Inkt Vis Inkt is a series of one-off prints and artworks, combining Riso-printed imagery, translations of screen-printing techniques and the possibilities of creative code with digital printing. At the heart of this collection of generative art by Alex Russell is the relationship between successive printing technologies. Sometimes, a new print process will intentionally have echoes of an old one, perhaps because the new method is initially perceived less favourably.
In textiles, for example, multi-coloured block prints are registered (lined up) with pitch pins that leave tiny additional dots of colour on the fabric. These are used to accurately line up each subsequent colour block. When copper roller printing began to replace block printing, it was seen as inferior, so the engravers would sometimes add tiny dots to mimic block print pitch pin marks. Unscrupulous merchants could then pretend the (cheaper to produce) copper roller prints were done with blocks.
Printing processes and concepts
In July 2022, Alex tried Riso printing for the first time, working with Alan Holmes at Rogue Artist Studios, Manchester. Using a selection of made and found spots, stripes and other simple shapes, he worked with black ink, experimenting with taping separate sheets together, folding and re-printing. This gave him a big pile of content that was scanned in to create the image library for Inkt Vis Inkt.
Whilst Alex was writing the code, he thought a lot about how screen printing can be used to create one-off images, especially how sections of exposed screens can be masked off with paper stencils. As a former printed textile designer, screen-printing formed the backbone of his creative process for a long time.
The colour palette using in Inkt Vis Inkt art is determined by code, developed in parallel with the system for “Roundles Pallet”. It initially selects a series of colours evenly located round the spectrum, balancing them to human perception, because the (digital) HSB colour space does not map colour the way the brain does. As new content from the library of Riso prints is added, its colour reacts to the section of the image already underneath it. Lighter, brighter areas are likely to become more so; darker sections will evolve the opposite way. The overall composition is achieved by dividing the space up into layers of frames. Each layer has a different arrangement, responding to what lies beneath. In addition, Alex wanted to keep the characteristics of Riso printing, especially the use of dithering to achieve changes in tone. The code gives the edges of each rectangle within the artworks a Riso-esque appearance and each rectangle has a little random nudge to suggest the imperfect registration when re-printing by hand onto an existing screen print.
The outcome is a generative digital print, using Riso print content and the conceptual form of a hand-layered screen print. The name Inkt Vis Inkt is Dutch for cuttlefish ink/sepia (technically it’s Inktvis Inkt). This is partly to acknowledge the fundamental role ink has in most print processes and partly because Alex thinks the phrase “ink fish ink” has a tiny, perfect poetry to it. He hopes the results draw on the extraordinarily rich tradition of printing to take it somewhere new and unique.
Buying or commissioning
Inkt Vis Inkt art is available as a series of archive-quality prints on paper. Browse and buy here.
If you’re interested in commissioning Inkt Vis Inkt at a different size or on another surface/substrate, please get in touch.