What is Chine-Collé?

Chine-collé is an art collage technique, best used alone or combined with intaglio engraving (see What is intaglio printing?). It is a process for transferring an image to a surface that is bonded to a heavier surface in order to support it, allowing the printmaker to print onto very thin and delicate surfaces that can exhibit finer detail and tone than the ordinary papers or textiles used. The French word chine, meaning tissue, originates from the importation to Europe of fine papers from China, Japan and India. Chine-collé, translated in full as glued tissue, is a technique that also allows a variety of thin surfaces with different properties, such as Japanese paper, linen or even newspaper and book pages, to be collaged together within a single print, to produce a more vivid and dynamic artwork. 

To work with Chine-collé, the fine paper is usually cut directly into the desired size for the artwork before being glued to the backing. The method involves printing and binding the different surfaces together all at once: The prepared printing plate is inked, the damped thin paper is placed on the plate, coated in paste, and covered finally by the damp backing board or sheet. The three layers are then run through a press together, transferring the ink to the thin surface and gluing the thin surface to its backing. When collaging different materials together in Chine-collé, the elements can be pasted to the backing surface and everything printed in one go from one plate, or the elements can be printed separately and joined later. The process can also be repeated multiple times to include different colors as well as different kinds of paper cut-outs.

For examples of chine-colleé, see Sam Francis' Untitled, 1990, Chris Ofili's Black Kiss, 2006, or Peter Doig's Towards Venezuela, 2013.

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