Erasing to Remember by Carol Wax
Eduardo Fausti, IMPERMANENCE, Mezzotints and Photogravures Exhibition Catalog
SACI Gallery, Palazzo dei Cartelloni, Florence, Italy, 2011
The prints of Eduardo Fausti are a sublime marriage of process and concept in which the mezzotint technique inspires as well as supports his imagery.
Mezzotint is a reductive form of engraving, similar to the method of drawing in which a white sheet of paper is blackened with charcoal and the image is “drawn” with an eraser. In mezzotint, a curved serrated tool, called a rocker, systematically plows up a textured field of burrs on a copper plate that holds ink to print a solid tone. Shaving down or compressing the burrs erases the ground in increments to create an image with infinitely subtle gradations from solid black to pure white where the ground is removed completely. In this way, what one sees as the image is what has been rubbed out or taken away.
The portraits in Eduardo Fausti’s prints are of people from cultures that are slowly being rubbed out of existence in the wake of societal changes. Their soft, almost out-of-focus faces are rendered as ghostly remnants looming in the mist, their eroded textures visible but just barely. In some images, faceless silhouettes remind us that something is missing and must be missed.
While many mezzotint engravers use the medium’s ability to render dramatic lighting effects to make bold statements, Fausti’s prints of Buddhist monks use delicate mark making, nuance, and suggestion to evoke a spiritual atmosphere. There is a Zen-like quality in his approach to subject as well as to technique, in that both mezzotint and a monk’s life require strength and submission to process.
In his photogravures, a photo-based etching technique, Fausti’s images capture a sense of place, and document a time that is passing or has passed. On the other hand, his hand-engraved mezzotints reflect on place and time and don’t just record but interpret: they are both timely and timeless.
In choosing to immortalize dying cultures through an engraving technique that was considered dead for generations, Fausti makes the medium the message. In much the same way mezzotint has been experiencing a rebirth, perhaps Fausti offers hope for his subjects that what is lost is not forgotten. Eduardo Fausti’s mezzotints are like a Buddhist’s enigmatic koan in that what he has removed from the plate is what he beckons us to remember.