Tartaruga Print

When Tartaruga was established five years ago, the idea to screenprint record sleeves was borne out of necessity, rather than with any particular idea or aesthetic in mind. It was crucial to keep any production costs down to the absolute minimum; printing artwork directly on to blank card seemed like a good (and cheap) idea. The idea was always for Tartaruga to have a certain look and feel, without dictating too much what each individual release might look like - it was important to leave the artist in control of design, and each release is still viewed as a very close collaboration with those involved.

By fixing some limitations - printing on the same kind of card, using one colour only, stitched sleeves - each release would fit alongside the others, whilst also never getting stuck in one particular style or design type. This print work has gradually expanded to printing in other formats; foldout paper inserts, gig posters, album posters, t-shirts, and 12" record sleeves.

This includes work for non-Tartaruga projects too, such as this recent print work for Vivod, a label run by Ali Renault, putting out limited vinyl-only releases. Vivod is a valley near Llangollen in north Wales, and the artwork for the releases (all done by by Grant Cowan) depict the faces of World War II soldiers who lived in the area, all printed as halftone images directly onto the paper sleeve with the record inside, each one printed in a slightly different hue.

The new Prints section of the website showcases a variety of Tartaruga print work, including an archive of screenprinted posters, and the brand new 'I Can't See Much', a very limited edition set of four screenprinted photographs from Josh Lustig. These are halftone prints of four images originally found in The Marshes, printed on to Chinese Xuan paper, a very thin kind of rice paper more often used for scrolls, writing and painting, but which forms a great canvas for this kind of stark black and white photography.


I Can't See Much is presented as a handmade, large (A2-size) card folio case, containing the four prints found within. Only twelve of these have been produced, and all are numbered and signed by the artist.

All items in the Print section are for sale (if still available).
To contact Tartaruga about any print work send an email to info [at] tartaruga [dot] co [dot] uk 

Lieko Shiga's Rasen Kaigan (螺旋海岸 Spiral Coast)

At Easter this year I found myself on a secluded beach. It was between Arisaig and Mallaig on the West Coast of Scotland. I used the long stick in my hand to draw circles in the sand. Circles that started large and spiraled into themselves, getting smaller and smaller, until I was left in the centre surrounded by one big spiral.

Lieko Shiga's Rasen Kaigan feels like an act of compulsion. Something that makes sense even though it is unexplainable. Turning the pages you sink deeper into a Lynchian world of cross-processed colour and strange rituals. A populace of septuagenarian phantoms digs the wet sand in search of something. Are they searching or are they burying? I don't know. Shiga makes no attempt to answer any of the questions her images pose. As soon as you feel you're coming to terms with the rules of her world, something else appears - or is removed - that leaves you once again at a loss.

The shadow of the Fukushima nuclear disaster hangs over the book. Miyagi Prefecture, where this work was made over a six-year period, was one of the regions worst hit. And although there is nothing to directly point one towards reading this book as an allegory to the devastation caused in March 2011, there is a twisted image of humanity's relationship with nature that somehow seems to relate.

Plants - potted and otherwise - inhabitant this world of spirals. They grow out of the sand and they wither and die in terra-cotta pots. In one image, a woman in a headscarf and patterned clothing bends down amongst an amazing array of potted plants. Some have been overturned and trails of water stream down the road and out of the picture into the darkness.

Page after page of rocks. Are they boulders or specks of ash; the solitary remains of a cremated inhabitant of Katikama, magnified to the point of distortion? In two images a man holds what could be two of these rocks in the palms of his hands. But this could be further subterfuge, another red herring.

Darkness abounds. For all the mesmeric, subverted colour of Shiga's photography, Rasen Kaigan seems to be a meditation on black. Darkness. Night. Black. This is the true constant in the book. Breathtaking printing enhances this blackness, it becomes the coda that Shiga returns to for safety and it offers small respite to the reader. We know where we stand with black. There is little room for misinterpretation. Perhaps.

Shakes and Nature: Robert Macfarlane on The Marshes

The cover of The Marshes, the recent Tartaruga publication by Samuel Wright and Josh Lustig, features a stark monochrome print of a log. or tree stump, folding over the spine of the book, perhaps not immediately intelligible but unmistakeable once seen. It almost appears as a map, radial lines spoking outwards.  

'So many places to sit here. It's nature, but with seats. Sometimes they're only logs, but the slick damp of them, the patted down rot, tells me they're seats. Some are proper benches, but sitting on the benches is like watching animals in the zoo through glass. Their eyes look dull through the scratches. On logs and stones you're in it. Nature wraps around you, seeps through your trousers.'

These are the opening lines to the first separate story that you encounter in The Marshes, if starting from the beginning at least. These inset sections are not ordered or chronological, but are intended more as forking paths, to be encountered by the reader as they find their way through, charting their own route. 

