Printmaking in the Digital Age
David Hockney's Home Made Prints
“In February of 1986, David Hockney began experimenting with a friend’s color photo copy machine, a new type of technology that had only recently been released. It didn’t take long for him to realize the opportunity the machine presented for a new printmaking method, one which provided a means of ‘photographing’ an image as well as a way to reproduce it.
He began creating works in a process similar to traditional lithographic techniques. A single sheet was fed through the copier multiple times, each time a new ‘plate’ would be printed onto it, with the process repeated to create a complete edition of prints. Scale manipulation was also experimented with both within the images as well as in order to create a new, larger work. These were realized by assembling multiple sheets created on a smaller copying machine and subsequently running them through a Kodak machine, capable of accommodating the increased measurements.
The copier method allowed Hockney a level of autonomy in his printmaking work that had been lacking up to this point. As he explained,
“Over the years I’ve made a lot of prints working with several different master printshops. It’s an exciting process, but… it takes hours and hours, working alongside several master craftsmen, to generate an image. How you’re continually having to interrupt the process of creation from one moment to the next for technical reasons.
But with these copying machines, I can work by myself - indeed you virtually have to work by yourself; there’s nothing for anyone else to do - and I can work with great speed and responsiveness. In fact, this is the closest I’ve ever come in printing to what it’s like to paint: I can put something down, evaluate it, alter it, revise it, all in a matter of seconds.”
Hockney followed up on his copy machine work by learning to fax images, even participating in the 1989 São Paulo Biennial via fax machine, and more recently, creating images via his iPad and iPhone. Ever one to embrace new technology, his works in non-traditional media continue to reimagine the way we view the printmaking process as well as the distribution of images.