For this exhibition (my second for Bottleneck following It Came From 1984), the only constraint was a technical rather than a thematic one – to have a glow in the dark layer of ink in the piece.
I thought long and hard about a possible theme, only to realise that Infernal Affairs (the superb Hong Kong film that inspired The Departed) would make a perfect subject. If you’ve not seen it, the basic premise is that the police have a mole in the triads, Chen Wing Yan (played by Tony Leung), and the triads have a mole in the police, Inspector Lau Kin Ming (played by Andy Lau), and said moles each try to discover who the other one is in order to cover their own backs.
I felt that the glow in the dark ‘version’ would be a perfect way to reveal that secretive furtive world, with wires passing from Superintendent Wong (Anthony Wong) and triad boss Sam (Eric Tsang) to their respective moles. Other details in the glow in the dark version reveal morse code (which Yan uses to communicate with superintendent Wong along the aforementioned wire) as well as a rooftop meeting between them.
The mobile phone that’s been taken as evidence also rings when the lights go out. The morse code along the centre line is a very specific reference to a key plot point, but I won’t spoil that for anyone who’s yet to see the film. The title of the piece is a line from the film that was just too perfect not to use, given the glow in the dark theme of the show.
This is actually the first screen print I’ve ever done, so it was an exciting process albeit with a steep learning curve. Originally it was my plan to print giclées as I normally would, and then have the glow in the dark layer screen printed separately.
Given deadlines and costs, it became apparent that screen printing would be the best way to go, and it was always something I’d wanted to try, so I seized the opportunity and jumped right in. As someone who’s moved from painting in acrylics to digital painting, I’ve always just painted with a full palette. That said, over the last couple of years I have started to use gradient maps occasionally (such as in this Breaking Bad piece, which the printer kindly used an example for me of how I’d need to post-process my art), so in a loose sense that technique, deliberately limiting the palette, has got me in the right headspace to think about doing a screen print.
I used The Half and Half for the printing, and I can’t recommend them enough. As a total noob when it came to screen printing (being used to sending flat artwork off for printing and having it come back to me exactly as I sent it), they provided invaluable advice every step of the way about what would work and how to best set my file up. The glow in the dark layer added an extra level of complexity to consider, but it was so much fun figuring out how I could utilise it in the context of the movie.
It was important for me to feel like I could work in my normal style, leaving the painterly marks visible in the piece rather than simply going for flat edges and colour blocks everywhere as one might do for screen printing. As such, applying a halftone effect was the most natural way to do it and I’m really pleased with how my shading and mark-making still comes across.
I deliberately styled the artwork to have a bit of a graphic novel feel, and was certainly more conscious of how my contrast levels would separate out into the four colours, but other than that I created the artwork as I normally would, simply splitting it out into layers of tinted colour at the end of the process.
Screen printing is not necessarily going to be the best fit for everything that I do, but in this case it felt entirely appropriate, and I’m certainly keen to utilise it again at some point, especially after learning so much this time around.
Above I’ve shown mockups that are as close to the actual print as I can make them, and then I’ve shown two closeups from the daytime version of the print and a photo of the glow in the dark version. Finally there are details from the original digital painting (before the half-tone process), but I’ll try to replace this with better photos of the actual print when I get my hands on one.
Huge thanks for Bottleneck for inviting me to participate in this exciting show.