Movement in Print (SGCI conference 2012)

Thank you for inviting me to the SGCI conference, I am very pleased to be in New Orleans. My name is Wuon-Gean and I’m a printmaker from East London Printmakers, in the UK. I print there and work as a technician and a tutor, and have been an active member for the past 6 years or so.

1 >ELP slide<

I’m going to talk to you about my current print work, and also put it into context with images from printmaking that I admire and which in some ways relate to my work

2 >sleeper pr.

Recently I have been fascinated by prints that deal with and explore the topic of movement, weightlessness, dance and flight. Despite the two dimension limitations in printed media, I do believe there are prints that explore this topic well. The movement that I am interested in relates to the human body. Movement is something which we are all familiar with: the movement of our bodies and breath, the movements that we use in the physicality of creating a piece of art. I would like to discuss each of these areas and show you images that I feel illustrate my point.

1) MOVEMENT in print, recorded in the static image

3 > Kiss<

I’d like to start this survey with a kiss. This is a print by Frank Boyden, a printmaker and sculptor from Oregon. For this print he asked a poet to ink up her lips with sugar lift and kiss a copper plate, which was then etched and worked into with drypoint and traditional ground. This piece is in the front of her poetry collection entitled “Evidence of the Night,” which was made as a limited-edition hand-bound book, letterpressed and illustrated with hand printed etchings.

4> Kiss<

The image of the lips is static, but the movement of the kiss is easily imagined by the viewer, and, through our personal knowledge of a kiss, has its own resonance. The imprint of the lips on the plate seems more personal than a fingerprint, but there is also a shock value to the idea of lips touching metal, and also a shock in the concept that the touch of thin skin has been replicated by the corroding marks of acid. The imprint of the lips for me represent an image of the gateway from which the poetry emerged, and the actual size of the lips in the intimate space of the folded volume gives the book a mouth and transforms it into a surrogate human.

Ø     5 pirouette<

Movement, in the sense of a transient moment in time, physically captured on a sheet of paper, is shown in a series of graphite drawings by Julie Brixey-Williams, from the UK. The pirouette drawings come from a book called ‘locationotation’ made in collaboration with 52 dancers who were all over the UK, published in 2001. This one is called Niki.

I quote, “At exactly the same moment in time (9th June 11.30am  2001), each dancer performed one pirouette on provided graphite powder and paper, thus notating movement, location and time in one action. The book contains a page for each pirouette and a description of who and where it was performed. The graphite is very sensitive and picks up  textures on the ground v well -eg grass, tiles, grit. There is a good deal of variety both in marks and location.  My favourite account is one dancer who had to jump out of the car on her way to a wedding to do the action at a motorway service station. I can’t help thinking she went to the wedding with a very dirty foot!”

I would argue that these images are prints of sorts, in that the final piece is a direct impression of the location of the dancer, as well as a faithful record of the sweep and pressure of the human body on paper. The physical nature of the pirouette- evidence of muscle movement and traces of abandon- is also allied with a conceptual pirouette that springs to mind when we hear the word “pirouette”, and invests the two dimensional image with a time sequence that is not present in the paper itself.

Ø     6 breath display of 3 plates <

Lyrically, the movement of our breath has been also recorded by another artist from the UK, called Jayne Wilton, who took small copper plates, the size of a passport, and asked people to breathe on them. The single breath was then etched, and the resulting plate displayed, as a sort of contemporary portrait of the individual. The ephemeral nature of one breath, of which we perform millions over our lifetimes, is captured and solidified in the static metal.

She says, “I etched the copper with ferric chloride and then left them to develop their own patina, that way the plates, although having a permanent etch, can still develop a level of movement and can still evolve past my intervention. It also subverts the normal print making practice of preserving the plates and putting the plates away into storage- these plates demanded to be seen! I’m amazed that the plates are so different but that also excites me because of course each breath we take is different.”

