By Connor Sadler, October 16 2014 —
Albertan artist Lisa Matthias’ new exhibit of woodcut prints, Field Notes, will be on display at the Christine Klassen Gallery in south east Calgary from Oct. 23 until Nov 29. The exhibit consists of hand carved wood block prints screen printed by Matthias. The prints draw inspiration from natural forms such as birds and honeycombs, reflecting Matthias’ interest in biology.
“I wanted to create this space for people to make some environmental association,” Matthias says, “but also leave the work open enough for people to have their own reading of it.”
While regular wood prints are usually small, the pieces in Field Notes are up to five feet wide. Despite the size, Matthias used traditional small-scale methods to produce the works.
Matthias says her process starts with background research, including examining drawings and photographs, before beginning to carve. She then draws outlines on the wood and carves from those, though she says the carving “takes on a life of its own” and moves beyond the initial sketches.
Depending on the level of detail, each print can take 35–40 hours to complete.
“I had done a lot of etching in the past and then at some point I felt like I needed to shift gears a little bit. I liked the idea that [wood carving] was really physical. It takes muscle to hand carve pieces that large,” Matthias says. “It’s just sort of an outlet to really get involved with my art.”
After all of the carving is finished, a big roller is used to ink the surface of the wood. A large sheet of paper is then put on the inked wood and run through the press. The ink transfers from the wood to the paper and creates a reverse image of the carving.
According to Matthias, finding a title for her works was one of the most challenging parts of the process. She eventually decided on a title that reflected her creative process. Matthias says she spent a lot of time outside sketching as well as making audio and video recordings.
“In some sort of a way it was like taking down little notes in a notebook like I would if I was doing biology,” Matthias says. “Ultimately all of those little notes and quips and things made their way into final pieces as work. It started off analogous to a little book of field notes.”
For her next project Matthias will again draw inspiration from biology and natural forms, but on a grander scale. While still untitled, the next project will have a greater focus on animal and human habitats.
“[The project has] mostly been insect based so far because I’ve found anywhere I go in the city, you can see little nooks and crannies where things are living,” Matthias says. “Ultimately I wanted to create a space that was more immersive than my usual work.”