Adam Saks on the Kjell Nupen Memorial Grant

At the beginning of 2013, I received an email with an enquiry about a possible collaboration with masterprinter Ole Larsen in Helsingborg. I, of course, knew about Ole’s reputation as one of the most skilled and prominent masterprinters of the Nordic countries, so I gladly accepted the offer to come and work at Atelje Larsen in Helsingborg later that summer.

The workday at the studio began with a generous hand-out of cut copper plates. Some plates were used directly for drypoints, whereas other plates were primed with an emulsion, making them suitable for aquatint printing — a process where you draw directly on the emulsion with an oil stick, and the motif subsequently gets printed in negative.

When I work with printmaking, the graphic works are heavily influenced by my paintings. However, I never try to replicate a painting in the printed works. I worked on a series of images that were printed in two sequences — the aquatint being printed as the first plate, and then the drypoint printed on top of this first image. During the printing process, aquatint, drypoint plates, colour samples, failed prints, and a few approved prints, were all lying around in the workshop without hierarchy — as if floating around in a big aquarium of colourful remains.

One evening, the Norweigian artist Kjell Nupen came by the workshop. As I have never met him in person, I was told only in retrospect that he found my prints interesting. During my stay at Ole Larsen’s studio the series Flora Empire came into existence — a series of seven prints, made in a combination of aquatint and drypoint etchings.

Several months later, I was informed that I was nominated for the Queen Sonja Print Award and that Nupen had been a proponent in nominating me, based on the strength of what he saw in the workshop that evening. However, a countryman of mine won the prize. Sadly, Nupen passed away half a year later and an award was initiated in his name. I was eating at a restaurant in Berlin when my phone rang and a voice told me that I had won the Kjell Nupen Memorial Award.

Years later, Ole Larsen and I reworked the original Flora Empire series and printed a black version. Now, being invited to exhibit as a part of QSPA Inspirational Award, it somehow seemed obvious to me to show the reworked version of the Flora Empire — prints from an empire of possibilities.