Mali Morris

Two limited edition prints, by Mali Morris RA: Drift, a colour etching, and Calling, a screen-print with Special Edition monograph

I postponed making prints for years, perhaps because it is such a different process from painting. I imagined it to be like composing back to front, or inside out. I work strategically but also with improvisation, and I enjoy the relationship between these polarities; I thought printmaking might not allow a free play between them. It doesn’t, but I have found it offers new possibilities.

I made Drift, a colour etching, with Peter Kozovitz of Thumbprint Press, in 2013, at the invitation of Other Criteria. This print was quite an adventure, seeing the first plates go through the press, then struggling to get exactly the right transparency for the overlaid shape that was to float above a multi-coloured grid. I came in one morning rather despondently, after many failed attempts to get exactly the degree of translucency I wanted. Pete had tried something new and I saw straight away it was right. It was an intense but very enjoyable experience, to see my ideas taking shape through a new process.

Calling was made with Kip Gresham, at his studio in Toft, Cambridge, in 2018, one of the many silkscreens we have worked on together over the years. It was commissioned to accompany the Limited Edition of the monograph Mali Morris: Painting, published by the RA in 2019. It needed to fit into a pocket at the back of the book – I found I enjoyed the challenge of working to this very specific scale.

I decided to continue a theme begun in the series Toussaint I – IV, and Echo, of 2014, where the contrast of black and white, and the sparkle it can sometimes generate, is the context for other colours, which have to find their place in the drama. I made many studies in paint and collage to arrive at this configuration and palette, trying out variations, finding out how the space was changed by every tiny difference. Every relationship matters – of hue, edge, density, and interval. And at the same time I wanted a directness of handling – for the forms to go down with an immediacy of touch. It’s like juggling.

Fine art printmaking is not the unlimited photographic reproduction of an original painting, as is sometimes thought. A limited edition is created through a complex technical procedure of layering, often 35-50 identical sheets only. I think of my prints as collaborations with revered Master Printers, whose expertise and experience has been occasionally and luxuriously at my disposal. All my prints have something in common – an interest in how space can be constructed on a flat surface, opened up by colour relationships and various transparencies; how an image is arrived at, through exploration. They address all sorts of other sensations too, but it has been completely fascinating to discover how different printmaking is from painting, and yet how my interests can be explored in this other process, this other medium.

Mali Morris, April 2020