At Crown Point Press, Tomma Abts Prints Like She Paints

For her second collaboration with the master printers at the renowned Crown Point Press, Turner Prize-winner Tomma Abts translated the layered, abstract language of her paintings into printed form. The fruits of her crossover—four elegant etchings (all 2015)—are currently on view at Crown Point Press’s sunny San Francisco gallery space.

Installation view of “Tomma Abts: Four New Etchings” at Crown Point Press. Courtesy Crown Point Press and the artist.

Installation view of “Tomma Abts: Four New Etchings” at Crown Point Press. Courtesy Crown Point Press and the artist.

The German-born Abts relocated to London in 1995 during the rise of the Young British Artists (YBAs), and then was launched into the limelight with her 2006 Turner Prize win. Nonetheless, she has always maintained a low profile and kept a distance from the art scene. In her studio, the self-taught artist works painstakingly on her paintings, slowly building up their geometric, abstract surfaces, guided largely by intuition. A single composition can take her a year to complete. “They're such slow paintings to make that I think they might also be slow to look at…that people might not really notice what's going on,” she has said.

At Crown Point Press, her process was faster, though not fast. Abts let the shape and size of the plates that she used (the ground for her etchings) guide her compositional choices. This resulted in a set of op art-esque visions, grounded in variously arranged stripes and circles. In the Untitled (Big Circle), for example, the artist limited her palette to a bright, lively combination of red and white, recalling a circus tent or a target. Its surface is filled with a patchwork of dizzying vertical and angled horizontal stripes, which appear to jut off the page in places. A large circle, formed from concentric circles, dominates the composition’s lower left corner. Stare long enough, and it will start to move.


In the cooler toned Untitled (Gap), thin yellow stripes jog up a blue background, lifting up and away at its upper left corner. Four spring-green circles arrayed in a row hover above, while a horizontal white band (or gap, as the etching’s title indicates) chops the composition into two uneven pieces. Such works reflect Abts’s focus on materials, process, and form, resulting in what she has described as “something being…an image and at the same time an object.”


Karen Kedmey


Tomma Abts: Four New Etchings” is on view at Crown Point Press, San Francisco, Sep. 4–Oct. 27, 2015.


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