After reading about the various techniques Ernst tried in creating his automatic paintings I decided to experiment with a couple of the techniques myself. This first experiment uses ‘decalcomania’, where you sandwich ink between two layers of paper and then peel the top layer off, revealing a printed reverse image (see Ernst post below).
I visited Chicago a little while ago and took a boat trip around the river ways which have skyscrapers lining the banks. One of the things I noticed when taking this trip was that the glass walls of the skyscrapers reflected the vivid blue sky and the surrounding buildings reflected as broken abstract images on the glass, with gridlines provided by the window frames. I thought this would work well using the ‘decalcomania’ technique. Of course, I realise Ernst would have first used decalcomania and then looked at the resultant image to spark his imagination for the final image and in effect I have reversed the process as I already have an idea for the final image.
I first drew the gridlines and then used masking fluid to keep the ink off these lines. I painted the vivid blue of the sky using acrylic ink and then, using printing ink on a separate piece of paper, drew a rough, loose shape of a building adding dots of other colours for the windows, ledges, etc. I inverted this piece of paper and then placed it over the window sky grid, pressing it down to transfer the image. Once dry I removed the masking fluid and drew the window frames in black ink.
One of the things this experiment has taught me is the detailed planning Ernst must have undertaken for various stages of his compositions before arriving at the final image. For example, I thought is would be easy to peel off the masking fluid once all the media was dry revealing clean lines; this was not the case as the dried ink had created a film across the lines and it peeled off with the masking fluid. I therefore had to go over the lines with a knife to break the seal before peeling off the fluid.
The experiment itself worked as the resultant image does remind me of the abstract shapes I remember on the skyscrapers and I lost a degree of control on how the reflected skyscraper would turn out. However, as an image I do not think it works. The black grid lines are too heavy and the scale of the piece is all wrong. It would have been better on a much larger scale with the reflected skyscraper being smaller in relation to the overall size. Also putting the glass wall in context of the overall building would have been better. However, I did enjoy the process and it is a technique I would think about using in the future.