Eng Joo Heng is a Singaporean printmaker who travelled to Paris to learn more about printmaking at Stanley William Hayter’s famous Atelier 17. British-born Hayter was a former chemist responsible for revolutionising printmaking techniques that supported multi-colour prints and new collaborative processes. As a lecturer in printmaking at NAFA between 1991 and 2003, Eng nurtured his passion for making prints in innovative ways and taught numerous art students.
Relatively smaller in scale, and rightly so, Human Landscape is created from a vintage medium known as the litho-stone technique. A soft, porous stone transfers an image with an oil-based medium such as a crayon, pastel, or tusche. This is then covered with a partially acidic solution that would ‘eat’ away at the non-greasy areas. The stone would then be rinsed, and water would stay within the etched regions, while the remaining relief areas would be covered with ink and then a print would be pulled. The litho-stone technique to produce multicoloured printing, such as this print, would have needed more than one stone. Each stone would be used to print a different colour. Most conventional lithography stones are small, which helps control the single multicolour print pulls from different stones. For example, the tell-tale signs of Eng’s litho-stone technique are these small white borders found around the figure. The litho-stone method, however, revolutionised the reproduction of high-fidelity textures from hand drawing. Here, the mountain and ground seem richly natural, in rock, lichen and grass all at once: bringing a humble and authentic touch to the otherwise fantastical image.