Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Alchemy of Fire and Ice

There are times when making a print comes close to alchemy.  That ancient practice of taking base materials and transforming them describes what we aspire to do in making art with copper, acid, rosins, ink and paper.  In Liz Ward's case she captured ice with fire.

Liz Ward is an artist who understands this and uses experimental image making in her water-color art practice.  Previously at Flatbed, we have worked with Liz on the Increment Suite, a suite of large etchings, Fossil,Poza, Stone Pools, Limpit, and Hoja created incrementally with printmaking techniques to conceptually and visually capture the slow growth and decline of form in the natural world.

This past year we were honored to work with Liz once more. We planned to create two new etchings that would be a part of her recent “Deep Time” series, which references images of ice cores and includes other works responding to “the sublime beauty and alarming imperilment of ice phenomena.” (Liz Ward)  In planning for the project we discussed some experimental methods to create new forms for these etchings.  We also planned that the prints mirror some of the paintings which are vertical, tall, narrow formats.  She explained her interest about how the glacial arctic ice captures environmental information over eons of time.  The  accumulations of ice and other matter can be seen and studied in the core samples taken from glaciers.  Liz is inspired in her paintings by this knowledge and conceptually goes about exploring art making using methods not unlike the building processes of glaciers.  Her articulate statement can be found here:  “Deep Time.”

One of the  experimental techniques we used to start the new print, Ice Core, was for Liz to place small smooth glacially formed stones on a copper plate that was coated with fused rosin (aquatint).  Liz applied a strong "hot" nitric acid mix which we call “spit-bite” to the base of each stone.  The stones themselves created natural harbors and resists for the acid and the results were shadowy stone shapes of varying values. 
Liz Ward, Katherine Brimberry & Cynthia Craig

Glacial Ghost and Fossil Flowers

Liz added her hand-drawn lines to this plate to create the incremental contours indicating added layers of ice through time.  On another matching plate of copper we prepared a fused aquatint onto which Liz directly applied the nitric acid mix with a wide brush in an orchestrated, painterly way so that the plate could be etched from a darker to a lighter value.  The results are a watery tone moving from bottom to top, from dark to light.  The plates were printed in succession onto a Japanese paper with transparent mixtures of ink. 

With the addition of the second etching, Glacial Ghost with Fossil Flowers, which used other experimental mark making in its making, the suite was complete, the plates finished and editions of 40 begun.  Each print is a reading of the alchemy practiced on the plates.  The “Deep Time” prints are available singly or as a suite.

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