Emma Plunkett is having an exhibition of her cyanotypes at fellow ANA member, Vic Monfort’s Ceramiq gallery in Órgiva from the 21st of April, from 8pm. Please come along and bring your art loving friends. There will be original one off cyanotype prints for sale, in all sizes and prices, framed and unframed. Vic will also have his ceramic art for sale.
See examples of Emma’s cyanotypes on her website: https://www.missplunkett.tv/gallery-shop/prints/cyanotypes/
Read Emma’s story about her introduction to cyanotypes
I first got into cyanotypes in my early twenties, during the early nineties, in London. One of my arty friends was at college and kept showing me different photographic printing methods that she was learning. So, I was inspired and aware that there was more out there in terms of experimental photography. When buying dark room chemicals at an old well established photographic suppliers in South London, called Silver Print, I asked behind the counter if they could recommend anything to me. The sales assistant’s eyes lit up as he rang off a list of complicated techniques. When he mentioned cyanotypes, my eyes lit up, as I realised this process could be a possibility for me with my limited budget and resources. My dark room was in my bathroom at home and I set about producing enlarged negatives printed on transparent film. I used them to make contact prints, exposing them in my garden. The rain and clouds in England got the better of me and I eventually got myself a sun bed to use for exposures. My soul wasn’t very happy at the time, I was young and feeling powerless. I had psoriasis and I felt trapped by my emotions and my artwork reflected this. I produced dozens of images with layers of drowning women, nudes drowning in a Prussian blue sea of emotion. I exhibited these widely and sold one similar to the one below to The Princes Trust art collection.
These two cyanotypes are from 1993 and were created without the use of photoshop but by photographing the figure in black and white, developing the film, making a slide from the film and then projecting the image back onto the nude, this process was repeated several times to create the layers in positive.
My present day experience with cyanotypes
These days, in my forties, I’ve been revisiting my old tried and tested techniques, to see if I can do them any better. It’s been interesting to see what I can do with cyanotypes as a more mature artist now, as I inject my knowledge, experience of life and of art into them. Presently, I am making my compositions with a combination of painterly chemical backgrounds, using a combination of freshly picked botanicals and enlarged negatives of a female nude. I am also toning some of the prints with coffee and adding watercolour inks at the end. I’m making simple wild flower scenes with a curvaceous nude. I am pleased to say, the content of my cyanotypes now reflect my balanced mood and the happiness that pervades my life as it is now.
The cyanotype process
Cyanotypes were invented by scientist Sir John Herschel in 1842. The technique was used for mostly reproducing architectural drawings or commonly known as blue prints for buildings. A surface, such as paper, is prepared in a darkened room, with a solution made from a mixture ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. Once dry it is lime green in colour. The paper is then laid on a board with objects, negatives or plants placed in a composition on top. Glass is used to keep everything in place. The composition then gets taken carefully outside and left to expose for about 5 – 20 minutes, where the light sensitive chemicals slowly turn to a bronze coloured brown. The composition is taken back inside to a source of water and the paper is washed in moving water for five minutes, to wash away all the unexposed salts. The Prussian blue colour becomes vivid very quickly after washing and gets brighter as the paper later dries. Some objects and images work better than others and you can never really tell until you try.
My experimental process
The technique is very addictive what with weighing out subtle changes of dry chemical quantities and with modifying the application of the light sensitive emulsion. Using different papers and fabrics, can all produce such interesting variations too. Working outside in the strong Andalusian sunshine makes light work of the printing. I don’t time the exposures, I just watch the colour change of the emulsion. My washing line can often be seen littered with blue printed paper and fabric hanging from it.