Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sounds like Halloween - Munch and Frankenthaler - not a B-Grade Monster Movie

© 2012 Hannah Phelps

Enjoy another post from the archives. Originally posted on Friday the Thirteenth in 2012.

"What made you think to cut up the blocks?"

I've heard that more than a few times in the last few months.  I wish that I could say that I invented the jigsaw technique, but I did not.

As far as anyone can tell, Edvard Munch did, sometime around 1896. He'd been printing lithographs and black and white woodblock relief prints, and may have been looking for an easier way to use color in his prints. If you would like to see some of his prints, visit the Munch Museum website.

While I knew about Munch's prints, it was the work of a different artist, Helen Frankenthaler, that inspired me to make some jigsaw's of my own.  Last fall, I happened upon a book called Frankenthaler: The Woodcuts by Judith Goldman. Not all of Frankenthaler's woodcuts are blocks cut into multiple pieces, but many of them are.

I was immediately transfixed. The shapes stand bold and distinct and the textures from the woodgrain vibrate with energy. Instead of cutting up one block and reassembling it to print, she cut shapes out of different blocks that fit perfectly together. And she didn't reassemble them after inking to run them through the press together, each one was sent through separately. There were two fascinating reasons for this:

-  She could use different types of wood for each shape and vary the effects from the woodgrain

- The printed shapes could overlap slightly on the paper - AVOIDING THE NORMAL WHITE LINE BORDERS FOR JIGSAW PRINTS

With only two and a half jigsaws under my belt, I haven't yet tackled all the possibilities from those two ideas. So there are going to be more of these. Lots more.

Visually, there is little in my jigsaws from Helen Frankenthaler so far. I am making seascapes while her prints were all non-representational. But the fire to create them ignited the day I picked up that book.
Incidentally, she was alive when I read about her prints, but she died before my first jigsaw was finished, in December. Rest in peace, Ms. Frankenthaler. And thank you.

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