Most years for Valentine’s I hide away in the studio and make pictures, but this year was different. I was invited to give a talk at Wrexham’s Regional Print Centre at Coleg Cambria, as part of their Print Symposium, and seeing as it was Valentine’s Day I thought I would theme the talk around Love.

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It is a theme that I have been preoccupied by for many years: prints can be, after all, a token of affection, especially when each is handmade with love. I have explored making prints about love and connection with animals (Spirit and Guardian); sensual love (the Orchis Series); things I love and that make me laugh (Little Linocut Series); and fantastical love stories (Lansu Garden Series, China Love Series), with birds (Swallow Span) and beasts (Devour) that jump straight out from my imagination.

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Talking about caesareans. Photograph by Wiktoria Przekora

My current series of works (the little linocuts) has been all about a kind of loving conversation with my dad (without that sounding too weird, I just want to cheer him up with something more concrete that lasts longer than the short time we have together)…

Talking about the Olympic pool

The Olympic Pool and its ridiculous hairdryer situation… Photograph by Wiktoria Przekora

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Clockwise from left, Vasile, me, Tony, Mum and Dad

WG talking about her linocut process

Showing my linocut process: I draw directly on the block. Photograph by Wiktoria Przekora

Anyway there are 35 of these prints now, and I showed my working process (I draw directly on the block) as well as bringing all the BAT (bon a tirer) proofs to Wrexham to show the delegates at the conference after my talk,. These BAT proofs are covered with notes and colour swatches and printing instructions.

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I made a special Valentine’s print for sale at the conference, as well as a New Year Card for the Year of the Dog, and enjoyed meeting the other presenters and chatting with the delegates.

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Despite all the excitement of being with a group of printmakers (surely the friendliest bunch, ever), I had to leave early…

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I had an evening reception to attend at Buckingham Palace! I’m not sure how the invitation came my way, or who nominated me, but I was really happy to be invited as an artist, not as a vet.

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After the invitation came, I started to feel completely unworthy of a royal visit. In my life there are many chaotic elements, strivings, failures and disappointments: all my possessions crammed into one room

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living in a wild and ugly part of town,

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a patchwork of jobs and commitments,

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long neglected friendships, a fridge that needs cleaning, a bike that needs new parts, a diary with scrambled deadlines, a pile of prints that threatens to collapse on top of me. I didn’t feel glamorous enough, or successful enough to be asked along.

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After some excruciating trips to fancy shops that I would normally never go to (what’s the point of an outfit where you can’t move your arms?) my dear sister Feng Ho, an ethical fashion designer, stepped in and offered one of her bespoke jackets for the occasion, and ethical handbag designer Embellished Truth lent me the statement bag.

Wuon-Gean Ho wearing jacket by Feng Ho and carrying Embellished Truth handbag

Image by British Ceremonial Arts, copyright The Crown.

You aren’t allowed to take photos or record anything when you are in the Palace, so I wrote the description below for my instagram page the following day, when everything was sparkling and fresh in my mind…

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The Palace is a bit like stepping inside a lavish cake. A red carpet takes you up three flights to a domed lobby, a perfectly white and gold studded ceiling. Prince Albert, looking young, in marble, stands in an alcove, and I’m sure there’s another statue of Albert facing himself, in a weird parallel world. A marble girl plays with a dog, her hand buried in its fur. Heavy sparkling chandeliers glitter. The ceiling is far away, the carpet so so soft.

Every surface is embellished with gilded twisted vines, intricate repeated oak leaves and acorns, goat hooves, naked women clutching their breasts, lions feet on every chair and lions heads on the armrests. There are crests and shields, fleur de lys and red pentagonal roses, Corinthian columns and swirling mirror surrounds. Ming vases, rosewood inlays, opal cabuchons, a pair of pink thrones, embroidered ER on the left, and P on the right.
In the picture gallery, Rembrandt, Vermeer(the light! The shades of blue!), Frans Hals, van Eyck, Rubens, there, on the wall. I spent a while gazing entranced at the Rembrandt portrait of Agatha Bas. Her creamy skin glows in the light, and her hand posed casually on the picture frame makes you think she is just there, beyond the archway.

Carved wooden vines sprout from doorways and birds nestle on swagged foliage on the walls. A pair of mirrors reflect you into a blue limpid infinity. Marble girls posed casually, resting an elbow on either side of the fireplace, hold yet more abundant grape vines. I tried the sofa out for comfort, it was padded with fraying satin, the silky fabric split by regal weight.

The Queen is so pretty she has a soft sparkling air and smiles at everyone, calmly greeting everyone individually. They read out your name from the pink card so she knows who you are. She gave me her gloved hand and I didn’t kiss it but shook it awkwardly with a half curtsey but didn’t fall over, hurrah (oops clumsy me)…

***

Sheika bag by Embellished Truth

When things have settled down, perhaps some of these things will emerge in new work, who knows. In the meantime, I’ve cleaned the fridge, repaired the doors, done some laundry, and started to tidy up some of the piles of paper… just in case she ever wants to visit me in return…!

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She Dreams of Flowers

I’m very happy to be one of the 30 shortlisted artists for this printmaking prize in Belgium 2018 http://award.renecarcan.be/

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RA Schools, Lick the Moon

The works I submitted are selected from the diary prints: little linos that I’ve been making, more or less every 10-14 days, ever since I started the fellowship at the Royal Academy Schools in October 2016.

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Green block for This Granny Can

I set myself some rules: all the prints would be made from blocks which measure 15 x 20 cm, and that there would only be two of them.

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This Granny Can

If I wanted more colours, I could make blends of ink and print them on top of each other.

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Rainbow Room

In many of the prints, I used selective inking and wiping to achieve the effects that I wanted. So on the print above, the face and arms have only one coat of ink, whereas the rest of the block has been inked up four times.

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My ink!

Deciding which colours would work best has been a huge learning curve for me.

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Colour Trial Proofs for Made of Earth, We Are

Sometimes the colour trial proofing has resulted in more questions than answers!

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Colour trial proofs for Eight to One

Actually, I would have loved to submit all the prints, in one big panel, because this project has recorded what’s on my mind, as well as being a kind of postcard home: I made these to make my dad smile.

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Work displayed in Aberystwyth Printmakers

Sometimes they were a record of the absurdity of swimming pools

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Block for She Doesn’t Care

Sometimes I was poking fun at our obsession with phones and selfies, even when in the presence of amazing things, like the terracotta army

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Xian Selfie

However, although I’ve plastered the walls of the care home where is is staying, he doesn’t show me that they interest him in any way at all. They have more effect on my mum, who snorts with laughter whenever she sees the mirror print, and tells me to keep on going…

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Mirror Mirror

The show opens 15 Feb and runs til 15 May in the Bibliotheca Wittockiana– 23 rue de Bemel -B 1150 Brussels http://www.wittockiana.org Apparently this is a museum devoted to book arts and bookbinding. I’m looking forward to going along.

Work laid out for framing at ELP

If you would like to see all the prints in the show, you can visit the online site http://award.renecarcan.be/current_edition where you can also vote for your favourite work…

 

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Update! on 15th February, I went to the opening of the show!

After the excitement of going to Wrexham, and then Buckingham Palace, I hopped on a train to Brussels for the Rene Carcan Print show… But I was soooooooo tired!

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Hahaha! After Wrexham and the Palace, I was knackered…

The show was in the Bibliotheca Wittockiana, located in the far east of the city, a good twenty minute march from the nearest dark metro stop alongside a motorway…

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This haven of a library is a real treasure trove of old equipment, beautiful hand-bound books and reportedly the biggest collection of children’s rattles in the world.

Anna looking at rattles

It was a huge crowd of people, there to see the art, and eat some sumptuous food.

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Important question: why do we just have drinks at private views in the UK, when we could be having dumplings…?

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Isabel, Rory and Anna Brooke, my friends who came all the way from the UK to see the show

I was thrilled to see Elisabeth Matthieu, who had been so kind and welcoming during my stay in Canada, and who chaired the 10th Biennial d’Estampe de Trois Rivieres (BIECTR) last year, along with her friend Aline.

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Also, fellow Canadian Jo-Ann Lanneville was there, as another shortlisted artist, and Catherine Gillet, who makes beautiful engravings (if it were me, I would have given her the prize for sure)…

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My work was displayed in a cabinet which was quite sweet. Mirror mirror print was not there: guess they didn’t have enough space…

_MG_2155mg_2158.jpgI’m ashamed to say I got lost en-route, missed the prize ceremony, and didn’t figure out who were printmakers amongst the guests: after all there was a feast to be had!

_MG_2115I managed to say hello to two of the organisers. I think you can see the first mention prize here, a series of works called Clean, by Ann-Kristin Källström, behind Roger Dewint.

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I was thrilled to be there, and be joined by good friends.

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For more info on the show, which runs to 15 May, please see http://award.renecarcan.be/current_edition

In December, I was invited by Sabine Delahaut and Ozan Bilginer to take part in a show called Print/ Pressure, located in Ankara, the capital of Turkey.

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Photo by Sabine Delahaut

The premise of the show was that in Turkish language, the word for Print (Baski) is used to express concepts of coercion, oppression, discipline and restraint, as well as being the word for printing/ impression and pressure.

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Seeing as many cultures hide intimate depictions of the body, I thought it would be apt to show the Orchis book series.

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As I’ve written before in this blog, the word Orchis is the ancient Greek word for testicle, after which Orchid flowers were named, owing to the shape of their bulbs. In Old English too, the same parallel was made, and Orchid bulbs were called dogstones.

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The luxuriant feminine aspect of the Orchid flower, and the masculine shape of their roots makes the Orchid plant a metaphor for sexuality. The book format allows for a private viewing of what may be considered a socially taboo subject. The books are intended to be portable and discrete.

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However, this time round, the gallery chose to display eight of the nine books on shelves above and below each other, emphasising their sculptural qualities. The ninth book, Orchis Nine, is in the catalogue.

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In my statement for the catalogue, I compare the book to a body. Turning the pages stretches limbs and crushes and expands the timeline.

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The landscapes that result flow and merge from bodies into plants and flowers, jungle and folded fabric, between figures that are solid and those that seem to shimmer and disappear.

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I like to think that if the body is enclosed in the book, equating paper with skin, then skin smells of black ink.

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Other artists in the show were Atilla Atar, Beyza Boynudelik, Charlotte Massip, Engin Esen, Hasan Kiran, Heather Huston, Jean – Michel Uyttersprot, Ozan Bilginer, Sabine Delahaut and Oleg Denysenko.

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Atilla Atar

The gallery, Arte Sanat, made a really lovely publication with images from everyone, as well as a statement, the link is here

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Heather Huston

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Sabine Delahaut

The show runs until 20 Jan 2017 so there’s still time to view it.

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I was particularly intrigued the work by Ozan Bilginer which used thermochromic ink and heaters inserted behind the installation of prints: as the heaters raised the temperature of the print surface the black ink became transparent and the screenprinted scene below was revealed. This was interesting to observe, as well as to watch viewers captivated by images that were permanently in flux.

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Ozan Bilginer 

After the opening, we all went out to eat a hearty meal and drink Raki.

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Photo by Sabine Delahaut

The showing of the Orchis Library in Turkey had an additional coincidence, in that the Orchid root is commonly made into a winter drink called Salep (also popular in 18C Britain as an aphrodisiac) tying in with the notion of the Orchid plant being related to the body and its sensual functions.

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On my last afternoon there, the hotel ordered Salep for me to try. It was a creamy sweet comforting hot drink, but it didn’t have its required effect…

I didn’t fall in love with anyone on the way home…

 

 

I’ve finally got round to photographing the Orchis prints (which make up the images in the Orchis books) on their own. Each print is 20 cm high and 91 cm long; on a webpage they tend to look like a smallish black squiggle. So I’ve added in close-ups in a section below each main image, which allows you to see more of the detailed carving and printing.

Orchis One

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Orchis Two

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Orchis Three

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Orchis Four

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Orchis Five

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Orchis Six

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Orchis Seven

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Orchis Eight

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Orchis Nine

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The prints are linocuts carved on three panels of Japanese vinyl, printed with black sakura ink on lambeth cartridge paper with a French American tool press, which has exerted enough pressure to stretch the print by 1-2 cm longer than the original blocks. Some prints (Orchis 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9) have been wiped and re-inked to achieve the different depth of greys. Some prints (not photographed here) have had a small bit of red colour pencil drawn on top to add highlights.

Orchis Four as a flat print has been accepted to the Society of Wood Engravers’ annual touring show, and will start off by being displayed in Bath.

79th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers, 44AD Art Gallery, 4 Abbey St, Bath BA1 1NN  44AD Gallery 11 Oct – 5 Nov. Private View: Saturday 15 October 2016, 2.30 – 5.30pm.  http://www.woodengravers.co.uk/79th-at-44ad-gallery-bath/

When the prints are folded into a book format they become a very different object: the long panorama is collapsed into a set of shapes that bring separate parts of the image close to each other. For me, books are portable, secretive and tactile. The images are read individually, rather than remaining in constant comparison.

A complete set of Orchis books will be displayed in the University of the West of England in Bristol in February 2017.

A complete set of Orchis books has also entered the collection of the British Museum (Nov 2016)

The Orchis prints were awarded the Atelier Presse Papier Prize, Trois Rivières, Canada in June 2017.

 

crow boy7-8_076The animation I was working on is finished! I put the sound track of carving wood onto the background. crow boy9-10_020

I changed the name of the animation to Shadow Boy as the work was started at Crow’s Shadow Press in eastern Oregon, and also because the boy is probably not native Crow.

crow boy10-11_002I learned a lot about how I work, as the animation involved hours of forensic reconstruction of my carving technique.

Here it is: vimeo.com/164877854

 

Shadow Boy animation will be shown in the brand new gallery space in the architectural-award winning Leicester Print workshop, alongside all the 10 linocut printed pages from the book, Swallow Span. The show is titled Light Line, and is a two person show with artist Angela Harding.

I chose the title Light Line as a description of what it is like to carve lino, as I was aware that Angela also works in this medium. Linocuts involve carving channels into lino to leave a light, or white line. We both work from dark to light, and use similar tools and materials. The phrase Light Line is a sort of pun on the phrase, Life Line, which for me is a comment on the act of creativity and expression, as well as in the more literal sense of the strong narrative elements of both of our work…

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Brush drawing for the dog who speaks Crow

I will be in Leicester giving a talk on my work on Thursday 14 July at 6.30 pm (doors open at 6pm, entry £5). All welcome!

50 St. George Street, Leicester, LE1 1QG. http://www.leicesterprintworkshop.com/

Light Line: Angela Harding and Wuon-Gean Ho

3 May – 31 July

(PS. Sometimes links don’t work, so here is the vimeo address on its own: vimeo.com/164877854 )

FOLD> is a portfolio of prints that I curated for the IMPACT 9 printmaking conference in Hangzhou, China, 22-26 September (starts tomorrow!) As I can’t make it, I’ve posted the portfolio to the organisers to display on my behalf. The conference questions the meaning and relevance of print in the digital age, so I thought the aspects of print that are not adequately conveyed in digital format are the tactile and the physical. The portfolio focusses on surface alterations and folds.

“Radiant Intervals,” Screen print, 40cm x 30cm (15.75 x 11.8”), Stephanie Beisel, 2015

Radiant Intervals by Stephanie Beisel, screenprint

The word fold also has multiple interesting connotations referring to creases in cloth, in paper, in time, to movements of wings, the body, the land, and a secondary meaning of groups of animals or people. The addition of a fold to a sheet of paper has the effect of creating a folio, and creates space and orientation. The portfolio consists of prints that each have at least one fold, with final dimensions of an A4 piece of paper (21 x 29 cm). There were no restrictions on medium, size of image, size of paper, shape of paper, substrate, style, whether text, collage, hand coloured, glow in the dark, embossed, perforated, nor printmaking technique used. There were some interesting approaches, and I’m pleased with the final outcome. Here are some pictures below.

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Untitled, by Mayra Gazinotti, screenprint

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Untitled, by Mayra Gazinotti, screenprint

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1:00:47 by Ronit Mirsky, screenprint

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After the Flood, by Susannah Stark, Sceenprint and digital collage

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Untitled, by Meiyi Wang, Linocut

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White Face, White impressions by Amy Cornfield, face print and screenprint

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Canyon and Cave, by Meg Rahaim, Digital Inkjet print

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Moss by Gloria Ceballos, Screenprint

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FOLD_IMG_5646_miles_e Roberto’s, by Rob Miles, linocut

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Roberto’s, by Rob Miles, linocut

Las Brujas by Eden Barrena Gonzales, Lithograph on two sheets for FOLD portfolio

Las Brujas by Edén Barrena Gonzales, Lithograph

A huge thank you to the participants, and apologies to the ones whose work I did not photograph. This portfolio may be run again in the future, so please get in touch if you are interested in FOLD2> for the next impact conference in Lisbon in 2017!

hold (2015) by Wuon-Gean Ho, for Fold Portfolio, at Impact 9, Hangzhou

Hold, by Wuon-Gean Ho, linocut

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PS. Life zooms by and the world continues to shrink. I made work in the USA this summer, and am in shows in London, Japan and China in the next couple of months, but of course I haven’t got round to posting anything at all! Just to say that I do have work in the National Original Print Exhibition in the Bankside Gallery, 48 Hopton Street (next to the Tate Modern) in London from now until 27th September. These are the prints that are there: two of my newish monoprint screenprints measuring 112 x 76 cm.

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The Royal Mint have been working on a promotional video for the lunar year of the sheep coin. Here I am talking about sheep and printing linocuts in East London Printmakers a couple of weeks ago… Was great to watch and learn from Adam Millbank of www.jonesmillbank.com who deftly ran around the studio filming on two cameras, switching lenses, juggling lights, timing answers to account for the noisy train line that passes overhead every minute, and dispensing giant chocolate buttons to keep the whole team happy throughout the day. I think you can see the effect of the chocolate at the end!

Link to video here