Malika Favre—why making it look easy is so very hard.
Malika Favre has some wonderful new screen print editions, and while printing them we got to talking about the art, the printing process, and why it is that to appear effortless is so excruciatingly difficult.
Malika Favre has created two new pairs of screen prints—Marie & Bob—which we have had the great pleasure of producing in the White Duck Editions studio. As always, the experience of printing Malika's work is unlike that of most other editions. It's undeniably rewarding, but perhaps for reasons that you don't expect.
While working on the prints, it got Rebecca and I talking about what it's like printing Malika's work, and what it is about her work that for the viewer is so compelling.
For the viewer, Malika's illlustration is about the elegance of the lines; it's about the figures and their sweeping features; it's about the use of bold colour and the way the artist manages the available space within the canvas. In fact, it is all of these things, the sum of which is a coalescence of elements that renders the viewer disarmed by a sense of deceptive effortlessness.
When we see things that we at first perceive as effortless, it draws us in and puts us off balance. We feel invited and reassured. We become quickly the artwork's confidant, and a connection is created. We perhaps even get drawn to believing we could create something similar ourselves. There is a relaxed fluidity that makes it appear easy.
Of course, the experience changes the deeper in we go. Once fully immersed, we lose our senses inside the perfect lines, inside the vivid colour, inside the glaring white of the negative space. Soon enough, we are balancing giddily upon the place where two colours interact perfectly, and we know it to be a place of outrageous beauty.
For the printer, these focal points are indeed the beauty. They are also the torture.
Let there be no mistake, printing Malika's work is hard. Really, really HARD. It's hard for many of the same reasons that creating the artwork is no doubt really hard for the artist.
Chief among these reasons is the reality that, when inside such artwork, there is simply no place to hide, no thin sliver of space in which to pass off a mistake or lapse of concentration. There is no way to fake one's conviction to form, because to do so is to be instantly exposed—and if one cannot fake it, then the only option one has is to be genuine.
Which is perhaps another reason why Malika's illustration commands attention—because it is unflinchingly genuine, and, once explored, there is a palpability to the years long process behind the finished work. No route to this location can be found via happy accident, and herein we reveal one of the great common failings of comprehension—that it is possible for a person to entertain the notion that something which appears effortless was therefore easy to produce.
On the contrary—the reality is precisely the opposite.
To produce beauty with the disguise of apparent ease is truly one of the greatest feats of skill. It is a heady illusion that masks the thousands of hours of working practice that trail the artist. It is a pin-point moment of performance that conseals in one flourish every fall and twisted ankle that came before. It is the expression of pushing oneself with motives unexplainable, for year upon year.
Luckily for us all, whilst producing effortless is hard, the great news is that hard is insanely rewarding.
We find this when printing Malika's editions, where each time we are pushed to perform with complete conviction. To not hide, as it is possible in some prints to do. When working inside a print that is full of distressed texture and less-than-crucial colour interaction, the focus is entirely different. It is possible to work with one's mind partially elsewhere—on the next screen, the next colour mix, even the next edition—and still produce work of excellent quality. Printing when inside the work of Malika’s, on the other hand, requires a focus that is absolute and a presence of mind that is entirely in the moment.
It is hard work, but highly rewarding work, and this coupling is always an indicator that we're pushing things in the right direction.
Allowing time brings refinement and understanding. Commitment delivers ever improving work. Dedication spanning years begets beauty. This is true of the creation of art, as well as the production of prints, and the artist/printer relationship is also no exception. We feel blessed to have worked with this artist over the last ten years. Given such a timeframe, the outcome naturally improves with each edition, as the comprehension of a deeper objective gradually reveals itself.
Giving the viewer the sense that something is effortlessness, we have discovered, is no easy thing. Striving for it is hard and it takes a long time. But the journey itself is beautiful, and the great people we meet along the way constantly remind us why we do what we do.
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Visit Malika Favre's website for more information about these editions.