Helen’s Degree Show

Though I will be displaying brand new work at Any.And.Or, I thought it would be nice to give a quick idea of the kind of work I have made before, and the areas that I chose to specialise in as part of my degree.

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My exhibition space was a soft, natural lit ‘cave of calm’, as I came to describe it.  The diffusion of the light provided an interesting interplay between hazy, gentle expectations and the realisation of the forensic nature of my work.  Some found it very disconcerting.  Others turned and said, softly, “I get it,” with an understanding nod as they returned to study the prints.

Technically, and mentally, this was a difficult final project.  The imagery was almost accidental; the originals were simple scans of my face (yes, I stuck my face in a scanner…) that captured better than I could have hoped the redness of my skin and the out-of-body state I had found myself in for several months as a result of an out of control skin condition.

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After producing one image as a photogravure print, I was encouraged to pursue this form of etching, previously unexplored at DJCAD.  Returning to fourth year after a summer of phototherapy, I was physically and mentally ready for such a challenge, though at the time I didn’t have the experience nor the foresight to comprehend just what I had set myself.  What followed was eight months of testing – tweaking exposure times, aquatint density, etching times, solution gravity etc etc.  Pete and I would often work for a week at a time, hidden away in the dark room, for no results, banging our heads (sometimes literally) on the copper plates and trying to work out what was going wrong.

And that is the thing about photogravure, and often the thing that most people misinterpret about the method: it is not straightforward.  Yes, you can tweak the exposure time, but if the aquatint is too fine or too heavy, and your acids are too strong or too weak, or if you over-etch in the first bath and under-etch in the second, it won’t work.  If your exposure unit vacuum doesn’t pull your stencil flat on to the photo-tissue, your edges won’t expose.  And even when all conditions seem to be right, it’s nigh on impossible in a very busy print workshop to maintain them.  And then it doesn’t help when the only supplier of the photo tissue in the world ceases production, and you have to switch brands and methods.

So it was very frustrating.  But it was enthralling, addictive and tantalising and taught me to recognise every image I made as progress.  And even the ‘mistakes’ or the ‘bad’ gravures had their own aloofness, a beauty something about them that I sometimes prefer infinitely more than a ‘perfect’ image.  I learnt so much from them.

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The ‘final’ prints (there were 47 plates in total) can be viewed on my blog HERE.

The new work I have made for Any.And.Or is quite different to my degree show work.  It follows similar lines of progression, but calls more on themes of love, loss and confusion.

My degree show work will not be displayed at Any.And.Or as they are currently on show at The West House, Dundee, but I will have a selection of unframed prints available to view and purchase!

I hope to see you at the opening, and if you have any questions about my work or would like to know more please come and ask!

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