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)

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

    £17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'