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Print perfect

From left, David Scott Armstrong of York University, Marlene MacCallum of Grenfell’s visual arts program, and Rachel Anstey, research assistant, Grenfell College, put a plate through the press.

By Pamela Gill

Visual artists from all over Canada and into the United States travelled to Corner Brook last month for a workshop that explored a one-of-a-kind process that is being done only at Grenfell College.

The particular process examined during the workshop was four-colour photogravure. Photogravure is a historical photographic process which combines traditional intaglio, or etching, techniques with photography to create a print that has the qualities of both an etching and a photograph.

“We’re basically taking a digital photo and converting it back to analogue – we’re reversing the typical process,” said Marlene MacCallum, professor of visual arts at Grenfell College, who began to develop her photogravure printing practice in 1993.

Prof. MacCallum and two other visual arts faculty, David Morrish and Pierre LeBlanc, conducted the workshop, thanks to a multi-year Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Research/Creation Grant for their project. The project is titled Creating the visual book through integration of the divergent technologies of photogravure and digital processes. This workshop marked the halfway point in their research and is part of the knowledge mobilization/dissemination of the project.

Participants in the workshop included David Scott Armstrong, York University, Toronto; Mark Bovey, NSCAD University, Halifax; Steven Dixon, University of Alberta, Edmonton; Nancy Fox, University of Toronto; and Asa Muir-Harmony, Crown Point Press, San Francisco. Also contributing to the workshop were two research assistants, Jackie Barrett and Rachel Anstey.

“This type of work is not being done anywhere else,” said Ms. Muir-Harmony, whose workshop and press in California is dedicated to the creative process and the art and craft of printmaking, primarily etching. “I’m excited to see how I can integrate what I’ve learned here in my own set up.”

During the five-day workshop the group went through the entire process of creating a four-colour photogravure from the starting point of a digital file to the final stage of a traditionally printed four-colour photogravure print. In essence, the group of artists started with a digital image and produced colour separations which were used traditionally in the intaglio printmaking process.

The Research/Creation Grant is one of SSHRC’s newer granting initiatives and was established as a pilot program in 2004. Profs. MacCallum, Morrish and LeBlanc were the first MUN faculty members to receive one of these grants when they were awarded $146,000 for their collaborative initiative. In their research, they explore how historical and contemporary technologies co-exist and expand on each other’s limitations. The impact of integrating the different tools/technologies is considered in all stages of the work, from the initial genesis through to transmission to the audience and its reception.

The objective is to investigate the creation of book works and other forms of sequential imagery using an integrated approach to the technologies of printmaking, photography and digital imaging.