Peter Mallen • Paintings • Graphics • Sculpture

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Peter Mallen bas-relief

Pictured at left are recent works: top left & right: 41.3805°N 70.6455°W (The Latitude and Longitude of Martha's Vineyard)
Bottom: Barbary Falcon, Right Whale from the endangered species seriess and a Map of Martha's Vineyard in a custom color.

This series of works on paper represent my long-term interest in exploring three-dimensionality and the surface of paper. The bas-relief technique refers to ancient stone carving traditions. My focus has been to explore the boundaries of surface, technique and abstraction. I am always open to cross-cultural influence, whether from the colors used by the artisans of Tetouan, or, from the abstracted elements of modern Japanese print-making.

The process of paper-making is, in itself, an expressive but structured technique which enables the control of medium from beginning to end. It also allows me to literally create “something” from “nothing”. The raw material for the paper is recycled cotton, so, the substance and the structure of the bas-relief is re-purposed and up-cycled. Adding precious metal to some of the pieces completes the transformation from “trash” to “treasure”.

In May and June, 2017, Peter Mallen was an International Artist in Residence in the UNESCO Medina of Tetouan, Morocco. During his tenure, he explored the North African area, sketching endangered species for his residency exhibition. He came in contact with many forms of ancient African cultures, including the Akan People of Ghana.
Mrammou prints and artist book

At left are four prints and an artist book based of his exploration:

Akan Gold-weights from the Early Period (1400-1700)

Mrammou, or Akan goldweights were used as a measuring system by the Akan people of West Africa, particularly for weighing gold dust which was used as currency. As an essential part of an exchange system in an active trading economy, goldweights were the most abundant form of African art.Based on the Islamic ounce, each weight had a known measurement. This provided merchants with secure and fair-trade arrangements with one another.

The decendents of the Akans are the majority people of today’s Ghana and Ivory Coast - a population of roughly 20 million people. The decoration and symbolism found on some geometric gold-weights share stylistic similarities with designs found on other media such as stamped cloth (adinkra), stools, and leather. These designs are characterized by the use of symmetry and asymmetry, borders and framing devices and the subdivision of grounds into distinct halves and quarters. The use of the same patterns and motifs on different types of media is not random; a closer examination of their contexts of use reveals relationships between form, ornamentation and function.

Woodcuts, Kyoto Municipal Museum, Kyoto Japan
A woodcut involves an ancient printmaking technique used for producing multiples.A block of wood is carved with gouges, cutting away the negative area and leaving some of the surface intact. The at surface is then inked with a brayer and printed onto paper using a baren. The process can involve a single wood block (below), or multiple wood blocks each inked with a dierent color and image (above) using several key blocks. The carving and printing processes is done entirely by hand, requiring very little materialand no special equipment. Wood and ink are used sparingly, and I make my own recycled paper.

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