The ten punchy prints by Charline von Heyl that debuted at the IFPDA Print Fair in November look like the work of a seasoned printmaker. Made with Crown Point Press, the largely abstract works combine an array of intaglio techniques and explosive gestural marks. The confidence they exude is remarkable given that von Heyl made her first prints only in 2013 (at Prints of Darkness in Brooklyn), but her ease with the medium is not entirely surprising—the layering and replication that are distinctive features of printmaking are tactics she has employed in her painting for more than two decades.
At Crown Point, von Heyl worked in soft-ground etching, drypoint, sugar-lift aquatint and spit-bite aquatint on plates of two different sizes: 44¾ x 35¾ inches and 24 x 19 inches. She then printed various plates together, combining disparate techniques to create two groups of prints—the four large Nightpack works and six smaller prints—distinguished from one another by like size and shared imagery. The prints’ undeniable spontaneity is most evident in the tonal washes and graphic marks of L’étranger, Schatzi, and Schmutzi, which use the same spit-bite and etching plates printed in varying colors. Despite their impetuous gestures, cacophonous colors and fusion of techniques, the compositions are reined in by mirrored and repeated forms that provide a sense of harmony. For example, the two three-toed paws at the bottom of the two Dust on a White Shirt prints are echoed by the etched outline of a four-toed paw, overlapping but askew. The all-over compositions of the Nightpack prints arise from the repetition of circular and oval shapes that take on the semblance of eyes emerging from tangles of abstraction akin to Jackson Pollock’s painting Eyes in the Heat (1946).
The red-and-white Nightpack (The Lost Weekend) contains a more blatantly referential element. Beneath the outstretched paw at the bottom right, von Heyl added a cartoonish black bottle. Drawing upon an eclectic collection of visual material, from modern masterpieces to comics, the artist has produced playful, lighthearted works without sacrificing complexity. The prints aren’t only fun to look at—von Heyl seems to have had fun making them, too.