Ø     7 breath and relief<

So in these works, which have been mainly displayed as etching plates rather than as embossed prints, the movement of the breath has been further compounded by the chemical movement of the acid creeping its way into the structure of the metal and forming its own links and cavities. The colour and texture of the metal has been worked on by the chemical reactions. Alchemaic transformation is implied.

The traditional concept of movement that has been depicted in print has been influenced in part by many other creative processes including sculpture, photography and painting. The Italian futurists such as Boccioni showed movement as distortions of the muscle mass, trailing behind the solid form as half remembered displacements of the air. Contemporary photography, using strobe lighting and other tricks have further manipulated our expectations of the image in movement.

Ø     8 ALB cliff 2<

Synchroballistic photography plays with the distortions that occur if the machine that captures the image (which of course is capturing light reflecting off the subject) is moving at the same time as the subject itself. This image by Angus Leadley-Brown, Cliff Diver, shows the man who is falling engulfed by water inexplicably from waist up, as the movement of the fall is captured in physical vertical space on this photograph. When the camera captured the image of the subject’s feet, he had not yet entered the water, but by the time the film was recording the waist and above, the man had broken through the surface of the water.

9 >Angie Ivers<

Finally, one  great solution to producing an image that appears to move, is to shift its position on the paper. I admire the work of Angie Hoffmeister, an artist and illustrator from Dusseldorf, who recently produced some drypoint portraits with a double line tracing the essentials of the features of the face.

She says, “I use different kinds of references for my works, but for the drypoints I worked from photographs. These movements are more like a vibration or a tremor, they’re not supposed to tell a story. The prints were very static without the multiple features, but no human being is ever completely still, there is always so much going on underneath the skin. So the line is the exaggeration of small movements I mentioned. In a way the prints are a closer look at portraits.

“I decided to use the drypoint technique (and I etched the background with copper sulphate) because the lines have much more life than they usually have in etchings.”

2) Printed animation MOVEMENT in print recorded with the moving or sequential image

10 > Xu Bing<

There are a few printmakers who have started to cross boundaries and are laboriously constructing animations with multiple hand-made frames, partly because I think that working in printmaking promotes a sequential approach to image making. We printmakers can repeat, reprint, alter, and destroy our images as we make multiples. Even in the creation of an etching plate or reduction linocut there is an element of sequentiality, as we continue to carve or bite the plate in a series of steps and stages. This brings to mind the work of Xu Bing, a printmaker and artist from China now working in New York, who illustrates this with his sequence of prints entitled Five Series of Repetition (1987). Here, his woodcut carving of a rice field is printed in a long strip. Each new image is next to rather than on top of the previous one as he carved away. The progression from one image to the next involves the viewer in imaginary narratives to do with transformation and progression over time.

When printing there are many options on pressure, colour blends, order of laying colours down and so on, and we often repeat until we find a combination that resonates. I think there is a good deal of scientific rigor and discipline inherent in printmaking itself.

Ø     11. Still from jag rockloop<

Edwina Ellis, an artist from Australia currently living and working in Wales, takes printed animations to an extreme abstraction. She illustrates a thorough experimental approach to image making, and says, “I use the continuity and repeatability of printed proofs to explore every possibility I can devise for a single configuration of my engraved blocks and vinyl or lino substrates for prints on paper, but what was originally their secondary use as film frames encouraged more adventurous experiments, as a disappointing configuration was still a useful film frame.

Ø     Start playing the animation Jag rock loop<

“The original proofs were taken purely to establish the best angles in my circular chases for three engraved polymer blocks, in order to create interference figures, or moirés, for a variable edition on paper. It was a serendipitous discovery that the subsequent pile of proofs could become film frames and the 29 prints formed the frames for my first film, Tabby Twenty Nines.

“With my second film, Jag Rock Loop, the proofs are identifying how to push both the film transitions and the prints on paper further, as both purposes for printing are informing and inspiring each other – almost a metaphor for my offset pairs of prints that constantly strain my imagination in two totally different directions. Devising continuity sequences between them demands invention, imagination and cunning – and is fast developing into the most exciting part of a planned long-term project.”

Ø     12. Still from stone bone boogie<

Gini Wade is an illustrator and printmaker from the UK who also lives and works in Wales. Her animation has a very humorous slant. Here, “Stone Bone Boogie” takes a dance sequence by Fred Astaire and uses a lithograph of 60 hand drawn skeletons to bring the sequence to life. Displayed as a zoetrope as well as in flip book format, and set to a catchy music track, “Soul Power”, by Kokolo, it uses Final Cut pro and some basic effects to give the illusion of the dance and is timed carefully to the music.

12 >Stone bone boogie<


How does this all tie in with my own work? I am on this topic because I realise that I have been fascinated by movement, and working towards the moving image for a while, in an unconscious fashion. In the process of thinking about this theme I have come up with the artists and their work that I have shown you so far. In fact, there are many more who I would like to include on this topic.

My own personal practice is different to those I have talked about already, and I would like to show you a few examples. In my work, I have explored movement implied in the static image, in a series of works that shows the body suspended in space. For this, even though I work primarily in print, photography had more impact and resonance than the drawn line because of its implications of veracity.

Ø     13. Still of ghost with ALB<

At first, I started to look at flying and jumping while in a horizontal position, much like the dance works of Trisha Brown, “Walking on the Wall,” 1971. In this piece, dancers walk effortlessly across the wall of a gallery space attached to harnesses, their natural movements of the act of walking now transferred to the vertical plane, as if gravity were now located on the side of the wall, and giving the viewer a sense of vertigo as the floor becomes at right angles to what appears to be a dominant truth.

Ø     14. Still of flip again photos<

“Montefiore Flip” shows a back flip, executed from the comfort of the floor. After a while of taking photographs of myself on self timer, I realised that I could pretend to fly, if I could capture that moment in time half way through a leap in the air. I saw a parallel in the works of Eadweard Muybridge who made scientific study of animals and humans in motion, and configured my own display of human flight in collaboration with photographer Paul Weaver.


16.> Paul’s photos of fake flight

Ø     17. Still of costanza room<

The series, Costanza, started with a residency in the Italian castle of Montefiore Conca, near Rimini. I entered a room near the top of the castle and although I am not spiritual, I felt a strong female presence there. Later I was intrigued to hear the story that the room had been inhabited by a young woman called Costanza, from the 15th Century, who had had many lovers after the early death of her husband in battle. She was murdered by her uncle when she was 27, in an erstwhile attempt to restore family honour- although I suspect he also gained financially from her death.

18. > Still from costanza feet<

I wanted to make a piece about her, and in my mind compared her self-destructive attraction to her lovers, to a moth dancing too close to a flame. I took over 100 photos of myself every day I was there, jumping in the space to recreate her weightlessness and presence. I also felt that she was a happy playful spirit in that space. The last sequence of 174 jumps that I made form the frames of this short film. The photos, jumps and choreography are mine, the music is by Mordant Music, based in the UK.

Ø     19. costanza movie<

More recently, in collaboration with the photographer Angus Leadley-Brown, I have participated in a time slice project, where I have jumped in the centre of 40 cameras mounted in a circle all perfectly aligned with one another. The resulting images deconstruct motion and bring it all back to a static sculptural image, some of which I show you here.

20. > ghost leap movie<

21. >Mask still from impact installation<

In my printed works, have always worked in sequence, usually in order to explore a theme or topic to its full. In 2009 I embarked on a series of prints called Mask. They were based on 15 linocuts I had made the summer before on the theme of the face and masks that hide or reveal truth about individuals. I made them into silkscreen prints, and in the process of playing with colour and narrative found that I had generated hundreds of colour trial proofs for each image, some of which were more aesthetically pleasing than others, some of which were closer to my intention (a balance between beauty and darkness, more of a mood than a set palette range). I exhibited the work as an installation in Bristol in 2009, and in the Bluecoat gallery in 2010 as a panel of 44 heads attached to string and floating in the ambient breeze.

