The process of making India ink was known in China as early as the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, during Neolithic China. Although the Chinese first invented it, the materials to make the carbon pigment in their ink was most often traded from India, thus the term India ink was coined.
Interesting as this is, why am I regurgitating Wikipedia info for you here?..
Well, I as far as I can recall I had not done any ink-work since I was at school (not today or yesterday so), and in fairness most of that was when we were forced to as part of a progressive educational leap from writing on slates, to using goose quills (well, not quite), and even at that, most of my output was confined to ink-doodling in my (otherwise ignored) maths copy-books.
Actually, come to think of it, I did have one other experience with inks since school, and that was during a brief (and completely misguided, as it transpired) stint as a young broker at Lloyds of London, during the mid/late 1970’s.
Some of the more senior underwriters on the Marine insurance floor of that traditional establishment, still preferred to use quills when signing-off on this or that, and would proffer this archaic bit of kit to us boy-brokers to counter sign documents with. They would simply have no truck with the fountain pen, let alone those new-fangled Biro things, and expected the same of us.
But I digress…
With this in mind, at the end of last year (to drag myself away from my painters comfort zone) I set myself the task of producing a series of ink based pieces. I self-imposed the parameters of only using a bottle of ink, one old-style scratchy nib, and a small sable brush and paper.
I decided to work directly onto re-produced found-images (which I enjoy hording) and see where the experiment took me. With no particular theme in mind I set to work, and as I enjoy randomness and the chance of ‘happy accidents’ occurring, I approached the works in using an almost ‘automatic-writing’ frame of mind.
So, these are some of the bits knocked out during that time… and some background on their subject matter.
I’m always fascinated by images of Victorian ‘excersise’ machines, but I’m not sure that the ones designated for women were always used in the wholesome manner for which they were designed. The ‘Brothers Kellogg’ would no doubt have had some chastening thoughts on the subject… Hhmmmm.
I have long held a love for all things music-hall, and keep promising myself to start a series of work based around that fascinating world.
The first piece features ‘Little Tich’ (21 July 1867 – 10 February 1928) who was a very interesting fella.
Born Harry Relph, he was a 4 foot 6 inch (137 cm) tall English music comedian and dancer during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was best known for his acrobatic and comedic ‘Big-Boot Dance’, which he performed all over Europe, and for which he wore boots with soles that were 28 inches (71 cm) long.
Here is some early film footage (1902) of him performing his act.
Wouldn’t get the likes of that on X-Factor, now would you?
– The piece below that shows is a gentleman named ‘Chigwin’ (George H. Chirgwin, 14 December 1854– 17 November 1922) winning a race in a child’s pedal car (at least in my imaginings)
Mr Chirgwin was a British music hall star billed as “the White-Eyed Kaffir”, a black faced minstrel act, and popular in the early 20th century. Now of course he would be rightly considered politically incorrect on several levels, but he was of his time.
Interestingly, Chirgwin appeared in the first Royal Command Variety Performance in 1912. He was noted for his unusual stage appearance and varied musical accomplishments, using a high-falcetto voice when singing, and playing the one-string ‘Jap fiddle’.
Rather than using a fully blacked-up face as other black-face minstrels did, Chirgwin chose to adapt this by making one large white diamond over one eye. This meant that his stage character was only partly inside the black-face minstrel tradition, and was using the tradition in a somewhat ironical manner. And indeed, his material included cockney material as well as straightforward black-face songs and sketches.
I wonder if those cheeky popsters Kiss were influenced in their stage presence by Chirgwin’s captivating look…
The last four selected here are varied in their origins, and are all based on various imagery that I have stumbled upon, and in true magpie fashion, plundered, then shoved through the old mind-grinder and reused to my own ends. Suffice to say that they all have elements that I find interesting.
From Dali’s insect phobia, antique anatomy illustration and masks, to speculation as to what the outcome of might have been if a gentleman had failed to remove his top hat before electing to dramatically absent himself from the company of his fellow man.
So that’s them… I enjoyed my dabble into the world of inkyness and may well return to it on and off, as it has an immediacy to it that is hard to get from other mediums.T’was fun.
In finishing up I would just like to thank the Chinese for a being so devilishly clever, and coming up with such a smart product..
India for handing over the raw materials for same..
And those mad (and now no doubt long-dead) Lloyds underwriters for showing me the meaning of not just accepting as ‘inevitable’ the quick-march of progress, and the value of cherry picking the bits of technology one chooses to adopt..