August 16, 2011
September Art Exhibit at City Center

Reception: Fri, Sept 2, 6-7:30pm
City Center Art Lounge, 300 Page Street, SF

Avalokitesvara, letterpress monoprint

Avalokitesvara, letterpress monoprint, 2011

Types of Karmic Formation – Laurie Szujewska
September 2 – 30

Artist Statement

How do we work with reproducing forms? How do we embrace the imperfection of the moment while thinking we need to pursue the ideal in our mind? How do we look anew at things so familiar to us that they are almost invisible?

These are some of the questions I explore in my work.

I make prints and other limited edition items on a Vandercook Universal I letterpress. I use a small collection of vintage hot and wood type. Up until fifty or sixty years ago, much of the visual language that surrounded people in their daily lives was produced with these types – posters, broadsides, handbills, etc. These forms were ubiquitous to the point of being like wallpaper. Newer printing and computer technologies have since replaced these tools, but type forms continue to surround us in our environment, often intended like “crystal goblets” to be almost invisible carriers of information and concepts.

I have chosen to use antiquated technology in my work, but not for their nostalgic characteristics. Because they are now freed from their former utilitarian purposes, they are available for the artistic process of play. For me, that means approaching the letter press not as the reproducing machine it was designed for, but as a mark-making tool. Instead of making multiples of an intentionally designed form, I manipulate the type forms and put the sheet of paper though the press multiple times to see what can happen. Instead of having to “ink the press up” before printing, I apply color directly to the type in the press bed using brayers and brushes, which allows me to print multiple colors at one time, and to change or add to the color palette like a painter.

I try to keep the process as open and fluid as possible. In making prints I first set up a loose framework for working on the press. This framework can be a word, a very short-worded story, a color scheme, or a few letterforms. The idea is to play within the setup and see what happens, taking advantage of chance and surprise. My way is to have a relationship with my tools and let the outcomes emerge from working with them. Whatever comes up is what comes up.

Vintage wood types are naturally marred and worn from their former usage as reproducing tools. Their imprints also carry associations in our own minds from that near-distant past when we see them. These past imperfections and associations are welcomed in the mark-making process, and integrated into the process of creating something hopefully new and fresh with these old forms.