The Masereel dome

It turned out that silkscreen is associated for me less with the States and Andy Warhol but more with Flanders and Frans Masereel, the expressionist painter. There is also a printing studio of his name near Antwerp.

I worked in Flanders two years in a row, spending there entire November each time.
Only this strange settlement of artists breaks the peace of Kasterlee village, surrounded with frozen blackberry bushes on one side and cornfields on the other. A uthors of the printing studio project clearly did their best to blend it into the surrounding environment. The main building is roofed with black dome, like a huge yurt; around it there are hovel like houses for the nomad artists. It seems to have been conceived as a temporary site, a camp assembled with light construction, always ready to dart off and be carried away to some other pastures. A spiral stairway is screwed into all the interior spaces of the studio. Printing machines, presses and litographic stones stand around. 

The first moment you are there, your own optics switches to black-and-white mode. Colour goes away, left in some other geography. All you are surrounded by is graphics. Fields ruled in right rectangles, grass whitened with hoarfrost, a clear drawing of a windowsash, swirling fumes of earth that confuse the camera and prevent it from focusing.

As is well known, silkscreen is a “flat impression”, or so called “sieve stamp”.
Yet it is not always like that. By moving and superimposing one image over another, layer after a layer, you can gradually create depth. The image acquires a new, pictorial quality.

And most important and most interesting are those little or insignificant differences that appear between one print and another. These shifts, leaks, excessive paint drops or un-printed (“unread”) fragments are the unexpected joys of printing, its unpredictability, despite the constancy of the initial matrix.

Printing bewitches. You never know what a print would look like until it is finished. As a pianist once told me, “performing and every stage appearance is a kind of `walking on water’, even though the notes are fixed”.

As I was about to print my “Strange house” series focused on my travels in Khakassia and Kyrgyzstan, the long narrow window framing the Flemish landscape began showing a film. Someone always “organized” this frame, “including” the uniquely correct lighting in the permanent drawing of the landscape.

Ekaterina Rozhkova