Digital Textile Printing

a 3D3 research project



Exhibition – Vertigo Sea, John Akromfrah, 16th January to 10th April 2016, Arnolfini, Bristol

John Akomfrah makes beautiful, poignant films. Vertigo Sea was originally exhibited at the 56th Venice Biennale as part of a larger exhibition All the Worlds Futures.  Here it was shown in the large lofty spaces of the Arnolfini. The Arnolfini works really well as a large video installation space. A lot of work gets lost in these concrete rooms but these pieces swelled to meet them.

I loved this show. The films were sumptuous and the colours just beautiful. Shot the Isle of Skye, Faroe Islands and the north of Norway the light is stunning. Strung together to tell the story of Moby Dick and Whale Nation, the piece used clips from the BBCs Natural History Unit alongside images of slaves making their own perilous journeys. There was a lot of symbolism and wonder, highlighting global environmental concerns and natural phenomenons. A tree covered in butterflies erupts as they fly on mass up into the sky. Shoals of fish soar across deep blue shimmery waterscapes. Then vast expanses of sea scape, perhaps with a lone figure, or a lone boat, solitary and alone.

Film uses additive colour (light) to create colour. The colours in these films were vibrant and luminous. The shots seemed very tonal, relying on one main colour with perhaps another colour as a highlight or focal point. The greatest sensation was of light, light from the landscapes they were shooting in and the light of the strong colours reflecting back at you.



Practitioner – Richard Weston


Richard Weston trained as an architect and worked in academia but now turns his high quality photographs into surface design. Working with a photographer and textile designer he uses high resolution scanners to create abstract and unique images, drawing inspiration from nature as well as manipulating materials.

More recently Weston’s studio have been developing apps (art for all, mollys world) which continue his own inspiration processes but opening them up to mobile phone users.

Practitioner – James Welling

James Welling describes himself as a postmodern artist who works in a variety of media including painting and photography. He frequently explores colour and light in his work. His early paintings are soft and fluid watercolours and this soft focus seems to have continued through out his work.  By breaking down the photographic process he has managed to experiment with the way prints are made which is an interesting approach and a means to take back control from the printer by the practitioner.

His colour palette is minimal, although bold, with photographs frequently including two hues but across a tonal range.



Practitioner – Susan Hiller


Susan Hiller  is an artist who works in a variety of mediums, from performance, photography, film and installation. She makes work about culture and phenomenas and her use of colour is often symbolic such as the Resounding series and Homage to Marcel Duchamp. The colour palette these works create are rather beautiful but I don’t think that colour is at the forefront of her work, rather it illustrates her concepts. I wanted to include her work because I think that her colour use demonstrates how artists have a tacit way of using colour to create beautiful visuals that draw us to their work. She also uses colour to illustrate the human subconscious, offering dreamlike visuals to depict the inner subjective workings of the human brain. I like this depiction of our subconscious as compartments of coloured images or flashes of coloured electrical signals and feel that this is a rather good way to picture something so intangible.

Practitioner – Raphael Hefti


Raphael Hefti is a Swiss engineer turned artist who experiments with materials and processes. With his engineering background he knows how to manipulate substances so that they create magical forms and colours. His ‘photographs’ are photopaper Lycopodium applied to the surface. Lycopodium is a moss that when powdered is highly flammable and has been used in fireworks and in the theatre. It also has electrical properties and when mixed with water it appears to move. The photos are alive with colour where the powder reacts with the chemicals on paper and creates burning patterns.

Practitioner – Gunda Foerster


Gunda Foerster is an artist who uses light to create immersive installation pieces although her early work used colour in other mediums such as placing red curtains or flags as a means of intervening into your experience of a space.

This desire to change our perceptions of our surroundings dominates Gunda’s work and it is no wonder that she has moved from flags to light as a means to do so. Light is key to our perception, particularly of colour, and lighting conditions are frequently tightly controlled to try to influence our behaviour from the way we shop to how we’re feeling (hospitals, spas, theatre).

Gunda also uses the C-print as a medium to explore light and colour (if they are not to be seen as the same thing). A C-print is the negative image of a photograph, like applying the inverse filter in Photoshop. Everything that was black goes white and vice versa. Its like magic. Her C-prints are not staged family photos at the beach however. Gunda’s photographs are blury layers like x-rays or ghosts with inky dipped halos of colour hovering around the murky shapes.




Practitioner – Hil Driessen


In her own words Hil Driessen  is fascinated with structure. Using digital print to produce trompe l’oeil affects, Hil’s designs are not what they seem. She uses photography to capture shadows and texture and prints these onto the flat (flatter I should say) surface.


These prints are interesting because they exploit the tonality that digital inkjet printing can bring to textile prints. It doesn’t quite matter if the colour is not correct because the image is about the tonal (and here monochrome greyscale) rather than colour matching.

The affect may be slightly novelty but her work does demonstrate clearly the possibilities of digital printing.

It is difficult to see how Hil’s work has progressed because her website is horrible to navigate, I think she may have moved towards 3D printing but it is a slight mystery. In the meantime the archive of work on her site, if you can work out how to get to it, offers an insight into how digital textile printing might be exploited.

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