Print of the Month- Dean Byass

Here is an interview with Dean Byass talking about his extraordinary Mezzotints.  It is always inspiring to watch Dean work  in the studio and I am really pleased we have this opportunity to hear about the process behind his prints.

I have been a member of Spike Print studio for approximately nine years, with a break of a couple of years due to illness.

It is difficult to say how long a print takes because I have developed a method of working whereby I always start an image with an old used plate (I have been reusing the same group of copper plates for about twenty years). This I usually partially sand down leaving a trace/history of the previous image. The image is then printed over an old print, so the traces of previous history from both the old print and the old plate are mingled with the new image, in the same way that we bring to any situation all that our previous history and perceptions, and these equally are met by other people or things that bring their own history.
I named this particular series of prints, ‘Life of a Moth’, after Virginia Woolf’s beautiful essay, ‘Death of a Moth’. In her essay she evokes what at first appears to be a plain brown day moth enjoying the seemingly simple gift of life, unaware that it’s attempt to reach open fields through the closed window is futile. Gradually Woolf notices that in fact the moth is dying, which indeed occurs in a short space of time, leading her to reflections on the inevitability of death.

This motif of death common to all her novels, she uses to heighten our sense of being alive. It is for Woolf, our awareness of death that gives us such a heightened sense of life. For this print I have used mezzotint for its fluidity. The four prints which make up the ‘window’ are all done using the same plate, with the moth being only partially erased when it is moved to a new position and hopefully its brief history can be glimpsed in each movement.