Remorse Should Have Arisen Long Before & Oh To Believe In Another World
For Oh to Believe in Another World and Remorse Should Have Arisen Long Before, the latest editions published by Jillian Ross Print in collaboration with William Kentridge, the process of direct gravure has been used as a foundational technique through which to build complex, multi-layered prints that do the groundwork for projects to come.
The technique also offered Ross the opportunity to connect with collaborators in Canada, in this case with Steven Dixon at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, who worked with Ross on the origination of the multiple gravure plates that make up these works.
Text by Jacqueline Flint, 2023
Oh To Believe In Another World
Direct gravure with drypoint on chine collé
40cm x 50cm (15¾” x 19¾”)
Edition size 20
Oh to Believe in Another World is made from three plates transferred from drawings using the technique of direct gravure. Two plates are made from ink washes; the first plate features shapes making up the background and sky, the second plate make’s up the foreground, namely details of the trees and grasses. A third plate was made using litho pencils with additional drypoint added by the artist.
The text connects various projects both in 2022, in this instance, Kentridge’s multi-channel film projection for Shostakovich Symphony no.10 and Kentridge’s first solo exhibition with Goodman Gallery in London and titled Oh to Believe in Another World.
In the case of both these works, direct gravure initially offered Ross and Kentridge an opportunity to pursue an enduring method of working together, but in a trans-continental way – with Ross being in Canada, while Kentridge in South Africa. For many years, Ross and Kentridge have applied the concept of the “test print” as a way to navigate emergent large-scale and complex projects. Each project, the two have created together, has played a role in the development of the next, with skills and concepts being layered on top of each other as ways forward emerge through each print, each plate, and each pursuit, either large or small.
There are many examples of this process in the work Ross and Kentridge have made together, such as Test for Manet, a small-scale etching, which was pulled from a plate on which Kentridge had been testing various etching techniques that ultimately forged paths, in terms of technique, subject matter and the seeds of ideas, to a wider network of projects. In another example, aspects of the construction of multi-plate etching Scribble Cat, contributed to the creation of the Universal Archive series of linocuts, the larger multi-block, multi-sheet works of which in turn paved the way for the creation of the Triumphs and Laments monumental series of woodcuts.
While these prints draw on the concept of the test print, they differ from previous test prints that Kentridge and Ross have created together in a number of ways. Taking two years to complete, in many ways Remorse Should Have Arisen Long Before and Oh to Believe in Another World provided the means through which Ross and Kentridge remained connected during a time characterised by dramatic shifts and changes. While Ross was in the process of setting up her new studio, now established in Saskatoon, she moved between a number of studios, and a number of collaborators were drawn into the fold in order to keep the process moving.
The multiple layers within these works including colour required a fair amount of sense-making, more so than for regular test prints, which are usually made up of single plates printed in black. As is customary between Ross and Kentridge, the resolution of these two prints has provided many avenues of understanding to explore, opening up new ways of working with colour, paper, technique and the layering of all elements – including factoring in the effects of multiple presses and working spaces – in order to produce a resolved edition.
For Ross and Kentridge, each work is seen as an entity in its own right, and simultaneously as a stepping stone, connecting to multiple other projects and reaching in a multitude of directions, that can be built upon as they work their way to realising the bigger picture, learning and adjusting their approach as they go along. In the same way, these two small-scale gravure works, created through a kind of long-distance call-and-response between artist and collaborating printer over the last two years, have unlocked routes and methods, colours and layering techniques.
The gravure process, which is often distinguished into photogravure and direct gravure, is an intaglio technique that begins with an image created directly onto a transparency or film, which can then be exposed onto a light-sensitive gelatin tissue. A photographic film, with an image on it, is exposed to the gelatin tissue using UV light. This transfers the image from the photo film onto the gelatin tissue. The gelatin tissue is then developed onto the copper plate through a warm water bath, which transfers the image from the gelatin tissue onto the copper plate leaving a gelatin resist on the copper. The image on the copper plate is then etched in a chemical bath, with the copper being etched more deeply where the gelatin resist is thinner and vice versa. The image has now been transferred from a photograph onto the copper plate ready for inking and printing onto paper.
For Oh to Believe in Another World, two plates that began as ink drawings – one featuring shapes within a landscape, and the second of the details within the trees and the foreground of the image – are layered with a third plate that includes drypoint on the copper plate to strengthen the details within the landscape and the text. The drypoint elements were added to the plate by
Kentridge in Johannesburg, having been shipped to him by Ross from Saskatoon, during a time when travel still presented many challenges as a result of the pandemic.
Through these two small-scale gravure works, underpinned by text that naturally invites an analytical interaction, an insight into the long-term development of larger-scale projects can be gained. The text fragments connect various projects and points of the methodical process of how to create multi-plate works using gravure. The direct gravure process provided a foundation for the building up of layers, adding different techniques and mediums. At the same time these works, developed over a number of years, have contributed to providing a foundation on which various relationships, ideas and ultimately larger series of works can be built.
Text by Jacqueline Flint, 2023
Published by Jillian Ross Print
Collaborating Master Printer Jillian Ross
Photogravure by Steven Dixon and Luke Johnson,
Editioning and image development at Jillian Ross Print
Editioning printers Bevan de Wet and Jillian Ross