When I was an art student in New York, I was amazed by the work of Andy Warhol. Giant soup cans! Wooden Brillo boxes! Silver balloons! And it turned out that the technique behind this high impact art was silkscreen printing.
Silkscreen printing captured the slick, professional impact of a soup can label or a newspaper photograph. And it was mysterious and shocking seeing these images large on a canvas in a gallery.
Art Students League of New York
I started studying printmaking with Seong Moy and Michael Pelletieri and learned to make silkscreen prints. Originally hoping to make pop art images, I soon became more interested in the new artistic possibilities that the medium offered. It was a new of thinking about line, shape, colour. And soon the work took on their own life. I started using my drawings on the New York Subway as the basis of the prints.
Turned out that the most exciting thing about printmaking was the way the new techniques offered created new ideas to follow up in my painting which I was studying with Knox Martin. The excitement of developing an image over a series of state proofs was incredibly stimulating as well.
The Art Students League of New York had a very traditional approach to print. The lithography was done on stone, and photography was non-existent. When I became a print technician at Pratt Graphic Center on 23rd St. – now called Manhattan Graphics Center. I was able to use the photo silkscreen technique and it was a real revelation.
Printmaking and Fakes – Salvador Dali
I needed a job, so I went to work at a ‘fine art’ printers. We were creating ‘limited edition fine art prints’ for one Salvador Dali. And I mean ‘creating’, not printing. Because Mr. Dali had authorised a New York artist to create the original image and we were reproducing that image in editions of 250, to be sold in advertisements in fine art magazines. I had to print the white background for these prints in a screenprint, which gave the print a little depth and handmade quality. Then a reproduction of the artist’s imitation of a Dali drawing was printed in four colour offset lithography – the same commercial process used for the colour magazines in the Sunday papers. Nothing really fine art about any of it, and no involvement of the artist at all, apart from authorising the process.
Anyway, the blank sheets of paper arrived from Spain, already signed by Dali in his familiar bold signature. These sheets were bought for $100 each by the print publisher, and any time we messed up one of the prints it was a serious matter. The signed paper was kept in a locked vault in the print studio. At about this time there was an article in the press about someone getting caught trying to sneak signed Dali paper INTO his castle in Spain. More about fake Dali prints.
Just don’t buy any Dali prints on eBay.
New Klein Prints
All of the freshness and excitement which I first experienced making prints is coming back to me now, as I embark on a brand new series of prints, Working at the Thames Barrier Print studio, I am combining the landscape images which I developed in paintings with the figure developed from my sculpture work. The prints combine digital work with hand printed etchings, giving the prints an unexpected and fresh quality. These new prints are available now from GX Gallery in London.