Gas tower II

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At the weekend I visit BABE Artists book fair at the Arnolfini. I spend an overwhelming and deeply satisfying couple of hours wandering amongst so many beautiful objects, and it makes me yearn to create something bound again – perhaps something based on my Asbru photography, or, even more enticingly a narrative piece built around my quiet earth concept. It’s something of a sensory overload, and I am cautious of letting too much in at the moment as I feel I might have found a solid path to follow and need to avoid my tendency towards tangents and distractions. Brilliantly though I catch up with Kate Bernstein who I studied with and got to pick her brains on using metallic inks, as I see she is using them extensively in her work. She recommends Golden acrylics – which she insists have much higher opacity than the equivalent Daler Rowney ones.  I duly order a tub, as Kate warns, they are eye wateringly expensive and I am beginning to wonder if a serious narcotic addiction wouldn’t be cheaper than my current printing habits…

In addition to the new ink, another step change this week are my first image-set transparencies from Jupiter Associates (a tip from Graham on the MA). Image set transparencies are developed to a much higher resolution, with hard dot film positives that are more durable and provide a much more precise halftone. It will be interesting to see if the results warrant the extra cost (about double using UWE digital print).

I have chosen to print the gas tower again – as I have a strong feeling there is a good image here, that I haven’t done justice with the previous print – and it doesn’t disappoint. The final print is simply the best print I have ever made. Aside from the technical accomplishment – the print is perfectly registered, no dry in or bad pulls, and perfect luminosity of ink – the impact of the final print is just stunning. The luminosity of the silver over the rust red is perfect and other-worldly and the image itself has an unnerving presence, somehow calming and benevolent despite its scale and brutal industrial subject. If The Quiet Earth is the creative concept against which I can confidently test my choice of subject and approach, this print is the gold standard for this comparison, creatively and technically.

Later in the week I prove just how challenging it is going to be to maintain this benchmark – or even approach it again – both creatively and technically. I decided to do a small test print of one of the skyscraper images I shot when I was in San Francisco. This is one of a set of images I am most fond of, partly because I captured them as I literally chased my boss down the San Francisco boardwalk. In hindsight the series has far too much of sense of place and is too overtly architectural.

In the end though the suitability of the image matters very little – as the printing process is something of an epic fail. Firstly, because I decide, inexplicably to overprint, rather than underprint the positive colour, with a result resembling the poorly colourised effect of some of my earlier nuclear prints. When I decide to do a single colour reprint onto a simple black slab, the screen proves impossible to print through – with no definition in the detailing of the building itself. I’m not sure whether this is due to the heat, a blocked screen, or a lack of contrast in the image itself, but it does make me take note of how crucial all these factors are in producing these delicately balance images.

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