This suite of print work was produced while undertaking a recidency in Paris at the Atelier Contrepoint printmaking studio. The recidency was funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council. The preparation stage of convergent inspirations underpin the work The source elements which inform the body of work are drawn from cultural and artistic sources which span over a hundred years.
The title of the series ‘the garden of the bees’, is a reference to the work of Irish poet and lyricist, Joseph Campbell, who wrote under the gaelicised version of his name, Seosamh mcCathmhaoil. In 1905 he published a collection of poems, entitled ‘The Garden of The Bees and Other Poems’. I had been recommended to read the collection by Robert Henry and took the opportunity to read it in the Belfast Central Library.
The incised drawing elements for the images came from three distinct resources: Firstly, collecting (disguarded) nests from the Ormeau Park in Belfast, secondly, working at FAB Lab, Belfast to laser cut the image of the nests on both copper and perspex plates, thirdly, drawing from direct observation siting in a small communial garden in the fourteenth arrondissement in Paris, named ‘Giacometti’s garden’, in honour of the fact Giacometti had lived and worked in his studio nearby in 1922. The garden was located in rue Didot, in the same street as the Atelier Contrepoint. The print works were printed at the studio in Paris using the simultanous colour printmaking technique developed by Stanley William Hayter in the 1960’s.
All strands converged from cultural, artistic and technological paths to support the final work.
There is a clearing in the maze of flowers
That closes in my father’s House of Happi-
And Summer dews it with her softest showers,
The while she suns it with an eye of
And on its plat of shaven fairy grass
My Bees are housed in hives of beechen
Filling the languorous air with lazy drone
Till moth-time comes with melancholy mood,
Deepening the shadow on the dial-stone,
And drifts of purple o’er the mountain pass.
And often there of quiet Summer eves
We gather, Seaghan and Seumas
Og and I –
My Gaelic school – to sit within the leaves,
And listen to the red-bees’ twilight lullaby,
And Seaghan will take a poem from his breast,
Chanting it to the purple sunken sun,
Until the merging glow of day and night
And murmurous drone and singer’s voice
And Dana’s secret eyes from heaven’s
Look down upon our little world at rest.
As a fine art printmaker, my approach to this collaborative project employed traditional printmaking strategies to inform and enhance the visual appearance of the edition. During the experimental stages, my objective was to deconstruct the wood type CNC-mediated syntax. This was achieved by printing the type blocks onto acid-free, fine crumpled tissue paper with a relief press. Consequently, the type imprint on the tissuewas “liberated” from the woodblock, lockup and fixed location, and could then be altered and repositioned at will: in effect, the type imprint had become a sudarium image.
I inked the type blocks with warm gray lithographic ink and printed them as previously described. Next, the printed tissue paper substrate was stretched out at certain points, which fractured the printed type forms. I then offset-printed these forms onto the edition printing paper by means of an intaglio press. The technique of continuous alteration – both additive and subtractive, developed during this period – helped refine the process employed in the production of the final edition.
The final approach to the printing procedure, although more conventional, proved to be a better creative strategy for manipulating the variability of visual element placement. I tore the edition paper down and monoprinted it with a layer of gray lithographic ink; then I selected type forms that were inked with white and metallic lilac lithographic ink and monoprinted onto the paper. The placement of type was based on a mix of tacit and aesthetic judgement. I then covered the printed type with a second layer of gray, thereby offering a diversity of type forms to enrich the final visual presentation. This printing method replicates the creative strategy that printmaking artists utilize in building up layers to expand the colour event and location on the print.
In the final stage, I relief-printed “touch” in various configurations on the paper, combined with a traditional printmaking technique known as chine-collé, which translates from the French chine, meaning tissue (traditionally from China), and collé, meaning glue. The procedure involves placing glued tissue paper over a selected, inked type block; the glued side of the tissue facing upward. During relief printing, under the pressure of the press, the impression of the inked block is transferred to the tissue and the glued side of the tissue becomes bonded to the paper substrate. Employing the chine-collé technique and incorporating monoprinted type in the sediment, along with other manipulations, enabled the introduction of a unique visual signature of colour location and texture into each instance of the varible edition. This creative approach to printing transformed a mechanically replicative process into one capable of producing infinitely varying versions of a thematic visual design.
I have also created three YouTube videos using the touch edition in iconic landmark sites of the city: outside the Titanic building, in front of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding cranes, and on the peace line in Belfast. All touching the city.
This body of print work is a convergence of my interest in technology, science and print making which is at the core of my work. My practice exists in the spaces between the perceptible and the intangible. It is exploratory in nature and sets out, exploring the cracks between various media and creative genres such as sound art and the hybrid application of new and old technologies or techniques.
In the making of this work the image was formed out of pure sound, visible sound, produced through a wave generator, which generates vibrations and sound at different frequencies. Cymatic patterns form in relation to sound frequency and the shape of the plate. I developed a hybrid printmaking method to capture this pure sound by attaching a plate to the wave generator and dusting the top of the plate with carborundum material. Traditionally, this grit-like material is used extensively in making a tactile surface on a printing substrate for collagraphs. The carborundum material form a cymatic pattern when the plate is vibrated. The cymatic image is then transferred directly onto a printing plate, with the least intervention between image state and printing.
One frequency I used was 7.83 Herz, which is the frequency of the Earth’s magnetic field, the ‘Schumann Frequency’:
‘The brain researcher Michael Hutchison calls 7.83 Herz the electromagnetic matrix for all life on this planet, the frequency at which life forms have developed and, until a few decades ago, the prevailing electromagnetic frequency at which all life took place. Artificially generated frequencies are increasingly interfering with our natural frequencies. The electricity network, for example, is now no longer regarded as harmless by a growing number of scientists. The effect of ‘electronic smog’ will be extremely an explosive topic in the future. The problem of external frequencies is that we can neither see, hear nor smell these with our normal senses.’ www.activewater.com
The carborundum material used in the making of the print work is silicon carbide, which has an interesting origin:
‘While rare on Earth, silicon carbide is remarkably common in space. It is a common form of stardust found around carbon rich stars, and examples of this stardust have been found in pristine condition in primitive (unaltered) meteorites. The silicon carbide found in space and in meteorites is almost exclusively the beta-polymorph. Analysis of SiC grains found in the Murchison meterorite, a carbonaceous chondrite meteorite, has revealed anomalous isotopic ratios of carbon and silicon, indicating an origin from outside the solar system.‘ Wikipedia
I was invited to collaborate in a 3D print project led by Steve Mumberson, Reader in Art at Middlesex University. The project is based loosely around the subject of habitation (buildings/interiors/architecture /natural structures) and will centre on the production of six print objects. The participants involved bring a different set of skills and approaches that make this project a diverse one. The research cluster includes Professor David Ferry, Head of Printmaking and Photo-media, Cardiff Metropolitan College, Richard Hensby, Lambeth College, Timo Lehtonen, Senior Lecturer Fine Art, University of Brighton and John Philips, Director of London Print Studio.
The body of 3D printwork I envisage making stems from two previous series of print work, firstly, the use of a wave generator to create cymatic prints in 2012. This work was presented in an installation format and secondly, a body of work created in 2013 using the facilities at Fablab, Belfast, where I produced laser cut printing plates. I then took these plates to Paris and reworked them at the Atelier Counterpoint and printed them using the viscosity method developed by S.W. Hayter.
I envisage using the source material, sound waves in both a linear and solid shape format and utilizing the 3D printer to produce structures around the research subject of habitation. The usage of a sound waves made into a solid shape through software and 3D printing will be the main visual resource material. An anthropological reading will also be central to the body of work and have an impact on the visual outcome. As the sound waves will be gathered from different nationalities pronouncing in their own language the words nest, home, habitat and nature.
Another element to the work will be wrapped images around these solid sound shapes that relate directly to each persons linage. Some thoughts on the thematic subject and process: The idea of structures being made up of connectivity The idea of structures being made up of a liquid state A statement on globalization, reformed as a solid structure. The prospect of making sound, ‘solid and visible’ and combining the solid sound with images embedded in the form.
Embedded in the process is the hybridist notion of utilizing diverse processes and technology, weaving and printmaking with sound and 3D printing. There will also be a body of 2D print work generated from the source material as well as the 3D print work. Within the project it is proposed that a catalog, touring exhibition and publication will follow.