Printing perfection won't fade away

A new long-lasting ink formula for use in inkjet printers is giving computer- generated art an entree to serious exhibitions and prices.

Richard Hamilton, the father of British pop art, now aged 76, has become the leading exponent of the biggest breakthrough in print technology since screenprinting in the Sixties.

For the past 27 years, he has been manipulating painted and photographic images by computer, developing a sophisticated and highly individual style. But the images have languished in his computer because, hitherto, the ink for inkjet-on-paper printing faded after only six months.

For this reason, other professional artists have tended to shun the inkjet, except for producing proofs for publishers. Hamilton, however, has kept on painting with his computer, while periodically telephoning ink and computer-printer manufacturers in Europe and America to ask whether they had yet discovered long-life ink.

His reward has been the development in the past couple of years of ink that will last for up to 36 years without fading and, in the last two months, ink with a 75-year non-fade lifetime. The breakthrough has suddenly given inkjet prints a commercial value, thrusting them to the forefront of printmaking - and coaxed from Hamilton's computer a couple of dozen of his finest images that are in a selling exhibition at the Alan Cristea gallery in London.

The colours of the new ink - called Equipoise and introduced by the Iris Graphics company of Massachusetts - though water-based (pigment would clog the microscopic holes in the stylus), are more light-resistant than watercolour, lithographs, or screen prints (serigraphs), familiar media whose light-resistance is seldom questioned.

Hamilton says: "Their quality would blow the watercolours that Turner used out of the water". Prints with the new ink have acquired a generic name of their own - giclee prints - derived from the French word for "to squirt".

Hamilton's work in the exhibition is, at first sight, a mile away from his notorious seminal image of 1956, the tiny 10in by 9in collage, Just What Was It That Made Yesterday's Homes So Different, So Appealing?, which, for the first time, put the word "pop" in the frame, amid a proliferation of images from advertising and industrial design.

The dogma and aggressive imagery has dissolved into a softer, more reflective mode. In his pastel-coloured A Mirrorical Return (1998) he used Quantel Printbox software to extract the image of a female nude photographed in the corridor of his home in the Chilterns, then ghosted it into the reflecting glass of a big picture frame, together with a scanned-in transparency of Bachelor Apparatus, a work by his one-time mentor, Marcel Duchamp. The space where the reflected nude should be standing is empty. The result is a dream-like trompe l'oeuil.

The muted colour quality of the earliest long-life ink is apparent in the first digital print he produced with it, Bathroom - fig 2, also of 1998, shown here. Having snapped his wife, Rita, wrapping herself in a bath towel, he popped her into the computer and manipulated the background into a Mondrian-like intersection of different coloured spaces.

Self-portrait With Yellow is Hamilton's attempt to "get paint into the computer". The original Polaroid photograph shows him looking through glass with yellow paint on it. More paint has been added electronically.

If Hamilton were producing Just What Was It... today, he would, of course, use digital imaging instead of cut-and-paste collage. He has restored the famous image by computer and printed an A3-size edition of 25 for the exhibition, which have sold out at pounds 750 each. An A4-sized edition of 5,000 that he printed for a BBC QED programme, issued free, attracted 75,000 applicants. That was before Equipoise ink: the prints are fading already.

The new ink was developed for Iris by the Lyson company of Stockport, at a time when Iris was the butt of an embarrassing media campaign by the big American art publisher, Colville, which complained that their ink faded too quickly. Colville have now announced limited editions of prints using Iris ink.

The foremost tester of the permanence of inks is Henry Wilhelm, founder of Wilhelm Imaging Research, of Grinnell, Iowa, who subjects ink-on-paper prints to accelerated fluorescent light at a temperature of 75F. His latest bulletin emphasises the importance of matching ink with the right paper for maximum longevity, and estimates the life of Iris's Equipoise ink at a maximum 32-36 years if used on Arches Cold Press paper, which has a subtle yellowish tone. On Liege Fine Art paper, it fades after only two-three years. No other ink lasts more than six years.

Meanwhile, Lyson has developed an even more light-resistant ink - Lysonic, which it launched themselves two months ago. One of Wilhelm's tests on it, using four different kinds of paper, has come up with 65-75 years on Somerset Velvet paper.

Lysonic can be used in printers considerably less expensive than the top-quality Iris that sells for about pounds 20,000. It is compatible with the Epson, which costs (ex-VAT) from pounds 190 for the Epson Stylus Photo 700, to pounds 1,1995 for the Epson Stylus Professional 5000. Breaking of the price barrier is bound to lead to an expansion of digital print-making.

In Carlisle, Massachusetts, this month, Peter Alpers, formerly on Iris's staff and now a consultant to the digital print-making industry, will launch Moonglow, the first art gallery specialising in giclee prints.

The earliest giclee prints are likely to become sought-after as pieces of art history. Hamilton's Marconi and Son, showing two figures in a sombre, Hopper-like interior, in an unusually small edition of 20, at pounds 1,750 each, is a 1998 version of the first image that he printed using an Iris inkjet printer - spotted at a 1994 trade exhibition. The printer itself delivered 300 dots per square inch, but the dots of ink exploded in such a way that they gave a continuous tone looking more like 2,000 dpi.

So far at the exhibition, it is museum curators, print connoisseurs and art historians who have been buying. Few are being bought for the office or mantlepiece. Traditionalists have muttered that the prints look like reproductions - perish the thought! - or commercial art. They will soon know better.

Exhibition prices: pounds 750-pounds 7,500. `Richard Hamilton: New Technology and Printmaking', until 23 December, Alan Cristea Gallery, 31 Cork Street, London W1 (0171-439 1866)

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Infrastructure Analyst

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Infrastructure Ana...

    Teacher of Learners with Special Needs - Nottingham

    £130 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Teacher required to work w...

    Science Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Science Teachers needed for s...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments