A Printed World

Every year now for five years, at the start of the year, as a sort of beginning, I spend a day near Cambridge at the Curwen Print studio making a lithograph. Since I’m limited to using only three colour plates, I find the process both demanding and unpredictable. The picture that finally emerges is often a summation of painterly concerns from the previous year; the result is a rapidly inscribed image imprinted on a small space, one in which day turns to night, earth to water, past to future.

This printed world is also a picture of memory, both of a personal space – the womb, the marked body, the mapped mind – and of a physical space – desert tracks, island margins, magical lost worlds. It is a beginning, literally (on the printers plate) and metaphorically (starting over once more ), which also recalls earlier worlds: the marking out of time and territory not in words but plotted in the tenuous lines and erasures with which early cartographers and mapmakers hoped to delineate the space of their uncertain wanderings.

The World According to Herodotus (6th c.)
It is something Ryszard Kapuscinski captures in his journeys with Herodotus: the repetition of past history in present time and the urgent insistence that its recollection in the words and stories of travellers might prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time. For Kapuscinski ‘history’, as he continuously reminds himself in this his final book, 'is merely an uninterrupted progression of presents’ and the attempt to picture it (that is, imprint it on memory, on paper, by hand) is ‘yet another expression of man’s struggle against time, against the fragility of memory, its ephemerality, its perpetual tendency to erase itself and disappear’ (Travels with Herodotus). To which one might also add our darker fears over the deterioration of the fabric of the world itself.