Ewa Budka & Mokulito

Aida Nogués

The art that Ewa Budka creates is very intimate, full of emotions, sexuality, questions of feminity and on humanity’s place in the universe. Her images show frustration, love, struggle and a reaction to primitive human instincts. She treats her artwork as a living body, a combination of different materials and feelings. Her art is her own international language, provoking emotions in audiences that also have something to say, asking questions about Who we are? What we feel? Where have we been?

When she finds her answers, she shares them in colors, marks and signs with the page and existence.

Talk us about Mokulito and what is you are attracted most of this technique in your artistic work?
Since I was a kid, I loved the feeling, smell, texture and touch of wood. I remember walking with my sister and grandfather around the forest playing our "wood story" game. We had to pick up pieces of wood which drew our attention. Grandfather always said that every piece is unique and alive. It doesn't matter that it is not connected to the tree, the wood will always be alive. We were there to collect the pieces and give them new life and a new story of our whispered secrets. He believed that wood is magical, remembers everything you do. Whatever you say or write down on it will remain forever.

Funny enough, that is exactly how Mokulito works. You are writing and drawing on it, giving the wood a "second life." It always remembers your marks and cuts. It is like a live creature.

When I do Mokulito, I whisper to it, talk to it, draw on it, and print from it.

Ewa Budka - Photo: Karl Reeves

How did you learned the technique? Who showed it to you or teached you?
My Mokulito journey started a few years ago when I was together with my father (who is professor of lithography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, Poland) at an International Printmaking Exhibition. My father noticed a print that was signed as "lithography on wood - Mokulito". He almost had a heart attack cause this didn't make sense: lithography on wood!?

We started the research, contacted Japanese artists and got one sentence back: "Take wood, draw on it, put on ink and print from it". This sentence wasn't very helpful. It could be a rule for almost any printmaking method but we decided to start our Mokulito research based on these few words. We applied for an European Union Grant and we spent almost three years finding which wood, ink, and tools we needed to make Mokulito. During that time, I got an art scholarship in USA at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design where I continued my Mokulito research. I discovered more types of wood we could use than what we had learned in Poland. Spending so much time with wood inspired me to do my recent printmaking project called "The Skin I have been living in", where wood is a "body" and paper serves me as a "skin." No one really taught me how to do Mokulito, so we learned it by ourselves. This is why I have started to call our process Budkalito in workshops and lectures instead of Mokulito. My dream is to go to Japan and actually see how they do the Mokulito.

If people is interested in this process where do they can learn? Is there any workshop? Is there any publication about it?
I made two short movies about my Mokulito research and we also filmed my father doing "step by step" Mokulito at Fine Arts in Katowice. I just finished my Budkalito classes at Manhattan Graphic Printmaking Center in New York City and before that, I had been lecturing at multiple Universities, Residencies and Printmaking studios through invitation. My next Budkalito destination is to teach at the Print Art Residency in Spain(close to Barcelona) next June 2015 www.artprintresidence.com. After that, we will see where I will get invited...My home is New York City and I am looking forward making classes in the new fall semester 2016. I do have an instagram profile where I put recent research and photos about Budkalito (@budkalito). People can also contact me through my website www.ewabudka.com. I always answer.

Ewa Budka - Photo: Karl Reeves

Which are the main materials to start working with Mokulito?
Wood. Hard plywood and oil based lithography tools - that’s a start. But you need to remember a few other things as well. Mokulito is not for everybody. It's for those artists who are not afraid of the new materials, who do not believe in "mistakes". Every mark you do, every touch you make the wood will remember and you can't take it back. The only way to "get rid" of the mark you don't want is by wood cutting it. Which is what I love about Mokulito - you can combine two printmaking methods: lithography and woodcut.

Every piece of wood is different so you have to respect what it gives to you, what’s hidden between the grains and during the printmaking it starts to show. That's what I teach during my Budkalito sessions. To make a friendship with your wood, to free yourself so not to be afraid of marks you leave behind. You have to respect the wood, make a special connection with it. Without that, you can't make Mokulito.

Ewa Budka - Photo: Karl Reeves

What are you working on in your studio right now?
I just got an art scholarship here in New York where I have access to the printmaking studio and shop. I am creating a small edition of Book project called " A memory of a Book". I print Budkalito's on small japanese papers, old book pages I have found left abandoned during my travels. Each piece of paper (5’’x8’’) includes a story, with a different designed illustration, art sign, typography and idea. The prints/small posters/illustrations exist as separate works, and most importantly as an interesting composition all together.

What I learned in a Polish Art School is combining the aesthetics of painting and simple metaphor of the poster, using strong colors with printed slogans (often hand lettered), and using power of suggestion and clever illusions in my art. These skills helped to develop my individual, characteristic way of art expression. In the project, I want to achieve a conversation between different printing media. I am using the Mokulito technique (to get a touch of wood and expressive painting gesture), woodcut (to receive strong, sharp lines), and monotypes (to play with the background with wide color shapes).

Ewa Budka - Photo: Karl Reeves

Can you describe your working routine and how is your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
My studio is my city. Every second, New York gives me inspiration. Words, eyes, and faces I see around me are the push towards making my drawings. As crowded and full as it can get, it's the best for me. New York is throwing on me emotions, ideas and colors. The place where I capture it is my printmaking studio. New York City gives me all that I need at this time.

I create art cause it hurts when I can’t. I wake up, walk, eat, talk to people, and every little detail from my day builds up a huge need for me to scream it out on a paper. One of my most recent collections ("An Index of Desires") began without any planning. I began drawing one day with no big plan, no commission from a gallery, just an outpouring of my life on paper. It began to have shape when I was very deep into the process and I began to realize my thoughts onto over 700 pieces in one month. I finished and exhibited my work and felt the relief I get when completing the project.

Ewa Budka - Photo: Karl Reeves

What are you having the most trouble resolving in your process?
The most difficult part was when I was figuring out what is the best wood for Mokulito. Which plywood will give you the best edition? I am not into making 100 exact same prints because for this you can use a screenprint method. It took at least 3 to 4 years to finally decide which wood works the best. But there are so much more trees I haven't touched and I haven't tried. I guess my research will never truly finish.

Tell me about your influences in the handmade printing range or in other ranges (music, cinema, etc)
I was born and raised in the printmaking studio. Both of my parents and my sister are printmakers. My mother Aleksandra Telka-Budka does etching, Jozef Budka does lithographies and my sister’s work combines all of it together. Etching press and Litho Press has always been in my home. On the way to the kitchen, or my bedroom, I always saw and smelled the inks, wet paper, mineral spirits, all mixed with fascination and love of my parents to the traditional printmaking techniques. All of their friends are printmakers, filmmakers, history of art critics and they were always in our home. Since I was a little girl, I would hear them talking about art, history and printmaking. I laugh about that there was no other destiny but to be an artist.

I am a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Pedro Almodovar and Peter Greeneway movies. Their way of playing with story using colors, and touching different extreme topics inspires me.

Making my art connects all of the senses. Smell, touch, look, taste and sound. Without any of it I won't be able to create. I need music, I need good food, I need wood and the feeling of a brush and ink in my fingers. All of them together gives me different sets of emotions, which I love to play with. As dark and bright as emotions can change in a short time is the best.

Ewa Budka - Photo: Karl Reeves