An Exhibitiona nd a presented Paper on Oak presented at:



OAK GALL INK: from manuscript to contemporary print multiple.

Our creative and historic relationship with this ancient tincture.

High up on a twisting branch, amongst the dense canopy of oak, nestling under the rounded lobes of a leaf, sits a small brown wooden orb. On its smooth surface, a tiny hole appears and a small insect emerges. This is the oak gall wasp, a curious benefactor of centuries of scribes, artists and scriveners. Harvested, crushed, and distilled through a complex alchemy, these oak gall granules are transformed into a silky-black ink.

Up until its demise in favour of industrial chemical inks last Century, Oak-gall or Iron-Gall Ink was the standard writing and drawing medium, the dark creative ichor of Leonardo, Bach and Van Gogh.

David Faithfull has gathered these galls from numerous sites and incorporated them into various bodies of work. These have included site-specific locations, reflecting some of their distinct characteristics, histories and surroundings as well as their particular relationship with the Oak tree (Quercus Robur) – a close relation of the Spanish Cork Oak (Quercus Suber).

Through a series of experimental drawing and printmaking processes, he has transformed both the crushed galls and the resulting ink into various one-off and multiple forms and installations, utilizing screen-printing mediums, and etching and litho presses.

In this paper Faithfull will initially look at the history of Oak Gall Ink and some of its uses and the conservation issues regarding its longevity, before investigating its historic demise, his own incorporation of it into print and its current usage by contemporary artists, incorporating some of the research from Cheryl Porter and her Medieval Manuscript Pigment studies. This will include artists Jo Lathwood, Michel Garcia and Melanie King’s work with iron Meteorite fragments and Iron Gall Ink for ‘First Light’ in 2016.