The matrix is the heart of printmaking. Taking print outside the frame calls for a reconsideration of how the matrix, and thus the multiple image, functions within our practice. I experiment with multiplication of form, engaging the matrix as a modular base to create installation components. Using woodcut to create wallpaper and to work with prints in both flat and sculptural states, including geometric forms and sculptural bee prints, I explore how using elements in mass creates an immersive experience responsive to the particular qualities of the installation site. Further use of print as a collage element in mixed media work examines how connections are made between thematically similar works. I explore issues of inheritance and memory, so this use of the multiple image allows me to revisit and examine how images interact and “speak” to each other. In print, the work stands as both an original and one of a set of identical impressions. As I exhibit my artwork and teach my students, I continue to ask and explore how the matrix is the root of what we do as printmakers- and how embracing the dual nature of unique impression and multiple image opens up possibilities within our work.
Framing Interference: Abundance and Loss. Print Based Installation, 2018
One of the most interesting aspects of working with prints is that the image exists in multiple, allowing the opportunity to investigate the effect of repetition in the work. Restating adds emphasis, while also alluding to recurrent thoughts and patterns of behavior. The concept of the print as both a piece of original art and one of many identical impressions is a result of the function of the matrix. The act of pulling identical- or nearly identical- impressions from a master image sets us apart from disciplines -such as painting and drawing-where a singular object is the result of the artist’s labor. Indeed, the majority of my time as a printmaker is spent engaged with the creation of image in the matrix- pulling impressions becomes an act of production.
Traditionally, and as I was taught as a young printmaker- the goal is the edition. This understanding of the print as a flat work on paper highlights the print as a means of distribution of information. The focus on an edition of identical impressions seems to focus on ideas facilitating the distribution of prints to collectors, galleries and curators. Yet there are many ways to engage with the idea of the multiple image beyond ensuring that more people, in more places, can lay hands and eyes on the image. I began to ask myself- how does the matrix, and its possibility to enable creating multiple identical impressions, function beyond the replication of an image? What happens when we regard it as a module?
By considering the matrix as a module, I am refocusing the purpose of the multiple image from reproduction to multiplication. This has taken me into engagement with three dimensional print work and the creation of immersive print installations . My interest in these forms began with polyhedral shapes.
It was important to me that the print worked visually in both its two dimensional and three dimensional aspects. While the intent was always to hang the resulting forms in clusters, I wanted to also show framed impressions of the flat prints, inviting the viewer to make the connection between the two states of the print. For this project, the matrix became both a mode of replication and a deconstruction of a dimensional form. Using tracing paper to shift my drawing and“wrap” my composition across the future seams and joints of the shape, I was able to think dimensionally while designing the flat surface.
2D and 3D Icosahedron, Analemma. Linocut. 2017
An interesting thing happens as groupings of these forms grow. Each piece of the installation builds on the momentum of the entire set, until the viewer becomes surrounded by the shapes. While one of the polyhedral prints is interesting, and two or three become a conversation of the space between them, the entirety of the installation begins to bring awareness to each print in the install in a different way: Each component becomes an element in relation to each other element. The physical spaces between the prints becomes as important as the compositional spaces within the prints.
Bee Matrix. Woodcut Block, 2016
BeeBall. Woodcut print sculpture.
12" x 12" x 12" 2017
Right: Bee Wallpaper, 2018
Far Right: Dyed and Tesselated Paper 2018
Using the ideas started with the polyhedra, I next began to investigate woodcuts of sculptural bees. Beginning with what I learned about pattern making and the development of a two dimensional scheme that becomes a three dimensional form, I developed a geometric deconstruction of a honeybee. Translating this to my woodblock, I approached the matrix from a more practical standpoint: What is the most efficient way of printing components for these bees? Paper size and composition of the block were developed so that the parts for four individual bees were created with each impression pulled. Here, the matrix was never intended to be an artwork on its own- it is all about the function of creating multiple components for installation.
The more bees I make, the more interesting the resulting installations become. Shadows come into play, as well as wrapping placement of the components about the topography of the space. As I continued to work, I brought the bees back to the polyhedra, creating a free hanging “Beeball”-A cluster that serves as a visual bridge between the two projects.
Looking at the masses of bees creates a visual “humm” The sense of buzzing becomes stronger as more elements are added- but crafting the sculptural bees was so time and labor intensive, It would be years before I was able to create a space you could walk into and be surrounded by. I asked myself how to push the sense of overload in my installation, and I returned to the matrix. How else could I create a space that becomes immersed in the multiple? The answer was wallpaper.
Printmaking rewards time investment. If I create a drawing that is 30” x 43”, and I spend 100 hours on that drawing, It would take me an additional 1400 hours to create the 15 total drawings necessary to cover a space of twelve feet by twelve feet- one decent sized gallery wall. By investing 100 hours into carving a matrix from which I can pull a print every ten minutes, I get the same visual impact after only two and a half additional hours. The project has moved from one that would take 35 work weeks into one that can be accomplished in three weeks time. - suddenly the task isn't quite so daunting.
