Anna Harley: Screenprinting

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Posted 3rd December 2018


Anna Harley

Screenprinting is a type of stencil printing, where ink passes through a fabric or mesh screen. These screens are made from thin fabrics, traditionally silk but nowadays usually a synthetic alternative, which is stretched tightly over a metal or wood frame. It can be used to print onto flat surfaces, including other fabrics, papers, metals or wood.

The idea behind screenprinting is to block out or make impermeable the areas that you don't want to be printed. Ink or paint is then forced through the rest of the screen with a rubber blade - known as a squeegee - onto the paper. The stencil can be created by applying an adhesive film (like vinyl or tape) or paper, painting onto it using 'screen blockers' (glue, lacquer) or by coating the screen with a light-sensitive emulsion.

In screenprinting it is possible to print with multiple colours, with each colour being printed as a separate layer of ink. This makes screen printing quite a time consuming print method as individual screens need to be prepared for each colour layer of the design.

'For the last few years, I have almost exclusively printed up to the deckle edge of the paper– I think this is a more contemporary approach to print. Historically a paper margin of roughly six inches was left around the edge of the print and used to attach the print behind a mount ready to frame. My work is 'float mounted', so the print appears to float in its frame – celebrating, rather than hiding the print and the paper.

'While engaged in the creative process, I try to stay open minded about how the finished print will look, to allow the print to make itself – print is an extremely process-led way of making art and allowing the unexpected to happen and taking advantage of these happy accidents allows the work to stay fresh and exciting.

'The screenprinting process suits my practice, because it allows me to build images in fine layers of ink, printing layer upon layer until I am happy with the final print.

'I use a combination of drawing, digital photography and objects directly exposed on the screen, to create these individual layers. I enjoy the tension this creates in my images – is the print based on a drawing or photograph? Is it attached fabric, pencil marks or ink?

'I love the drama of proofing a print; when suddenly everything comes together with the final layer of ink – and the print starts to sing. Once I am happy with the initial artists proof, I will then screenprint an additional number of limited edition prints, each matched against the artist proof, which I sign and edition.

'Because prints are produced in multiples, high quality prints are much more affordable than other forms of original art. I believe that original art belongs in people's homes every bit as much as it belongs in public galleries and communal spaces, and with this in mind, I have recently made a series of mini-prints - small landscapes printed in editions of 80, with the intention of making artwork that is affordable for all.'

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