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Greg Kirkbride Printmaking

Beneath the Surface – An investigation into the renewal and beauty of decay.

Hi guys, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything about my work, or anything at all for that matter and I apologise. I’ve been extremely busy with a design commission that I’ve been working on for a gym in my local area. This is something I will post about at a later date when everything has come to an end.

However, the other day I was looking through some old work and came across this piece which I feel is something I would like to talk about as it was a fundamental turning point within my practice and as an artist myself.

I made this piece in 2009 when I was studying Fine Art at college. I remember the project very well as it is an interest that has stuck with me since. I was working under a brief which required me to explore the concept of decay. I loved this project as I felt it was a very open and free concept to work with and didn’t contain many boundaries to stop the work from being abstract.

Decay is a concept which I have always been very interested in: the idea that a form can change physically over time and how something new is created from something that may be classed as ‘gone.’ At this time however, I was more focused on the texture within decay. Endless amounts of physical textures are produced through the process of decay, each of them unique within their own right. Through decay, we are presented with new shapes, forms, tones and colours which stand as pieces of art themselves. This is an area I felt compelled to investigate with an abstract approach. I fell in love with documenting close up textures through drawings, paintings and photographs which inspired me to begin creating my own textures in the studio.

That brings me to this piece in particular. Using newsprint paper, masking tape and a lot of PVA glue I was able to fold, crease and shape the paper and tape to however I wanted it to be. When the glue dried, this kept the paper in place and made it a tougher surface to work on. Afterwards, I painted the entirety of the piece with a magnolia emulsion and allowed it to dry. I then continued to add some raw umber oil paint and with the help of linseed oil and some white spirit, I was able to push the paint around the surface with a rag allowing the paint to sit in the recesses of the texture and be thinned or removed on the taller parts. After weeks of drying, some of the emulsion began to crack and flake off which, in my opinion, only helped the work to be more successful in conveying my ideas.

For documentation purposes, the piece was photographed and printed onto brown parcel paper, measuring at approx. A1 size.

Beneath the Surface, 2009, Mixed Media – Greg Kirkbride

Again, this was a piece that was photographed and reproduced as a print which is something I am still investigating in my current practice. A 2D representation of a 3D form, with particular focus on texture.

 

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Independent Artist Residency – Scoula Internazionale di Grafica Venezia

Amazing news! I’ve recently discovered that my proposal for an independent artists residency at the Scoula Internazionale di Grafica Venezia (a printmaking studio) has been accepted and that I will be moving to Venice, Italy for the summer of 2016! 

I am so honoured to be offered this amazing opportunity and plan to create some new  and exciting work.

I can’t wait!!!!!!!

A Gift Returned – Screen printing with photographic imagery.

In the past I always thought of screenprinting as a process that delivered outcomes of a very graphic aesthetic, almost like a lino or woodcut. However, when I came to the quick realisation that I couldn’t have been more wrong, my work took a whole new direction. 

This piece is quite old and is of quite sentimental value. I’ll not go too much into it but the short story is: 

When I lost my grandmother and attended the funeral, I went for a walk afterwards in the gardens of remembrance. My aunty approached my and handed me a flower which she had picked from the floral tribute. To me, this was a beautiful gesture and really lifted my spirits. I thought to myself “I’m going to keep this and do something with it when the time is right.”

So, I placed the flower in a book and pressed it for a month or two. When the idea came to me for a screen print I scanned in the flower and used some photoshop editing for size and bitmap etc.

After printing a beige background I printed the flower and was amazed at how much detail could be seen. I think the process was very successful in showing the amount of texture of the flower.

  
I only printed one copy of this and gave it as a gift back to my Aunty as a way of returning a comforting gesture.

I have since been interested in the utilisation of photographic imagery within screenprinting and plan to explore this area more with regards to layering etc.

Fallen Leaves

So the other day I decided to go for a walk around the city of Durham. It was a cold but bright autumn day which provided great opportunities for some interesting photographs. As I walked along the riverside, I noticed the sun beaming through the trees which caught the autumn leaves, illuminating the path with shades of yellows, reds and oranges. I loved the coming together of these colours in different strengths, which gave me an idea for a piece.

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I began by taking photographs of some leaves that had fallen from the trees and collected on the ground. There were many different kinds of leaves with different shapes, colours and textures. This became rather addictive as there were countless opportunities for photographs with an endless amount of compositions. I must have taken 500 photographs before I stopped!

What fascinated me about the leaves was the subtle range of transparencies in colour and shape, and how they began to mix and change as they fell. After another half hour of watching the leaves fall, something clicked where I was able to identify my fascination with this captivating natural process….

leaves

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I noticed that this fascination was strongly linked with my interests within my practice where background and foreground are compressed which creates new dimensions within an image. By digitally creating these images, I am able to envision plans for future printmaking experiments with photo etching and screen printing.

‘From Here to There,’

Now that I have familiarised myself with a few new printmaking processes and developed my skills, I think it’s time to return to my practice, and where else better to start than where I left off.

Following on from university where I had began to investigate the use and implementation of photography as a strong tool in terms of recording and documentation, the work took a significant turn into a defining area which I aim to explore.

Through an evolutionary process beginning with an engagement of physical and immediate space, progressing to interventions within the landscape, the work has progressed to being now an investigation into space and time within a picture plane. The documentation process of the intervention was a very important catalyst in the change in emphasis. Through a sequential process, the background is collapsed into the foreground until consequently it changes the very surface of the image. Time has been compressed by the layering of images leaving a trace of the area being defined.

The concepts behind the work have developed from an exploration of the ideas expressed by Walter Benjamin in his essay: ‘The Work Of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,‘ where he explored notions of the sense and awe and being present in a space and then through the act of documentation, losing these qualities because of means of reproduction which became the work of art itself.

To now, after looking at John Hilliard’s work and investigating this theory of ‘three potential spaces of an image (background, foreground and the surface of the image) the work becomes an investigation into the limitations of space through documentation.

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Preparation and proofing for mounting images
DOCUMENT 1
‘From Here To There 1-7’ Matt Photographic Prints onto diabond aluminium, 56cm x 42cm

From here I plan to continue exploring these notions of space within a picture plane however through printmaking disciplines.

‘Scrum Down, Print Forward’ Guinness World Record Linocut

On Sunday 11th October 2015 at 12pm, I met up with my fellow members of Northern Print at Greys Monument in Newcastle’s city centre in order to begin preparations for ‘Scrum Down, Print Forward,’ our attempt to break a Guinness World Record for the worlds longest linocut. This would all be recorded by various journalists and film-makers from the top of the monument itself. We began by blocking off a 35mx5m section of the very popular ‘Grey Street,’ with some metal barriers.

Once we had our area to work, we began to place the wooden boards down on the ground so that we would have an even surface to work on. The boards also had markings on which would help with alignment and registration of the lino and paper.

Next was for the lino to be placed down on top of the boards. These had to be placed in a particular fashion as they were designed to join at certain areas.
After the 11, 3 metre panels of lino had been put in place, the bottom sections of the design were to be added. These were much smaller pieces that ran across the base of the design with the names of each city that hosts the world cup.

Now for inking up the lino……Using oil based inks, and rollers attached to long sticks, we began to ink up the lino. This took quite a while as there was a lot of surface area to cover. Not only this, but the ink had to be applied in a thicker fashion to reduce risk of drying.

Once the whole of the lino had been inked up, it was time to include the final touches which consisted of another 20 pieces of lino which were cut into rugby ball shapes. These had all been cut by the 20 competing Nations in the Rugby World Cup and were inked up in colours by some of our own local junior rugby players! These were too inserted into the design.

As crowds continued to gather we began preparations for laying the paper. We used a special Japanese paper that was very sturdy and durable. Although we had previously practiced the paper handling aspects of the process, this was still rather nerve-racking as being watched by the public.

The paper was laid evenly and securely over the top of the lino, followed by more boards and the large rolls of rubber protection. We were now ready for the exciting part…

Rugby players from Newcastle University had gathered along with their scrum machine and were very eager to make history.

