Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pia Fries at Crown Point Press

The studio has been busy with activity as we just completed a two-week artist project with Pia Fries. During her stay she created four vibrant etchings. Pia was born in Switzerland but she has made Germany her home ever since attending art school at the Kunstakadedmie in Dusseldorf, where she studied painting with Gerhard Richter. This was Pia’s first time making prints at Crown Point Press as well as her first time making etchings. It was an exciting project for me as the master printer in charge of the project, as it was the first time I lead a project in which the artist was totally fresh to etching.

When Pia arrived Monday morning we began by looking at our current Winter Group Show in the gallery so that she could get a sense of the possibilities of intaglio printing. For anyone who is a printmaker or who has tried etching you know how daunting and complex some of the processes can often seem. It was my job, as the master printer, to make the processes as accessible and easy to understand as possible so that Pia could find an approach to etching that felt natural and akin to her way of working in her own studio.

Prior to Pia’s arrival we had been in contact about including photographic elements in her prints. For her paintings, she photographs sculptures she makes with such materials as thick paint and paper, and then she silk-screens these images onto the canvas. Her work is well known for the way in which she incorporates these sculptural photographic images into the larger composition made of layer upon layer of thick, visceral oil paint. The week before Pia arrived I made photogravure plates of the photographic motifs she wanted to work with while she was in our studio. (Photogravure is a way etching a photographic image into a copper plate.) With the photogravure plate as the framework for each print, Pia built up the image using just about every technique we had to offer her.

When we began work in the studio Pia was happy to get her hands dirty and really see what each process was about. When Pia works on her paintings she uses many tools that are conventionally not intended for painting, or printmaking for that matter! It was so much fun to work with her to find ways of working with these tools in etching. She and I both had to be rather inventive in our approaches to the medium and open to trying something new. In the four prints she created you can instantly see the joy and spontaneity that went into their making.


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