Frans Masereel Centrum | 2022
Komatsu Krumple, 2022, screen print on paper on foil, 60 x 70 cm. Image is of a huge Komatsu dump truck used in a limestone quarry. Photo: Suzette Bousema
From January 3rd to February 11th, 2022, I was artist-in-residence at the Frans Masereel Centrum in Kasterlee, Belgium, a well known center for graphic arts. During the residency, I planned to explore different graphic media in order to combine photographic imagery of open-pit mining landscapes with graphite drawings on crumpled paper, to make a series of experimental, semi-sculptural, drawn and printed landscapes. My research into open-pit mining sites in Siberia as part of the multidisciplinary research project What Do Landscapes Say? had been delayed; however, I did have enough material from trips to open-pit lignite and limestone mines in Germany and Belgium to be able to continue the project.
As often happens during a residency, the process went in a different direction than planned. In trying to print a photographic image onto paper and then crumple it, I ran into several complications. The type of image that would lend itself to being crumpled and still be visible was one important factor to grapple with, as was the type of ink and paper to use in making the prints. I started with offset printing, then printing with pure graphite, and ended by making screenprints using graphite powder mixed with transparent base. I finished the residency with a final work, Komatsu Krumple, that points the way forward both visually and thematically.
Along the way, I also made use of the magnificent workshop and facilities, (not to mention the remarkable expertise and endless patience of the workshop guides, and the knowledge and care of my fellow artists in residence) to make a small Riso publication, and print a giant dump truck tire on a 1:1 scale, as a precursor to at some point printing the whole truck. This I’m sure will be something I will come back to in the future. With many thanks to the Mondriaan Fund for supporting this residency period, and to everyone at the Frans Masereel Centrum.
Komatsu Krumple, detail. Photo: Suzette Bousema
A jug of the toxic chemical needed to clean the delicate rubber roller of the offset press. Printmaking is 70% preparation, 5% printing and 25% cleaning. A lot of chemicals are used that damage the environment. The roller needed to be cleaned very carefully at the end of each day.
An image of the wonderful Mailander offset press, with its fresh green rubber roller. The press is manual, allowing for a lot of freedom to experiment. The image shows the offset plate, and the freshly printed image of a pile of coal, using black ink on black paper.
Close up of the roller with silver ink. The plate is inked, the roller goes over the plate and takes up the image, which is then printed onto the paper.
The image of the coal is printed onto black paper with silver ink, making the image more visible.
A test drawing using graphite on the print - the ink and graphite react very differently to light, creating a hard contrast.
I realized I might have a better result by printing with a screen print and using just graphite powder. Here the exposed screen clamped to the table so it falls flush onto the paper. The graphite was then rubbed through the mesh of the screen.
This method gave some lovely results, unfortunately they needed fixative and then the delicate texture disappeared.
Here is the graphite print without fixative.
This is the first test that 'worked' , meaning that the image was clear and yet maintained the soft reflective quality of the graphite - a mixture of a tiny bit of silver ink, transparent base and graphite powder.
Komatsu Krumple, 2022, screen print on paper on foil, 60 x 70 cm. The crumple works well with machinery, maybe as it resembles how metal would look when dented. Future plans are to make more of these monsters.
In the middle of all the offset printing experiments, I made a 1:1 print using the large scale copy machine, the Océ Plotter.
One of the main rooms in the Centre, where the artists could hang work-in-progress, where at the end of the room a wide window looks out over green fields and sky.
The book was assembled following the logic of the wheel, so that the tire rolls around and around, however it is no longer functional.
The edges of the book were cut with another marvelous and a bit scary machine, the Electric Paper cutting machine
XD GRIP 27.00 R49, is the name of the tire, and title of the publication
The artists in residence stay in the cozy A-frames, what a paradise for artists to be able to live and work in such a place.