and 2014.  Many artists suffer from a lot of uncertainty about the value of their own work, and whether it will be perceived by others in a way that even remotely matches how they themselves see it and its meanings.  The more personal the work, the greater the existential risk of course.  Well so far the feedback I’ve had on this show has indicated that the way other people interperate the work is quite within the bounds of where I wanted it situated, and if anyone has decided on the basis of the show that I might be a bit unhinged, they’ve kept it to themselves!

Noted art historian Sasha Grishin has published a review in the Canberra Times here.

McLean enjoys velvety blacks which have been pushed back with a cloth and brush to release brilliant contrasts, where white forms appear with an almost hypnotic intensity and develop a ghostly presence. Within this grid of monotypes there are some stark and beautiful images including Sacred grove and Fallen feather, which have a crispness of definition, while at the same time a certain sophisticated abstraction. It is this quality of something existing and being present, but within an undetermined passage of time, that seems to be implied in the title of one continuous meditation on the “transience of being”. The mood of the whole installation is slightly melancholic and sombre with rocks, water and the naked human flesh appearing as recurring elements. The whole installation could be interpreted as a young man’s meditation on being and time with a considerable dose of passion, angst and high romanticism.

I’m pretty happy with that!

Advertisements

Chalkboard 003

July 23, 2015

chalkboard003

These rough and ready quick chalkboard sketches were all done in one fairly short brainstorming session last night. I’ve got a solo show coming up soon, and want to make the main wall a grid of monotypes. I have a set of nine that I have shown before, as a single line of prints, but now I want to extend that series further and make a grid. The decision to hold the show was something of a short notice thing, and so now I’m planning on being quite busy with new monotypes over the next month. Hence returning to the chalkboard for brainstorming white drawings which mimic the way I like to make monotypes. Although I only had yellow chalk available for this lot.  Had a reasonably successful printing day today and made four prints, of which two might make it into the show. I started with “Luna” from last nights ideas, as something not too difficult to warm up on, and then a different image entirely not featured in the chalkboard drawings. Not a bad start I think.

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.

woodcut1

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).

more prints

June 27, 2012

 

 

The end of our residency here at Fiskars is looming rapidly, and so we have been working pretty solidly to try and get things done before our open studio show on Friday evening.  We have both been working on our various individual projects, like my little set of wood engravings, and Dave has been uploading new photo’s to Turnstile’s Shootin’ Gallery.  As well as all that, the main piece we are aiming to show we be a grid of 32 drypoint prints (with the odd relief printed collograph in there too), with each of us having contributed half the prints.  This is Dave’s first foray into printmaking since undergrad, so I’ve been helping him with all the inking and wiping a project like this entails.

Being on a short term residency in an unfamiliar place can call for some new approaches to things.  The ink I ended up with, was a Graphic Chemicals ‘Stiff Black’ etching ink.  It’s ok for wood engraving, but not nearly as foolproof as litho ink.  On the other hand it is way too sticky for wiping an intaglio plate – especially when you have been using the one piece of tarletan for way too long!  Lacking any plate oil, or ‘easy wipe’ compound, I’ve been adding a bit of the cheep oil paint that I picked up in the discount variety store in Karjaa one day.  I bought a little tube, not knowing what for, since there was a colour that matched the Falu Red colour of the houses.  Makes my black nice and warm.

Lots more prints to pull tomorrow, so I’d better get to bed.

If you happen to be in Fiskars this Friday (29th June) in the evening, 18-20, then do drop by at the Artist in Residence house to see the whole set!

 

 

island engraving

June 22, 2012

Eye Island, wood engraving,Peter McLean, 2012

This is the second of the wood engravings I have made in Fiskars, Finland.  A group of nearby lakes forms the shape of an eye on the map, and is my favourite area to go walking.  On my first visit there I was entranced by the light shinning behind this little tree filled islet.  Placing the image in the centre of this elliptical block of apple wood, the whole image has become rather eye-like.

I also posted a photo of this little island a while back on Four Feetour blog about the Fiskars Residency.

June 8, 2012

Ink on paper, Peter McLean, 2012

 

I’ve taken to drawing with ink and a skewer over the last week (no real reason, except the previous artist left some drawing ink behind, and the first likely implement that came to hand was some bamboo skewers in the kitchen drawers, this being the way artistic choices sometimes get made).  I loved the fluidity of this scene, where the undulating land, patches of forest and irregularly shaped cultivated fields intersect.


%d bloggers like this: