Research into Contemporary Printmaking
Review of the work of Karen Kunc
My interest in the work of Karen Kunc came from the my own investigations into experimental mark making for Project 9, and from earlier work looking at physical forces such as momentum, where I used masking to represent atoms and how they interact when subject to force. The results I obtained were arrived at in a relatively random manner, flowing from the investigative process and I became interested in how another artist might investigate and represent similar themes.
The work of artist Karen Kunc is rooted in her interest in the natural world and how this might be represented in a visually stimulating manner. I was attracted to her woodcut “Luminous Wonders”(Kunc, K. 2008), which juxtaposes small white rounded forms on a black and white background on the left of the picture plane (which could be suggestive of cellular bodies or atomic particles), with vivid blue concentric rings to the right, which could be interpreted visually as cosmic entities, for example the rings of Saturn. Alternatively these could be viewed as organic elements such as the rings found in thecross section of a tree trunk.
The artist has also added further small round discs above and below the blue concentric rings. To the viewer, these forms could again suggest either cosmic forms or cellular elements. The lower disc is deep blue, fading towards the outer portion of the disc, with a halo of complementary orange placed on the very outer part of the disc, emphasising this form, and helping to unify the work by picking up the orange colours used around the cellular forms on the left of the picture plane.
The artist uses extended landscape format for the work which allows her to develop a sense of the expansiveness of space or the infinitesimal and to develop “ images of creation and preservation” (Fik B,Grabowski, B, 2015: 88). This is also suggested in the stretched envelope encasing the discs on the left of the picture plane.
In their textbook, “Printmaking”, ( Fick and Gabrowsky, 2015:88 ) set out an account of Kunc’s working methods. These include: the carving of images onto birch and veneer plywood, followed by the application of different methods to add colour, including use of the reduction process, and the use of multiple stencils to permit the addition of several colours. The artist discusses her preference for printing colour directly onto white paper to retain intensity of colour.
Her process includes the use of transparent colour in the early stages of the work, followed by the addition of more opaque layers at a later stage.
The Woodcut “Treasure Trove” (Kunc,K:2005) by the same artist, looks to organic sources for inspiration. The artist uses a very narrow, elongated horizontal format ( 14×80 ins) to develop a print which seems to simulate a cross section of the earth, enclosing rounded and elongated discs and rectangular forms a various sizes and colours.
The artist uses a palette of orange and thallo blue, with the addition of earth colours such as browns and dark warm greys. Greens have been also used for some of the forms, giving an overall feel of the natural world, suggesting elements from both earth and water.
The artist has created the impression of layered forms revealed as if viewed in cross section.
The use of the wide horizontal format seems to act to draw the eye of the viewer across the page, inviting the viewer to explore the painting further.
Although more abstract in nature, for me, Kunc’s work is reminiscent of the work of Gustave Klimt in “ Garden Path with Chickens” (Klimt,G: 1916). In this oil painting, Klimt depicts chickens on a garden path surrounded on each side of the path by an explosive border of flowers which are represented as both representational and abstract rounded forms of varying sizes. When viewing the painting, it appears at once to be both abstract and representative. The artist adds to the sense of perspective in this work by reducing the size of these abstract marks towards the background, leading the viewer up the path.
Fick, B. and Grabowski, B. (2015) Printmaking: A complete guide to materials & process. United Kingdom: Laurence King Publishing.
Fliedl, G. (1989) Gustave Klimt. Edited by Rolf Taschen and Marianne Faust. Geneva: Cosmopress.
Klimt, G: (1916). Garden Path with Chickens [Oil on Canvas]
Kunc, K. (2006) Luminous Wonders [Woodcut].