Vernissage(s)

Well, it’s been an exciting last weekend here in Borås. I’ve been continuing my experiments in photopolymer printmaking and have been to two exhibition openings (as well as a couple forays into the forest).

Modhir Ahmed, http://www.modhir.com/web/index.html, arrived on Thursday night. He is an artist from Iraq who has lived in Sweden for over thirty years and has an international reputation for his printmaking. He was here to put up his exhibition ‘Lord of the Earth’ in the gallery at Ålgården, where he is also a member. Friday was very busy with lots of people toing and froing in preparation for the opening and at lunch time we were all treated to a beautiful meal of smoked salmon and potatoes in a dill sauce (I’ve become a vegaquarian whilst I’ve been staying here as fish is a large component of most meals). In the evening, following my run in the forest, I went to the opening or ‘vernissage’ as they call such things here.

Lots of people came and when we were finally able to close the gallery doors for the evening, we all had a meal together in the Red House (the artists’ house where I stay).

Today was another busy day. It started with a lifedrawing session in the gallery. Our model today was Sassa, who was very good humoured and challenged us with no poses longer than 4 minutes and most were 2! It is interesting how the models lead the sessions here at Ålgården. All the life drawing I’ve ever done before has been led by the group, another artist or a teacher and the model played a passive role. I like the fact that the model is in control here. After the drawing, Anna Maria gave Ute and I a lift to another opening at a small town called Dalsjöfors. We stopped off at her house to pick up her husband, Peter, and were shown around their wonderful studio (they are both artists) and garden. The exhibition opening was for Ålgården member, Kristina Thun http://www.kristinathun.se/ who has been working every day since I’ve been here making beautiful lithographs and photopolymer prints.

I think her work is really atmospheric and her printmaking techniques are fascinating. She often uses up to seven different layers of greyscale to create her lithographs.

After that it was time to return to the studio and meet Anna Mattsson who had kindly offered to show me some techniques using wax including how to make image transfers and also work into wax on paper. It was really good fun and, during tonight’s run in the forest, I began to get ideas of how I might use it in my own work.

On the photopolymer front, I am currently waiting for two acetates to dry. I’ve created a much smaller version of the watery monotype that I did the other day. It was a two stage monotype but this time I wasn’t printing it and will be using it as a stencil so I needed to make two acetates to place on top of one another to create the whole picture. I used water soluble relief ink and that takes a few days to dry so I am now waiting (impatiently) for the acetates to be ready to expose onto my photopolymer plate. Ida has asked me if I will wait until Monday to make the plates so that she can come in and photograph the process. I agreed and am now glad that I did because I know what I’m like and if I wasn’t waiting for her, my impatience would have got the better of me and I’d have tried to expose them when they were still a bit wet and probably got them stuck to the plate 🙂 I’m also making another graphite drawing for a photopolymer plate and, all being well, will expose that tomorrow. A lovely surprise today was that Björn found an old ‘raster’ (or aquatint dot screen, as I now know it is called in English) that he’d made some years ago and he gave it to me as a gift to take home so that it will be easier for me to get straight on with my photopolymer printmaking. He also suggested that I prepare a load of films in the litho studio so I can take those home too.

I’m feeling really positive about this residency and the effect that it will have on my future printmaking practise. I’ve got stacks of ideas but also a real desire to experiment and push the boundaries of what I have been doing. I will talk more about that in another post but I need to get to bed now! I’ll leave you with a picture of Lennart and Kristina at the preview.

and Ålgården’s resident black rabbit 🙂

Monotypes

Well, I was going to talk about photopolymer tonight but I’ve just had a busy evening in the studio and I’m not sure talking about technical processes is such a good idea at 23.00. Bear with me, I will go into some detail in my next post 🙂

I forgot to mention that I now have a housemate. Ute is from Kiel in Germany and, having enjoyed her visit last year, she has come back to Ålgården for two weeks of printmaking. She has a project that she would like to complete and has already been busy making drypoints in the studio. She’s good company and we went on a little trip to Alingsås with Lennart this morning. The idea was to visit Lennart’s favourite organic food store, the red cross second hand shop and then to have pizza in what they both promised me would be the best pizzeria ever! I’ll admit that it was pretty good and it has to be the cosiest and most colourful restaurant I’ve been to in a while. The organic food store was wonderful and I came back laden with apples, a squash and some chilli chocolate (for emergencies).

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The drive was lovely too. The autumn colour is really beautiful at the moment. The forests are a patchwork of green, yellow, golds, reds and oranges. I’ll take some photos if the rain ever lets up!

Yesterday Lennart brought in one of his cast bronze sculptures to show me. He knows I’m  a big fan of crows and I love this one, it is so full of character and has a real presence when sat on the table next to you.

The rest of the day has been a good one. I had a sleepless night last night (possibly caffeine related!) and found myself mulling over what to do and where to go with my printmaking in order to make best use of the next few days. I knew I’d be making a photopolymer transparency but I couldn’t decide what to do for that either. So when I got back to the studio today I was really strict with myself and promised myself that I wouldn’t leave it until the transparency was drawn out. I made several starts before settling on a birch wood. I figure that it will be nice to have a few different kinds of prints of the birch forest to compare techniques. I’ll expand more on the process in my next post but once I’d finished the drawing, I felt in a really good mood and ready to make something else so I decided not to go running today in case I broke the spell and instead I holed up in the studio all evening. 🙂

I’m still frustrated about not being able to depict the pine forests and so I went back to basics and decided to do a reduction monotype. I figured that if I did it in two stages, I’d get around the problem of how to depict the dark trunks but still have a darkish background and the light coming through the trees. It took me about three hours to complete and I was using water soluble ink so I was a bit concerned about re-soaking the paper after the first plate was printed. The result was that when I printed the second stage on top of the first, the ink didn’t transfer so well because it was drying out and the paper was drying out. However, I am happily surprised by the result.

It still isn’t how I’d envisaged it but strangely enough, the ethereal pines against the very watery looking background captures more of the atmosphere that I experience on my rainy runs than I would ever have imagined that I could achieve!

I had printed the ‘ghost’ print (the traces left on the plate after the first printing) and ironically the paper was too wet so I got a really abstract result but when I printed the ghost trees over the top, because there was still a lot of ink left on the plate, I got an interesting second print.

I had a happy evening working tonight and Ute and I seem to work really well together. We are both quiet and keep ourselves to ourselves but when we hear the press going, we both tentatively wander over for a peek at each other’s work and it is a nice combination of having privacy to work but encouragement and an opinion if we want one.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can get Christina or Björn to help me expose my photopolymer plate tomorrow. I will report back with my progress.

Out and About

Today I have felt utterly spoilt in that I was taken out for the day by artist, Lennart Sundqvist. He spotted that I liked birds and offered to show me a place which is famous for its migrant species. Along the way we stopped to visit his home in his own forest, to see his garden and to meet his cats. A very peaceful and inspiring place. I mentioned that I had really enjoyed the Jan Töve’s exhibition at the Abecita Konst Museum and it turned out that he was a good friend of his and lived in the area. We called in to see him but he was just going out and asked if we would drop by later.

On our way to the bird reserve, Lennart took me to a beautiful old railway station where they still have a traditional restaurant offering a smörgåsbord. Thursday’s menu was heavy on the meat but I was still able to taste many different salads and potato dishes. Sweet pancakes were on offer too but we had places to go and people to see so we stuck to the coffee and biscuits.

Our next stop was the ancient burial site at Ekornavallen. People have been gathering there to bury their dead since the bronze age.

There is a traditional old farm nearby and many of the modern timber houses have the same structure and shape.

We were just getting into the car when a flight of birds flew over. They were quite beautiful and I assumed that they were geese. It is only now, on closer inspection, that I have realised that they are a flock of the famous cranes that we tried but failed to see when we finally got to the lake!

The lake is called Hornborgasjön and the cranes arrive in their tens of thousands each spring to breed. Hundreds of people come to watch them ‘dance’ at the lake. It was a beautiful place but rather windy and cold and many of the birds were far out on the lake today. We did use a telescope and binoculars and were able to watch some of the geese and ducks though.

After returning to the car, Lennart asked if I’d like to visit his friend Inga and see the beautiful garden that she has made. It was quite an amazing place that she and her husband created from scratch and featured many specimen trees and plants, wonderful rockeries using the local stone and water features . Whilst we were looking around, a vast assortment of small birds were coming and going and a brown squirrel chattered noisily at us.

Our last port of call was to Jan and this time he was ready for us with a warm welcome and biscuits! He and his wife made us feel totally at home and besides showing me his home, studio and some of his photographs, they also showed me which mushrooms are safe to pick and eat, their gorgeous dog and they took us down to the stables to meet their daughter and her horse. Jan was well known as a wildlife and nature photographer for many years and now he is taking time to explore further his ideas on nature, humankind and society and the interactions between them. Do follow the link and take a look http://www.jantove.com/ For me, some of his photographs have the same beauty and simplicity that you find in the best haiku poetry.

So, a complete rest today and a big thank you to Lennart for his kindness and conversation. Tomorrow I will be back in the studio and no doubt up in the forest at some point!