I’m back from Amsterdam, and ready to start writing about my month-long residency at AGALAB, formerly Atelier Grafische Amsterdam.

I was fortunate enough this year to receive a Develop Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England. My proposal was to fund the research and transition of my practice from traditional processes, to more sustainable, and lower toxicity methods and materials.

Part of the grant funded a residency to work with Geowash-K, a vegetable cleaning agent currently being used as an alternative to traditional VOCs and solvents at AGALAB. I had been there before, in 2019, and it was transformative. My intaglio practice now includes acrylic grounds and alternatives to traditional mordants, and I work much more with colour, and alternative substrates.

This second visit would be a chance for me to try this product as an alternative to traditional solvents in stone lithography. Unlike in intaglio, where solvents are usually used after processing to remove inks and grounds, solvents form an intrinsic part of processing and printing the image on the stone, so I was interested to learn whether this product would truly be a viable option. Results are mixed.

I am going to split this into four future posts, documenting my research, progress, or lack thereof, and tentative next steps. Stay tuned.

I’m Ling, and I make prints. I also like looking at prints, handling prints, accessioning prints, printing with others, reading about printmaking. I like all of printmaking, screenprinting, etching, litho, but also monotypes, and digital prints. Each is a voice in a choir, an instrument in a band. I sure love teaching print. At least, I think I do. Or did. I can’t be sure now.

Photograph of myself in my studio, holding a litho fan and looking to one side
Me, in my studio in Woolwich.

I definitely love print, but it is a complex and difficult relationship. Once you poke your head up from the press and look at the world around you, lots of questions appear. Some of these are existential and timeless, the sorts of questions about examining life, not unique to art, or printmaking – why am I here, what am I doing, what’s it all for?

Other questions are more in this moment: is what I’m doing sustainable? Is what I’m doing causing harm? Is printmaking sustainable? Is it causing harm? If printmaking is so great, why isn’t everyone doing it? No, geniunely, why isn’t everyone doing it? Are there barriers built it, biases in its design, exclusions in its practice?

I’ve lost a lot of time confronting my practice in my mind, while I raced about with teaching and technician jobs. Sometimes the bigger questions take over the work, and the visual themes of empire, migration, and memory take a backseat, it’s a flaw I recognised in myself. There was never enough time or energy to make any changes, or to try and answer any questions.

So here I am, in 2021, following the strangest, saddest, angriest, weirdest, most eye-opening two years many of us will have experienced. I’ve left full-time teaching and technician life, for the life of an artist trying to answer questions. This is where I will be recording some of my findings.