The Alchemy of Printmaking

Ireland

I cannot remember a time that I didn’t like drawing. When I was accepted to study Fine Art at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, I was introduced to (what I thought was) the alchemy of printmaking. It taught me many techniques that hadn’t changed since the Middle Ages, I was now entering the world of masters like Durer, Rembrandt, Whistler and Goya, as well as Morisot, Hockney and Ackroyd. I tried every type of printmaking on offer, etching, drypoint, lithography and silkscreen.

The thing I love about printmaking is that it is firmly rooted in drawing, without a strong drawing as a starting point it is almost impossible to complete a successful print. There is no room for error, once a line is etched on a metal plate, it’s there permanently!

After five years at NCAD and receiving a degree in Fine Art, I joined the Black Church Print Studio. There I was able to develop my work further; experimenting with new materials, and expanding my subject matter. I later joined the Graphic Studio, and remain a member there.

Eleven years ago I built a two storey studio at the side of my house. There is a large printing press on the ground floor with a drawing studio/gallery upstairs. Here people can view and purchase my work directly, as well as see how a print is made.

I have now been printmaking for over forty years and I’ve never tired of it.

Recently I received an Arts Council award to move away from the very toxic traditional printmaking techniques that using acids. The funds will help in re-equipping the studio to make use of greener methods.

My work can be broken into four areas:

Firstly, there are my etchings and drypoints of women’s heads. Using drawings of contemporary women, I reimagine early Florentine portraits. Sometimes I emboss the background, or use metallic pigment.

I also make etchings and drypoints of landscape. These are based on drawings I make in Ireland or in Italy, where I spend part of the year.

In my “Outside-In prints”, eg “Mr Morris’s wonderful wallpaper” I used the profile of one of my heroes, William Morris, as a starting point. I filled his silhouette with one of his most famous patterns, “The Strawberry Thief”, and embossed the paper with another pattern, “Acanthus Leaf”.

In another of this series, “Homage to Piero della Francesca”, I took the landscape behind his famous double portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino, and placed it within the outline of their portraits.

Lastly, I have been making large scale pencil drawings of “forgotten places” and using water based graphite emphasise their abandonment. The subjects for these drawings are overgrown pathways, outbuildings, gateways or ruins, that I have discovered when walking, here in Ireland as well as in Italy. I love to think about the pasts of these places, and the many secrets that are locked within them.

I have had solo exhibitions in Dublin, Antrim, Claremorris, Radicondoli (Italy), London and Paris.
I exhibit regularly at Royal Hibernian Academy, Royal Ulster Academy, Royal Academy (London), Watercolour Society of Ireland, Dublin Painting and Sketching Club, and Graphic Studio.
I have participated in many international printmaking exhibitions.

I have won prizes at R.H.A, R.U.A, Claremorris Open, and the Miniature Print Exhibition in Manhattan.
Collections include O.P.W, Stormont Castle, Butler Collection (Kilkenny), the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Scarborough Collection, B.P Oil Brussels, as well as many private collections in Ireland, UK, Europe and U.S.

See more of Marie-Louise’s work at www.marie-louisemartin.com

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