The most difficult hurdle I've managed to jump as an artist is allowing the concept to drive the print. I love the process of printmaking, and tend to create prints wether or not the medium is justified by the concept.
Enter the screen print. Each layer of industrial screen printing ink hovers over the print, ready to be pushed through the screen, onto the paper. Layers build up. A screen is switched, more layers build onto the page. The process of printing is a sculptural one. A dialogue begins between the artist and the print, and the screen is the mediator.
How does concept come into play? The industrial inks used today for screen print ( many used in Dennis O'Neil's workshop HPWI ) allow for a sculptural quality to play a part in the conversation between artist and print. Background elements may be applied to the print in the beginning layers. Foreground compositional elements can build up on the surface, literally sitting on top of the background. Creating a screen print is a narrative.
Here is a print I constructed last week that takes advantage of these layering techniques, available only through screenprint. The best thing is that the entire process is driven by concept.
For this print, I wanted the maps of Tucson, Arizona, and Bratislava, Slovakia, to overlap one another to create an abstract pattern. The map of Bratislava is also screened ontop of the existing map of tucson, representing a clearer, more recent recollection of place. Together these maps serve as a wallpaper for the central milagro literally sitting on top of the page.
The concept of this piece is that the milagro symbolizes a tangible prayer: a bond that can be kept between two people in spatially distant locations. The milagro is broken, signifying that that either the internet is not strong enough to flatten geography as it promises to do so, or that the hope of maintaining communication with a loved one at a great distance using the internet alone is futile.
So, for the conceptual purposes of this print, the milage head sits on top of the picture. By pushing layers of ink through the screen 15 times or so, the flat layer of the head builds up. Then the stencil on the screen switches, and another 6 or so layers of the drawing of the head further elevate the broken milagro higher on the picture plane.
As my hand runs over the print I can read the image like braille. I feel the lines describing the map of Tucson. Higher I feel the map of Bratislava over the lower map. Then I feel a great elevation: the lines outlining the milagro, described through multiple layers of ink and flocked glass beads. There is a great sandy texture here, reminiscent of the geography of Arizona. The milagro does after all, have a southwestern origin. Screenprint allows us to read a print, as if we are blind.