22> Circle of prints in bluecoat

23>Lucid Gorge<

This process of repetition and exploration was taken a step further when I was involved in a show at the Freud Museum in London. I embarked on a series of faces that formed the images of a spinning head. The piece, entitled Lucid Mask, was made to distill and process memories from the year before. The faces are transparent, and hold images of memories and narratives, blessings and situations. I wanted to work with the moving image partly because I had seen an incredibly arresting zoetrope in the museum when researching its space and details, by Matt Collinshaw. This piece is 3-dimensional and depicts a horrific scene, of a couple of cupids savagely attacking a snail whilst a hummingbird flutters desperately above them. The sculpted figures were lit by strobe and the effect was startling.

I worked with an animator to put the images into a sequence, and made the head turn slowly at first, then successively faster and faster until it disappears. Here is a 2 minute clip from the middle of the film.

24. >Lucid Mask Movie<

25. >Apart linocut<


After the intense examination of the face and what lies beneath it, I moved onto making work about the body and clothing. Part of the interest has stemmed from the idea that our clothes are like our skin, displaying our personalities, retaining our smells, imbued with our aura, lingering after we have changed or gone.

26. >40 dancing dresses<

My most recent project of the past year I have been trying to recreate a ghostly dancing dress in printed animation. Some of the stills of the back flips performed on the floor have been used as photographic reference material for the dresses themselves. They are all linocuts, carved with horizontal lines of varying thicknesses, and printed with black relief ink on somerset paper. At first I made a flip book of the images lined up, but later used photoshop extensively to create hundreds of in between versions of the dresses. The images were all uploaded and sequenced in final cut pro, and the music is again by Mordant Music. I would like to end my presentation here, with the video piece.

27.>Shift movie<

Thank you very much.


Beautiful Beasts (IMPACT conference 2009)

In this paper I would like to outline the various functions of representing animals in printed art, and focus more closely on how they have been depicted in the work of Marcelle Hanselaar. In particular I will explore how the portrayal of an animal in close conjunction with the human in a print can intensify or symbolise a range of loaded meanings and preoccupations for us as viewers of such work.

Hope B Werness, in the Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in Art, Continuum, New York, 2003)- writes about real and imaginary (even zodiacal animals) in art, from prehistoric to modern times. This includes the central role of animals to many creation myths; their ritualistic sacrifice; the use of their presence as a symbol particularly for fertility or perceived anthropomorphic traits; and in legends of transformation and intermarriage. Cultural and linguistic references to animals exist in every corner of the world.

American Printmaker Chadwick Tolley, says “ I like to think of humans as animals, in their most primal state”, and this raises the issue of our persistent exploration of the difference between human and beast in theological, political, creative and social spheres.


The portrayal of the beast in Marcelle Hanselaar’s black and white etchings is a natural extension of her exploration of the subject matters that she deals with as a painter. Hanselaar trained in the Netherlands and was actively painting in the UK when a chance course in etching opened her eyes to the possibility of print.

Hanselaar’s works can be defined as feminist in that women are central to the scene. The female protagonist in her erotic, charged narratives command attention even if they face away from the viewer’s gaze, perhaps to look at themselves in the mirror, or use and abuse, sometimes slaughter, the peripheral men in the tableau. Intense charged emotions, and unconventional depictions of women bring to mind the other work of artists such as Paula Rego and Frieda Khalo, whose work deals with taboos of sexuality, and femininity particularly well.


The animals that figure in Hanselaar’s prints have various roles, which I have broadly divided into five categories. They act in the following ways: as ally and friend; to disguise or metamorphose and transform; to express sexual desires; to act as impartial commentator; and to represent how close we are to our animal nature. I would like to introduce a few prints that illustrate these points above as follows:


1) The beasts are seen sometimes as alter-egos or companions to Hanselaar’s central female characters. In “Under My Skin,” in stark visual contrast to the naked women, the beasts- such as monkeys or dogs- are dressed in doll-like clothing, and are child-like in their innocence, portraying and mirroring a “tender connection” between the two,


In her 2007 etching and aquatint “Open Sesame”, the dynamics of authority and dependency are evident in the relationship between the women and dog in the centre of the image. The naked woman, from her gestures, seems to order complicit obedience from the dog, which has been dressed with an apron. She parts the cloth with her right hand and raises her left half way to her lips, as if to ask for silence. The dog gazes directly into her eyes like a loyal companion. From the shadows of the apron there emerges a naked man, small and ignored, who seems to be an incidental body coming out of the shadows. In the background there are two other odd couples; a pair of voyeurs who wear trilby hats on the left, and another man- who may even be one of the two voyeurs replicated within the scene, who vomits into the receptive mouth of a another naked woman, who cups her breasts and offers them to him.

This enigmatic print, with its beautiful spit bite clouds of fuzzy rich blacks, deals with the issue of the tender connection that she mentions. The dog and the woman are closely bonded and stand out from the other untrustworthy or aggressive people in the scene. In this case, Hanselaar explains that the dog is inside of the woman, as an independent entity, representing “the wild part of us, untamed, and full of raw life which feels like it will devour us”. Here the woman splits the wild beast from her own body and gives it the role of apron wearer, obedient and eager to please. The domesticity of the dog with its clothing calls to mind paintings by Paula Rego that show girl-like women dealing with dogs, in various fantasy roles such as mother and dependent child, flirtatious girl with confused lover and playmate and friend. The expression of love and companionship between the woman and the dog softens the emotional unease expressed in the rest of the print.


2) In particular, the theme of metamorphosis and transformation has been a common theme in legend and myth where people become animals and vice versa. Helen King, professor of history at the University of Reading writes, “The theme of metamorphosis is used to question the established boundaries between human and beast, god and mortal, animate and inanimate, thus becoming a way of exploring the limits of what humanity can do.”

Native American mythology often includes tales of the shape-shifter, with a philosophy that may be viewed as a clear distinction between body and soul: in that the soul may take on many different bodies as disguise. Other theories suggest that cave paintings with creatures that shared human and non-human features were attempts to depict shamans in the process of acquiring the mental and spiritual attributes of various beasts. Rick Bartow- a Native American artist makes paintings and prints that illustrate this metamorphosis very well. In “Study in Concentration” and “Huntress in Red”, the naked torsos of man and woman each have a kestrel head. The conjunction of the human and the animal have a startling and powerful symbolic effect.


Turning now to “The Goddess of Suburbia”, an intaglio print from 2006, the woman is cloaked with the pelt of a horned beast that resembles a deer, and preens her identity in the mirror. Like a visual representation of metamorphosis, she is half woman, half deer. She sits on a wall and there is a fully formed man emerging from her womb. This is, Hanselaar says, in reference to the visual shock that she had when first viewing Kiki Smith’s 2002 sculpture, “Born”, which is a representation of a small deer giving birth to a life sized woman. There are two more characters in the print- a man in a hat whose eyes poke out of the darkness, and a young girl playing the role of Cupid, who aims her bow and arrow towards the newborn man on the ground.

The antlers on the deer pelt function to symbolise sexual dominance, and confer authority onto the woman, giving her power and height. Her human face is hidden so we have to read her attitude and expression by looking at her posture. Her right foot rests on the newborn man’s neck, suggesting a lack of concern or even contempt for the man that is still emerging from her birth canal. According to the artist, this unpleasant and savage image of this old man’s body coming from her vagina represents

“The gender based power struggle underlying the uncivilised unsocial side of ourselves, for which we have no words or voice.”

These emotions do not traditionally fit within prescribed female roles and acts of behaviour- as if by donning the deer hide helps to embrace wild beast-like behaviour. She is changing into a wild thing, with the attributes of sexuality, reproduction and power emphasised.


3) In some images Hanselaar uses the depiction of an animal or animal mask to challenge the idolised female beauty that has been traditionally created for a male gaze. In particular, the use of animals in the scene helps with the portrayal of an animalistic sexual desire.

