2nd August 2008 | Other items by Luke Crossley
Jillian Ross, Workshop Manager of the David Krut Print Workshop (DKW), and Deborah Bell travelled recently to Wiltshire, UK to work with master printer Jack Shirreff of 107 Workshop, one of the oldest and most prestigious print workshops in Europe. The trip was part of an ongoing series of collaborations between artists and printmakers that informs the vision of David Krut, the publisher and founder of DKW. He has known and worked with Jack Shirreff for many years, facilitating collaborations between the printmaker and a number of artists, including Bell and William Kentridge. The purpose of this latest trip was for Ross and Bell to work on two large new prints and a series of eight smaller prints, and to learn from the experience and technical knowledge of a resoected master of printmaking, perhaps most famous for his collaborations with artists of the calibre of Howard Hodgkin, Kentridge, Patrick Hughes and Sam Mundy.
Saskatchewan native Jillian Ross began her apprenticeship at DKW in 2003, and was made Workshop Manager in 2005. Under her guidance DKW has grown into a facility known for the quality of its prints, and the atmosphere of collaboration and experimentation between artist and printmakers. In a few short years Ross has established herself as one of the foremost printmakers in South Africa, specialising in intaglio techniques and monotypes and experimenting with pronto plates, carborundum, linocut and woodblock techniques. Her natural talent has greatly benefitted from time spent working with many skilled printmakers in South Africa and New York, including a residency at the Lower East Side Print Shop, New York in 2007 and her weeks during June with Jack Shirreff at 107. She and her two assistant printmakers Niall Bingham and Mlungisi Khongisa are currently working with master printer Phil Sanders of the Robert Blackburn Studio, New York. Sanders is visiting Johannesburg for three weeks to work with DKW printers and several artists including Colbert Mashile, Diane Victor, Maja Maljevic and Bruce Backhouse.
With Jack Shirreff, Bell and Ross created two large plates, the first copper, the second zinc – each measuring 1 by 1.4 metres, a size made possible by the monolithic printing presses of the 107 Workshop, where even handling the press blankets requires two people to pull them tight as the plate passes through the press. For the first plate a combination of sugarlift and softground was used. Bell – following Kentridge’s example in his large Sleeper prints, also made in collaboration with Shirreff – stripped down and impressed her body into the softground. Later she worked the impressed image into the shape of a lion. The plate was initially inked in black and white, which was then followed by a Perspex plate inked in white and red. Shirreff’s work in the past has been characterised by its mastery of colour and scale, and his influence is apparent in Deborah Bell’s new works. Her previous collaboration with Shirreff resulted in the large Diary Pages and the Red Lines. This new work, though, is unlike any that Bell has previously produced, with the totemic form of the lion haloed in white as it floats above swirling clouds of black, grey, white and red tone and colour, in contrast to her normally sparse compositions. The symbolic presence is as one would expect from Bell, but its lush presentation and the quality of printmaking techniques seamlessly utilised and synthesised will delight those familiar with Bell’s oeuvre.
Bell is planning to finish the work with handpainting and either pastel or conté when the images can be brought back to South Africa for completion and, later, exhibition. Ross returned from her trip laden with notes and photographs of her time working with and learning from Shirreff. Many of the various techniques and innovations used in 107 Workshop, many will be adapted for use at DKW, so ensuring the workshop’s continued growth and sophistication in relation to the art and printmaking communities.
More to follow
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