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Gullvåg as a Graphic Artist

Apart from a few sporadic experiments with different graphic techniques during his academy years, Håkon Gullvåg has primarily occupied himself with painting. It was not until he turned 35 that he seriously added graphic techniques to his artistic practice. The point of origin for this was a larger cycle of paintings for Knut Hamsun’s novel Pan (1894), which Gullvåg took the initiative to create, and which were reproduced in an illustrated jubilee-publication for Den Norske Bokklubben in 1994. Based upon this solid preparatory work, Gullvåg created a Pan-portfolio of colour lithography prints.

It seems as though he finds himself “at home” with lithography, for since the mid 1990s it has become an important aspect of his total production. The last 10 years have resulted in a rich output of both colour and black and white prints. Since 2005 he has also worked with etching and dry point on copper.

Although most known for paintings, Gullvåg has developed his graphic art to a high level, and it has become a complimentary expression to the rest of his artistic production. When we compare his graphic works with his paintings, we find that certain motifs recur, although they are always executed somewhat differently. Hence a dialectic arises between the paintings and graphic works; what he has experienced through graphic techniques he in the next instance addresses in painting – and vice versa.

Printing Workshops

Lithography is a printing method based upon the principle that water and fat do not mix. The artist draws on a smooth limestone slab with a fatty substance (ink or chalk). After the motif is drawn the stone is etched with a weak acid. This allows the passages intended to receive printing ink to be differentiated from those that should remain white. Thereafter the stone is wet with a sponge and the printing ink is applied to it with a large roller. The ink sticks to the fatty parts of the stone but not to the wet areas. A paper is laid on top of the stone, and both the paper and stone are passed, under great pressure, through a printing press. A different stone is used for each colour. If colours are printed on top of each other, mixed colours will result. In Gullvåg’s colour lithographs, the number of colours varies from 2-9.

It is characteristic that Gullvåg right from the start was extremely interested in this technique. The immediate aspect of the lithographic process – that one can work directly on the stone as if it were a piece of paper – is such that artists who already master drawing and painting can learn to master lithography quickly.

Even so, the printing process itself is rather complex – both with regard to technique and equipment. Throughout its entire history, lithography has tended toward being a team-oriented art form. From Goya and Picasso’s lithographs, even unto today, the finished print is often accomplished through collaboration between an artist and a professional technician.

In contrast to paintings created in a lonely studio, the process of creating fine art prints can occur in a more social environment. Printers have their distinctive professional qualities, therefore Gullvåg avails himself of different printing workshops, all according to which expression he aims to achieve. He often works at the graphic workshop connected to Oslo National Academy of the Arts. Furthermore, he sojourns at least one month out of every six in Paris, Rome or Provance, for inspiration, but also in order to work on graphic art.