With its thick fur, pale blue eyes, and furious pull of a dogsled, the energetic husky is a strong symbol for the Arctic outdoors. The bold colours in Johann Kauth’s Fluo Husky are not a reflection of flickering northern lights, but rather heavy layers of fluorescent ink laid down by the Risograph stenciling machine.
At Knust, the printing and publishing studio in Nijmegen, Amsterdam, artists utilize modern equipment to create traditional stencil screen prints. Similar to the mimeograph, the technology of the Risograph is simple. The original is scanned; a master sheet is created with heat impressions from a thermal plate, which burn voids that correspond with the original image. This master is then wrapped around a rotating drum, where ink is forced through the voids onto sheets of rough, absorbent paper sent flat through the machine. Like offset printing or screen printing, the process involves real ink and does not require heat to set the image.
The Risograph had (and still has) a reputation of inferior quality. With the introduction of photocopiers and laser and inkjet printers, it was considered to be obsolete until a new generation of do-it-yourself book and zine creators rediscovered it in recent years. Artists such as Johann Kauth, a graduate of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy’s graphic design department, embrace the use of Risograph not only because it’s easy to use and relatively cheap but also for it’s rough ’n’ tumble feel, not unlike that of the wild Arctic dogs with their fierce elegance.
Harmen Liemburg is an Amsterdam-based graphic designer, printmaker, and journalist.
Image: Johann Kauth, Fluo Husky, 2008.