By Nina J P Evans

Monday, August 01, 2016

Picasso linocuts

Now showcasing at The National Museums, Lady Lever Art Gallery on loan from The Department of Prints and Drawings, at the British Museum are these Picasso linocuts. Produced in the early 1960s when he was 80 years old. Both Picasso and Matisse were known to work with lino printing making the linocut thereafter an establishes professional print medium.

What makes these perhaps a little more remarkable is the method behind the printing process known as the reductive print method, it is similar in a way to painting in layers building up the colour and textures on to a canvas. A single piece of linoleum is used and worked into further and further with each colour. The lino was cleaned and reworked with further details with each colour added, in addition to the background paper showing through in the design. In order to produce multiple prints each colour would be printed about 50 times, as with the final cut there’s no going back back, apart from doing a highly detailed black and white also to note with this technique is that there’s no margin for error. The plus point is that the print registration was easier to achieve, also the image could be worked on more easily as a whole. Previous methods used separate lino blocks for each colour, this could produce more pieces in a future run, but registration was a little more tiresome and the image composition on separate colour layers is perhaps more difficult. A piece of lino is far from the transparent like the stacking order of layers used in photoshop and key-frame animations made on semi transparent papers.

It’s interesting to see how Picasso’s final piece evolves from the base background to each colour added separately and superimposed and concluding with final black and white and colour piece. The single colour pieces are bold and striking. It shows a certain kind of confidence and creative thinking that pushed the lino printing method into the world of multiples of colours, in a technique that puts artistic expression before the process of production. Yet, makes us appreciate the print production process more fully by showcasing all the pieces that make up the final colour composition with equal importance, unfortunately online here are just a few of the prints a total of 17 are made up just of these designs.
Prints featured
  Femme nue à la Source
Jacqueline Lisant
Nature morte sous la lampe

Further Reading

Monday, June 06, 2016

E.A. Séguy

E.A. Séguy was a rather elusive French character of the early 20th century, he doesn’t even exist on Wikipedia or at least there’s a mix-up online between him and Eugène Séguy. Eugène Séguy was a zoologiste et entomologiste with a very similar name and entomological background, rather than E.A. Séguy officially known as Emile-Allain Séguy (1877-1951) was a painter and entomologist. Important to note is that he has been credited with authentic authorship by the Met Museum and Christie’s Auction House. His studies produced many published illustrated editions, showcased below are two of his most renown, colourfully illustrated books titled Insectes and Papillons respectively — are said to be inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Deco of the 1920s/30s, which is when about they were published and indeed a great source material for textiles of that period. Insectes is detailed with a vast amount of technical illustrations of the species, especially dragonflies and damselflies, beetles and wasps with magnificent fine jewel-like wings, iridescent colouring and geometric patterns in the composite designs. Papillons dedicated study includes 81 varieties and 16 amazing composite textile pattern designs, using the same process of pochoir and lithograph printing as the other publication with the same stunning masterful illustrative style.

Pochoir printmaking is a method adapted today by graffiti artists and previously Henri Matisse. Firstly, detailed stencils plates of either card or thin copper sheets are created. Each, inked up with different colours and placed strategically into position, what’s quite remarkable is the amount of stencils used, and the precision placement involved; he likely worked with more than one assistant throughout this process. Additionally colour matching would have been recorded as so to produce reproductions accurately. These fine prints in limited editions are still sometimes obtainable as individual prints are priced of about £2,000 today through Christie’s Auction House.

It is said that he described his illustrations as “un monde somptueux de formes et de couleurs” (a world of sumptuous forms and colours). Perhaps with the aid of the microscope he was better able to examine the smallest of subject matter. Actually observing the absurdly striking colours, forms and pattern detailing of each studied species. Also worth mentioning is the arrangement and grouping of the varieties of insects into pleasing compositions within the publications design format. It is ironic that there is confusion over his accreditation, perhaps E.A. Séguy would be most amused — as in the insect world there are no precise and easy ways to tell butterflies, moths and other like insects apart.

Further Reading

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Statement wallpapers

Wallpaper seems to be fashionable again in the world of interior decoration with boldness, simplicity and contrasting designs on statement walls. It’s time to consider the most popular designs of 2016, as many other design’s could be inspired by these current trends. Using Google images as a reference I’ve been able to make a better judgment call. Some of the designs feel slightly alien to me as wallpapers, whilst others look rather nice only as swatch designs. In the end only two out of the ten made the cut, two others inspired potential DIY projects, below is a little reasoning sometimes very limited to explain my decision process.
Jungle lé2, €75 (£60) a roll,

Well this is something … and it’s not at all apparent what exactly until seen on a feature wall (url above), the eyes feel completely lost in that swatch, but there’s no doubt that this is a beautifully illustrated design and a lovely way of bringing the exotic outdoors into a modern city living space. The design online is featured in a Parisian furniture boutique. I wonder if the repeat would be too contrived for this subject matter used in a large area? I rather like the inky blue colour choice it’s a good contrast from its inspired natural origins, the outline graphic style creates a sense of freshness and sophistication.
wood plank stripe, £12 a roll, 

Can you believe this design is the Editors pick … It is awful! So much better to re-claim old wood from a skip and apply fresh paint colour, probably as cheap to install without the cost of it looking so.
One Day, £55 a roll,

The title of the design is difficult to disassociate from the film: One Day, set in 1988. It was lost on Google images, although a worthy Editors pick. I like the colours of this design and the appealing motifs, but as for being inspired by kitchen sink dramas of the 1950s and 1960s well … (url above) There’s no impression of bleakness or emotional struggle, with motifs of steaming kettles or a chair askew. Everything is precision perfect. Perhaps a new title is needed, a street name? The piece does contain many visual references to the 1950s and 1960s. The window frame design is a nice concept and I do like the way that the motor bike, pram and rounded window have added a lovely sense of interest to the negative positive space.
Lempicka, £64 a roll,

There’s a name association with the artist Tamara de Lempicka. The rich red and gold design, perhaps does give off an air of modernity. I would have preferred something a little more sensual and dynamically composed as the repetition of these cylindrical motifs is a little hard to take.
Marvel Superheroes, £8 a roll,

Here vintage comic book covers attempt to come to life, an offset design with images from Thor, Spiderman and the X-men with dynamic action styling and mainly bold primary colours. I noted that this is a popular choice online with other comic formats. I’d prefer a more cut and paste DIY approach, but I like the idea of a story being unfolded large scale! The comic book covers in this design, however, are less impact because they don’t reveal the stories.
Entering The Hammam, £50 a roll,

I thought it was interesting that the repeat design was formatted in offset squares as the swatch looked randomly composed. The design is a little overpowering as a wallpaper, though I like that that deign has some geometric shaping to its layout, the cast iron blackness of the keys feel a little cold as an interior design choice.
Flamingo, £12 a roll,

How can flamingos and palm trees be pasted onto a battleship grey background? It feels very alienating. Undoubtedly the subject matter does seem to be a popular interior choice for 2016, but where's the magic the whimsy the love in this design? … a missed opportunity for sure.
Hydrangea, £20 a roll,

Not as popular on Google as I thought it would be, behind bookcases yes on walls it doesn’t compare to the original 1980s Laura Ashley designs. That’s if you like floral.
April Showers, £28 a roll,

I think it looks sad, perhaps I am slightly influenced by having recently read the biography of Judy Garland and I love Judy, but this no.
Bumblebee, £86 a roll,

My goodness I didn’t see that coming at £86 a roll, and the most popular of the ten designs on Google images! It does come in an array of colours and often the bumblebee motifs are gold foiled quite rightly at that price! I have to say I love the design! It is simply elegant and there’s a perfectly balanced contrast between the motif and the background.

To conclude even though there are only ten designs it feels like a hard choice to make, if the price was no object as I am judging these only from a design perspective, I would have either the Jungle or Bumblebee as my Editors pick. Both these designs exceeded my expectations and surprised me — after all the home is where the heart is.
Further Reading

Monday, May 30, 2016

Birds of a Feather

Inspired by a trip to a pet shop titled Bird Paradise in the States, billed as the largest exotic bird superstore probably in the world, artist Claire Rosen armed herself with 200 sheets of wallpaper, a bird handler and a makeshift studio set up at the superstore. Her idea was to produce a whimsical series of photographic portraits featuring exotic birds with designed wallpaper as backgrounds. 

Wallpapers have often been inspired by either geometric shapes or nature. William Morris’s most popular repeating design for textiles was titled Strawberry Thief, 1883 an exquisite repeat design of flora, fruit and thrushes produced in an array of colour combinations used for fabrics and wall hangings. In the 18th century exotic birds were quite popular as pets. You can imagine rich stately homes featuring bold silk wall hangings and woodblock printed wallpaper designs, Gainsborough paintings and French bird stands with beautifully coloured exotic birds bringing the property to life. Nowadays French 18th century romanticism is still a most popular style, as featured in plays, films, books and the fashion industry.

Claire Rosen’s photographic portraits achieve the same aim, only she’s treated the subject matter rather like a Vogue photoshoot the compositions and colours are very keenly selected and the bird’s characterful expressions are priceless! They are very beautiful, and so are the wallpapers selected. I also like the contrast created between the illustrative designs of the wallpapers and the photographic medium of the bird portraiture, this creates visual contrast between the mediums, at the same time every detail of the colours is coordinated between subject and background, I think to perfection. 

Further Reading

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Falling Garden

Falling Garden … there’s a wonderful romantic ring to it, it was created for the 5oth Venice Biennial, 2003. To celebrate National Poetry Day, a while ago I was looking for something tweetable, this piece had that willing suspension of disbelief for a moment … I was breathless. The staging of it is very theatrical the plants and flowers suspended in mid air, within the timeless of the 17th century Baroque style interior of San Staë church on the Canale Grande ... evokes feelings of passion and emotion. As seen from the photographs the whiteness, yet richly ornate space is the perfect backdrop as it enables the colours, shapes and textures of the flowers and seeds to interact. I wonder about the scale of the installation, it does seem pretty big from the areal view although this kind of perspective we could only of gained by being there.

Further Reading

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Seed Packets

I rather like these vintage French seed packets, and it seems I’m not the only one, as they are now selling as framed prints and as patchwork wallpaper for the kitchen … check Google images.
I love the colour vibrancy and visual style although the compositions are not very beautifully balanced, considering the subject matter they are cropped a little awkwardly.

As a set displayed on shop racks and such the designs have some continuity between the tonality of the greens and yellows, all the other multitude of colours gives the feeling of variety and the subject context. Another added benefit with these French designs is that the typography is very uniform, simple and understated. There’s no advertising of the company’s name and address, no price tag and most importantly; not mentioning the obvious ... for example, a floral image and then the type saying: garden and flower seeds. The name of the flower is all that is needed and for further clarification the Latin botanical translation developed by Carl Linnaeus.
“The binomial (two name) system of nomenclature was developed by Swedish naturalist, Carl Linnaeus in the mid 1700s. Grouping plants according to similarities such as leaves, flowers and fruit, he founded a natural order and named them accordingly.”

Compared to other seed packaging from past to present. Where designs fail for too many reasons to justify,  I think these stand out and deserve a worthy mention, but perhaps the wallpaper is a no.

date of packaging 1920’s/30’s size 2.25"x4.00"