Technical Considerations

To number or not to number the edition? Or, more fundamentally, do the 152 paper pieces each artist has made for this portfolio constitute an edition in the first place? The instructions and accompanying guidelines provided by Hand Papermaking keep the issue wide open. The underlying premise seems to be that the work will be signed and numbered as the artist deems convenient. A matter of individual judgment then, and just as well, because ahead lies murkiness.

At the very least we are dealing with a series because to speak of an edition strongly suggests intentionality, namely, the desire to repeat an image that may or may not be everyone’s idea in the first place. Our notions of “edition” come to us from the world of books and prints where specific practices have long since been codified with uniformity of paper and impression being the basic touchstone. Thus, to introduce frivolities in the paper would upset that balance and by treating paper as a painting medium in itself and to continue to use the language of prints pretty much confounds tradition and old definitions.

Years ago I attempted to get a handle on this new situation for my own art. Upon cutting a free-shaped stencil and after making various pulp paintings from it, I was struck by the fact that they were both different and alike in equal measure. The non-rectangular format registered very strongly and emphasized the sameness of shape. In the fractional notation of editions we are all acquainted with, they were Not alike/Alike where the numerator as expressed by a number was a determined painting and the denominator the “edition” of the paper shape. In an attempt to strip off electrons and to further condense this notation, it came out as “Not/Alike” where the forward stroke seems to say “yet.”

This ambivalence persists for me even when my stencils are rectangular but have an interior pattern of perforations. For this project I made 152 pulp paintings, all different – apart from the artist’s telltale tics and squiggles – but each sheet, after a number of transfers of pulp washes, was carefully crafted by hosing around and through a protective stencil. Thus I was made keenly aware of the editioning of the shape of the work. More so than if I had been forming sheets from a mould. Not including the collecting of rag (predominantly cotton and synthetic fibers) and pulp preparation which Victoria Rabal helped me with during the winter, the final three-week work schedule of making the art at the mill decidedly re-enforced the feeling of a production/series/edition – call it what you will.
With my Not/Alike rationale to guide me, I signed and numbered my series of pulp paintings but I can certainly understand why other artists would be loath to do likewise in similar circumstances. Quickly – the more ideas the better before someone sets the whole matter in cement.