I just returned from an amazing trip to Dehli India. The trip was sponosored by the Lalit Kala Academy and the Polish Embassy in New Dehli, India and the purpose was to open the Contemporary Polish Printmaking Exhibition. This is the same exhibition that opened in Tianjin, China in 2010 and Seoul, South Korea in 2011.
From Poland the flight was through Munich, Germany and then to Dehli. From Munich to Dehli is about 7 hours but the time change is only three and a half. The Dehli airport is one of the largest in Asia but it doesn’t seem so. The security is intense but in lieu of the political situation it is understandable. In India there are police everywhere and they carry loaded weapons.
I was able to take a trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and the King’s Fortress which was very beautiful and interesting. It would have been more enjoyable if the temperature wasn’t over 100F. You must remember to drink lots of water and the humidity is low so if is not as bad as during monsoon season.
The Taj Mahal is incredibly beautiful and I understand why it is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The story of why it was built is fascinating but you can look it up for yourself and get it more accurately.
It was really strange to be in a country where there are wild peacocks, parrots and monkeys running around on the streets. A friend that I met there warned me to beware that monkeys don’t like their picture taken. I don’t know what they would do but didn’t really want to find out since they are usually traveling in gangs.
The cities are relatively clean but once out into the countryside and the small towns it is really a mess with trash everywhere and people living on the streets. I saw many homeless people and wondered how they survive but somehow they do. I hope you enjoy the photos.
Changchun is a city of about 7 million in Northeast China. There are about 20 universities in town and I am giving lectures at the Northeast Normal University. I have three regular lectures on Mezzotint, Northwest Coast native American Culture and the Wroclaw Academy of Fine Art and Design, and a demonstration of mezzotint printing.
Not many people here speak English so I usually have a translator with me and it is someone from the University Art Department. Being in a country where I don’t speak the language is difficult but makes for interesting situations, often very funny situations. Especially when you order food, many times I don’t know if what I got was what I ordered.
The teachers in the Art Department have been very helpful. They pick me up in the morning and take me to the school, they make sure I have three meals a day and they are very gracious hosts. They even gave me my own private office where I can go to ‘rest’.
The first day I was here there was a big dust storm. This is typical for this time of year. During the day everything gets covered with a thin layer of very fine dust. When you are outside you can taste it in the air and many people wear masks.
The food is very good, not as spicy as in the center part of China but nicely ‘hot’. I have had some interesting things but haven’t tried dog yet. Since I grew up with dogs as pets I can’t bring myself to try their meat. I did however try fried silkworm caterpillars and they are excellent. Prof. Wang Lianmin told me one small caterpillar has the protein content of two eggs. So I guess during the meal I ate about 50-60 eggs.
I visited the Changchun Sculpture Garden and was amazed that they had a collection of African Sculpture. The collection is truly fantastic with hundreds of wood carvings. I have never seen such a beautiful collection of African Art.
My first lecture on mezzotint was attended by about 200 students and teachers. I didn’t see anyone leave or asleep so it must have been OK. After the lecture I was approached by deans from three other universities here in Changchun with invitations to lecture at their schools. Sorry but not enough time this trip.
Thursday I go to Tianjin by high speed train to visit friends at the TAFA Art Academy there. I am looking forward to the 7 hour train ride. So far this is a great trip. The people are very nice, the food is excellent and other than the dust storm the weather has been cool (early spring) but very pleasant.
My exhibition with Marta Kubiak and Malgorzata Warlikowska at Gallery Zajezdnia in Lublin, Poland was a huge success. The opening was attended by many people including well known Polish printmakers Krzysztof Szymanowicz and Grzegorz Mazurek.
The opening was on March 23rd and will only be shown for one week. The exhibition was organized and curated by Prof. Artur Popek and Dr. Annamaria Weiser who both teach in the Printmaking Department at the Marie Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin. Each are well known printmakers in their own right.
The beautiful city of Lublin is a nine hour train ride from Wroclaw and is the largest Polish city east of the Visla River and has about 350,000 people. It is an important cultural and educational center. Annamaria and Artur are really great people and it was nice to be able to spend some time with them seeing Lublin and drinking dark Kozel beer in the local Czech Restaurant.
I really look forward to visiting Lublin in the future and recommend it to anyone traveling in Eastern Poland.
This motorcycle image is very important to me. It is a view of a motorcycle that I owned when I lived in Seattle. It represents many things to me, perseverance, ambition, patience, determination, hope and satisfaction. These words can be used to describe the mezzotint print or the actual motorcycle because they both were long term projects and, including the difficulties, I enjoyed them both immensely.
I bought my first motorcycle in Toledo, Ohio when I was 18 years old. It was a Triumph Thunderbird. And it had the affectionately named ‘Bathtub’ rear fender. I owned it for about one and a half years. After that I had another Triumph, this one was the more desirable ‘Bonneville’. But it turned out not to be very desirable because it was problematic and a money sump. But it taught me how to work on motorcycles and proved to me that at that time Lucas Electrics was indeed the ‘Prince of Darkness’. I was in a vicious cycle of having a motorcycle in the summer and selling it to have money to return to the university in the fall. After the Bonneville I was looking for a Norton when I found a nice 1950 Harley Davidson ‘Panhead’. This was the last motorcycle I owned in Toledo. When I finished at the university, I moved to Los Angeles, then Big Sky, Montana (before the now famous ski resort was built) and then to Seattle to go to graduate school.
After a few years in Seattle I could afford to get another motorcycle so I started looking for a Harley but ended up with a very nice Norton. It was a 1975 Mark III. It had been tuned at Sunset Motors by T.C. Christiansen a world famous drag racer. I finished this motorcycle with more balancing, carburetion, big valves and suspension and it ended up being the nicest and fastest Norton in Seattle at the time. This motorcycle was my only transportation for the first nine years I lived in Seattle and contrary to most 60’s and 70’s English bikes it was very dependable.
The Norvin shown in this print was more special than I thought when I was first looking at it in boxes. I bought it in Anacortes, Washington. As I said it was in boxes. After sorting through the parts I had to decide if I wanted a project that would take a few years to complete. I decided yes. I found the truth in the old restoration project adage, “When estimating the time to finish a vehicle restoration decide how long it will take – double the length of this time and then add a few years”. I did all the work on this motorcycle myself with the exception of help from Carl Rader who put new valve seats in the heads and seated the valves for me, and Pat at Pat’s Top Hat Cycle who rebuilt the front cylinder head. I rebuilt the engine and transmission myself and built the bike from the ground up. I was on a minimum budget and the project took six years. The motorcycle you see in this mezzotint is that finished Norvin project.
But motorcycles were only one important part of my life. I also had ambitions to become a fine art printmaker. In Seattle I had a studio where I went after work to make prints. I finished my Masters degree in etching technique but at my studio did mostly screen prints and mezzotint. About 1987, a year or two after I finished the Norvin I was invited to have an exhibition in Wroclaw, Poland. After visiting Poland a few times I decided to pursue my printmaking career there. The only way I could do that was to physically move there so I sold the Norvin and used the money to live in Poland. I moved there in 1993.
As you can imagine it was a difficult decision to sell the Norvin. It had become part of me and my identity. I found out as I was working on it that it was a custom built machine. It was built in San Francisco by a company that only made six motorcycles, all Norvins. This one was run at the Bonnevile Salt Flats and held the two cylinder speed record for a while. Then the second owner, who must have been an idiot, blew up the engine because he didn’t keep the valves adjusted. He took it apart but never put it back together. He sold off some of the parts and I bought the rest. When I finally decided to sell the finished motorcycle I sold it to collector John Caraway in Sacramento, California.
I think you will agree that especially for the 1960’s this was an amazing and beautiful machine. That is why I always have wanted to do a print of it. I actually started a print about 4 years ago that including it but during the remodeling of my studio here in Poland the partially finished copper plate went missing. It was a totally different image than the one here but it always bothered me that I didn’t get to finish that print. So after letting it bother me for a few years I decided to start another Norvin print to get the idea out of my system.
This Norvin mezzotint print is the result of about three months of work. For the most part it is an accurate representation of the motorcycle down to the number of spokes in the wheels. Some details have been left in the shadows but this is because of the dramatic lighting I wanted and not lack of determination or energy. This print is a portrait. It is like a portrait of an old friend, I know this motorcycle inside and out. I put every screw, bolt, spring, spoke and clamp on it myself. I painted it myself and even designed and printed the tank emblem. Like the motorcycle, this print has a sentimental value for me. It represents a time of my life that was very important to me not only for the accomplishment of this motorcycle project but for the immense decision of moving to Poland. This move was very difficult but like the decision to bring together the pieces of this magnificent machine and get it in running order, this machine allowed me to get my scattered life together and change my future.
There are so many more details that I have omitted from this small text; details about building the exhaust system, researching paint, figuring out the valve timing on my own and just appreciating the wonderful craftsmanship that was standard at the Vincent factory. I think I have included the basics of the situation so at least you can get an inkling of why I made this mezzotint print. Both projects took a lot of time but both have given me immense satisfaction.
February 10th was the opening of the International Japanese/Polish Print Exhibition at the Rondo Gallery in Katowice, Poland. This excellent exhibition first opened in 2010 at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art and then at the Shimane Art Museum. The Krakow International Print Triennial Committee selected 83 prints from 32 Polish artists to participate in the exhibition along with the Japanese printmakers. Approximately 110 artists were represented in the exhibition.
I took the train to Katowice for the opening of the exhibition, it is about a 3 hour ride. It was nice to see the effects of our recent cold spell when temperatures ranged from -5F at night to +5F during the day. There was not a lot of snow but all the rivers were frozen and the ducks and swans didn’t look very happy. The train however was nice and warm.
Katowice is in the heart of the Polish coal mining region. Consequently most people heat their homes with coal. Since the weather was so cold and there was no wind the evenings were veiled in a smog of coal stove fumes. It gave the evening a surreal aspect with buildings, people and busses disappearing into the haze. Fortunately we were inside most of the time.
I met with old friends from the Katowice Academy of Fine Art for the opening. I have known Grzegorz Handerek and Andrzej Labus for a number of years and both are excellent award winning printmakers. They graciously invited me for the official dinner after the opening and I had a chance to talk with the Katowice Academy of Fine Art Rector, Prof. Marian Oslislo, Director of the Krakow International Print Triennial Prof. Jan Pamula and the Japanese organizer of the exhibition who is also a well known printmaker, Akira Kurosaki.
Strangely enough Akira and I had crossed paths in Seattle years ago. I was the Assistant for Prof. Glen Alps when I was a graduate student at the University of Washington. Mr. Kurosaki was invited by Glen Alps to provide a workshop in Japanese woodcut techniques. We didn’t meet in Seattle but it was very strange to meet on the other side of the world (for both of us) in Katowice, Poland
I became somewhat familiar with Japanese culture during my philosophical studies of eastern thought at the University of Toledo. Many Japanese approach their art in a very focused Zen-like manner resulting in highly elegant works. I share these ideals and try to stay centered when working on my own art.
There were many beautiful woodcuts, linocuts, etchings and lithographs in this exhibition. I have appreciated Japanese printmaking for many years and Japanese aesthetic philosophy has been an inspiration to me. I feel fortunate to have been able to take part in this beautiful exhibition.
Visit to Ball State University – Chris Nowicki and Jacek Szewczyk
During January 16-18, 2012 we were guests of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Our main objective was to see the Printmaking and Glass Departments. We stayed at the University Hotel in the Student Building and it was very nice. Everyone was friendly and we had a great stay.
We had a great dinner at the home of Peter Blume who is director of the Ball State University Museum of Art. Peter gave us a complete tour of the Museum complete with the history of the collection and it’s most important acquisitions.
During our stay in Muncie I had the opportunity to give a lecture and demonstration about my favorite technique – mezzotint. The Printmaking Department at Ball State is small compared to our Academy in Poland but it is very well equipped. David and Sarojini Johnson are the professors of printmaking and they were very helpful in showing us around and helping with the demonstration. There were about 20 printmaking students in attendance who were all very attentive and asked a lot of good questions. I was able to take my time and explain about tools, paper, inks, printing presses, technique, and the history of mezzotint. My greatest compliment came at the end when some students decided to try mezzotint.
Jacek gave an excellent presentation of our Academy with photos and videos to an audience of about 50 students. We hope to arrange an exchange of students between our schools and Jacek’s talk created much interest among the students.
Ball State University has a beautiful campus with nice architecture. Everything is within walking distance. Our visit was a success and we look forward to future contact with this excellent institution.
Please click here to see more posts by Chris Nowicki at Active Artist Network.
As you can see in the photos, the Chicago Cultural Center did a wonderful job setting up our exhibition of the Wroclaw School of Printmaking. The exhibition was hung in three galleries and was attended by about 250 people. For anyone going to Chicago the exhibition is in the Michigan Street Galleries of the Chicago Cultural Center and will run until March 25. It consists of work from the Printmaking Department of the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Art and Design in Wroclaw, Poland.
We stayed in the Courtyard Marriot Hotel in the middle of town and were able to enjoy Italian food in Bruna’s Restaurant one of the oldest in Chicago (and the food was great) and a super Cajun restaurant on Michigan street.
Now we are in Muncie, Indiana to see Ball State University. I will give a lecture today to students on the history and technique of mezzotint. I don’t believe that anyone here does mezzotint so it should be interesting for the students.
Unfortunately we are only here for one day; Muncie is a beautiful small Midwestern own. The people are friendly and helpful.
Tomorrow we are driving with my friend Mel Arndt to Toledo, Ohio where we will visit the Toledo Museum of Art and I will show my colleague the sights of Toledo.
This is a photo of the mezzotint plate that I am working on right now. There is a long story about this motorcycle and I will fill in details as I show photos of my progress.
It has taken me about one month to get to this point. Rocking the plate took almost three weeks since I rock by hand and only rock about 2 hours per day. This past week I have been scraping but there is still a lot of work. I scrape a plate about three times. The first time is to get the image on the plate. The second scraping is to work on the light and shade, and the third time hopefully is just making final adjustments but I almost always have to do final adjustments more than once. After I finish the motorcycle I will still have to decide what to do with the background. That’s another story.
This print has been in my mind for a number of years. I started a plate with this image about three years ago. I made one proof to see how it was going and then the plate disappeared. I have looked everywhere but it is not to be found. It has bothered me for two years that I didn’t get to finish that print so I decided to start a new and better one.
This is a unique motorcycle. It is a Norton frame with a Vincent engine. There are other Norvins but they are all custom built so they are all unique. I bought this one in ten boxes and rebuilt it from the tires up.
Also here is a photo of the only proof I have of a plate that I started two years ago and then lost. It is just a print of the plate after the first scraping. This print is only about 6 inches long. The new plate is 11 x16inches.
Over the past ten years or so I have been working on pencil drawings of doors. These drawings are 70x100cm and are done entirely with pencil. I do them when I am tired of rocking mezzotint plates or need a break from scraping and burnishing. They allow me to relax and at least temporarily put aside my obligations.
These pencil drawings are finished relatively quickly when compared to a mezzotint, usually in about three weeks. My large mezzotints take about seven months.
Doors are very symbolic. They represent portals between spaces and can be opened or closed. Is the door half open or half closed? What is on the other side? Whose door is it? When was it built? How many people have used this door? Why is it in such bad shape? All of these questions have answers that usually we do not know. But we do know that it is either there as a barrier or an opening or possibly both.
I have traveled extensively and am always fascinated by the old doors that I see. The Greek doors with their stone frames, old Lithuanian doors with their rotten wood and traces of hands and paws, and Polish doors whose aged silvery wood and graffiti all intrigue me. They are worn and have beautiful textures in the broken frames, old wood and broken mortar and stone on the surrounding walls. Stains from leaky eves and drains, and electric wires add details and structure. All of these characteristics add to the appeal for me and even though doors are different everywhere they all serve the same purpose.
The challenge for me when drawing these doors is to study texture, different textures. This information that I gather in making door drawings is easily translated to my mezzotint work. In fact I consider it essential.
But I also love the process of drawing. I love the feel of the pencil with its freedom of movement and simplicity or should I say directness. It is possibly the simplest tool for creating an image.