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The artist’s mastery of intaglio, Italian for incision, is apparent here and the use of aquatint, a technically challenging medium, yields great depth and texture. Taking a long stick previously utilized in his calligraphic drawings, Marden painted a sugar solution directly onto the copper etching plates. A stop-out varnish was then applied, followed by a rinse of the entire plate. The water lifted the sugar through the varnish revealing the copper beneath, and submersion in an acid bath incised the exposed areas. Ink was applied to the plate overall, then wiped away so that it remained only in the grooves where the acid bit down. The completed process produced compositions with richly etched lines moving through backgrounds of varying opacity.
Marden’s images seek to reflect his fascination with Eastern philosophies and literature. Hanshan (literally translated as Cold Mountain) was a 9th century poet of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. His poetry evokes ethereal landscapes and documents the pursuit of Tao, or a manner of existing in complete harmony with the energy that surrounds us. The words proved influential to many generations, including Beat Generation writers such as Jack Kerouac, who dedicated The Dharma Bums to Hanshan. Decades later the poems inspired Marden in the creation of the Cold Mountain Series, prints whose imagery beautifully blends fragility with strength.
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