The Inscription

Amidst much needed housekeeping around this website, I remembered a linocut (among many other items… oops…) that hadn’t made it to these pages for dissection and discussion among the printmakers who read here and possibly of interest to those much appreciated souls who appear to be collecting my prints (thankyou!!!). My gallery, such as it is, hasn’t seen much updating in the last two years – the work on show is old and early. Ask any artist how they feel about work that is old or early… Wouldn’t most agree on the dubious merit of early work until such time as the artist is famous or dead? Usually both.

My excuse for gallery neglect is that I’ve busy making stuff, reading stuff and writing about making and reading said stuff. I promise I’ll fix it properly as soon as I’ve finished reviewing the stack of books to the left of my desk which, from what I have heard, are the primary interest of visitors (other than diehard printmakers and print lovers). Priorities and all that. That said, the print under discussion has been hurriedly added to the gallery to make larger images available straight away.

The Inscription, linocut, oil based inks on Velin Arches


The Inscription, linocut, oil based inks on Velin Arches, 105cm x 60cm

The forgotten linocut, “The Inscription”, is unusual – in both making and meaning. We’ll have a quick look at both to some extent or other before I (hopefully) leave you with more questions than answers!

The Inscription is big – comprising four lino blocks printed on a single sheet of Velin Arches in the largest size I could find – a huge 105cm x 60cm – the sheet started out slightly wider than that but needed to be cut down to fit the width of the press, the length allowed to hang over. Thankfully there was balance to be found between the constraints and harmony achieved.

Inking four blocks and having the first remain damp enough to print before the last is ready isn’t easy on a day when the mercury is pushing 45°C (113°F). I quickly realised, I needed a second pair of hands, one set to take each block to the press while the other inked the next. After many, many proofs worth of practice – we made a workable team – and decided that the temperature was not going to drop nor the crit-day deadline move further away. Fingers were crossed and just three were printed on the Arches – all of which will be considered artists proofs (fine for critique purposes). The edition can wait until the temperature and humidity are considered more co-operative for good printing.

The building in the image is mythical but I will admit that it’s inspired by the beautiful old stone church about five minutes south of the tiny town of Bindoon in Western Australia. The remaining elements are fictitious. Sort of…

Now for the cryptic bit. The inscription on the final panel reads “lorem ipsum dolor” and no, I didn’t make it up. These are the first words in a block of text famous among typesetters and designers for use as meaningless filler text. Traditionally lorem ipsum was available in galleys or Letraset blocks ready for pasteup but these days it’s generated by software – it’s even standard issue in layout packages such as In Design. In this context lorem ipsum is text used as a placeholder at the layout stage of a design. One could say that it talks about emptiness, being without meaning or merit or true worth.

In contrast to this modern use, “lorem ipsum” is in fact derived from Cicero’s (106 BC – 43 BC) book called About The Purposes of Good and Evil The original passage began:

Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit

Which translates as:

“Neither is there anyone who loves grief itself since it is grief and thus wants to obtain it”.

H. Rackham’s 1914 translation is also of interest:

“Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?”

Meaningful words worthy of thought. Would you not agree that these sentiments are a striking contrast to the modern one of no meaning.

So what does all that have to do with The Inscription?

Why would a gravestone be inscribed “Lorem Ipsum Dolor”?

That, unfortunately, can only be answered by the person asking the question.


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