In my latest report from my tutor he advised looking at Max Ernst Collage’s and I remembered a book that I’d brought recently which mentioned Max Ernst. The book is called ‘Just Draw it!’ and offers an alternative improvement to drawing course. It mention’s Max Ernst’s invention of a technique called “frottage”:
It suggests looking into his ‘Natural History’ series which involves this technique called frottage. Frottage comes from the french “to rub” and refers to taking rubbings of an object to create a mark/drawing on paper. Ernst’s Natural History series is a series of works created using the frottage technique, taking rubbings of natural materials from leaves, to wood to other found objects.
I found this video on YouTube to be a helpful view into frottage and Max Ernst’s work. Here the artist speaks about the process and how it helped him overcome what he calls his ‘virginity complex’ – he uses this phrase to refer to a fear of making the first mark on a clean piece of paper or canvas.
In his Natural History series there are some more representational pieces, i.e. rubbings of leaves where the object still resembles itself and some more abstract images where the artist has altered the composition of object to create images from rubbings that are quite obscure in their nature:
The painting below isn’t part of his natural history series but makes use of a technique he called grattage (scrapping) technique to create the city structures from rubbing the paint over a canvas which had underneath it wood and other textured surfaces. I think it’s a really interesting way to compose the painting, and gives the feeling of something ominous. The city looks almost like it would take over the sky and the moon looks tiny and frail in comparison. Also odd that (and perhaps this is as I’m looking at a photo not the real painting) it doesn’t feel like a rubbing it feels like a painting.
Max Ernst’s frottage technique gives me an idea to do some of my own rubbings based on surfaces in my household that could inspire monoprints for project 13. I’m wondering if I could combine the textures and abstract nature of rubbings with a more structured linoprint of my house over the top?