Nina Torr is no stranger to the David Krut Workshop (DKW) having collaborated with our team of printers to create magic on paper since 2016. She had her solo exhibition, Wayfinding, for her MTech degree (University of Johannesburg, South Africa) with David Krut Projects (DKP) in 2020. Most recently, Torr worked with printer Roxy Kaczmarek to create a softground etching, printed on Hosho paper silkscreened yellow and attached to a backing sheet as chine collé monotype background. The plate originated as a simple test plate for Torr to explore different printing techniques in the DKW. However, the imagery grabbed our attention, and we couldn’t help but turn the plate into an edition to be included in our last group show for the year, Creature Feature.
Creature Feature explores the significant connection that humans share with other animals; visually portraying interactions, perceptions of behaviour, and observations of animals by humans, or vice versa. Adele van Heerden’s ink and gouache works on drafting film bring an illustrative edge to realist domestic scenes and two works hero our beloved Cosmo and Oliver in Cats of The Blue House I & II. Heidi Fourie’s ethereal painting technique delves into the undergrowth of her property, finding emperor moth caterpillars. Similarly, Roxy Kaczmarek invites the viewer to explore the outside world in her Garden Treasures painting series which celebrates the often tiny creatures and critters keeping our world in balance. Zhi Zulu and Nina Jacobson shifted their focus to lesser-known pets – Zulu with a colourful silkscreen C’mon chameleon, the latest print in her Curious Five series and Jacobson with a drypoint etching titled Axolotl.
Delicate sepia ink drawings from a recent series by Diane Victor – Mundo Inverso / The World Upside Down illustrates Victor’s typical use of parody, translated here to a more intimate scale and depicts our everyday societal craziness through recognisable and current events. The works of Koooooos are playful references to the western art canon, situated in our current time of zoom calls, while Specs Ndimande’s imaginative pencil and ink work tells a story about Jackie the baboon and Cher Ami the passenger pigeon, serving their countries during World War I. Taking us back in time even further, is Claire Waters’ Revered Rats ceramic series which shows how these controversial critters have lived side by side with humans for centuries despite the general human intolerance of them and her mummified cats, Enchanting Muse and Scowling Spectre, traces the enchantment of cats back to the ancient Egyptians. Also focussing on cats is Steven Bosch, Marnus Strydom and Elize de Beer. Bosch’s beguiling cat portraits are fast and spontaneous sculptural forms being raku fired. Photographer Marnus Strydom’s phantasmal shots of cats, elevates cats to the centre of attention, while Elize de Beer’s miniature and intimate feline etching takes a more toned-down approach to these popular companions.
Our artists luckily didn’t forget about “man’s best friend” and Bosch and Richardt Strydom’s collaborative family portraits feature their beloved dog Yoko, framed spectacularly in round plywood frames. Maja Maljević chose to feature her two dogs in mixed media works in her recognisable collage style in Dog Idea I & II. For Creature Feature, Torr created The little dog laughed with the DKW and included Head under heels.
Typical to Torr’s visual language, The little dog laughed captures a colourful and open-ended narrative, which takes the viewer on an exploratory journey. To create the rich colourful backdrop for Torr’s narrative to play off against, printer Roxy Kaczmarek silkscreens a colour layer onto delicate Hosho paper. Softground and liftground etching techniques allow the artist to create a range of gestural marks on copper. These are printed on top of the colourful silkscreened layer after which the paper has glued applied to the back and is then cut to size and adhered to the backing sheet of Hahnemühle paper to give the work the traditional etching print border.
Soft-ground, a very soft and waxy ground, doesn’t dry or harden and yields under pressure, which reveals the plate for etching – leaving a soft, almost fuzzy, pencil-like mark on the paper. After the artist has created a composition by making marks through the ground on the plate, the plate gets submerged in acid which chemically eats or “bites” away at the metal in the exposed lines. The exposed lines will deepen and widen the longer it is submerged in the acid bath.
The liftground technique evolved from the sugarlift technique and is a direct etching method. During this process, the artist paints onto a degreased plate with a mixture of gum arabic and gouache, after which the the plate is covered in a liquid hardground and submerged into warm water by the printer. This expands the gum arabic mixture, lifting and dissolving the thin ground layer in the water and exposing the copper plate. An aquatint is then applied to the exposed areas and etched to create a solid tone which gives a painterly quality to the mark.
With the marks etched into the plate and the plate wiped clean as the printing team prepares for printing, the inked-up plate gets covered with a sheet of dampened paper and is then run through the printing press, which transfers the ink to the paper. Because the dampened paper is forced into the grooves of the metal plate under the pressure of the press, the result is raised lines on the impression. In Torr’s The little dog laughed, these lines add a looseness and freedom to the work, while the pencil-like marks from the soft-ground and the bright silkscreened background relate perfectly to her work as an illustrator.
Nina Torr was born in 1987 and is currently based in Pretoria where she lectures in Illustration at the Open Window Institute. Come see Torr’s new work and the wide range of works on show at Creature Feature until the end of January 2022.
Further reading and listening: