Choosing unsealed cardboard as a matrix for a series of relief prints requires an absolute embrace of chance and fallibility. The inked porous cardboard frequently sticks to the paper and breaks down with each print, creating irregular results as it disintegrates and becomes clogged. Alain Biltereyst’s selection of this technique for his ongoing print series (of which this is the eighth) thus emphasizes the materiality of both print and matrix.
In Untitled, 30 tall, dark-blue rectangles are relief-printed on top of a digitally printed taupe background and framed by a dark-blue relief printed border. The entire composition is grid-like, seven units wide and six units high. In the first row, five rectangles are successively lined up, starting at the top left, letting the taupe background show through (two units wide) on the right. Below this register, a second row includes five more rectangles, all shifted one place to the right; they are centered now, with the taupe background (one unit wide) equally on the left and right sides. In the third row, five more are shifted one place to the right again, leaving the taupe background (two units wide) on the left. The fourth-through-sixth rows repeat this pattern.
Biltereyst has long used cardboard cutouts, such as the rectangular forms of this print’s matrix, as tools to create his paintings on wooden panels. Indeed, the prints’ abstract geometric compositions, bold monochromatic palettes, and small scale offer a quick reference to the paintings. The entire composition is simple—deceptively so. The prints appear effortless, but they convey a confidence and freedom that only an expert can possess.
Alongside his fine-art practice, Biltereyst is also an illustrator and graphic designer whose portfolio includes over two decades of work for advertising agencies (J. Walter Thompson, McCann Erickson, Saatchi & Saatchi, etc.). This background helps explain his focused sensitivity to space and form, which transverses both practices. A section of Biltereyst’s website is dedicated to snapshots of found graphics—signs, logos, posters, commercial trucks—through the many stages of their lives, from inception to decay. Biltereyst’s interest in these transitions, the price of graphic design’s materiality, can be seen again when comparing and contrasting his paintings to his prints.
Whereas the forms of his wooden panel paintings feature the careful precision and hard-edges of geometric abstraction, the imperfections and “accidental noise” innate in Biltereyst’s cardboard relief prints appear exploratory and rapidly configured, expressing not only the raw energy of creative problem-solving usually revealed in artists’ preparatory sketches, but also an interest in graphic elements battered by everyday use, exposure and interaction.