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The monotype is a hybrid medium encompassing drawing, painting and print-making. Materials and process overlap when the plate, paper, paint and press interact with the artist’s hand to produce a uniquely expressive mirror-image of the work.
Degas was an innovator who embraced both monotype and photography, and his interests in these media intertwined with and complemented his painting (Childs, 1999-73). His monotypes like his paintings often have unconventional viewpoints and compositions, like On the Street in the Rain. c. 1876–77 (Hirschi, 2016), where the viewpoint is from above but close in, and the second figure is cut in half by the right border, indicating perhaps a photographic reference source.
The tactile nature of his process produces a sense of immediacy, improvisation and spontaneity; there is evidence of the artist’s hands, loose strokes of brushes and rags, scratching and scraping. The accidental, atmospheric effects he achieved appeal to me, for example in evocative landscapes like Forest in the Mountains (1890) (Embuscado, 2016). I like the blurred results, and I adopted his tonal approach in some of my monotype portraits, using tactile methods to depict emotion and atmosphere:
In his monotypes Degas was deeply engaged in experimentation rather than a wish for completion – see for example Ballet Scene. c. 1879, (Hirschi, 2016); here, interestingly, he uses monotype as a starting point for reworking and revising with pastel. Influenced by Degas I reworked some of my monotypes with other media, such as the one below which was developed with coloured pencil:
Thérèse Oulton, a contemporary artist, made a tondo Untitled (1987) (Tate, 1996) at the renowned experimental collaborative print workshop Garner Tullis, using oil paint, sand and very heavy paper. It has a ‘scrubbed, harshly worked texture…roughly finished brushstrokes trail into the unworked area of the image’. (Tate, 1996).
The juxtaposition of organic shapes and marks with sharp geometrical edges appealed to me; like Baker, 1988:21, I feel that the artist is ‘exploring the boundaries between abstraction and representation’.
Plous, 1988:16 likens the artist’s monotypes to ‘images of nature..but nature reinvented or extrapolated into the unknown’. She writes ‘Oulton maintains a balance between internal emotion and external representation in her work’ (Plous, 1988:42). Awagami sent me an example of one of Oulton’s monotypes which fits this description perfectly, where the viewer is drawn irresistibly to search for a representation of nature – leaves, fishes – in an essentially abstract image.
Her prints as well as her paintings express an ambivalence, an ambiguity which appealed to me, influencing me to experiment by building up my images in textured layers of print, such as in this portrait
and to juxtapose textured, organic patterns with sharply delineated passages in some of my monotypes such as this:
I could continue to use the monotype medium in my own work, by integrating it with my drawing and painting practise; developing and refining techniques of layering pattern and texture; creating atmosphere using tone; exploring how abstraction and representation can interact, and how external observation can combine with internal feelings.