I Heart Screenprinting

Article by Nadine Tropschuh. Nadine’s website can be viewed here.

It’s been said that print is dead, or at least, a dying breed.

But this is something I refuse to accept, simply because (I believe) there is no better thing than holding a beautifully hand-printed poster or book in your hand.

My love for screenprinting has evolved gradually over time, and with growing experience and knowledge of the medium, I have been able to discover the numerous possibilities it brings.

The images I choose to use are mainly photographs, textures or mark makings. I have never been a drawer or illustrator, but have always loved photography, compositions, patterns and collage work. I therefore find Robert Rauschenberg’s work fascinating, it being a step further from collage artwork due to the layering process. Instead of simply placing images together, you are able to layer several images on top of each other with translucent colours – turning a collage into a multi-layered artwork with no limits, even if just to make one part a glossy layer.

Layering has become a big theme in my own work, as it dramatically changes the look and composition. There is almost an infinity of opportunities you can achieve with multiple layers of colours and imagery.

And the reason why screenprinting is my choice of medium? Simple: it is the complete freedom you have of colour, shades, opacity and transparency, and the surface you can print on, which can be anything so long as it is flat.

One of my recent projects was called Imaginary Worlds, looking at process CMYK prints. I started out distorting photographs I took of ordinary landscapes on Photoshop, turning them into psychedelic, colourful, completely unrecognisable scenes. Creating morées and altering horizontal lines was my main focus, purely for the resultant enchanting visual effect. The exact reason for me choosing to use the CMYK process was not to replicate a digital image, but to create an effect more exciting through use of different bitmaps and the positioning of the four colours.

I love the idea of taking something digital (like a photograph), and returning its image make-up and appearance into something more organic. This is exactly what screenprinting does.

A screenprint is more than a flat image: it draws in the texture of the ink that you see mixing on paper. There is such variety of colour: gold, silver, bronze, fluorescent, UV-light sensitive, gloss and more. You could even make your own ink with anything you can turn into a water-based paste – I once turned Indian spices into printing inks for a project. It was exhilarating to see such fascinating pigment options, and how they created a unique colour you probably couldn’t imitate. But the best part was that you could still smell the spices, though it only lasted a few days.

This experiment was related to a project focused on a Bangladesh area in East London, Whitechapel. The beauty of living in London is that it is so inspiring: the galleries, the people, the way of life and the city itself, is like no other. I’m currently involved in a sustainable printmaking workshop where we use recycled materials and our surroundings as inspiration. We make use of what is directly available; letting nature lead us. We have experimented with monoprinting in Hampstead Heath, screenprinting in the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, and solar-plate printing in Dungeness, where we used sunlight to expose our plates. It was a challenging experience, being unable to rely on the controlled conditions of a studio, and instead dealing with the unpredictability of outside conditions.

Now that I’m in my last few weeks of being a student, it is my next task to get more involved in printmaking without the pressure of deadlines, to  continue these processes once I am no longer able to use college facilities, to find a job or internship in a print workshop, to even find my own studio – all in the simple hope of continuing and cultivating my skills and love for screenprinting.

 

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