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Cosmic Cat

David Gilhooly


Other Works on Paper

Cats and a Few Dogs

link to image set 01Generally when we think of prints, we think of a metal plate or stone that has had an image somehow indelibly etched into its surface. The inks are then applied to the plate, the plate is run through a press and the image is printed on paper. Except for nuances in press pressure, plate break-down or unintentional differences in the application of the inks, each image in the edition is basically the same. Some people don't like prints for this reason. They like unique-ness.

A monotype fills the need for one-ness while still being categorized as a link to image set 02print.The artist draws or paints the surface of a plate, whether it be stone, metal or plastic, with ink; the image goes through a press and is printed on paper. Then the stone or plate is washed down with solvent and the artist starts again.

The Cat Prints are monotypes. Instead of the usual rectangular plate, the plate happens to be in the shape of a cat. I had found what I thought to link to image set 03be the perfect cat silhouette to use. Maybe it helps to describe it as a cat-shaped window. Inks were applied differently on the plate for each print. Sometimes the plate was washed down with solvents so that the process could be started anew, other times whatever was left on the plate of the previous image was simply inked over to make a ghost image underneath all the new stuff.

In 1988, when these prints were being made, I was interested in the surrealist idea of erasing the artist's consciousness from the creation of the work, the idea link to image set 04of random choices, chance and automatic actions.  The surrealists tried to create with the unconscious mind.  So, under the guidance of the printers at Magnolia Press, I found out about the process of marbleizing.  It seemed to be a way of using automaticity in the print process and thereby erased the artist as much as possible in the creation of a work. Or so I thought.

Marbled papers are usually used for the end papers of books.  Traditionally, the water based inks are floated on water that has been made viscous with methyl link to image set 05cellulose.  The paper is then placed on top of the ink which sticks to the paper.  The ink can be manipulated with a feather or a comb before being applied to the paper and the tray of water can be tipped back and forth to create movement in the inks.  It seemed to be a more or less automatic way of working.

For this series of prints, oil based ink thinned with solvent was floated on the surface of the water with an atomizer. (I suppose, at this point I should warn you "not to try this at home".) Mylar cut in the shape of a cat was used for the plate, the plate was put through a press and the inks were printed to to image set 06   

I’ve always found the creation of an object relatively easy, but not the selection of already existing objects or creation through automaticity. I decided to reject the usual rectangular plate and thought I had picked the cat shape at random.  I actually hadn’t because I used a sort of negative selection. I had rejected other shapes like the rectangle, frogs, beavers and dogs and I landed on cats. This is a selective process, but because I selected by rejecting first, I was fooled into thinking it was a random act.

When I look at a Cornell, I often feel loss or nostalgia for something gone.  I originally thought it was because the objects that Cornell used are now link to image set 07antiques and that I was feeling the “antique-ness” of the objects in his work. The objects that Man Ray used are also considered antiques today but when I experience Man Ray’s work I don’t get the same feeling as when I see a Cornell. So, early on, I knew it wasn't about the actual objects that were chosen for the work. And I somehow feel that Bruce Conner’s work will not “antique” in the way I thought that a Cornell had.  I often feel a quickness to Conner’s work and I don’t think the work will slow down even when the objects in his work reach antique status. 

I tried to analyze why the pieces that I admired so much were, well …, the pieces that I admire so much.  And I eventually found that these pieces werelink to image set 08 the pieces that made the viewer feel or at least consider Time. 

The Mona Lisa has never been a portrait to me.  It’s a landscape with a portrait in the foreground.  The background of La Giaconda is like John Cage’s 3’44”.  It’s a silence.  When I look at that background I feel an attenuation of sound and a very slow rhythm.  I feel Time.  I think most people who look at this work do, too, and they attribute what they feel to her smile, but its actually the moonscape in back of Mona's head running in the background of viewer's consciousness. Cornell’s work makes me feel past-time.  I feel still (unmoving)-time when I look at Man Ray’s work.  Bruce Conner's work makes me feel immediate-time.

We tend to think of art, especially painting, as objects in space and that’s link to image set 09what we notice first.  The real trick is to incorporate time and energy into the piece so that people can actually feel it when experiencing the piece. People like to say that the masterpieces transcend time or that they’re timeless.  But, these pieces are successful because the artist has somehow gotten Time to impinge on the viewer. They’re not timeless.  They actually contain Time.

The dog prints on the other hand were made in an opposite process than the cats. Dogs are the opposite of cats. Fido used to be a favorite name for a dog. Faithful, the trusty dog, Man's best friend and the opposite of the aloof, self-serving, and more clever cat. The down to earth dog required a different handling than the slightly elevated cat.

Stencils of dogs were cut in paper and either applied over collages or used as stencils in the traditional method.

These works are not really cats or dogs, although, people have their own ideas about what cats and dogs are and these ideas run in the background of their consciousnesses while they experience them just like the moonscape runs in the background of our consciousnesses when we look at Mona. And after finishing up this series of prints I came to the conclusion that all of the surrealists were really one guy.

created 04 March 2008


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