Robert Macfarlane (The Wild Places, The Old Ways) is a writer who explores the idea of how we understand nature, or the idea of the wild, and the journeys we take through it. He recently wrote of the The Marshes:

'What a dark, beautifully made, intricately imagined document it is. I have read it through twice now, if it is something one reads through (rather than around, or into and out of), and I find myself no closer to comprehension, but fascinated and troubled by it. It stakes out a space. It is not easy to shake (I notice that the striking cover features, in fact, those artefacts - cracks - introduced into timber by too-rapid drying, which I think are known as 'shakes').'

An artefact is something man-made, or 'given shape by man' - not something you might expect to encounter in a log. But the very idea of nature is an ambiguous one, and this is the nature we find in The Marshes:

Robert told me it was nature, but I don't know where he got that from. He said nature was wild. I said, what was wilder than a gang-fuck behind a bush.

Alongside this praise from Robert Macfarlane, The Marshes also recently caught the attention of David Collard (TLS),  who describes it is as 'a spell-binding short story that strikes me as a dark, latter-day equivalent to Joyce's ['An Encounter']... superb typesetting, haunting images and elaborate inserts combine to make this a very collectible first edition.'

To read his full post, head to: http://davidjcollard.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/samuel-wright-josh-lustig-marshes.html

The Marshes is also now available via the excellent Antenne Books, who will be making the book available in Europe.  

Caught by the River Social

Samuel Wright and Josh Lustig will be speaking at the Caught by the River Social Club on Monday 30th September, at the Queen's Head pub in Picadilly. Advance tickets are already sold out but there will be some available on the door, so arrive early to avoid disapointment.

PH Emerson's Marsh Leaves

“Art is a language, and pictorial art is the expression by means of pictures of that which man considers beautiful in the World around him.”

PH Emerson – from the introduction to Pictures from Life in Field and Fen

Dr. Peter Henry Emerson is one of those Victorian gentlemen, the likes of which we don’t find anymore. Born on a Cuban plantation, distant relative of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Samuel Morse, PH Emerson is claimed by many to have had a bigger affect on Victorian photography than any of his contemporaries.

 He was antagonistic, a provocateur to the newly formed establishment of photography. Trained as a doctor, Emerson gave up the profession to pursue photography. Although he published a number of books, and is now regarded as one of the great champions of photography as an art form, Emerson would remain essentially an amateur.

“Do not call yourself an ‘artist-photographer’ and make ‘artist-painters’ and ‘artist-sculptors’ laugh; call yourself a photographer and wait for artists to call you brother.”

Martin Parr and Gerry Badger pointed me towards Emerson’s Marsh Leaves. I’m slowly making my way through The Photobook: A History Volume 1 and trying to see as many of the books myself first hand. It’s nice to have an excuse to visit the British Library.

I was drawn to Marsh Leaves for a number of reasons: The thought of delving into the Norfolk Marshes through the eyes of a late-Nineteenth Century Pictorialist was pretty exciting, especially in relationship to my own book project on the (somewhat different) Hackney Marshes. The combination of anecdotal text and pastoral images also sounded intriguing. (My book with Samuel Wright combines a form of landscape photography with short stories.) There was also something about the way Parr and Badger described the bleak, wintery images that made me want to see them for myself. I like minimal imagery. I like winter. I like melancholy.

The book itself is pretty rare. The British Library only has one copy and Emerson produced only 50 copies of the work in 1895. There is definitely something exciting about being handed something so rare and unique, knowing that for the next however many hours I was going to have this book all to myself.

Emerson was a staunch naturalist. He wasn’t keen on manipulation. “The photographic technique is perfect and needs no… bungling,” he wrote in his book Naturalistic Photography for students of Art published in 1889, and the 16 photo-etched images in Marsh Leaves are certainly naturalistic. Wintery and minimal, the images quietly appear from behind sheets of protective tracing paper. They are given romantic, melancholic titles such as The Lone Lagoon (Plate II) and The Misty River (Plate VIII). They are almost entirely people-less, which enhances the romance heaped by Emerson onto the landscape. It is only really through the texts – short anecdotal vignettes – that the book as a whole comes to life. Although the writing style itself is, like the imagery, rooted in its time, there seems something strikingly modern about Emerson’s non-narrative approach to the structure of the book. Characters appear without introduction and disappear just as quickly.

Wherrymen, marshmen and ferrymen; hobble-de-hoys, flockmasters and horse-dealers. Men of the land share the stage with ladies of the manor. Flowery, flamboyant prose is juxtaposed with simple matter-of-fact speech.

Emerson describes a dike fire he witnessed as, “… One long, lambent tongue of flickering fire rising from a blue, vapoury mist, and filling the ambient air with a delicate fragrance of charred flowers.”  Whereas a marshman Emerson encounters tells him of a time he struggled to kill a ferret:

“Think I, I’ll kill you again, so I got the spade and flattened him out till his eyes started from his head and his chops frothed and runned blood, then I hurled him onto the ice again. Now, blow me, as I start watching on him, if he didn’t get up and begin running on the ice. That was no use hitting on him, I couldn’t kill him, so I drowned him.”   

More on Emerson




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