Bulge, ink on Sansui SH8 paper; image size 10 x 14, paper size 18 x 22; ed. 3
For nearly my entire art making life I have been in pursuit of precision: of form, line, light, color; my paintings continue to aim for a kind of perfection, for a slow and careful looking. So it's something of a relief to have found a medium where I can throw all that out the window and embrace accident and imperfection. The prints I've been doing, both those made from corrugated cardboard plates and those from shapes cut out of potatoes, dipped in ink and stamped, seem to have imperfection inherent in their materials. I've made many prints in the past––both lithographs and drypoints––working on the plates and having them printed by master printers. I know how important it is to have an edition in which every print is like every other, with no variations. So are these prints I'm doing actual editions, when the one above is close to perfect but has a drip of yellow ink at the top?
Another one of the edition had a doubling of lines in the red, but somehow I didn't mind.
I thought this print was perfect until I noticed that some of the lines on the right faded off, likely because I didn't put enough pressure on that side of the paper when transferring the ink. Rather than be upset about these imperfections and thinking of them as sloppiness, I've decided to embrace them, treat them as an essential element of the work. People have mentioned the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi to me in speaking about imperfection; Wikipedia says this about it:
Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.
I would not venture to include my work in this aesthetic, but for me there is something of a relationship.
Untitled 19, ink on Twinrocker paper, 2 panels each 15 x 7 1/4 in.
The element of accident comes into play even more with my potato prints, where the piece of potato picks up ink in an irregular way; each stamp of the same shape comes out differently.
Untitled 20, ink on Masa dosa paper, 15 x 12 in.
For me, much of the interest in these prints is seeing the variations of inking that come from the stamping process.
Untitled 21, ink on Nishinouchi paper, 10 1/2 x 14 in.
Shapes, though originating from the same piece of potato, can have a different character. None of it is planned; it is all improvised, hoping for a good outcome.
Untitled 22, ink on Nishinouchi paper, 12 x 12 in.
Repetition sets up rhythm and variation.
Untitled 23, ink on Twinrocker paper, 7 x 15 in.
And variations come from light and heavy inking.
Untitled 24, ink on Twinrocker paper, 7 1/4 x 8 in.
Untitled 25, ink on Twinrocker paper, 7 x 7 1/4 in.
These two small pieces have surprising shifts of color in the larger shapes. I simply put the potato down on the palette in a couple of places, allowing color mixing, not knowing what will result. In a sense, this process is a letting go, a letting go of preconceptions, of control.
Untitled 26, ink on Gifu green tea light paper, 10 1/4 x 11 in.
They are a letting go of the perfect, and instead finding pleasure in the irregular.