Any Warhol could draw – but for many of his most iconic works he didn’t.
One of his best known techniques was to create silk screen masks from photographs and make multiple prints, generating images that are both mass-produced and, due to natural variations in the printing process, unique – a process that Warhol described as “quick and chancy”.
These prints form the first part of this exhibition of works from the Hall Collection, currently showing at the Ashmolean. Most are portraits with a mixture of large repeated images hung together as series as in The American Man. The 1960s pictures also include some of the flower prints that were displayed in an interesting juxtaposition with some of William Morris’s wallpaper designs (another form of repetitive printing) in Modern Art Oxford’s Love is Enough exhibition in 2014.
Another aspect of this repetition theme is highlighted by images grouped together like a sheet of postage stamps as in his famous 1970s work based on an iconic image of Chairman Mao or, indeed, his prints of US banknotes. Chairman Mao, in particular, is a reminder of the fact that repeated images have been used from earliest times to reinforce the power and authority of the state through statues, coins, paintings and documents. What is it about pattern and repetition that we find so intriguing?
Unlike Andy Warhol, I can’t draw, but I was inspired to have a go at “machine made art”. Basically, I took a photograph (and no – I don’t know who it is), made copies and then applied hue and saturation settings based on random numbers. The result is quite pleasing and certainly different from anything that might have been produced by applying the adjustments by hand.
I also had a go at other types of repeating image and even tried creating an abstract portrait. The whole process was incredibly satisfying and also a really good way of understanding more about the original artwork and why it wasn’t as superficial as it first seemed.
Andy Warhol – Works from the Hall Collection is on at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford until 15th May 2016