Anatomy in Print

Passionate Fruit is the title of an intaglio print depicting anatomical hearts growing from a passionfruit vine. Made this weekend in the beautifully laid out and equipped studio of the Australian Print Workshop, it's the first of a series I'm planning to make in this classical medium.

Intaglio printing is the process of using immense pressure to transfer ink from an incised plate onto damp paper. The metal – or more modern plastic – plates that are used accept fine detail and textures inscribed with a metal stylus. The technique dates back to the 1400s and was developed by goldsmiths who would decorate armor with ink-rubbed engravings and record the pattern by pressing damp paper into the work. The fact that intaglio began with goldsmiths appeals to me – I'm already thinking about how I can incorporate this sort of engraving into my jewelry work....

Passionate Fruit is an interpretive piece inspired by the passionfruit vine on the trellis just outside my studio window and the hearts that dominate my medical illustration work. The second plate I created this week was a fairly straightforward re-rendering of an illustration of the knee joint that I'd originally drawn for use in a secondary school textbook. The abstraction created by using the printmaking process gives it an entirely different feel from that of the original though. Everything from the manner in which the plate is inked up and wiped back for each pressing, scratches and textures in the background (both intentional and not), to the amount of pressure applied by the rollers and the dampness of the paper affects the outcome of the resulting print. Because of this, each and every print of a handmade edition is an individual.

Before I continue with more anatomical subjects, I'm keen to create some plates featuring elephants and hope to include some of the resulting prints in an exhibition I will have in Melbourne, Australia in September. I think these animals with the text of their lives written in their folds and wrinkles will lend themselves beautifully to the medium. The date for hanging the show is less than two weeks away though... we'll see how it goes!

In the mean time, I will include images of Passionate Fruit and Knee Joint here.

Passionate Fruit, intaglio print 15x20mm (6x8")
Anatomy of the Knee Joint, intaglio print 15x20mm (6x8")

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