Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oakey's waterproof flint paper

What on earth kind of print can be on the other side of this? Oakey's Waterproof Flint Paper, made expressly for wet-rubbing-down by Wellington Mills, London?

The answer is a stencilled intepretation of an untitled painting by Joan Miró. It is printed on this extraordinary sandpaper support because that is what Miró himself had used for the original. The artist responsible for the stencil was John Piper. Piper recalls this episode in "Working with Printers", written in 1987 for Orde Levinson's catalogue raisonné, "Quality and Experiment": The Prints of John Piper. Remembering Curwen's support for the avant-garde journal Axis: A Quarterly Review of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, which was edited by Piper's wife-to-be Myfanwy Evans and published by A. Zwemmer, Piper writes, "He even encouraged me to reproduce a Miró which had been painted on glass paper, on real glass paper, and bound it into Signature." It appeared in Signature 7 in 1937.

Regarding the Paramat blocks used to create the image, Piper writes, "They consisted of a thin sheet of aluminium mounted by a thin sheet of rubber composition which could be cut away with a model maker's knife to leave the area required in relief which could then be inked and printed... It was a poor man's parallel to the French 'pochoir' process, all hand done, involving girls with stencils and which produced beautiful results in pricey art books in Paris." As Piper, notes, this technique was also used at Curwen; in fact Harold Curwen improved the pochoir process, which had been brought to a pitch of near-perfection by Jean Saudé, by replacing metal stencils with transparent plastic ones, so that the "girls with stencils" could see what they were doing when they hand-applied the colour.

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