Organic Cyanotype Process ‘Solar Impression’ A Channel for Art and Sorrow

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The intricate art of solar printing has become a comforting companion for a Manawatū artist coming to terms with her mother’s death.

Picking plants in the sun and turning them into art using a technique called cyanotype has helped author and artist Marolyn Krasner navigate grief after the unexpected death of her mother in April last year.

“My grief was immense. I took long walks down to the river and found plants. Cyanotype has really been a great companion,” she said.

The results of her cameraless photography, which creates photograms with ultraviolet light, are on display in the Snails: Artists’ Race Spaces in Palmerston North.

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Krasner uses UV lights to create a cyanotype image as it is a cloudy day in Palmerston North.

David Unwin / Stuff

Krasner uses UV lights to create a cyanotype image as it is a cloudy day in Palmerston North.

Developed in the 1840s by John Herschel as the original “blueprint”, the cyanotype was later used by botanist Anne Atkins in 1843 in the first book printed from photographs.

A chemical formula is washed onto paper or cloth and left to dry. Then plants or other objects are placed on top and exposed to sunlight or UV light. Parts of the paper or fabric exposed to light will turn blue and anything covered will remain white.

Once the paper or fabric has been exposed to the sun, you wash it with water and watch it change color completely, bringing the moment of the big “revelation”.

A chemical formula is washed onto paper or cloth and left to dry.  Then plants or other objects are placed on top and exposed to sunlight or UV light.

DAVID UNWIN/STUFF/Stuff

A chemical formula is washed onto paper or cloth and left to dry. Then plants or other objects are placed on top and exposed to sunlight or UV light.

Most of his art is in honor of his mother.

“I guess it’s vulnerable because I’m open that it’s part of my grieving process, but I don’t feel embarrassed about it at all…it’s like something is being channeled.”

After positive reactions to her prints, she wanted to give others the experience of producing cyanotype art, so held garden art sessions in people’s backyards, workshops, and exhibits.

She led a workshop at the Feilding Art Center and throughout May offered free workshops alongside her exhibition at Snails: Artist Run Spaces in Palmerston North.

Krasner said it was creative and fun, and there was a lack of control that she appreciated.

“You put your perfectionist in your back pocket.”

“There’s a lot of instant gratification. It takes about half an hour when the weather is low or if we are using the UV light. So if you come for 40 minutes, you can leave with a piece of art you made.

Krasner's work is on display in the upstairs gallery at Snails in Palmerston North until the end of May.

David Unwin / Stuff

Krasner’s work is on display in the upstairs gallery at Snails in Palmerston North until the end of May.

Krasner is planning other cyanotype exhibitions, including at the Space Studio and Gallery in Whanganui in August-September.

His Facebook and Instagram pages are called Sunny Day Cyanotype, and you can find out more about his podcasts, art, and writing on his website: marolynkrasner.com.

Her novel, The Radicals, which she described as a “queer, feminist, angry women’s novel that’s quite funny,” can be ordered from Bruce Mackenzie Booksellers.

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