PRINT IS STILL ALIVE!
This was my first experience on a residency and hopefully not my last, as well as being my first trip to Venice – a long held dream. I was greeted by the lovely Jordan, the coordinator and resident artist who took my to the large house near St. Marks Square where were all housed in flats. My flatmate was Enriquo (Henry Loyal) a Spanish American master printer who was researching a forgotten process from the 70’s called silk mezzotint.
We walked 2 miles to the scuola from the house (vaporetto could have been taken but I enjoyed the walk) and there I meet Mathilde, the founder of the studio and a wonderful lady, and see the large print room and artists studio. Outside the door was a canal down which traffic went, of people carrying out their daily tasks.
I spent 3 and a half weeks homing in on 2 different techniques, not so much in my usual repertoire 1. Cyanotype – the lightbox was so easy to use it would have been a shame to waste the opportunity; and 2. Viscosity etching with aluminium and non toxic technique (using Copper Sulphate saline etch but only finding oil based inks unfortunately, to use, beautiful results but would have preferred a soy or vegetable oil based ink) The print room itself was loaded with equipment and still ran as it had always been for 30 years. Refreshingly no digital processes so I spent time going over the bridge to a friendly photocopier that still did acetates without half tone.
The joys of the experience were the fellow colleagues met – Californian and Australian, two of whom were writers. Their influence and the speciality of the school enabled my awaking to artistic book art. Roberta the workshop manager had a wealth of experience, particularly in etching. As always with printmaking there were so many little ways that were new to me that could make a difference – drying damp paper with towels not blotters, coating woodcuts with shellac before starting for some.
What was really great was to see that traditional printmaking is not dead – still maintained by the enthusiasm of the young and old. I recall a conversation with Jordan aged 23, on the absolute joy of the different types of papers, the smell and feel being almost an intuitive and emotional experience -reminded me of my early days and a conversation rarely had now.
To top it all, spare time when not taken up with joint friendly meals, was going round the massive biennale. Apart from the big exhibitions at the Arsenale and Giardina and a few other notable, Venice was free of charge with world class contemporary work.
I would suggest to any artist completing their degree with an urge to travel and progress, to apply for a fellowship and spend a year going round residencies – a rich experience at an affordable price.
Some things I would do differently- stay for at least a month, have a specific project already a little under way, not at the beginning and apply for a fellowship , take specialist materials with me – these can be expensive and are not provided – lots of clothes are not needed so a suitcase can be filled, and take out a laptop and usb.
Subject matter is influenced by venue – some did tiles and buildings, patterns – I did water. Lots of it.
So – where to next?
Photos to follow ….