03/02 - 03/03 2018:

Vivian Van Blerk

"After Empire"

History and Process

Vivian van Blerk first printed photographs on glass in 2009 for the series, « Public Flesh », photomontages which combine the visiting public with sculptures in the Louvre museum in Paris. The transparent glass allowed him to paint fleshy tones behind the sculptures, making them lively amongst the monochrome tourists.

Since then he has explored various chemical processes to fix images on glass: Silver gelatin emulsion (classical b&w photography), gum bichromate sensitizing and cyanotype. In the two most recent series, « After Empire » and « The Elsewheres » (2016), paper photographs are collaged directly on the glass in combination with the silver gelatin image. These series’ glass panes are  recycled old sheets of poured glass the artist finds. Their imperfections and surface patina are part of the composition and aura of the works.

The entire series comes from one spool of twelve 6x6cm negatives taken in warehouses of abandoned Babcock factory (built ca 1898) in La Courneuve two weeks before their demolition. To add sculptures, animals and other imported features to the factory images, the artist prints photographs from his archives. These are cut out, tinted with watercolour, and composed onto the factory photographs printed to the format of the glass used (37,5 x 29,5cm).

The glass panes, recuperated after decades in a muddy storeroom, are thoroughly cleaned with abrasive clay, ammoniac, soap and vinegar.

Free of grease, a coat of gelatin is painted on one face of the pane.

The positions of animals and sculptures is traced onto the glass. Then these paper photographs are pasted  on the glass with gelatin. 

Dry, the glass with collaged photos can be  coated  with a light sensitive silver emulsion in the dark room. The emulsion is painted on with brushes or rollers.

Dried overnight, the glass is ready to print on. Printing is nearly identical to the usual black-and-white process. In a darkroom, an enlarger is used to project the negative onto the sensitized glass. The pane is then developed in trays in the usual way: developer, stop bath then fixer. A further hardening bath is added after the stop bath and the panes are washed in clean water between each step of the process. This seems to help prevent the gelatin image from sliding off the glass when wet - a frequent problem.

Once dry, the image side of the glass is  painted. In this series acrylique medium and acrylic paint tinted with pigments were used to render the images visible and the glass opaque.

Van Blerk calls these combinations of black-and-white photographs, collage and paint seen through distorted  and patinated panes, « glass darklies ».

Infos pratiques
Mardi - Samedi
Rue Watteeu 16
1000 Bruxelles - Belgique
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Art Sablon is an art gallery created by Nathan Uzal & Jonathan F. Kugel mixing antiques and contemporary art in the heart of Brussels.