      

The team were fantastic in their efforts to push the scrum machine up the slightly inclined street and were cheered on by the surrounding crowds. The paper was then lifted off very slowly and carefully in sections and paraded around the space so that the crowds were able to see the final print.

  

    

A clear plastic coating was then rolled out to protect the print. All that was left to do was to measure up and see if we had indeed broken the world record. There were, however, small technicalities within the rules when measuring the print; not only did the print as a whole have to be long enough, it also had to be continuous of a certain pattern or design. It also had to be printed to a good quality in order to pass for a successful print.

There was suddenly rounds of applause and cheering from everyone as it was announced that we had indeed broken the record for the worlds longest continual linocut print, measuring at 33 metres long!

Afterwards, a second print was done.

Overall, the day was very successful and would not have been at all possible without the help from all of the volunteers at Northern Print, the university rugby players, the junior rugby players and the thousands of people involved in groups and communities who helped to cut and print the design.

One print will be going down to Twickenham to be displayed and photographed for the Rugby World Cup final and the other to be kept in the Newcastle area.

‘Scrum Down, Print Forward’ Paper Handling Practice. 

This post is a little late because there was a lot to document etc. but it is rather exciting as it concerns beating a world record!!

Northern Print is a gallery and printmaking studio, located in the heart of Newcastle’s Ouseburn Valley, just a few minutes from the city centre. It is a very successful studio which attracts the attention of many artists from across the nation and beyond, recognised for putting printmaking on the map in the north of England. I am one such lucky member who was invited to help out with their new project, ‘Scrum Down, Print Forward.’

Now this was no ordinary project, and certainly not for those with low enthusiasm or ambition. The aim of this endeavour was to print the worlds largest linocut print. The current world record stands at 25 metres from USA in 2008, however we were aiming for 33 metres which would be an official Guinness World Record!

The theme for the project was teamwork, looking closer at rugby and celebrating the Rugby World Cup. Teamwork is a core value of rugby and our task alone couldn’t be done without it. The overall design has been created by Newcastle-based artist / illustrator, Sara Ogilvie however over 1000 artists, children, players and community groups have helped to draw and cut the design in all 11 cities hosting Rugby World Cup matches. (The cities are listed along the base of the lino.) This means the design was made up of 11 large sections, 3 metres each in length.

All 20 competing nations contributed a rugby ball linocut (also listed along the linocut) which were strategically placed along the design. If successful, the finished print will be going to Twickenham’s World Rugby Museum and photographed in the stadium the day before the Rugby World Cup final.

Now for the really interesting part………In order to print a linocut of this size successfully, we would have to have one extra large press…………Or we could use a rugby scrum machine and get some rugby players to push it 33 metres over the top?!?! (the latter being exactly what we plan to do.) In order to execute this very ambitious idea, we would need to do some meticulous planning……

When I arrived at Northern Print on the evening , the whole reception and gallery space was teeming with very eager artists, photographers and members of the studio, all of whom were ready to contribute in any which way they could. As I was welcomed with tea and biscuits (and a little wine obviously!) by the very kind staff of the studio, I could already see people getting involved in cutting some linoleum.

When looking at the design drawn out on the lino, it was very easy to recognise the common theme. Already, there had been large sections cut out of the design. I got stuck straight in and began to cut out some areas myself. This was a very special part of the evening as 8-10 people sat around one piece of lino, making their mark, their contribution. Already, teamwork had taken a major role in the project.

After an hour of cutting, we were all encouraged to meet and discuss the upcoming operation which had been planned by the lead technician at Northern Print. We were taken through, step by step, how the procedure was to be carried out with particular attention to how the 35 metre-roll of paper was to be handled throughout the whole operation.

    

The plan was rather extensive (which was to be expected when taking into consideration the sheer size) and was very well thought out in terms of procedure. As volunteers, we were to stand in 2 lines on either side of the lino and place wooden boards onto the ground for an even surface. After this, the 11, 3 – metre lengths of lino were to be placed on top which would then be inked up. The paper would then be outstretched over the lino and then placed on top by lowering it in sections one at a time.

After this, a roll of protective rubber would be rolled out on top of the paper to protect it from any rips or tears.
  

