Prints : Yslaire

L'adieu à la Bastide

L'adieu à la Bastide

“Sambre” is the most beautiful love story of the late twentieth century, and “Adieu à la Bastide” is one of its most renowned sequences. To achieve, in screenprint, a faithful rendering of the colours of the prince of what might be termed “Ligne Sombre” was a long and arduous task. Bernard Yslaire remembers it well. “Even when I was very young, I didn’t like screenprint. Those full tones that live up to their name, those flat colours that lack nuance and don’t accord with appearances … to be honest, I found the process unrewarding, frustrating and outmoded. Let me explain. Even very young, I couldn’t get enough of Toulouse-Lautrec’s poster of la Goulue (presuming that it was her). My father had placed it, happily for me, just above the fruit-basket. I would dream of those oranges and shades of apple green to the point of indigestion. The memory of those nights has left me with a deep, lasting love of light and shade. Nevertheless, neither Toulouse-Lautrec, nor Hergé, nor Chaland provided sufficient reason to persuade me to give screenprinting a try. Only Champaka has been successful in that regard. Unfortunately for me … My only ambition in that area was to find a “good” screenprint expert. By “good” I mean “who understands my art.” I brought along a line drawing and a coloured-in photocopy, the latter to provide a basis for discussion with the printer. There followed a long process of minute, painstaking analysis (the character’s hair is the same colour as the sea. By using the same grey as the underclothes, we might come up with an interesting shadow effect …”). The simple fact of having to recreate a range of shades of grey (the grey-reds and the red-greys are my tonal “extremes”) brings about a myriad of interpretations (“But that’s really a grey-blue …, I imagined that one as being more red!”). In spite of all the efforts of my printers, in spite of some surprise discoveries and lots of betrayals, I generally had the impression that the difference between the original harmonious composition and the finished result was like a Mozart air played on a music-box. Let’s be modest – more like Mike Brant on a xylophone. In a state of desperation I conveyed my disappointment to Champaka, using the occasion to laud the virtues of off-set which, whatever else one might think, and despite its propensity to misrepresent certain colours, respects the relative values of the tones. A gradation of grey to white might fade or take on a pinkish tint, but it remains a tonal value between light and shade or hot and cold. Champaka, being a company committed to the art of the screenprint, finally convinced me to try again one last time, this time using their most recent discovery. We won’t name it, as the secret of a good partnership is to keep the company’s secrets. In the case of some of the work that I was shown, I genuinely didn’t recognize it as a product of the screen-printing process. The tonal layers were applied successively, in black and white and from lightest to darkest, with colour being applied at the end, building to a crescendo, in a sense. The shadows were finely nuanced. No more long hesitations, confronted by full-tone areas that could not be brought into harmony. From that day onwards, I always bring a colour drawing. As is the case with “Sambre. Version intégrale”, I use coloured paper in a shade called Elephant grey. The texture of my favourite paper is similarly replicated in the printing process. The completed image is photographed several times, to bring out different aspects, thereby gradually releasing the darkest areas, or the deepest blocks of colour, from the base layer. The outcome (“Julie”, the third image from the “Sambre” series to feature in the Papier Marbré collection) lived up to my highest expectations. “Adieu à la Bastide” has confirmed my hopes. Even when very young, I preferred dark tones, the mystery of chiaroscuro and those faint colours that scarcely exist. I have finally discovered the joys of graded, fading tones, of high-quality image processing and of a screenprint process that can transcend itself.”

Bernard Yslaire
Source: Champaka News n°1, September 1992

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