08gb_grm ENGRAVINGS & MONOTYPES/Martian AYME de Lyon/
Painter, engraver & printer


- GRAVURES ET MONOTYPES - (Up to May 2012)

Martian AYME de Lyon


It was in 1965 that Martian AYME de Lyon worked on his first prints. Etching at first, on zinc and copper, then soon lithography both black and white, and colour, all of them for very short times... He tackled wood engraving, and eventually (in 1985) linocut, which appeared to better fit the sort of polychromatic works he had in mind.

Everybody knows or rather thinks he knows « engraving » and « etching », but most of the time these words which correspond to very precise techniques are wrongly used instead of the word « print » which has the advantage – or disadvantage – to cover the whole scope of printing...That is the relief print (mostly woodcutting, and now linocut), the intaglio print (engraving, etching, drypoint...), and the « flat » techniques (lithography, silkscreen, monotype...) to mention the very main ones.

It was with woodcut that Martian AYME de Lyon really started getting « into » printing. At first he wanted to cut and print a certain series of simple curvy line drawings... The blocks that he prepared himself from wild cherry tree board taught him that if he did not want to cut out « too far » – and have to restart from scrap – he had to print some states of the work in progress. As he worked he understood that the essence of woodcutting resided not in cutting according to the lines of an initial project, but in « listening » to the yet unresolved possible dialogue between the dark and lit surfaces the block bore in its womb .

Soon, it appeared to him that the tension of his mind and muscles required through cutting with and against the grain all the time was not worth the trouble... Linoleum is said to be too soft and not reliable enough in the long run ; he tried it, and found that it was not so soft, and could go under the press more than hundreds of times : linocut perfectly met his needs. Too many people think that this technique is just too easy for serious artists, and an easy way for less serious ones to contrive easy images... Over more than twenty-five years the artist, making the most of this so called poor material, has proved that its possibilities are really many ; on condition of course that it is worked in respectful harmony...

His third print technique is a special sort of monotype that is not done in the usual way consisting in painting with printing ink on a metal plate a complete image which will be transfered to paper under the press. His, which he has called « blank monotype » (monotype aveugle in French) consists in working on the back of a paper laid on an inked surface with different tools ; it can be done several times allowing for multilevel colour printing without requiring the use of a press. One must note that he only uses the three primary colours : yellow, blue and red, as well as black and, rarely, white ; that he never mixes them ; that he rolls each one over an old out of service lithographic stone ; that all shades are obtained through impressionistic vision and/or transparent layers, which gives a specifically vivid quality to each of his monotype works.

It was in August 1984 that he printed his first monotype aveugle, an offspring, as it were, of his first steps in typography. Martian AYME de Lyon is probably the only artist to have practised this technique for such a long time, with as much obstinacy... His interest in it is due to the rare cohesiveness between line and colour it allows, the chance opportunities that experience enables to master, the ability it offers to work on a one and same print from a single time to many over many years...

This above account would not be complete if we did not point to the rather specific way the artist works. Someone who might think that at present linocut and blank monotype merely enable him to print each time a certain number of copies would be terribly wrong. Very soon, as we mentioned before, he discovered the importance of printing states ; since then this aspect has been taking more and more importance, especially as far as his linocuts are concerned. In some cases, with the same plate there may be more than two-hundred states, some with more than ten impressions of thick and thin successive primary colours. With the blank monotype the process is similar, with one notable difference : the outline of the work can vary much more than with the linocut.

Martian AYME de Lyon respects his tools, press or gouge, his material, be it linoleum, paper or ink, gives to each work the necessary time for it to be born, is always open to the chance opportunities that the hazards of printing and transfer may offer him... These are rules he gave to himself some fifty-five years ago and has followed ever since ; these are the rules which have helped him nurture his ...research. Yes, this artist is a researcher, dedicated to research, not to production : the way he works, the nature of his work, and the fact that he does not abide by any norm tend to establish this statement...

C. SÉE (2012)