Sea Change: A Study of Erosion through Printmaking

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Final Intaglio plates

‘Sea Change’ is the record of a process in which the drawn line is cast across three distinct techniques: woodblock printing, monoprinting and intaglio printing. What results from this collation of materiality, method, and craft subverts the conventional use of architectural drawing within a design practice. A material and drawn connection are formulated between the eroding site of Awaroa Inlet and the erosive process of etching aluminium, thereby reproducing the observed subject in the critical gauging and chemical processes of printmaking. Through the dissolving of the surface and the removal of substance the printmaker’s craft parallels, indeed reveals, and critiques the physical transformations involving disappearance, instability, and imprecision.

The transitory nature of the Awaroa landscape and its eroding bank stands against permanence within a drawing practice that can be reproduced infinitely. In the methodology of printmaking in ‘Sea Change’ a material connection and gauging of substance reflects and continues the land’s existence within our drawn practices. We make visible what no longer is; we seek not to reproduce but record the layers of its past, present, and future forms. To read an overwritten drawing as a new approach to architectural design and thinking. This evolved as taking on the term 'slow drawing' to overwrite and break down the layers of space, of a drawing, of change, bringing forth a new understanding of the method by which we make these impressions. In four parts, this thesis took breath; each part follows the shifts and incremental themes of erosion, imprecision, and absence. They propose a reaction against the imposition of a final built space and change the common trajectories of architectural drawing. To tie my makings to the alternative place within its translation from sketch to space is to suggest a new sense of space within both the act of drawing and the final drawing. One that is interrupted by material and allows for its use as a critical observation of the world around us. One that is done after construction. The final part of this series concludes the making in Intaglio. However, it suggests a loop back to its origin, creating a loose end in which the practice might endure and produce something new.



Through the makings of this thesis, the line between material and drawing is explored through a very specific type of printmaking. The surface on which we scribe embodies the same erosive conditions of the thing it's representing. Our impressions of change and observations create a wider gap through which we might draw new conclusions. The drawn collation of plates and reliefs resulting from this research formulate an indirect connection between an eroding site and the erosive process of intaglio printmaking. Continuing from the spatiality of the previous woodblock prints, this process draws forth a separation of the plate and the relief. In woodblock, the block and the relief work together as they are a direct reproduction of one another. In intaglio print, the reverse is investigated. The plate suddenly presents a secondary quality to the print taken from it. Each being residue of the other’s process.

In a pictorial sense, one can draw directly from a landscape, however, pulling a line across a page isn’t a horizon until you define it as one. When the surface on which we scribe becomes physical, unstable, and transformative, the impressions we might draw from them change alongside it. The line becomes a presence; the etch becomes an absence. They propose a new form of architectural drawing that not only parallels but indeed reveals and critiques the physical and ephemeral changes in which architecture stands against time.

At this point of my thesis research a site is introduced at two scales; there is a personal and critical reflection on the architectural and drawn impressions we experience. The makings touch on the materiality of place and the use of erosion as a drawing technique. The first scale was the inlet of Awaroa in the Abel Tasman National Park, an ever-changing inlet of sand and channels that have shifted for thousands of years. The second scale resulted from the inlet's recent battles with the ocean, the bank bordering a row of residents in the national park.

These makings collide with the realities of erosion on Aotearoa/New Zealand’s coastlines, the monoprinting and woodblock techniques speak as methodologies themselves as acts of personal and material investigations.


Finished Product

The term intaglio (pronounced in-tal’ yo) is derived from the Italian word intagliare, meaning to cut or incise. The method predates modernized society in that some of the first-ever markings we made as a human race fit under the metrics of intaglio printing. To carve or cut away at a surface integrates a haptic and textural composition to the body of work.

The intaglio technique is the exact opposite of a relief print like woodblock printmaking. The key difference is that an intaglio image is printed from the ink rubbed into the incised areas of the plate rather than a woodblock wherein the ink sits on top of the surface of the plate. This allows the technique a much greater range of possibilities than the woodblock, which is much more linear and straightforward in character. The final part of my research resulted in these four metal intaglio plates, each evolving from one another in their own critiques of the eroding bank and its architectural impressions.

‘Sea Change’, the final plate, is a palimpsest artefact; this landscape of two 600mm by 800mm intaglio plates allow for a history of idle marks and erosions to be overwritten without being forgotten, to be preserved. Circular in its methodology, the palimpsest artefact records multiple purposeful instances of both the practice of printmaking and the condition of the Awaroa Bank. It is made in the manner of an architectural drawing. Composited marks pull to past referents of plans of eroded steps, elevations of the erected sea wall, and the shifting movement of the land. In some areas of the plate, this overwritten approach has disintegrated the identifiable context of its subject. However, it is in these moments, explored first in the layering of woodblocks, that this method of overlaying carries a seeming paradox that the more eroded and expressive the marks become, the more transparent to its conversations, the drawing becomes. Born of multiple scales, the drawings are enigmatic in this way. The fleshy etchings and bold eroded areas become a personal record communicating a call to further the transparency of New Zealand’s unsettled change conditions within our landscapes.


Critic's Text

'Sea Change' joins a printing method and site, resulting in an exquisite reflection on erosion. The thesis emerged from Lise Jansen-Luke's resolve to learn complex printing techniques and use 'making' to define her architectural practice. The outcome is a personal exploration of Abel Tasman National Park's eroding coastline through a series of woodblock, mono-printing and intaglio prints embodying symbolic and actual 'erosion' of the print block surfaces. The brooding prints vividly measure the architectural change of ramps, walls, and steps due to stormy waves and severe tides, with architectural elements blending with ink and coastline. The method is faultless and full of poetic potential, allowing meditations on absence, loss, nature and how architects use drawing to comprehend place in a shifting landscape.

The research claims that drawing, as an act and artefact, holds significance in architecture without prioritising built structures. Contrary to expectations, the drawings do not detail the building of a sea wall. Instead, the printmaking reveals how makers imprint on the land and capture its fleeting states. Jansen-Luke terms these as 'slow drawings'. They cultivate unevenness, serendipity, texture, and an interest in surface depth. This challenges architects' tendencies to dominate nature and fosters a profound link to architectural materiality beyond merely specifying materials. 'Sea Change' prompts inquiries beyond its primary thesis, setting a directional path for the author. It suggests a philosophical shift vital for emerging architects in the era of global warming, emphasising harmony with and a profound commitment to site drawing.

-Aaron Paterson, supervisor