Our featured artist Anthony Salter talks about making his photogravure print “Passing Through”, which has been shortlisted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and explains why his phone has become a valuable tool in his artistic process.
Where did the idea for this print come from?
It started with a trip to Portsmouth. A group of us from Greenwich Printmakers were showing at the Jack House Gallery, so we did a day trip down there. The gallery is quite close to the sea so we walked to the shore, and I spotted a boat. I’m fascinated by boats and I always take a picture of anything like that, so I took a photo, and didn’t know what I’d got until I got home.
When I looked at the photo, I loved it as soon as I saw it. It’s blurred but that made it impressionistic. I could see that it had potential for a print. If it had been a perfect photo, it wouldn’t have worked for me.
What was the process to make "Passing Through" from your original photo?
I prepared and cropped the image and had a photogravure plate made (a process which transfers and etches the prepared image on to a solar plate). Then I cut the plate down and started experimenting with inking. In the end, I decided to use a base colour of Prussian blue, which is well wiped, then I add black to the boat, wipe the plate again, and then I put two blobs of burnt sienna on the funnels and wipe that down into the boat to give it an atmospheric rusty-hulk look. Then I print it on my small, 1930s etching press.
Do you go out on photography trips to find inspiration for the photogravure elements of your prints, or is it more that you see things when you’re out and about?
It’s more if something catches my eye. I like things that are quite abstract and structural. I take a lot of photos on my iPhone. We are so lucky that we have access to a camera like that all the time now. I have a beautiful Canon camera but I usually use the iPhone because it’s on me and not bulky.
You’ve done some etchings in the past about gardening, which have quite a rural feel, and recently you’ve been working on pieces about more industrial subjects. Is there a reason for that change? What is it that fascinates you about these scenes?
I was doing a lot of work on my garden and I have a passion for gardening, so ideas cropped up to do with that. For the moment, I’m happy making work about more industrial things – I like the graphicness and the structural qualities of it. Like with the great structure of the monitor in “Mind the Gap”. I’m not ruling out more gardening images in the future. It just depends what catches my eye. I recently made a woodcut called “Camouflage” of a tiger moth that was sunbathing on my front door. It was unusual for me to do a woodcut, but it just really lent itself to woodcut, and I enjoyed making it.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m starting work on a new print based on a photo of Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond’s Orbit tower in the Olympic Park in Stratford. I’m thinking of having the structure as a dark and strong photogravure element and using linocut for block colours. I’ll print the image and then experiment by using tracing paper and coloured pencils to try out ideas. I like using photogravure with linocut - I think they are great opposites, really, in terms of technique but I think they also complement each other really well. And I will be taking “Passing Through” to the Royal Academy on August 12 for the Summer Exhibition judges to see it in person. Fingers crossed it will make it on to the wall. And I’m preparing for my featured artist exhibition at Greenwich Printmakers as well - a busy summer!
Anthony’s featured artist show runs in the Greenwich Printmakers gallery from August 9-29, and his striking prints are available there all year round. For more information, visit his artist’s page and his website.