At this time, Paolozzi was working on the leading edge of the relatively-new-to Fine Art medium of silkscreen printing. This was facilitated by the expertise of Chris Prater and his Kelpra Studio. Chris’s greatest contribution probably lay in his prodigious skill with the knife. As Richard Hamilton later commented: . . . ‘one only has to see the ‘As Is When’ series to appreciate Chris Prater is the greatest stencil cutter around’. Eduardo enjoyed the collaborative aspects of working with Chris and his technicians, apparently valuing their contributions to the finished product – this being very much opposed to the traditional concept of the artistic genius working in splendid isolation and in sole control of his output. Paolozzi was described as being a dynamiter, applying, a knee to the groin of genteel middle-class ideas about culture. More than anybody, he was seen as having poured scorn on the romantic notion of the artist. All his work – the sculptures which came together on the shop floor at Ipswich, as much as the graphics, realised for him by the skills of professional printers, was an indication of this attitude.
A significant aspect of the approach was the variation of colour for each image. In the colophon sheet included with the prints in the Portfolio this is referred to: ‘The image is built up by multiple printings through a colour chart, the final statement in each case varying according to the programme of colour selection. This is possible only by the use of precision techniques and photomechanical aids.’ Paolozzi and Prater had first experimented with this concept in the 1963 prints, Metallization of a Dream (second version) and Conjectures to Identity; in As Is When this was developed into a systematic routine such that no two prints of each image are identical. According to Pat Gilmour – author of several excellent books on printmaking – Paolozzi achieved this by devising a permutation of no less than 88 colourways.
This meant, paradoxically for a so-called’ mechanical’ process, that every image in each edition was unique, playing havoc with craft maxims about identicality. With a resounding tinkle, the Guardian writer, (M. G. McNay), informed his readers that the secretary of the Printmakers’ Council of Great Britain ‘barely tolerated’ Paolozzi’s suite. He also raised the stale Paris Biennale issue again, hinting that the British Council had been wrong to send only screenprints ‘in which photography was involved’ abroad and saying that in such matters, the Printmakers’ Council felt itself ‘more qualified to judge’. This was typical of the constant barrage of uninformed critical writing that screenprinting engendered.
Here are two further versions of Artificial Sun to demonstrate colour variation: