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Black Ivory Printmaking & Audio Club in Muswell Hill, London is currently showing Edgeworth Johnstone Illustrates Ron Throop. Six woodblock prints overlayed with text. I made the woodblock prints years ago for a storybook collaboration with Billy Childish that, thanks to me, never got done (see Illustrating the writings of Ron Throop for details).
The text overlaying the woodcuts is printed onto acetate sheets that sit on top of the paper. The woodcut print and the acetate are then put into an A4 sleeve and parcel taped to a sheet of wood. I chose the text from Monsieur Tourette Awakens in Mid-Tic: a retaliatory fiction by Ron Throop. I chose the wooden sheets from my growing collection of boards I use to roll blockprinting ink on. I only need five or six, but have amassed many more over the years. Miscellaneous pieces of wood I somehow come across, not purpose made for printmaking. Many of them, including five of the chosen six, I don’t think were purpose made for anything. The one that was, started life as the backing board of a picture frame.
It’s not strictly true that I made these woodblock prints for the storybook Billy and I were going to do. The ones I did for the storybook were from the same blocks, but were solid flat colour and on decent quality art paper. A different approach, technique and apperance to the ones I’ve ended up pairing with Monsieur Tourette Awakens in Mid-Tic: a retaliatory fiction.
I designed, carved and printed these woodcuts at Black Ivory Printmaking & Audio Club years ago. When the Billy book didn’t work out, I boxed everything up and pretty much forgot about it, until I began reading Monsieur Tourette Awakens in Mid-Tic: a retaliatory fiction. I had recently messaged Ron:
‘We’ll have to join forces on something. Maybe a Black Ivory publication’
I still haven’t fully honoured this promise/ threat. I’m genetically programmed to collaborate, sometimes meaning the mandatory genetic modification of others. My painting collaboration with Black Francis only happened after he innocently suggested I could paint over a painting he’d left half-done in Billy’s studio. I couldn’t possibly, so instead worked it into a collaboration. A collaboration neither Francis nor myself initially intended. My first collaboration paintings with Billy were similarly unintentional but more consensual.
From hereon, I’ll refer to the blockprints I made for Edgeworth Johnstone Illustrates Ron Throop as ‘the Ron Prints’ and those I made for the aborted storybook with Billy as ‘the Billy Prints’.
The Ron Prints all use woodcuts I made to illustrate a short story of Billy’s titled The Guardsman’s Ghost. In total, I illustrated four of Billy’s short stories. For some reason, the images best fitting Monsieur Tourette Awakens in Mid-Tic: a retaliatory fiction all come from my The Guardsman’s Ghost illustrations, despite there being no apparent greater connection between this story and Monsieur Tourette Awakens in Mid-Tic: a retaliatory fiction, and the other three.
The Ron Prints had to be printed immediately after the Billy Prints, while the ink was still wet. Initially, the Ron Prints weren’t an attempt to make art, but just a way of removing ink from the wood. Hence, why I used cheap office paper. At the time, it was just a cleaning process.
Again, what I’ve just said isn’t strictly true. It’s not as if I’d never done this before, re-purposing these blockprint cleaning sheets into woodblock print artworks, but it is strictly true that I find it the best way to remove ink from the block, irrespective of any artistic pay-off. It’s like having quintuplets. You put in the work for one, and nature gives you a bonus four.
Yet another ingenious printmaking technique is born in the uber-fertile experimental oasis of Black Ivory Printmaking & Audio Club. The best of which, in my opinion, is the method Charles Thomson invented for the impasto series’ he made here c.2015.
It may be just as well I never showed the woodcut prints I used for Monsieur Tourette Awakens in Mid-Tic: a retaliatory fiction to anyone until now. Had the lying bastards who erased my attribution from the oil transfer drawings Billy and I collaborated on, found out about them, they may have decided to falsely attribute these to Billy as well (see Heckel’s Horse Jr. Green Oil Transfer Drawings for details).
The Ron Prints, in art historical terms, sit between the ‘Art from Detritus’ movement and ‘Pop Art’.
It takes at least a few cleaning-sheet presses to remove sufficient ink from the blocks. Each progressively-less-significantly fainter than the last. Finally, I’ve found a use for them. The same can be said for the offcut-looking sheets of wood they’re parcel taped to. Billy Cogan’s Geek USA theory, Corgan’s Law, applies to materials as well as art (see Illustrating the writings of Ron Throop for details).
Unlike Aesphonly (see video below), the text applied to the Ron Prints relate to the images beyond purely aesthetic and phonetic values. Aesphonly, first exhibited at Black Ivory Printmaking & Audio Club exactly three years prior to Edgeworth Johnstone Illustrates Ron Throop on 26th April 2020, lives in a dimension invisible to the five-sense-dotards I’m forced to exist among. The Ron Prints, not only succeed in selecting and incorporating key aspects of Aesphonly, but suggest their own independent stories behind the scenes. Having now done both, I’m convinced that marrying pre-existing images to pre-existing text works, and that custom-making illustrations after reading doesn’t. The perfect fits aren’t the tailor-made-to-measure’s, but the cuts you allow nature to grow into.
Rather than cut separate blocks for each colour, it’s faster and cheaper to use just one block, covering the areas you don’t want to print with thin, pre-cut sheets of paper. Again, Corgan’s Law comes into play. I’ve turned these densely inked, partially torn cut-outs into collages. Black Ivory Printmaking & Audio Club have rubber-stamped these collages forthcoming exhibition. Stay tuned.
My next exhibition:
Exhibition Title: Heckel’s Horse Jr.
Venue: Highgate Gallery at Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution
11 South Grove
London N6 6BS
8th March 2024, 6 – 8.30pm
Exhibition runs until
21st March 2024
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