Robyn Penn: The Map is Not the Territory I and II

Blogger: Rachel van Blydenstein

Printer Kim-Lee Loggenberg is immersed in the completion of Robyn Penn’s latest edition, The Map is Not the Territory I and II. These prints are part of a suite of three clouds that make up Penn’s most recent collaboration with DKW, ‘The Cloud of Unknowing‘.

Penn, who recently opened an exhibition at the Barnard Gallery in Cape Town, has worked closely with Jillian Ross on creating these plates using the intaglio process of sugarlift aquatint to achieve the movement and tonality in this print that so closely resembles that of the artist’s paintings.

The process begins with Penn painting with condensed milk onto the copper plate to create an image. A resist is then painted onto the plate over the condensed milk and allowed to dry. Once dry, the plate is submerged in warm water and is agitated. Water seeps in between the resist and the plate into areas where the condensed milk was applied dissolving the sugar and lifting the resist. The plate is then placed in an aquatint box, where it will be coated with fine powdered rosin particles before it is heated, so as to affix the rosin to the plate. The plate is then submerged in a ferric chloride etching bath, where the acid bites into the copper, in place of where the condensed milk marks were. Leaving the plate in the bath for different times will result in the depth to which the acid eats away at the plate, thus creating variations in the tonality of the condensed milk marks.

The plate is then inked up and wiped using the method of ‘a la poupée’. This technique is used to apply different colours of ink onto the same plate. The printer carefully applies the ink into specific areas without the colours blending as well as needing to repeat the method exactly for each print in the edition. The term “a la poupee” means “with a doll” – the ball of fabric or leather used in this printmaking process is very similar, historically, to the fabric heads that were used to make dolls or poppets.

In these prints, The Map is Not the Territory I and II, five inks were used; emerald, red, pink, black and grey – following the same palette of colours used in ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’.

Each of the six prints in the edition is first inked up in emerald, pink and grey. The plate is printed and the print left to dry before the second layer is printed in red and black with perfect registration. The use of these colours create movement and definition in the marks made by Penn.

To view the suite of prints, ‘The Map is Not the Territory’ click here

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