I am an artist printmaker working in print, books and animation. My first degree was veterinary medicine; the minute I graduated I received a government scholarship to study Japanese woodblock printmaking in Kyoto, and since then I’ve worked in both the veterinary field and in printmaking.
Describe your printmaking process.
My recent series of 95 prints, the Diary of a Printmaker series, are about personal experiences and intended to be full of narrative humour: a little satirical, a bit tragic, sometimes absurd. They are made for my dad, who remains in a care home after breaking his neck five years ago. I draw directly on the block from a combination of memory and imagination. Sometimes I take images from life, but often times drawing from life favours a photographic view of the space and can make the final work feel artificial. My imagined view of spaces and places is quite wide angled, using a roving perspective and high viewpoint. There is a dream-like logic to the spaces, which have their own internal references. Sometimes I hide stories, clues, dates, times and images in the work to make a richer narrative. These may not be obvious to anyone but myself, but I like the potential treasure-hunt and slowing of the reading of the image.
How and where did you learn to print?
I made my first linocut in a tent in a field in Art in Action, when I was 11 years old. It was a picture of a cat on a roof, and I got confused as to which part would be black and which white, so I ended up carving most of the block away. After then, I was allowed to make linocuts on the kitchen table at home, which I did, printing away in my spare time until I went to vet school. There was a darkroom in my undergraduate college (St. John’s, Cambridge) which I would spend hours in, teaching myself to develop and print old-style black and white film. By the time I arrived in Japan on the government scholarship I had spent 14 years making prints on my own.
I love printmaking! It’s a fascinating process; the language of the carved line intrigues me; I like the way there is a challenge to say a lot with very little; I like the economy of the medium. I also like the democratic overtones of the medium: something which is affordable, that can be folded and carried, something which can be a cheap thing, easy to post as a gift, can be iconic or throwaway, enduring yet unassuming. Most of all I like the evidence of the touch and the handmade in the printed object
(being old school I love the traces of pressure and the smell of the lavish inks), so much more rewarding to peer at than at a smooth, impersonal, perfectly made surface.
Where do you work?
I work in East London Printmakers C.I.C, a community print workshop in Mile End, London, where I am a keyholder and committee member/ director. Sometimes I work from home in London, and sometimes I make big new bodies of work on residencies. 60 of the current set of prints were made in the Royal Academy Schools in the print room during my fellowship there.
Describe a typical day in your studio.
Hmm, there is no typical day. I prefer to work late though, so will happily do jobs and admin and swim and catch up with people and tidy in the morning, and start work around 2 pm, and work til 10 or later…
How long have you been printmaking?
35 years… That sounds like a very long time! But printmaking has the best people and machines and spaces and attitude… It doesn’t feel that long.
What inspires you?
Situations. The way people move. Funny things that I overhear. The comedy of life. The adoration of pets. Expectations and disappointment. The fact that even though I’m getting older I’m not getting any wiser…
What is your favourite printmaking product?
Sakura oil-based relief inks. They are better than anything else I’ve tried. They have a very fine intense colour and mix to make brilliant blends, and are easy to wipe.
What have you made that you are most proud of?
I always like the latest print, then when I’ve made the next print, I like that one more. My latest print that I really like is called Blue Table Porto, which was about a café in Porto with the most beautiful weather-beaten blue table, spot-lit from above by skylights, surrounded by trendy grey walls and old Turkish carpets, with designer furniture and trailing ferns, and the most undrinkable coffee and inedible cake. It was funny. Cosy and slimming all at once. I like the feeling of being marooned in a sea of carpet and the intensity of making things, like being in my own world.
Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?
Most of my work is on my website www.wuongean.com and my blog www.printplay.wordpress.com
Instagram @wuongean and #diaryofaprintmaker are the freshest sites that I keep updated. I have an Etsy site here, but only a few prints are on it:
If anyone would like to stock my work and sell it for me, please get in touch!
What will we be seeing from you next?
I’m thinking of showing all the Diary of a Printmaker prints as one whole series, as there are 95 of them now. The next project is brewing, but I can’t share anything yet.
Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?
Keep walking towards your goals, even if the path is not straight or easy, because you will always learn something, and the journey is going to be full of surprises.