ARTIST OF THE WEEK PATRICK WHITEHEAD
“Ema (Prayers) at the Meiji Shrine”
Your works depict incredible locations from Japan, New York and Italy. Can you explain more about the importance of travel to your work, particularly how it influenced ‘Ema at the Meiji Shrine’?
I first started travelling whilst I was studying for my degree in Fine Art. I went on an Inter-Rail trip across Europe and Morocco and I have been inspired and motivated by overseas travel ever since. The appeal of foreign travel is experiencing new things that you wouldn’t experience at home, different cultures, styles of architecture, landscapes, food and languages. When I was younger foreign travel felt very new and exciting and I wanted to record specific things that I had seen. In my prints I have focused on particular images that I find interesting and that have a special quality about them.
The etching “Ema (Prayers) at the Meiji Shrine” is based on the prayers that people leave at the Shinto shrines in Japan. Sometimes they are paper scrolls tied to trees or, as in this case, small wooden rectangles with a prayer written on them and hung up outside the entrance to the shrine. This shrine is outside the temple in the Meiji Park, Tokyo. I thought the prayers made a beautiful and rather spiritual image especially with the Japanese calligraphy.
“Pompeii No 1”
“Can you tell us more about your work as a print maker and the differences between intaglio and relief printing methods? Also, which technique does your work “Pompeii No.1” fall under?”
The main differences between the intaglio and relief printing methods are as follows:
Intaglio comes from the Italian word for ‘incised/ carved into a material’. An etching press is the most essential and expensive piece of equipment for creating intaglio prints because the inked up plates must be pulled through the heavy rollers of the etching press to create the image. Traditionally, intaglio prints were made using different types of metal (such as copper or zinc) and included the intaglio processes of engraving, etching and mezzotint. With the intaglio method, ink is pressed into the incised areas of the plate. The traditional intaglio methods used harmful acids and other dangerous materials. Today, safe etching is practiced, and there are alternative materials such as ‘paper’ plates and solar plates which are much more environmentally friendly with the ‘paper’ plates being inexpensive, but still providing excellent results. Collagraphs are also classed as intaglio prints and are a very cheap, safe and effective method of printmaking. An image is created by building up textures on a card matrix, sealing with button polish, inking up and then printing using damp paper and an etching press.
Relief printing is a very effective method of printing and you can get by with just using limited equipment. The most popular relief prints are linocuts, but Japanese woodcuts and wood engravings are relief prints too. The beauty of linocuts is that it is a relatively cheap form of printmaking and you don’t need expensive equipment to produce them. Whether it be a linocut or woodcut, an image is carved into a material using various cutting tools depending on the mark required. The plate is then inked up with a roller and then smooth paper placed on top of the image and rubbed with a baren or the back of a spoon to transfer the image to the paper. If you are very lucky then you will have access to an Albion press which exerts heavy pressure onto the paper and the plate to transfer the image. The possibilities with linocuts are endless and the images can be as simple or as complex as the artist wants them to be.
‘Pompeii No 1’ is a solar etching and is classed as an intaglio print (e.g. the plate is inked up and then pulled through an etching press). Solar etching is a relatively new method of intaglio, and allows print-makers to work in a safe manner as well as producing prints inspired by photography. This image is inspired by my trip to Pompeii and is based on one of the photographs I took. I have manipulated the image on the computer and then produced a transparency, which I used to expose onto the solar etching plate using a UV lightbox. After creating the plate, I have worked into it with a Dremel engraver and added fine grade carborundum grit to enhance the image and provide greater contrast.
“Madison Avenue, New York”
I love the scale and composition of your etching and aquatint ‘Madison Avenue, New York’. What, in your opinion, makes this a successful composition?
I produced “Madison Avenue, New York” following my first trip to New York. Prior to going, I was fascinated by the skyscrapers, and anticipated a feeling of being rather claustrophobic due to the very tall buildings. In fact, I didn’t experience this feeling at all. I was amazed how wide the streets are and how grand and majestic the skyscrapers are too. I think this etching is successful because one immediately recognises it as being New York. I also think I have captured the grandeur of that feeling of space and height, even though only part of the skyscrapers are visible due to the etching being a tall, rectangular shape, which emulates the shape of a skyscraper.
You can see more of Patrick’s work on Art Gallery SW https://www.artgallerysw.co.uk/vendor/patrick-whitehead/