martedì 7 aprile 2015

Alessia Mazzoleni and the gum printing

The technique
The gum printing is a technique imported from America.
It starts with a normal digital file that we bring to the copy center to print it as an old toner Xerox machine. This technique works only with the copiers whose resinous powder is fixed to the paper by an eletro-thermical process. It is not applicable to photographs printed with laser printers, or inkjet printers because this kind of inks are not able to hold the chalcography ink we are going to spread later on the paper matrix.
These old Xerox style printers are already a bit difficult to find, so when you are sure to have found the right shop where to start your process, you are already at a good point.
The dimensions of the prints depend by the dimesions printed by the copier.
Once we have made our “photocopy”, in a short time we have to treat the paper because the fresh toner retain more ink as a matrix.

So, we brush the back of the paper with a solution of shellac dissolved in alcohol at 100° we have praipared before. We need 150-200 grams of shellac per liter of alcohol.
We proceed in this way with shellac because this solution helps to harden and hold together the paper fibers that undergo a treatment done with a lot of water that might pulping photocopy.
We need to brush in this way at least 3-4 times the small paper (until 8X10 inches), while for larger sizes such as bed sheets it is necessary to brush the photocopy 6 or 7 times.
This has done because when the photocopy is wet it becomes heavy and likely to tear under its own weight
After drying our paper, we take the arabic gum and add distilled water very hot in a dosage of 1 : 2 (1 part of arabic gum to 2 parts distilled water), turns and photocopy, spreading the solution of water and arabic gum on the side where there is the image formed by the toner.
The arabic gum should be applied with a sponge for three times throughout the sheet.
We put the arabic gum with the sponge and we take it away from the white areas with the water annd we have to do this passage again after every inking phase.
The image chosen to be transformed into “Gum print” can be a drawing, a photograph, or other types of graphic composition, but it must be suitable to undergo this treatment.
Typically, the subjects a bit cotrasted are more suitable to be printed with this technique, it is still the possibility of developing our file with Photoshop before bringing it into the copy shop to enhance its characteristics as to make more evident.

Once our photocopy was prepared with shellac and gum arabic, you can place the sheet to be inked on a smooth and homogeneous plan, so that it adheres well to this support and avoid surprises during the inking that must be smooth and homogeneous. A glass plate, or a plexiglass can be good for this purpose.After that we take the roller with ink by intaglio printing and apply it on the photocopy to the side of the toner.
The toner has the property of retaining the ink, while whites have been made impermeable to the ink by the fact that arabic gum has become fixed in the black parts of the paper.
We start from a positive image, because the blacks will be played blacks (or the color with which you will be inking the matrix), while whites will remain in a mirror.
This defect can be corrected before, always with Photoshop, or if it is not a problem, the image can be left with the left and right sides reversed.
This can happen if there are architectures where the change of sides is not perceived, as in architecture or landscapes which do not contain written.
Once the matrix is inked, we take the sheet to print (dry, do not get wet as happens for intaglio printing, because already the photocopy that serves as the matrix is wet) and we position it in contact with the toner part already inked, we align the paper and we put the everything under the press, even a couple of times.
At the end we detache the sheet of paper from the matrix and our gum printing will be ready once the ink has dried.

The matrix can be used up to a maximum of 5 times because the water and the pressure of the press spoil the paper. If you really did a good job, you also can manage to get six copies, but it is rare. Those tiny papar may last slightly longer.
In fact, the first printing is not considered, it is not good because the matrix needs to take the ink well. The first print is done on an ordinary sheet because you have a result a bit patchy and the black is not perfect.

The artist
Alessia Valentina Mazzoleni learnt this technique thanks to Chiara Giorgetti who was her teacher of printmaking at the Brera Fine Art Academy of Milan. 
Chiara Giorgetti liked Alessia's works and asked her to make them with the gum printing.
Alessia  partecipated to a couple of exhibitions, one in Bozen (Südtirol), the other in Munchen (Bavaria). In Bozen she sold her very large print of approximately cm. 190 X 90 for 400 euro. In the case of this subject, the matrix from the print was pulled was very large, it was destroyed in the third passage under the press.

The Gum print has the charm of engraving intaglio, adding to it to the charm of photography because the incisions, usually, are drawings and have a different look.
The photographs printed with ink offer a very special result and this is the atmosphere that can be suited to special subjects because they take a consistency more material that allowed to the author to get the effect that she pursued.
For the industrial subjects getting a very deep black, and having the ink a little smudged, or at least that aspect not too precise goes very well with the theme of the subjects. 
In this case, language and art go hand in hand to give more energy to the images. Tony Graffio

Alessia Valentina Mazzoleni, 25 y.o. artist and printer
(Canon A1 and Fujicolor 200)

Note: those that desire to read the original interview in italian can find it in Fragments of Culture, my other art and culture blog.

Alessia seen by Tony Graffio
(Canon A1 Fujicolor 200, prismatic filter and elaboration in PS)

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