For this particular component, I wanted to avoid the regularity of the repeating pattern. I didn't want the viewer to register, even unconsciously, the grid that is formed. I solved this by creating a module that isn’t a module- one that doesn’t match up to itself. Each pull is a self contained bunch of bees. In order to completely cover the space, each print is trimmed and collaged to overlap and fill gaps in the design- creating a subtly shifting irregularity within the overall installation that more naturally mimics the clustering of bees in the hive.For the printed paper draping, I again looked at my matrix: how is it functioning within the printing process? What is my treatment of it allowing me to accomplish? Where I had avoided the regularity of the repeat in the wallpaper, I wanted to embrace that structure for the drapery within this installation.
I created a tessellating pattern that could be printed onto rolls of paper without limitation in the size or scale of the work. To do this, I reconsidered and inverted my typical printing process. Instead of placing the paper on top of the matrix and running it through the press, I created a block that functions as a stamp. This approach, inspired by Indian woodblock textile printing, allows me to create repeats at any size.
Tesselating Block print setup and resulting pattern.
These different explorations of the function of the matrix within my work is only part of the way my printmaking practice has expanded beyond the understanding of prints existing within the edition. I am inhabiting a space between fully site-specific installation and a traditional understanding of individual pieces in a gallery setting. I regard each piece in my installation as a statement within a larger conversation, a chance to isolate an aspect of the dialogue, examine it, and place it within the context of the other works in the space. Coming from a strong background of collage, I bring the same approach of layering images to my work’s presentation. I look for ways to connect the works as I repeat themes. One of the ways I accomplish this is through the use of prints as collage material.
By pulling images from one piece into another, you create bridges between the pieces. Like the woodcut wallpaper, which takes the time invested in creating a matrix and multiplies that by the pulls you take from it, a print takes all the meaning and intent in its iconography and imagery and carries that into whatever piece you bring it. By utilizing the collage potential of prints, each piece inherits the meaning and context of the work you have collaged into it, and is then able to comment, alter, reflect or repurpose that image. I frequently collage deconstructed polyhedra- the “flats” pulled from my matrix- into and around paintings to connect the pieces to the surrounding installation components. It is my hope and intention for a viewer to pick up on the repetition of image and ask themselves how else the works connect or comment on various themes.
Another example of the print as collage is found in my skycharts collage series. Beginning with a found image of a celestial map, each piece uses both found and print generated collage material to explore the compositional space. Much of the collaged imagery is cut from the polyhedral flats, or other print projects I have explored in the past. Although the skymap is not one of my prints, its repetition through collage across my work- appearing in paintings, as an installation component, and within the skymap based collages- functions in the same way as I am using my original prints to unify my body of work within an installation setting while retaining the singular identity of individual pieces. This “inheritance through collage” has progressed to the point that I will shift from matrix to print to painting and back to matrix. Like layers of paint within a painting, it soon becomes difficult to discern what started where. This complex web of influences creates a sort of genealogy within the work that examines how influence and inheritance passes through the entirety of the space- and the multiple nature of the print furthers this exploration.
Skycharts Collage Series. 2017-18.
Top from left: Microbe, Eclipse, Apius, Ursa. Second row: Autumn,Strand, Stratocumulus, Swarm. Third Row: Mentor, Jambi, Lense, Orpheus.
One example is the way I have interpreted a source image of the Sphinx observatory in Switzerland. Beginning with a stock photo, I have since incorporated this mountaintop structure into several compositions in different mediums. My use of the observatory began as a small color woodcut print, which then became a moderately large acrylic painting. This inspired a second woodcut- but at a much larger scale. Taking two impressions of this large block, I created an installation that incorporated the sculptural bees, polyhedra and tessellated printed draping.
Meanwhile, another painting incorporates deconstructed polyhedra and the image of painted pomegranates- a composition I am currently carving in another large scale woodcut, which will become folded paper airplanes installed with the original painting as well as collage material for future pieces. Elements from both these compositions were incorporated into a lithograph, which when collaged into future paintings will carry, and speak back to, the pieces that influence the work to this point. This back and forth movement of imagery and ideas goes back to the first explorations of the polyhedra as existing in both flat and sculptural forms, and the desire for the viewer to make the connection between these two states.
Little Observatory. Woodcut, 5" x 7". 2017. Searching for Callisto I. Acrylic on Canvas. 2018. Searching for Callisto II. Woodcut, 2018. Searching for Callisto III. Print Installation. 2018
It carries forward into the way I am approaching my installations: picking up aspects from one space and moving them to another, from one piece or nook or alcove and back to the other side of the room. Polyhedra, bees, skymaps, prints of wallpaper and observatories and airplanes: they move into and out of compositions and areas and spaces. I’m not sure if the way I think about creating artwork and installation has been changed because of the way I think about how the matrix creates prints, or if the way I consider the matrix has changed my approach to making other artwork, but at this point they are intertwined in my practice.
These different ways to think about the multiple image offer a rich area of investigation into printmaking as a vehicle for a mixed media and installation art practice. Regarding the matrix as a modular base from which to grow components invites a different way of thinking about how the multiple image exists as visual information, and how the repetitive act of pulling prints leads to repetition in visual expression.
The process itself brings meaning and context to the visual result, which speaks back to the labor involved in the work’s creation. The matrix becomes more than a means to the beautifuly editioned end. It becomes a basis for the generation of a body of work that exists in multiple manifestations, not just multiple impressions.