Asama OG Combinatorics

Production and process notes for the creation of the compositions and plates for Asama OG can be found via Asama OG x Nezu Museum x Birgit Skiold. Some of the finished pieces are detailed in Asama Stone Ensos.

Other pieces are contemplated, and not-yet-actualized. Further explorations, new and different compositions, and the theory of generating and combining these different plates into works on paper is detailed below.

A quick setting of the scene: during the first half of 2013, four compositions designed for direct gravure were developed for rendering to copper plate and paper during two weeks of photogravure workshops at Crown Point Press. In addition, during the evening hours of the workshop, three experimental deboss plates (copper plates with machine-directed incisions) were produced at TechShop. A final layer was composed during the first week of workshop from a reclaimed copper plate, with various neo-drypoint and aquatint flourishes. This reclaimed plate was intended to be inked with one of three colors, all also mixed with silver metallic: orange, pink, light blue.


The 8 Asama OG Plates

So, to recap the math: 4 direct gravure images x 3 deboss images x 3 colors. Doing some simple calculations gives a first-guess edition size of:

4 x 3 x 3 = 36 combinations of (enso x color x deboss) plates

Thirty six combinations of direct gravure, color, and debossing.

During the workshop, all the plates were produced by Ianne Kjorli, and a partial edition was proofed. It was quite hectic, and the development of the ink colors, deboss plate creation, and direct gravure plate-making were all disjoint processes. There were a lot of moving parts and it was unclear to all how the parts would eventually fit together. Most of the time what made it to paper was the combination of the just-finished gravure plate plus the just-finished or clean deboss plate plus the color du jour. Looking at these prints after the fact makes me think: Ianne Kjorli is made of magic, or magic cross unicorn.

The proofs, any works that were outright mistakes or pure experiments, and all plates sat around on drying racks off Harrison street in downtown San Francisco, oil slowly drying. Weeks pass. Fleeting images of these prints, caught in a snapshot as if archived on tumblr, preoccupy my early waking dreams. At least one month. Eventually everything is claimed, and brought back to Devastation Pacific.

Surrounded by the green walls of Devastation Pacific, the prints are carefully unwrapped. The prints are everything hoped for and more. I go through the prints, trying to assess the output but thinking to myself: this cannot be all of them. Sadly…. it is.

It really is.

It is the end of them. I realize that I don’t have all four direct gravure plates in combination with the three possible colors in the reclaimed plate. Ie, of the basic set of 12 (4 x 3), I have maybe six. Eight?

4 x 3 = 12 basic combinations of (enso x color) plates

And, for fun:

12 > (6 || 8)

So ….. six or eight are less then twelve. Why even bother counting? Pause. Look out window. Breathe. Given that, now what. Given what I’ve got, how is this to be hung?

I start sliding these prints around on the magnets, and combine up to four on a horizontal line. Some of the test prints turn out to have real value. In particular, the test prints of the reclaimed plate with the colors blue, pink, or orange are all winners. In numbers:

3 = 3 combinations of (color) plates

Similarly, the test prints of the deboss plates are charmingly sculptural. So:

3 = 3 combinations of (deboss) plates

I recall Ianne Kjorli strongly championing the combination of black direct gravure and debossing, without the background color. Although only a few were prototyped, these prints are studio visitor favorites. Doing a complete set seems like a no-brainer.

4 x 3 = 12 combinations of (enso x debossing) plates

A week later, two tops, everything gets packed up and bundled up for a trip across the bay to meet a photographer.

More time elapses.

I start sliding photographs of the prints around on my computer screen. Weeks pass. A month. Two. During this time, there is more sliding around, and talking, and trying to figure out these combinations. I come up with three, one composed of two plates. One with three, in a triangle shape. And one with four, in a square shape. I realize that the color plates can be printed in two orientations, which causes a combinatoric explosion and will thus be ignored with the utmost precision.

Some time later, I cut down the prints, and double-hang the studio walls. Re-hang, according to my pre-visualizations on the computer. Very satisfactory.

To recap: six months after the production, I am just figuring out what to make of all this. There is an inventory of pattern building blocks, there is this idea of a transformable matrix, re-configurable and active prints. It is only at this point of careful study do I realize that the full set of prints needed is vast.

Vast. A best guess at the full set of required prints:

3 x 3 = 9, 3 sets of all (color) plates
2 x 3 = 6, 2 sets of all (deboss) plates
4 x 3 = 12 combinations of (enso x debossing) plates 
4 x 3 x 3 = 36 combinations of (enso x color x deboss) plates

How vast?

63 prints in one full edition

For reference, a complete edition is depicted in the following graphic.

The 63 Individual Prints in Asama OG Combinatorics 1.2

Some good news: it is possible to create finished compositions lazily, from a partial edition. New compositions like:


Asama Enso Shoebox for Nezu (blue, orange v, mushroom, cornerstone), 2014

Four intaglio prints. Three with debossing, one orange, one blue. Each print is 510 x 660mm (20 x 26in), so composition is 1020 x 1320mm (40 x 52in) as pictured.

Can be created from the following partial edition:

Used Prints in Asama Enso Shoebox for Nezu


Asama Kochi Ensos 1, 2014

One intaglio print. One blue, one black with debossing. The print is 33 x 26 inches, ie two plates with 3.5″ margins, as pictured. Paper is KH-17 Tosa Hanga Natural printed chine colle on Somerset backing.

Can be created from the following partial edition:


Used Prints in Asama Kochi Ensos 1

Asama Bilbao Orange Enso, 2014

Asama Bilbao Pink Enso, 2014

Diptych of two stone ensos. Size of each is 100cm x 133cm KH-17 Tosa Hanga Natural printed chine colle on Somerset backing.

Thinking about:

Andy Warhol, Shadows, Menil and MOCA