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Artwork: Screenprints

Friday, 16 February 2018 13:46:03 -0800

Photo screenprints

Back in the 70's, photostencil materials were widely used, a good thing since it was the only way to incorporate photographic imagery into screenprints. Wasn't easy making tone-separation positives on silver-based graphic film, but at the time it was the only option. In the darkroom the giant sheets of film were exposed under the enlarger and developed in huge 20x24in trays.

J. Altfas, “George Johanson and Laverne Krause”, photo screenprint, 1985

The results were somewhat unpredictable, but despite the element of randomness —or maybe because of it—some very interesting prints were produced.

J. Altfas, “Friend of a friend”, photo screenprint, ca. 1979
J. Altfas, “Skaters at the Lloyd Center Rink”, photo screenprint, ca. 1978

Water-based printmaking

Then in the late 80's, the benefits of printing with water-based colors were becoming clear. At the time water-based screenprinting inks weren't readily available. However Golden made a special order silkscreen base for “converting” their acrylic paints into screenprinting inks. In a long series of experiments the character of these mixes was explored. Among the most successful were these prints made on Japanese paper. Unlike most of the others shown here these images were made with simple handcut stencils, a perfect complement to the absorbant, rough-surfaced paper.

J. Altfas, “Seascape”, screenprint, 1989
J. Altfas, “Geranium”, screenprint, 1989

A variation made possible by the transparent nature of these water-based media was exploring the esthetic of hand-colored photos in screenprinting. These were made by producing a monochrome image then overlaying parts with a layers of transparent color.

J. Altfas, “Bachelor Bed”, screenprint, 1989
J. Altfas, “Woman in small bed”, screenprint, 1989

This technique had obvious limits but for some subjects it worked quite well.

Seeing form and depth—stereoscopic images

J. Altfas, “Orbit”, CMY screenprint, 1998
J. Altfas, “Poppies”, CMY screenprint, 1998

Stereoscopic images have always held great appeal for me. In the 90's the “Magic Eye” phenomenon was very popular, but it seemed single image stereograms had artistic potential that hadn't been adequately exploited. In the late 90's I created a series of SIS screenprints using 9 screens—3 levels of transparent yellow, magenta and cyan—producing as many as 64 colors. (For n levels of CMY, number of possible colors = n3 + 3n2 + 3n + 1.)

J. Altfas, “Sunrise”, CMY screenprint, 1998
J. Altfas, “Papaya”, CMY screenprint, 1998

In these images it's pretty easy to see the embedded form expressing a kind of “virtual sculpture”. On the “surface” of the shape, the effect of CMY transparency is suprisingly robust, colors are well-saturated over the whole range of combination.