Thursday, April 24, 2014

Landscape and Building Paintings at the Else Gallery at CSUS

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to visit an art gallery on campus, the Else Gallery. This gallery has several shows a semester. This particular show had several works from Hearne Pardee, all focusing on nature and buildings. The exhibit was called 'Souvenir: New Caledonia."

A lot of paintings in the gallery were very nice, although still somewhat amateurish. It was still neat to see the pieces, even though they looked as if Pardee was learning techniques and experimenting as he went. Most of the pieces looked the same, in much the same way that pieces created in a classroom environment would. While I pass these judgements as if I'm an expert on the subject, the truth is that Hearne Pardee can paint better than I can.

My biggest complaint about the gallery was that it was poorly lit. It was dim and hard to make out the details on the paintings. I realize that this is so that the paintings don't get damaged and fade, but it was still a minor frustration.

While they did have spotlights on the paintings, they were generally one above the other with only one spotlight. One piece would be well illuminated while the other was in shadow, or both would be half illuminated. Also, the drab white of the walls was so boring as to drain the liveliness from the colors of the paintings.

On the whole, the gallery was pretty good for having a student curator. The organization was decent and the pieces were very nicely rendered. It was too bad that this particular show didn't last longer; I would have liked to visit it again.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Korean Print Making: More Than Just An Art Cheat

I've never been super enthused by the ideaof print making. It's always seemed like an art form that cheaters use: something that you do because you either can't draw or because you're too lazy to learn how. While this might be the case in 'Murica, I was surprised to find that printmaking is a cultured art form in Korea.

I decided that I would go to a presentation by a Korean print maker at my school, since it would be good for extra credit for my classes (even though I'm an A-B student). Little did I know that, not only would the demonstration be wildly fascinating, but the presenter was actually from Korea and only spoke Korean! It was very interesting.

The paper that they use in Korea is a mulberry paper, meaning that it has longer fibers than our cotton fiber paper. It also doesn't warp in excessive accounts of water and ink like our paper does, making it perfect for ink printing.

The Korean showed us how he carved the wood blocks for the printing. He then have us a brief demonstration on how he embosses the paper. He set the one printed sheet back against the block, like when he made the print, then he got it wet so that it would not shift around or move. He then put a light coating of glue on the paper, and laid another sheet on top of it. Now, the glue he uses isn't like the Elmers glue we use; he uses a paste: water mixed with white flour. This tour of glue will discolour and ferment over the period of six months, which can ruin a print, so he lets the glue sit that long, after which time it won't ferment any more.

After he laid the paper down on the glue, he used a stiff bristled brush too brush the paper flat, then he started tapping the paper to get the bubbles all out. He then just repeated the prices with s few more sheets of paper, and then Wyeth two thicker sheets of paper. To keep the paper from getting bubbles in the middle and to keep the edges from turning up, he then painted the edges down with glue, then goes done steps of paper around the edge.

It was all really cool. I didn't know that printmaking was such an interesting, tactile experience. After the demonstration, I went up to him and said 'thank you' in Korean. Since my grasp of Korean consists of two words, now, I had to have a translator interpret me when I said that he made me want to be a printmaker. The Korean printmaker told me that he would be working in the printmaking room until the 14th, when he would go back to Korea.

I thought it would be more worthwhile to chat with him rather than to hit the gym. It turns out that he knows a little bit of English, more than my Korean, and a bit of German. Since I know some German, that made it easier to communicate. (Thank you, daddy!) So he showed me how to tap the paper down with the brush and had me hemp him with lying the layers of paper down.

After I had helped him with that, he asked to see some of my work, so I grabbed my sketchbook for him to flip through. He liked my cartoon characters and my 'sad life of a rabbit' comic. (I think he can read more English than he can speak.) He really liked my practice Chinese ink paintings of crab grass. So much so, in fact, that he gave me a sumi ink brush and some Korean paper!

I can't believe what a great day I've had! I'm so glad that I'm finally at a real college: I would never have had an experience like this at my crappy junior college. I can't wait to get home and do some more Chinese ink painting! I ordered a Chinese ink stone earlier this week, so I'm finally going to have some decent tools to work with.

The Korean printmaking process was wildly fascinating! I really want to do it, now, but I'll probably have to wait until I have more free time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thoughts On The Lecture: The Ship Engravings of Master W with the Key As Cultural Crossroads

This last Saturday,  I saw a lecture presented by John Byck, a PhD candidate from the Institute of Fime Arts, NY University. The lecture was about how Master W with the Key's works compared with other works from the 1500s.

One of Master W's prints.
The neat thing about Master W is that his works are among the first secular (non-religious) prints. What we focused on in the lecture was the naval prints that he made, and he made about 10. Or, at least, that's all we have left. His other works are pretty fascinating, too. He made a lot of very detailed prints of architecture and ornamentation.

A Venetian print.
In the lecture, Byck compared Master W's prints to some Venetian prints of the time. His stipulation was that Master W's prints were made first, although we really can't tell, for sure. The Venetian and Master W's prints both look very similar, both in style amd subject matter. One of my fellow participants made a fair point that Master W's prints looked distorted, as if he'd been copying the Venetian prints.

After the lecture, I was curious as to whether Master W with the Key had been commisioned by anyone or if he had had a regular patron. I asked Byck. He said that Master W had probably been in the court of Charles the Bold. Although there's no dtrong evidence that Master W was commissioned by anyone, there's a possibility that he was influenced by Charles the Bold.