This project involved transcribing an existing image, to create something new. I chose Duccio’s Franciscan Madonna (1280 – 1285) an Italian renaissance painting of tempera on wood. I liked the formal arrangements of the figures in the composition and also the deterioration of the egg tempera on the panel. I decided I didn’t want to get involved in the context of the picture but instead focus on the formal qualities only.
After a class exercise in abstraction, I decided to divide the picture in to geometric shapes and used these to form the composition. Initially I made a painting on a wood panel using layers of paint to build up texture, wiping it off and reapplying. I liked the textures but found the overall picture slightly dull so I splattered it with some dense ink. Although the composition was ok, I felt it didn’t convey the textural elements in the picture –the tiled walls, velvety fabric and disintegrating paint.
Then I did start to think of the content of the painting and the stillness of it. We had been making collographs in printmaking and I really enjoyed developing texture with ink. In the end this is what I focused on, using Prussian blue as the overall colour. I made the collograph from mount board and after a few experiments I settled on having a deep flat coloured foreground with texture in the sides of the picture (classical landscape technique!). I left the figure area white, symbolic of the purity of the Madonna and Child relationship. I added texture with a coarse grain fabric placed on the plate in a couple of small areas and gold leaf for the halo of the baby Jesus. It took me a few attempts to get to the final print but in the end I felt it was more successful than the painting.
I also tried experimenting with monoprints based on some watercolour angels I did early on in the project. I transposed the watercolour on to a canvas and added some gold leaf scraps. The outline of the support came through when I rubbed off the transfer that had a nice effect. I also did a magenta monoprint over a black and white plate of an Italian architectural painting from an old book that was just a bit of fun.
Overall I was surprised to find myself liking the discipline and order of printmaking-the measuring, organisation and precision required. However I enjoyed the rhythm of following a process, I think the control and order that’s needed suited the abstraction. The simplicity of the overall design allowed for contemplation, and as that would have been the original purpose for the painting, I was pretty happy with that.