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Firebird—screen print by Victo Ngai

Posted by Joshua Roberton on


Firebird by Victo Ngai is a new screen print edition, art directed by Nicolas Delort, commissioned and published by Black Dragon Press, and produced here at the White Duck Editions studio.

This screen print has been a very special one to work on. We greatly admire Victo's work, and have been looking forward to spending time on a new screen print of hers since, well, the release of the Three Colours Trilogy, some years ago now. With Firebird, the level of illustration really has tuned up a few notches, and certainly presented some challenges when creating a screen print from the artwork. We spent a good 20+ hours in artwork prep, followed by extensive giclée proofing and a sizeable block of editioning time.

Firebird—screen print by Victo Ngai

Victo's Firebird tells the story of Igor Stravinsky's 1910 ballet of the same name, which is based on a Slavic mythology, wherein a young prince encounters and captures the Firebird, one late night in the forest. Upon her release, he is gifted a fiery red feather, to be used in time of need. Just such a time arrives when the prince is captured by the demon Koschei. The prince waves the feather to summon the Firebird, who duly appears and casts a spell upon the demon's minions, causing them to dance themselves to exhaustion and slumber. Whilst the demons are lulled, the prince is led to an egg that conains Koschei's spirit, which the prince promptly smashes, killing Koschei and banishing his minions.

Firebird—screen print by Victo Ngai

It's a beautiful tale, captured perfectly in the folds of Victo's illustrative storytelling. The Firebird emerges from the darkness of the wood, resplendent in billowing reds and yellows, places her hand softly upon the demons brow and soothes him gently to sleep. The prince, meanwhile, stands modestly removed, partially hidden behind a tree, cowed by the help upon which he has called. The central focus of the artwork is a whirlwind crescendo of kinetic dance and enveloping colour, whilst it's periphery, with its elegant forest framing, is a petering of lullaby calm and subdued piety.

Firebird makes for a resonant next release in the gallery's Ballet Series of prints, a series which has been art directed by the highly talented Nicolas Delort. The work that goes into bringing such illustrations to life in print, starting at the concept phase with the artist, is not to be underestimated. Before we ourselves set eyes on the final artwork, there will have been an in-depth process of collaboration between the artist, art director, and the gallery. Hugely commendable work, and remarkable when considering the level at which the finished piece was delivered. Then a whole new block of work begins, which isn't simply sitting down and separating the artwork for print — there is much conversation about how the illustration will translate to the medium, there are a long list of decisions to make about how the artwork's colours will layer up and interact with one another, and then the separation work finally begins.

Firebird—screen print by Victo Ngai

Victo's illustration began at around 25+ colours. A few concessions were made where colours were either almost identical or could be achieved with the overlay of a translucency, and we arrived at a count of 18 colours for the Enchanted Variant and 17 colours for the Infernal Variant. In fact, when it came to actualising the print, we had to make a few adjustments during production, splitting several colours in two and also adding one. This brought the Enchanted Variant up to 21 colours, and it's companion up to 19.

In many ways, Firebird has been a breathtaking screen print to work on. We feel the finished print is deep, rewarding, and faithful to the original, and hope that the artist, AD, and gallery are similarly elated with the final outcome. Thank you, all, for the opportunity to collaborate on something so exquisitely beautiful. It's a very fine example of an original print. 

Firebird was separated for print and screen printed at the White Duck Editions studio in a 21 colour Eternal Variant edition of 100+AP's and 19 colour Infernal Variant edition of 50+AP's. Both prints 18"x36" on 300gsm Gmund Bauhaus paper.

Visit Black Dragon Press, where there are a just a few copies still available.

Firebird—screen print by Victo Ngai