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Semblance 16 Print by Von

The British illustrator uses photopolymer technology to create a limited edition, contemporary portraiture print

by Gavin Lucas in Design on 08 July 2013

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London-based illustrator Von is no stranger to Cool Hunting, we've featured his distinctive monochromatic artwork several times in recent years, because it never ceases to impress us. His latest work, a limited edition Intaglio Gravure print, is no exception.

"With this new image from the ongoing Semblance series, I really wanted to take it as an opportunity to embrace a different type of fine art printing technique that I'd been fascinated with for a while, up the game and go down a more specialized route than the previous print editions I've released," Von told CH of the new work. "The Intaglio Gravure process is steeped in centuries of craft and tradition—something that appeals to me massively when approaching contemporary portraiture," he continues. "Knowing the equipment, craft and skill involved in the process, I commissioned a short film by Owen Richards to help capture the print-maker's hand, which is vital to the success of the edition."

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We also spoke to the printer responsible, Colin Gale at Artichoke Printmaking in South London, to find out a little more about the process. He explained that the technique used to create Von's new print employs light sensitive photopolymer technology—an industrial technique now often adopted by fine artists.

"It has the advantage of being able to be worked using conventional drawing materials, such as pencils, as well as with photography and digital media," says Gale. "Photopolymer Intaglio—popularly called Solar Plate, as plates can be exposed using sunlight (weather permitting)—is the modern day equivalent of photogravure, a process invented in the 1820s involving the sensitising of copper plates and biting using a mordant," Gale continues. "Solar plates, however, are not developed or bitten using acid or a mordant, so they are technically not etchings—which is why they are usually referred to as Intaglio Gravure."

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"In Von's example, his artwork is exposed to the polymer plate in a UV lightbox," Gale explains further. "The plate is then developed using water and the resulting plate surface is pitted with lines and dots which make up the image. These 'pits' are hand-inked and wiped using a traditional recipe of ink made from dry pigment and boiled linseed oil. The plate is then used to print using a heavy roller-etching press onto dampened heavy cotton paper. Each print is individually inked and printed at the rate of approximately two impressions an hour. The printed images are then dried under heavy boards and weight for at least three days." To see the process in action, check out Richards' video, which takes viewers through the time-honored technique from start to finish.

Once dry, the prints are wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and are ready for purchase. Semblance 16 is printed on 30x40cm French BFK Rives 280 gsm cotton stock with hand-torn deckled edge in an edition of 75, priced at £100 (plus postage and packaging). Find it on Von's dedicated shop website.

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