This Moment Brief, at Woolwich

More details about the work selected for the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair in November. It is one of the foremost printmaking fairs in the UK, so I see it as a real achievement to be there. The selected print was one of the first images from my video art that I worked with. My video art comes out of my work in the virtual world of Second Life.

This Moment Brief came out my visual interpretation of The Bridge by Edward Thomas, in my video art, Edward Thomas:

I have come a long way to-day:
On a strange bridge alone,
Remembering friends, old friends,
I rest, without smile or moan,
As they remember me without smile or moan.

All are behind, the kind
And the unkind too, no more
To-night than a dream. The stream
Runs softly yet drowns the Past,
The dark-lit stream has drowned the Future and the Past.

No traveller has rest more blest
Than this moment brief between
Two lives, when the Night's first lights
And shades hide what has never been,
Things goodlier, lovelier, dearer, than will be or have been.

Edward Thomas died in Arras in 1917, the first world war having been on the edges of his poetry, as a brooding presence. I wrote more about this in a previous blog post, but it’s a poem that means so much more to me after my 2019 than I could ever have expected.

The print process

Printing involves carefully spreading ink across the plate – in this image it is just three colours – then blending and wiping. It can then be passed through the press with the paper. Each individual edition copy requires a reinking of the plate. I use Cranfield Colour inks and print on Hahnemühle paper.

The print process is photopolymer etching. I decide on an original digital image, then set it up for printing on an acetate sheet. It needs to be in black and white, and the tonal balance always needs adjusting. The printed acetate is then laid on top of a photosensitive plate, which is exposed to UV light. The timing is critical, and different for every image. After exposure, the surface of the plate can be washed off, the UV light having hardened different parts of it to different degrees. You can see the image on the plate at this stage, as a relief texture. After it has been cured in a warm place, there is an etched plate to print with.

I am not trying to make it the same as the virtual world version. The materiality, from going from light on screen to ink on paper, changes perception, as do the textures. It is about reinterpreting, and translating one to the other. Indeed the virtual world version was not purely digital, as the poetry was from a hundred years earlier – printed with ink on paper, and spoken with my voice.

There is a learning process to each of the stages, and this was reworked so often before the final version. First of all, it was simply whether I had an idea worth pursuing further. It then went through several plate versions as I honed my practice. By the end of 2019 I had a satisfactory plate. However, early in 2020 I achieved what I had been working towards – the combination of ink colour and tonality – and the technical skill to do it. Getting into Woolwich feels like a real recognition of that achievement.

The original video work, Edward Thomas

An introduction and three poems: ‘The Bridge’ starts at 01:04

I would like to recognise the importance of working at Iron Press in Lancaster during 2019 and Edinburgh Printmakers over the winter into 2020. I would also want to give credit to Prof Charlie Gere and Dr Jen Southern, my supervisors at Lancaster University. My printmaking developed out of my PhD there; my original practice on starting was video art.

This Moment Brief, Tess Baxter

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