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SOME NOTES CONCERNING MY PHOTOCOPY PRINTS

David Clarke

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In the days when the empire enjoyed peace, the Tao [of copying] was very popular,but after the troubles [of An Lu-shan`s rebellion, 756-758] such things were gradually neglected. Therefore, when there is an unusually fine scroll available, those who make a traced copy of it will help to treasure it. Then one may infer the original work, and the traced copy may also be kept as documentation.
Chang Yen-yuan

What is called `copying' is to put an original work on the table and, laying silk beside it, to reproduce it by imitating its brushwork. Unskilled artisans are completely unable to do this, and so they lay silk on top of the painting and trace it. If the ink is a bit thick, then it will go through and dirty the original, destroying its original spirit. If one lends someone a scroll to trace, it is as good as throwing it away.
Chao Hsi-ku

My print works are all executed using a photocopier, and do not involve any other kind of image manipulation technique. My basic strategy is to faithfully (photo)copy source images (sometimes my own, sometimes appropriated images). I then copy the copy, and copy that copy, and so on. You could say that the images are partly about copying itself (rather than simply using copying as a technical means to an end).

I have often chosen the strategy of copying as a way of engaging with images towards which I have a degree of ambivalence. On the one hand copying involves a kind of fidelity to the images, a focus on them and even a desire to propagate them. But on the other hand the process of producing a photocopy (and then a photocopy of that photocopy, and so on) gradually introduces new elements. Certain aspects of the source images become intensified and drawn to our attention, and at a later stage of the copying process the image starts to deteriorate. If one persists even further with the copying process then the image starts to become attractive again, but in a new way. A distinctive linear vocabulary emerges, a draftsman-like quality (albeit produced by a machine alone). The image becomes more abstract, and a dynamic wave-like energy pulses over its surface. Solid forms disappear. Eventually it becomes hard to see any relationship to the original image, but at a certain stage in the copying process the images seem to be curious embellishments of the originals, or translations of them into a completely different style. Due to the slight misalignments which occur in the cameras of photocopying machines (but which are not normally visible in first generation copies) the images will start to migrate across the surface, and a certain degree of distortion or anamorphosis will also occur.

In a sense these works are a meditation on the impossibility of copying or of obedience, or the inevitability of novelty. The notion of tradition - the idea that something is preserved from generation to generation - is also brought into question. Difference is foregrounded by persisting with an attempt to produce sameness.

Some works play with enlargement as well as with sequence; or with repetition within an image (instead of just in the production of the image).

 


All images and texts Copyright David Clarke 2008. All rights reserved.