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Showing posts from April, 2017

Trying Something New: Cyanotype

For the past few months, I've been working on a project with a student from Columbia College Chicago, comprising images and text relating to a travel narrative (he's an Englishman visiting the USA for this academic year). After casting around for a suitable visual vehicle for his photos, I settled on cyanotype:

This is one of the oldest of photographic techniques, dating back to the middle of the 1800s. In a nutshell: you brush a photosensitive emulsion onto paper (or fabric, etc), consisting of a mixture of ammonium iron citrate and potassium ferricyanide; place either thin objects or a negative against the paper and expose it to UV light for a while; wash off the emulsion and the image develops before your eyes; dip the print into a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide to turn the print that deep, dark blue cyan colour.

As you can see from the above photo, when you get the balance of light and dark right on the negative, the result is a gorgeously rich print, with a tona…

Truly I Live in Dark Times!

On November 9th, the day after the US presidential election, I had just arrived in England to attend a conference, and I spent the first few hours wandering around in a daze at the unexpected result. "These are dark times, these are the dark times" was a phrase I kept repeating in my head. They are from a poem by Bertholdt Brecht that seemed appropriate for the occasion:
Truly I live in dark times!
An artless word is foolish. A smooth forehead
Points to insensitivity. He who laughs
Has not yet received
The terrible news. The translation is by Scott Horton, from 2008, and his discussion of the meaning and context of the poem is unsurpassable, so I recommend you follow this link and read what he had to say. My personal knowledge of this poem ('To Those Who Follow in Our Wake,' from 1939) goes back to a long phase of devouring Brecht's plays and poems when I was in my twenties. This poem, from his Svendborg poems, was one of the only German poems that I could parti…

Tucson Museum of Art: Part 3

The next print that stood out for me during my visit to the Tucson Museum of Art was this etching by Goya (above). It's from his series Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War), a series of etchings he made between 1810 and 1820 depicting the horrors of the Peninsula War that ravaged Spain during the previous decade. This print shows a tangle of corpses in a house that has been destroyed by cannon fire. I notice how Goya still uses classical drawing techniques even while he draws a violent subject form real life: the legs of the man lying on his back in the foreground could easily have come straight from a Renaissance painting.

Next, this beautiful etching by German artist Kathe Kollwitz, from the 1890s:

The wall text said "etching", but the areas of rich dark tone indicate that she also used aquatint -- and in a brilliantly expert way, too. Look at all that variation in the textures of the shadows between the figures: any printmaker will tell you how much techniqu…