Friday, 1 December 2017

Cutting and Pasting - for real!

As noted in this blog a time or two previously, I often reflect on Paolozzi’s achievement in creating his complex, collage-based 60s/70s prints without the aid of the electronic/digital software we today take for granted.  His hands will have suffered the ravages of several craft processes including ‘cutting and pasting,’ in which nasty sharp blades and various ‘toxic’ adhesive substances – think of Cow Gum fumes for instance – were involved.  But not always just Paolozzi’s own fair hands . . .

In this connection I had the good fortune recently to be contacted by Keith Coates Walker, Educator and Musician, who told me that he had been an assistant to Paolozzi on the Z.E.E.P. series.  (Keith also acted in this capacity for Pop Art stars, Jim Dine and Claus Oldenburg.)

Since there have been several accounts of ‘difficult’ working relationships with Eduardo, Keith’s general comments are interesting:

I suppose he could appear a bit remote and not personable . . . he was totally focused on his work, nothing else seemed to matter to him.  However he was on the other hand a very generous human being and I got along with him very well. It was certainly an interesting time and I enjoyed the experience enormously.

Regarding working practice, Keith explains:

Eduardo gave me a range of ephemera which were a mix of bits of packaging, magazine clips etc which he wanted converting to line drawings.  These were then photographed individually; (this, of course, was before Photoshop!) The resulting images were then printed as black and white photographs. The next stage was to construct the intended print as a full size paste-up.  This itself was then photographed and an offset litho plate was made and a number of copies were run off so that I could work on the colour separations.

The next stage (see example Z.E.E.P. ‘Agile Coin Gross Decision Logic‘ image below) was to work out the colours and the general balance.  This was done in three shades of grey.

The next stage (see Z.E.E.P. example image below) saw the introduction of a couple of shades of blue.

In the next stage (again see Z.E.E.P. example image below) I added Letraset textures and decided on the final colour separations.

At every stage there were a good few number of prints done to play around with so that alterations could be made.  If I remember it correctly the whole process took about 6 months.  Doing the initial drawings was the easy part, it was the rest that was lengthy, to and fro from the photographer and the printers. This was the first time that Eduardo had used offset litho for his prints - prior to that he had always used screen printing. The printers* specialised in map printing - in fact on the back of the image above is a map, this being the first off the press having made use of a piece of ‘scrap’ paper.  I'm assuming this is now quite a rarity.

* Advanced Graphics

I am very grateful to Keith for his generosity in providing this insight into a process that has not previously been detailed elsewhere.  Keith himself is keeping the particular creative style in play with his own prints, for example, Shock Velocity 113 (upper), and Biscotti’s Dream (lower) as below:

© Keith Walker

© Keith Walker

There’s much, much more, at - so indulge yourself!