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
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
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
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
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

    SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

    SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

    Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

    £85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

    Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

    £55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering