Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Reverie of Etching...

Detail from artist book: Walking and Falling with Language 2014

Poetics of Etching

In Gaston Bachelard’s sublime book on the poetic resonances of objects within intimate spaces, The Poetics of Space, he observes that ‘the poetic act has no past, at least no recent past, in which its preparation and appearance could be followed’ (Bachelard,1958). In its cryptic manner Bachelard’s observation is what it feels like to make etchings. The process is so immersive that for the practitioner there is ever only the moment, and once completed the effects so mysterious that nothing could possibly follow and defeat such a singular experience.
The comparison is of course somewhat tilted. One is constantly aware of etchings sustained history and anyone who has ever engaged in the process will admit that it’s impossible to ignore the resonances of its past. The nuanced elements of the process are embedded with an historical consciousness together with remnants of the past made available in the very materials and equipment. Presses with large wheels attached that allow  you to feel like you’re at sea, steel beds like kitchen tables that invite conversation, thick felt blankets that protect and veil anticipation, liquid and hard grounds that are archaeological and black inked surfaces that bring you to the edge of the subconscious.
Discovering precisely what it is about etching that takes hold is as elusive and fluid as Bachelard’s description. The natural response is that it is never one thing and that the layered experience of process and materiality disclose a response that will always be collective. The poetic act remains essentially vague and enigmatic but there is always a moment where the fluidity is suddenly fixed and something takes hold, and then it is gone. It is this instance of reverie within etching that I wish to explore.
Objective descriptions often provide the best starting point. This questioning has commenced a personal project of enquiry into the character of etching and how it resonates with individual etchers/print makers and I invite anyone who has engaged with etching to send me their reflections on what it is that takes hold of them or likewise what it is about etching that disengages them.

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