Marci Tackett is a printmaker based in the wider Wellington region whose practice combines new technology and traditional aspects of printmaking to play with visual perception through multiple layers of abstract shapes and colour fields. The shapes deployed in her compositions are drawn from a vast archive accumulated over time, each referencing personal experiences, objects and memories that are meaningful to her. Her work is a visual explosion of colour and form with a sense of movement that draws the viewer in beyond the two-dimensional surface of the print. Each body of work is the result of extensive research into the shapes, colours and processes she has chosen, always building on her previous explorations.
Her current suite of images seeks to express a sense of painterliness, using carborundum (a silicon-based substance mixed into a gritty paste) painted onto plexiglass, producing soft-edged, highly textured marks. She spent several months exploring this medium before making multiple plates which she then printed in black so she could photograph each one and play with the compositions before creating the final print in colour. They are a noticeable shift from her previous series where the shapes were created using plates of laser cut plexiglass, forming smooth, flat surfaces and crisp edges which appear to twist and turn with the change in colour tone from one side of the plate to the other. Likewise, she has also expanded her colour palette by adding cool, black and white tones, whereas her previous colours were much warmer, bright and lively.
Although colour is always the final consideration in her process, it is a vital element in achieving the push and pull effect that dominates her work. Her practice seeks to create tension in the pictorial field by layering shapes so the ones that naturally recede come to the fore and those that typically dominate fall to the background. Tackett is interested in how varying degrees of transparency and opaqueness can be used to intensify this effect when layered, with each final image consisting of between five to eight plates. Wanting to expand her understanding of colour, Tackett undertook a four-week residency in Vermont where she embarked on a project using a computer program her friend created for her called the Tackerator. The program would give her daily instructions on which of her plates to print, in which direction and a colour based on the percentage of CYMK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black used in print machines), the degree of transparency, the amount of black and the amount of white. This collaboration with the Tackerator allowed her to do things she wouldn’t usually do and use colours in combinations that she had never used before, resulting in new colours. When she found a colour that highlighted the primary or tertiary colours, she recorded it, making note of the percentage of each colour in grams so she could capture the exact same colour in her final prints.
Tacket is also testing the limits of CYMK in a current screen-printing project investigating what it means to sharpen a blur. She started by taking a blurry photo of one of her prints, which she then blew up and separated the CYMK onto four different screens and printed. She then took a photo of a section of that print and repeated the process multiple times, each time the dots moving further and further apart becoming more blurred. Yet on close inspection, each image is comprised of a myriad of clearly defined tiny dots, disrupting the visual field and toying with the viewer’s perception of what is blurred and what is in focus. Having now lost count of the number of times she has repeated this process, she continues to be fascinated by the abstract patterns that emerge and the gap between the computer’s prediction of how the CYMK will appear with the actual result.
While completing her BFA in Colorado, where she is from, she found she had little interest in life drawing and gravitated towards the printmaking studio which not only offered an intermediatory but a much more engaging process involving technology, tools and a printing press. She enjoyed the complete process of being in the studio, from preparing the ink and paper to maintaining equipment, problem solving and even the clean-up. The first print she made was a lino cut and she recalls being instantly hooked by the smell and texture of the lino and the quality and tackiness of ink. She also noticed that the students in the print studio seemed to be more open, community-minded, collaborative, and a little quirky. After graduating, however, she found herself without access to a print studio and so pursued encaustic painting (mixed media technique combining wax and pigments). It wasn’t until she started teaching at the Learning Connection in Upper Hutt, where she currently teaches, that she reclaimed her identity as a printmaker. She enjoys teaching as she loves helping people problem solve both creative and technical issues. Always conscious not to impose her own process on students, Tackett prefers to support them on their creative journey by allowing them to follow their own artistic process, acknowledging that there is no one correct way to create but multiple ways of working, exploring, testing and expressing ideas.
The Learning Connection, Hutt City: