Stephen Hobbs | New works in Letterpress

Letterpress is a form of relief printing where blocks of movable type are composed and locked into the “bed” or “chase” of a press. The raised surfaces may then be inked up and printed repeatedly onto substrates.

Looking at previous work, Hobbs worked with Master Printer Jillian Ross, as well as printmaker Talya Lubinsky and Meghan Johnson, the director of David Krut Projects New York, to develop this series of prints. Hobbs and Lubinsky have worked on multiple print projects over the past five years at David Krut Workshop (DKW); and Hobbs and Johnson have worked closely on Hobbs’ USA Lecture Tours in 2015 and 2016.

Hobbs’s interest in Letterpress has evolved from working with letraset and found text in previous print projects at (DKW). Hobbs draws a link between his interest in the form of the word – and the influence his Father’s advertising career, had on his approach to page layout and typesetting. The next step was to source an appropriate font and type. The right font was essential for the visual suggestion of a building block quality for the print. A sans serif font’s block- like character suggests the forms of a block- like urban landscape, and was chosen for this reason.

Hobbs and Lubinsky place the type on the bed

Drawing from previous artworks and tests, Hobbs had an idea of what form the prints would take, but his openness to different moments developing from the process allow for a structured evolution of the works that may drift from the original planned idea. For example, after working with the text, Hobbs took an interest in the packing blocks used as spacers between the letters and experimented with using them as the matrices for printing. This disruption of the grid is a key element to Hobbs’ way of constructing and deconstructing imagery.

 

Drawing from previous processes and experiments, Hobbs had an idea of what form the prints would take, but his openness to different moments developing from the process allow for a structured evolution of the works that may drift from the original planned idea. For example, after working with the text, Hobbs took an interest in the packing blocks used as spacers between the letters and experimented with using them as the matrices for printing. This ‘disruption’ of the grid is a key element to Hobbs’ way of constructing and deconstructing imagery.

Informed by his residency at Salt and Cedar, Detroit, in 2015 and various other printmaking collaborations and demonstrations during his lecture tour in the USA in 2016 (read more here), his latest collaboration with DKW, develops further his interests in letterpress and monotype print making.

Hobbs had done some experiments with the way the ink forms and reacts to solvents during his two day visit to the Centre for Contemporary Printmaking in Connecticut, and so was eager to incorporate this technique again, this time combining it with letterpress. Ross facilitated the testing and printing of the characteristically ‘ink spill’ like monotypes. Lubinsky and Hobbs then printed letterpress over these.

Hobbs, Ross and the team look over the prints

Confronting the viewer with multiple layers, organic shapes, and hard-edged lines, Hobbs plays with coincidence and chance, contrasted with methodical planning to instigate new meaning camouflaged within form. In Hobbs’ practice, the different mediums of artworks are constantly informing one another from sculpture, installation and murals to works on paper. Hobbs describes his prints as a form of drawing “a flat architecture”. The works made at DKW in 2016, form the print component of Hobbs’s upcoming exhibition No Fusion.

Hobbs’ exhibition No Fusion opens on the 4th of May at 6pm at 142A Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg.