Title : 1521 An Ode To Rob Birza And Hans Holbein
Sarah Jane and Jackie Blue chose to copy the artwork “1521” by Rob Birza after being selected by SCHUNCK to take part in “CopyPaste/Remix” in 2018. The artist collaboration chose the artwork from the collection because they were looking for both connections to, and differences from, their own individual art practices. This would be the first time that they would work together on the same artwork. The duo, founded in 2017, had worked together previously to make installations and exhibitions and were looking for an experience to explore their artistic creativity. Would copying be the opposite of creativity?
Jacqueline Muitjens was drawn to Birza’s shapes and landscapes and felt that she would be able to use her treescapes and patterns. Sarah Jane Hickson noticed the connection to her blackwork embroidery that was widely practised by women in 1521, and they were both intrigued by Birza’s use of Hans Holbein’s "The Body of the Dead Christ in the
Sarah Jane and Jackie Blue’s artwork was made using a historical photographic printing process called cyanotype, the oldest non-silver photographic printing process, where a negative is placed upon a surface that has been treated with two chemicals: Ferric Ammonium Citrate and Potassium Ferricyanide, to make an image or ‘blueprint’.
After much debate and consideration they changed the figure of Jesus Christ into a woman and began to make photographs, knowing that the message of the artwork would change considerably. The two artists then discussed who would have to go in the coffin!
The coffin refers to life and death and is something that mirrors some of the themes in their own art. It wasn’t easy. Holbein’s Jesus was full of religious symbolism. The hand, at the exact point that divides the canvas into two parts, was very important. Their attempts at interpreting the middle finger were not entirely successful, as Sarah Jane’s legs were not the perfect length to correctly position the message! They realised early on that copy/ paste was not as simple as it might seem.
The next stage of the process was to make a copy of Birza’s artwork on paper using the new figure in the coffin and a tree in the box in the lower part of the composition. They chose to keep the numbers in the same positions and changed the text to suit their theme. They made several copies on paper with different combinations of their own elements, then passed the papers back and forth across the table: cutting, sticking, embroidering and drawing on them, reacting to each newly contributed and subtracted part added by the other artist. Knowledge of the medium and their experience left space for each person’s ideas.
During the residency they prepared paper in a darkroom, maintaining an awareness of how each print might react to it’s negative, and varied the thickness of painterly strokes to highlight different parts of the prints. They had opened a Pandora’s box!
Each negative and paper were positioned outside in a frame to let the sunlight work its magic. They calculated the time needed to get the results that they wanted according to the available ultraviolet depending upon cloud cover and the position of the sun in the sky.
The final stage was to wash out the unexposed areas in a series of baths to remove all of the soluble chemicals and leave only the blue image embedded in the structure of the paper fibre. They repeated the process to make 16 copies, that when put together make an artwork the same size as the work made by Birza.
Copy. Paste. Create.