The woman in this print, “The Return” lifts up her skirt and pulls her underwear down, in a gesture of sexual longing. Here, the central female protagonist has strapped on a mask of a baby bird with its beak open, looking like she is clamouring to be nurtured and sustained. A shadow of a dog-headed man- which Hanselaar refers to as Anubis- the jackal headed God from Ancient Egypt who guided the dead to the underworld- clasps her from behind with a phallic like sword in one hand. To the left of the scene is a disturbing image of a bent-over child-like figure who wears a carnival style mask on the back of his head.

The straps on the bird mask, the shadowed aggression of the male and the provocative and awkward pose of the child, all create an atmosphere of violent and dark sexual cravings. In this work Hanselaar addresses “eroticism and sexuality as the core of all our actions and being.” She states,
“It is like seeing the world with tongues in my eyes. Likability (or the ability to lick our surroundings) is an essential quality in relating to the world . Disgust is the other face of desire: whether you really want to touch something or not it burns in the same place”.

Licking is an action we watch animals do in their range of natural behaviours. It is for grooming, connecting and tasting the world around them. Here Hanselaar broadens the definition of eroticism to encompass our connection to each other as individuals. In particular, she laments the “melancholy of the imprisonment of the flesh”; namely that the quest for (sexual) satisfaction of our longing is impossible to fulfil completely, and she sees the girl in the print condemned to a constant search for gratification.


4) Alternatively, the animals in the prints can act as a barometer of the mood, similar to the role of the ancient Greek chorus that summarise the situation helped direct the viewer’s gaze and judgement. In this print, “Lot’s Wife”, (2004) the protagonist licks the tongue of a dog mask put on by her lover in front of his face, in a grotesque parody of the act of kissing. The lifelike eye of the dog mask stares out to the viewer, as does the eye of its wearer, in a curious way resembling a pair of eyes in a face that is turned away from the woman. The mask has been used as a prop to extend the face forward so that they may kiss with no other body contact.

In the background on the left there is a dog that sits and howls at the moon, aptly commenting on the drama played out by the central figures in the piece. In Elizabeth Benson’s book “Birds and Beasts of Ancient Latin America”, (University of Florida Press, 1997), she discusses howling dogs and their associations with death. She writes,

“Dogs are appropriate escorts for the dead. They walk with their noses to the ground. They dig in the earth, bury bones, and hunt in burrows. They eat carrion and make themselves smell of it. They have night vision, they howl at night, they know what is there in the darkness.”

In this print, the howling dog seems to be howling at the death of the relationship between the couple. The dog’s pose is full of emotion and in contrast with the curious distance and lack of passion between the man and the woman in the centre of the scene.


5) Finally, beastly nature in the form of fur, fangs and dark textured skin or face is closely allied to a deep fear of the distasteful qualities in humanity. The presence of body hair seems to define the fragile border separating human from beast and thus our animal nature. In popular literature, RL Stevenson writes in 1883 about Henry Jekyll, who wakes to find his hand has changed completely- from “professional in shape and size… large, firm, white and comely… now… lean, corded, knuckly, of a dusky pallor and thickly shaded with a smart growth of hair. It was the hand of Edward Hyde.”

In the foreigner, from 2003, the woman’s body has developed an unmistakable pelt which is creeping up over her face and emphasising a repugnant physicality. Here her feet also appear to have become split like cloven hooves. Being so hairy she resembles some sort of wolfish goat, and seems trapped by the water that swirls around her feet. Despite the grotesque hairiness, her breasts, genitalia and large wide eyes are visible, mocking the desirability of the traditional pin up girl.


In Le Mariage 2, an intaglio print from 2006, the chest of the woman in the foreground has been split open in two by the head of a hairy wolf-like beast (incidentally she has also developed a tail) that stares at the central scene of a copulating couple with a furious expression. Here, socially unacceptable expressions of jealousy and intense rage seem to be aptly portrayed by the beast’s expression. The dark fur and intense lines of the animal is in aggressive contrast to the white flesh on display. The wolf represents the animal desires of the woman that have burst through her skin.

Hanselaar also states the wolf is very symbolic, in that it refers specifically to the wilderness within us as women. This is described in Pinkola-Estes book, Women who run with Wolves, as follows:

“Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing… Though the gifts of the wildish nature come to us at birth, society’s attempt to “civilize” us into rigid roles has plundered this treasure, and muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls.  Without Wild Woman, we become over-domesticated, fearful, uncreative, trapped.”

Although I have separated the function of the beast in Hanselaar’s print works into the above categories, she claims that they are an unconscious addition, and develop naturally during the process of creating the work. I would like to put forward a personal theory, in that I believe printmaking’s traditional media, particularly intaglio, is naturally geared towards the production of a scored, rich dark surface which conveys fur, feather and whiskers very well, and lends itself to darker imagery. In other words, have artists been influenced by the media in which they work and does the technique of etching have some influence on the subject matter that results?


Another contemporary printmaker, Frank Boyden, from north western America, has taken the dark themes of the grotesque, and depravity within humanity, and produced a suite of 96 small drypoints two by three inches in size called the “Empathies”. Human and beast-like qualities are used to depict beauty and ugliness, and contrast natural with unnatural. These small miniatures show monstrous faces twisted and animalistic with single eyes, gaping beaks, horns and haired faces. The richness of the drypoint line conveys the sensual texture of hair particularly well.


With reference to printmaking technique informing and influencing imagery, Karla Hackenmiller, professor of printmaking at Ohio University in the United States, agrees. She says that when she begins creating an image, she starts out by making marks which then trigger associations and development of the image in the subconscious . She explains,

“The etching needle lends itself to fine lines and the repetitive nature of the drawing also makes hair and fur a natural extension… the beast is easily elaborated within the printmaking process. “ (from a telephone conversation 28/ 08/09)

In this relief print “Devil Dog Ensnared”, the wildness and vitality of the animal is described aptly with the tautness of the carved line in the block. The repetitive lines of which she talks help convey a sense of primal vibrating energy.

Hanselaar comments that the etching medium brings a new dimension to her imagery. This becomes clear when you look at images that were originally paintings, and later reworked as prints. She comments that the images are “embedded in the medium that is used, if you translate them (directly) they just become a copy of something.” (from a conversation with artist, 27/05/09)

In “Lot’s Wife” for example, areas of passive colour and the central figure have been replaced by much more descriptive scribbled lines and tones. There are more props to help the narrative, and a tension to the postures of the players in the scene, that changes the dynamic of the narrative completely.

Hanselaar’s prints are made on intimately small etching plates, in contrast with the very large canvases that she usually uses. She says that these are worked on in tandem in the evenings at home. These plates are often reworked and re-etched 5-10 times in a fluid, gestural frenzy. She is less precious about the printmaking medium, for example rarely timing things in the acid, and applying stop out with a loose touch, confident that she will be able to scrape back and force out an image which she will be happy with at the end. Later some of the techniques gained from making the etchings are later used in her painted works.


In this regard, scenes of lightness become quickly etched into scenes with dramatic dark rich blacks. Bodies themselves develop a soft fuzziness from the fact the plate is often reworked but the old lines and tones rarely disappear completely- so the traces of part stories on the skin appear like haired scars or severed attachments. The monsters, birds and beasts develop a richness of tone in their dark modelling and velvety shade from the etching and aquatint process.

In the process of researching this paper, I have been constantly entertained and on the edge of being overwhelmed by the wealth of ideas and imagery relating to the representation of animal in print. Looking at Marcelle Hanselaar’s prints has allowed me to reflect upon the rich symbolism and metaphor that the presence of an animal brings to an image, as well as appreciate the way in which she approaches her etching plates and other aspects of her broad range of techniques. As an artist and printmaker, I appreciate the primal language of the beast is a very powerful one, and hope to take the fruits of my research into my future artworks.


Hope B Werness, Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in Art, New York, Continuum, 2003

Helen King,

Martin Kemp, The Human Animal in Western Art and Science, University of Chicago Press 2007

Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, Women who run with Wolves, New York, Ballantine, 1995

Jane Ussher, Fantasies of Femininity, London, Penguin, 1997

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