After years of sitting on the bottom shelf, unopened and brand new, I released the Gelli Plate from its packaging. What is a Gelli Plate you ask? A Gelli Plate is a “reusable printing surface made of non-perishable gel.” In other words, you put paint on it, lay paper on top, apply pressure, and wha-la!
Admittedly, I had serious misgivings about using the thing, mostly due to my searching the internet for examples. There I found a mind numbing flood of random splotches, streaks, stencils, magazine transfers, stripes, dots, and Tuscany inspired textures. if you ask me, a monkey could do this work. No offense to monkeys.
I was wrong.
This is not the first time I’ve been humbled by my preconceptions. The Gelli plate is no more guilty of making mediocre art than is the paint brush, or the printing press. It’s the artist that uses the tool, not the other way around. If any inherent fault is to be found, it’s that this particular tool makes output a little too easy. You can literally spill your soup on it and end up with something really cool.
After a few sessions of trial and error, I had a stack of images. Some looked undercooked, others strong and suggestive, quite a few ended up in the collage pile. It dawned on me that I could keep going like this and end up with an entire exhibit of “abstracts.” No doubt, people would love it. But no.
I’ve come to understand that I’m a story teller at heart. In the right artistic hands, a pair of muddy boots suggests an epic struggle, or maybe quiet acceptance. A small white house, well planted in the landscape, speaks to loneliness, independence, or memory. And the figure. Oh what powerful opportunity lies there. And I can draw. That’s not a skill to waste.
So I continue my attempt to straddle these two worlds, abstraction and depiction. My destination feels uncertain, but I’m pretty sure I’ll recognize it when it comes. There is an opportunity, a sweet spot amidst the splotches, streaks, and stencils, where meaning coalesces with image. It is found in a gesture, a structure, in recognition, or even a narrative. Always, a suggestion.