Skip to main content

Norske artister I: Rolf Nesch

I first came across the work of artist Rolf Nesch twenty years ago, in a printmaking manual that was lying around the studio of my etching teacher in London. Recently I saw images of his work online while I was searching for something else, and when I looked at more of his work, I was blown away by it.

Nesch was actually a German, born in 1893. He fought in WWI, was considered as one of the German Expressionist painters, and only moved to Norway after the Nazis assumed power in Germany in the early 1930s. Unfortunately for Nesch, and the Norwegian people, Hitler followed him north less than a decade later. But that's another story.

It was in Norway that Nesch came into his own as an artist, mainly in the area of printmaking. He was one of the first people to experiment with collagraph, the technique of making printing plates either out of found materials or by gluing objects to a surface (then inking and printing them). You could just lift the first ten images from a Google image search, and find something beautiful and striking in each one of them. There are etchings that have a dreamy, Chagall-like quality:


There are collagraphs that combine stylised figures with bold, graphic shapes and colours:


And, of course, his heavyweight collagraphs:


These were made from pieces of cut and shaped steel, and which required layering the plates with up to eight felt blankets before they could be rolled through the printing press (in order for the steel rollers of the press to press the paper into the plate without either tearing the paper or damaging the roller). There is a great video on YouTube showing how Nesch did this:



Nesch became a Norwegian citizen in 1946, and a museum dedicated to his work opened in Oslo in 1993. If I ever make it back to Norway, I will make sure to visit and enjoy this master-printmaker's work up close.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…