NORMAN SARACHEK

CHEMIGRAMS

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NORMAN SARACHEK

CHEMIGRAMS

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How I Create a Chemigram Using a “Soft” Resist


As first described in 1956 by Pierre Cordier, the Chemigram resist is a varnish. This varnish hardens. The varnished paper must be immersed in a chemical bath for forty-five minutes or more, and knife-like incisions are made in the hard varnish surface to allow the chemicals to slowly get under the varnish. There they react with the paper’s silver.


When I began my work with Chemigrams in about 2001, I was working in relative isolation from others using this process. I was also painting using acrylics with a gestural aesthetic in my paintings. In approaching Chemigrams it was natural for me to use a gestural approach and my painting materials, I thus began my Chemigram work using a non-hardening and quickly removable paint product as a resist rather than a varnish, and applying it with gesture.


A piece of silver gelatin photo paper is removed from the paper box or “paper safe” in the dark.


The dark room light is then turned on. At this point if the photo paper were developed it would be entirely black due to the effect of light on the silver coating.


A resist is applied (first photo) with objects such as a piece of palm frond as shown here, old socks, twigs and branches, calligraphy pens, and brushes. The shape and design of the applied resist allow me to achieve the preconceived set of black marks you see on the finished chemigram.


The paper is immediately immersed in a chemical bath that will degrade the silver coating except where the coating of silver is protected by the resist (second photo). The number of seconds the paper is in the bath, the way in which the paper is manipulated while in the bath, and the concentration of the chemicals in the bath determine the background shape and colors.


After brief immersion, bath, chemicals and resist are immediately washed off the photo paper (third photo).