In 2014, Warren Editions and artist Katherine Bull presented a live print performance: Treading Soft Ground in two parts. In part two the artist re-negotiated the softground technique and the landscape of the Waterfront by working on top of the previously etched plates. As in part one, working from a live webcam feed, the loose immediacy of Katherine’s autographic drawings were translated in print as a team of printmakers etched and hand-printed the works as part of a live performance.
Treading Soft Ground was a contemporary engagement with the traditional printmaking medium of softground etching. In the exciting synthesis of art, technology and traditional craft, Treading Soft Ground pushed the collaborative dynamic of printmaking. Popularised in the late 18th century, softground etching is a traditional printmaking technique in which a soft, waxy ground is applied to a metal plate. Over the plate is placed a sheet of paper onto which the artist draws. The line-work impresses the ground, and when etched the plate retains the drawn image. The plate is then inked and wiped by hand, and when printed represents in a new form, the delicacy and natural fluctuation of the drawn marks.
As a project, Treading Soft Ground facilitated an exciting creative transfer between artist Katherine Bull and the print team at Warren Editions. As a ‘live print performance’ the project engaged directly with the public, and presented a unique opportunity for the audience to share in a creative happening. The viewer experienced first-hand the traditional printmaking process that is softground etching, and engaged in a dialogue between the digital and analogue evident in Katherine Bull’s work.
Katherine Bull is a practicing artist and part-time lecturer in Visual Art at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town. She has exhibited extensively in South Africa and abroad, and prior to her involvement in the University of Cape Town spent ten years lecturing in the Visual Arts department of the University of Stellenbosch. Over the last ten years her work has investigated the impact of the digital on printmaking and the archive, as well as the manner in which visual representation functions (or dysfunctions) in mediating the body’s orientation in time and space. These ideas have been developed and explored in her series data project (2004-present), a sequence of digital drawing performances. And, more recently in projects working in analogue mediums from digital sources.
Treading Soft Ground – A live print performance and collaboration between Katherine Bull & Warren Editions took place on 17 April and 22 May 2014 at Warren Editions Projects. An exhibition followed the performances showcasing the impressions pulled from the 2o plates created during the two performances.
The 20 plates produced in the print performances, resulted in a suite of 10 etchings – in each similar renditions of the same view seen from the live webcam feed is captured. These images were executed with the left and right hand simultaneously; a plate was designated for each hand – and, an additional 12 etchings that are playful cross over combinations of the plates.