Oliver Coley, our summer intern from Smith College, wrote the following reaction to Thomas Norulak’s current exhibition in The Press Room at WPG. You can read more perspectives from Oliver over the next few days.
Thomas Norulak’s etchings of seemingly mundane objects and scenes (come together) as collected fragments and memories of Norvlak’s journeys through life. Oil Rig, Truck in the Woods, Fallen Fencepost, and Truck Door are all titles of these tenebrous images, their grainy texture capturing the feeling of times gone by. Each print is a mix of blurry tonal areas and moments of clarity, such as the crisp black-and-white sign in The Last Roundup. This technique is also seen in Fish Finale, with the scales starting out as a blur and gradually becoming more defined along the length of the fish, and the stark contrast of the clearly outlined shadow. The Inverted Vee Tree presents a similar example, where the sharp angle of tree stands out from the less-defined trees and hazy ground covering. These changes in visual clarity add a kind of rhythm to each print, and serve as a path that leads the viewer’s eyes around the image.
An especially fascinating aspect of these prints is the process by which they were made. They began as laser printouts that were then transferred to a zinc plate by melting the toner with acetone. The toner acts as a protectant against the acid, allowing the whites and uncovered areas to etch into the metal. Norulak then worked back into each plate to darken or bring out specific areas. In a way, his prints act as a conversation between printmaking and photography, challenging the unobscured snapshot of reality that is a photograph, and leaving behind the traces of his own hand. I had the opportunity to talk to Norulak about his work at the opening, and was completely engrossed by his technique. I plan on implementing it in my own work as soon as I return to school.