At this point, the rugby players would begin to push the scrum machine over the top of everything, in turn, printing the lino onto the paper.

When the printing was complete, the rubber would be removed and the paper would be lifted very gently from the lino (again, in sections) and the print would be paraded around the area in a u – turn movement to allow everyone to see.

Overall, the practice went very well as there were no rips or tears in the paper and the procedure was conducted very well. Also, everyone knew what they needed to be doing for the actual event which was very helpful. Through doing our practice in the car park of Northern Print, we were also able to highlight any risks we may encounter on the day.

Now all we had to do was wait for the day of the event which was drawing very near…..

Linocut Prints – Past & Present

So this is just a small post to show some linocut prints I have made over the past couple of years. Some of which were printed during my time as a Fine Art student at Northumbria University and others printed at Northern Print in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Although they do not necessarily relate to each other in terms of concept or subject matter, they were all very interesting to create and helped to direct my work in different areas. It also allowed me to use different printing presses such as the electric press as shown below. I really like the very clean, graphic, positive and negative spaces that linocuts offer. However in the small series ‘Framing the Landscape,’ I aimed to try and achieve a more ‘organic’ aesthetic through using different cutting methods.

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Electric press at Northern Print
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‘Framing the Landscape 1’ Linocut, approx. A1
lino 4
‘Framing the Landscape 2’ Linocut, Approx. A1
lino 1
‘Film Noir’ Linocut, Approx. A4
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‘Chicago Fire Escape’ Linocut, Approx. 100cm x 40cm
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‘Chicago Fire Escape’ Linocut, framed

 

 

Northumberland Morning Mist – Van Dyke Printing Induction

So, today I decided to continue with photographic printmaking processes and give the ‘Van Dyke’ course at Northern Print a try. For those of you who don’t know what a Van Dyke print is; it’s simply a photographic print which consists of brown or sepia tones which gets its name from its similarity in colour to the deep brown pigment used by the Flemish painter Van Dyke.

Again, I was very interested in the outcome from this process and wanted to give it a go to see if it was suitable to use in my work to take it in a different direction. For this induction, I decided to use one of the photographs I had taken when out on a very early morning hike in Northumberland, UK. I came across a wooded area where the winter mist was hovering very low, almost motionless, over the ground and base of the trees.

It is a contact print process which requires the use of a digital negative and exposure to UV light (very similar to that of a cyanotype process.)

The Vandyke formula consists of:

  • Ferric Ammonium Citrate (with distilled water)
  • Tartaric Acid (with distilled water)
  • Silver Nitrate (with distilled water)

Under safelight conditions, (formula is light sensitive) the formula is brushed onto the surface of the paper in 2 even coatings and left to dry in the dark. When the emulsion is first applied it appears to be an aluminous yellow/green colour until it is exposed.

During this time I was able to choose my digital image and conduct some small enhancements on Photoshop such as brightness & contrast, levels/curves and also invert the image into a negative. This image was then printed onto truegrain.

When it came to the exposure part of the process I tried exposing from 60 seconds – 80 seconds in 10 second intervals in order to judge the best exposure time. Here are my results:

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Van Dyke test strip 60,70,80 second exposures.

I decided to expose the whole image for 65 seconds as I found a better contrast between the two (60,70). The print is then ‘developed’ in water for 3 minutes with gentle agitation. After, it is transferred into the second tray of fresh water and again, agitated for 3 minutes. The print is then transferred into a (fix) tray containing sodium thiosulphate solution for 3 minutes followed by a fourth tray containing hypo clear solution, again, for 3 minutes. Finally, the print is transferred into fresh water and left for 30 – 40 minutes.

After the development process, which a lot of people have varying opinions about, the print is removed from the water and left to dry. During this time the image begins to turn ‘Van Dyke’ brown and the image comes to life. This was my final image:

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Northumberland Morning Mist, Van Dyke Print

Overall, I am very happy with the outcome. I think I was lucky in combining the image I had chosen to use along with this particular process as I think it suits very well. The elements which I am interested in however are the brushstroke edges which ‘frame’ the image and also the range of sepia tones within the image itself.

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