The In-Between Space: Tatiana Klacsmann in the StudioJanuary 15, 2016
Studio Workspace resident Tatiana Klacsmann came to WSW in November to work in the Etching Studio where she combines traditional linocut and polyester lithograph prints with digital processes to create life-sized figures. Tatiana’s style and imagery are deeply influenced by 15th century Gothic printmaking, though she finds ways to pull traditional archetypal figures and scenes into the 21st century.
“Dürer may have had an atelier of assistants,” Tatiana says wryly, “but I have a computer.”
Tatiana’s process begins by carving a small relief block and printing. She then scans the print and enlarges the file in Photoshop so that the image is spread over up to six sheets of paper, which are then photocopied onto polyester lithography plates. Manipulating the image on the computer allows her, eventually, to turn a 9 x 12” block into a six-foot tall figure wearing a crown and draped in robes. After this, the plate is run through the press again, then the figure is cut out and assembled.
The massive amount of time and effort that goes into each piece is not lost on Tatiana—a single block takes upwards of twenty hours to carve. “One of the things I love about Gothic art is that it is extremely labor intensive,” says Tatiana. “Since so much of that art was religious, the labor was a form of devotion.” Although the content is different, Tatiana’s labor shows her devotion to her art, and this labor is on display for the viewer. Every mark and every cut is visible and deliberate.
“With this particular printmaking process, I gouge out,” Tatiana says. “By creating these beautiful works in such a fundamentally destructive way they become both delicate and violent.”
These conflicting dichotomies are present in much of Tatiana’s work, in both its process and its content. In a smaller
mixed media piece, Nocturn #1, Tatiana collaged a printed owl perched over New York City with a plane flying overhead. Although the owl and the city look like they were pulled straight from the Nuremberg Chronicle, a masterwork of 15th century printing, the airplane labels the piece as modern. The piece seems to exist in an in-between space, neither as old as the style would suggest nor what comes to mind when we think of “contemporary art.” Beyond this, Tatiana’s imagery plays with other multiplicities. The owl symbolized Athena and represented wisdom in Greek mythology, though it became an omen of death and bad luck in the Middle Ages. The airplane is in a state of transition, caught between origin and destination and between land and air. The marbled paper—the background in Nocturn #1 and the dress of Tatiana’s archetypal figure—makes each piece unique and irreproducible despite the same block being used to print.
Tatiana continues to apply these dualities in the work she made at WSW. The six-foot tall figure she created is that of Justice, who—according to the Tarot and to Christian mythology—shares symbolic attributes with Death. Tatiana includes her own face on her archetypal figures, a hyper-specific yet universal symbol of our reaching into the past to try to make sense of a modern world. These conflicts exist in harmony within the work, made with both centuries-old and contemporary technology.
Once the carving, printing, and assembling is done, Tatiana takes items she finds at dollar stores and incorporates them into the work. She ties her figure’s boots with bright red shoelaces, adds doily lace to the dress’ collar, and completes the crown with plastic gemstones. These simple additions complicate the piece on several different axes: the hand-crafted and the mass-produced, historical iconography and contemporary kitsch; the textures of the flat prints and the three-dimensional objects. These jarring juxtapositions make her scenes uncanny where the human and non-human elements meet.
All in all, Tatiana estimates, her complete full-size Justice figure required an impressive 34 plates. “At the end of the day, it’s just paper,” she says. “There’s no value in the paper, the value and the beauty is in the labor of the work I’m putting into it.”
Tatiana Klacsmann lives and works in Hudson, New York. She has an MFA from Johnson State College, MA in Art History from University of Glasgow, and BA from Yale University. See more of Tatiana’s work on her website tatianaklacsmann.com, see what she’s working on and get great book recommendations on her blog, and see more from her residency on our Flickr.