April 18, 2010

Socially Conscious Printmaking

I don't usually take time to read the paper in the mornings.  For sure not during the week when breakfast is something that happens while I'm standing up, making lunches and getting ready for work.  But, sometimes on Saturdays, when there isn't anything else to read, I pick up the paper and scan it.  Yesterday was one of those newspaper Saturdays and how lucky for me that it was because I came across an ad for an exhibit at the Burnaby Art Gallery.  It was just a little ad, at the bottom corner of one of the pages, and all it said, essentially, was "Laurence Hyde, Southern Cross" and then the gallery address.  Almost like this, except the image was different:


Well, I confess, I didn't know who Laurence Hyde was or what, exactly, Southern Cross meant but I recognized the image in the ad as a print so I Googled both (how did people ever learn about stuff before the Internet came along???) and I knew it would be worth checking it out.  And that's what I did.  R's been at an all weekend workshop and I originally planned to go solo but took my parents along in the end, because I figured they might like an outing.  They don't get out that much anymore, specially not to such a lovely place. 

The Burnaby Art Gallery, situated in a park and surrounded by gardens, was once Ceperley House: "one of the finest examples of Edwardian architecture in the Lower Mainland" Hardwood floors, sunlight filtering in through stained glass windows, high ceilings.  Perfect for art shows.  We were alone for most of the time, it was the last day of the show, and we had plenty of time to really look at each of the engravings on display.  All 118 of them.  

Southern Cross is actually a book, a graphic novel without words, published in 1951 and reprinted again a couple of years ago by Drawn and Quarterly, a small publishing house in Montreal.  In brief, Laurence Hyde created the engravings in response to what he perceived to be a monstrous social injustice. There's more info about it here.  And some sample images here. There were only two fulls sets of the prints ever pulled and what we saw today was one of them.  That, in itself, was a rush.  The other incredible thing was how powerful the engravings were.

Despite their relatively small size, maybe 5" x  4", the images absolutely popped.  So much vitality, and so much detail, within each one. I realized again how much I love the interplay of light and shadow when it's done well.  I myself, for my own prints, usually turn to colour and, I've said this before, working with colour may just be easier in a way.  Not only is it easier to get an emotion across with the use of colour but, sometimes, with its ability to invoke an emotional response, colour may deflect from minor flaws that would be more apparent in a black and white image.  So you've got to be really good to work in black and white and to really pull the viewer in.  The engravings I saw today were damn good. There were no words but words weren't needed; the images spoke volumes. 

I'm thinking I'll have to order the book now.

1 comment:

Annie B said...

Hi Katka,

Just catching up with your blog. "Southern Cross" is quite a find. I agree with you about working in black & white being more demanding and requiring a deeper understanding of light and shadow and form than working in color. That's why I work in color :)

I identify with your despair during the creative fallow periods, too. Everyone says it's part of the process and I know that's true, but it's still hard to go through. Snatam Kaur seems like good medicine.