The mono-prints I have been making for the last few years take images culled from the press, and through the process of printing (tracing, inscribing, re-drawing), layer these images over three series of found images, a collection of nautical maps, a book of butterfly illustrations and a book of western paintings. Through three print series, 28 Days At Sea (series of 28 mono-prints), The Butterfly Collection (series of 30 mono-prints), and America and Me (series uncompleted), I explore the implications of selecting, tracing and layering images, as a means of ontological inquiry, attending particularly to the aesthetic, ethical and political relations we sustain with images. The three methodological actions of selecting, tracing and layering are the means of realizing this enquiry.
The selection of images from newspapers is a process based on many unconscious value judgments. We consume the world and know ourselves as veracious carnivores as well as slow but steady grazers of image. In 28 days the selection was reduced to a formula with very narrow parameters – front and inside back cover of 28 consecutive publications of the guardian and Sunday observer. This reduced the subjective authorial traits of selection.
Selection is primary – the removal of an object from its context and the subsequent annihilation of all that constitutes that context on the grounds of being insignificant. Images are identified and culled from the group – they are extraneous material (images and text) that constitutes the newspaper and are detritus.
The selected image suffers a dissolve of meaning through the removal of context. This is indicative of our relation to these ‘disposable’ unvalued pictures that are to be pulped and subsequently reconstituted. Once cut from the paper, they are both impoverished and meaningless, while simultaneously being free roving, catalytic and able to interact with new image text systems such as ourselves (as viewers).
In these three series of mono-prints I have also selected an existing collection / archive – nautical maps, butterfly illustrations, western illustrations. Thus far these have been graphic prints rather than photographic prints. Although this work is concerned with photographs their absence seems necessary.
The work requires selection of two images, one to be the ‘base / background’ image one to be layered over, paired with. This is indicative of perception in the sense of conjoining, composting images in our personal iconography, or ‘catch basin’.
“These half-awake moments in which the flotsam accumulates in my catch basin and rearranges itself to a new organization are the essence of my painting… With a shudder I open the various contamination chambers and remove a variety of material from them to temporarily store in the territories of my paintings.” (Rauch, N. in Gingeras, M.A. (2002) pp.98 - 100)
A trace is the material evidence of movement – something left over or residual – a history. Tracing is movement in action. In these three series of mono-prints tracing is a “hand directed” line that “loosely” follows the mechanically reproduced line, contour, which characterizes or signifies a surface, an echo from the pictorial space of the selected image. This secondary line traces the first, while also punctuating, obliterating, voiding and ultimately transfigures the first. The transfiguration of the image occurs through the mono-print – through drawing. Through the movement of point and pressure and the corresponding resistance of surface determines the character of the hand’s and image’s agency. The trace of these actions is made visible in ink. The printed line has a soft character, insulated as it is from the direct pressure of the mark on the surface. The genesis of this line is the result of a transfer of pressure conducted through the membrane of the paper. The selected photographic image and the drawing or set of marks, are absent, what is realized and present is a carnal formula – a carnal trace of the first.
“They arouse in me a carnal formula of their presence…a carnal essence or icon of the first.” (Merleau-Ponty M in Johnson, G.A. (1993), p.126).
After the first, images can’t be perceived in isolation – they are divergent. Images are received or identified, made sense of in relation to a plurality of others – they are layered, situated or placed together. In the making of the mono-prints images are layered, they are taken in conjunction with others. The culled images are pulped, while the selected image is ‘grafted’ on to a component of a collection. These two layers of the now singular image become indivisible, married by the infra thin. The two images having accumulated in my catch basin discover a new formula. Neo Rauch’s catch basin of images I would refer to as a ‘personal iconography’, the sum collection of individual’s perceived images. The layered image of these print series reflects the functions of images in our personal iconographies as images are held in conjunction and where carnal formulas are realized.