Page 8 - THE DECAMERON: 100 Days on 100 Etchings by Petru Rusu
P. 8

The Entire Suite of 100                                                                       wanted to simulate the condition and looks of

                                                                                                           an original edition of the tales which he thought
             Prints of Boccacio’s                                                                          would be printed on vellum or early handmade

                                                                                                           paper and certainly not have an even, ruler-
             Decameron by                                                                                  straight edge. The broad, deeply bitten lines

                                                                                                           in the plate that sit massively on the paper’s
             Petru Rusu on View                                                                            surface are the result of dipping the prepared
                                                                                                           plate repeatedly into sulphuric acid.

                                                                                                           While working, Petru Rusu also changed his
                                                                                                           technique. In the early plates, fine nervously
                                               The artist was there, too. That was too much                vibrating lines crisscross the plate or run parallel.
                                                of a good thing, and I asked whether I might               Over time, these sensitive lines give way to
                                                interview him for my print collector friends in            single, strong cords, solidly incised into the plate
                                                the States. The idea was lovingly accepted.
                                                                                                           and solidly stacked on the paper, surrounding
                                                                                                           the aquatinted areas like a wall.
                                                I was delighted that by pure coincidence we may
                                                be able to look into the working habits of one             Deciphering the eroticism of the iconography
                                                printmaker. Petru Rusu said that as a 14 year old          was a challenge. One may even be tempted
                                                he had read the Decameron. The erotic tales                to reread Boccaccio’s tales. Petru Rusu
                                                ruminated in his mind while he was growing up,             provides an image of 14th century Italian life by
                                                and some 15 years later he decided to make 10              weaving certain artifacts into his graphic tale.
                                                prints of the tales that had impressed him most.           Checkerboard tablecloths, wine glasses, rigged
                                                Once begun in late 1983, however, he did not               sailing vessels, horsemen and horsewomen,
                                                finish until he had illustrated all the tales on 100       the headgear of the period appear throughout
                                                plates two years later. He printed the edition             the prints, in variations. Men and women are
                                                of 10 impressions per plate himself. Initially, he         barely humanoid, heads, torsi, limbs are floating
                                                worked in finely drawn black lines and brown-              in space, disconnected, yet making sense and
                                                toned aquatint, printing 3 to 5 impressions of             fitting together. Banquet tables with checkered
                                                each plate in these subdued colors. As he went             tablecloths are overturned, wine glasses have
                                                on working, he found himself changing and                  fallen down, unbroken, the wine flowing out. A
                                                added stronger colors in aquatint. Today, he               real orgy. One head with a Cocteau-like profile
                                                said, he prefers again more subdued colors and             is barely connected to a necktie of the 20th
                                                is even thinking of printing in black and white            century. Limbs terminate in stumps or clumps or
                                                                                                           geometric finials. The anthropomorphic shapes
                                                                                                           in prehistoric caves come to mind.
                                                He worked with iron plates because iron,
                                                according to him, lent itself better to illustrating       Petru Rusu the printmaker forces the viewer
                                                the Decameron than copper or zinc. Zinc plates,            to return to his prints and try to interpret the
                                                by the way, are often used by printmakers for              meaning of their iconography. While they are
                                                etching intaglio prints, while Plexiglas or similar        immediately attractive visually, they ask for
                                                material is preferred for engravings. Petru Rusu           more attention in the long run.
                                                explained that the edges of his plates were
                                                irregular and crooked on purpose because he
                                                                                                                                                    Ingrid Rose

                                                                                                           The Washington Print Club, 1987 Washington DC USA

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