Home » Arts & Culture » Art of Printmaking Less Explored [opinion]

Printmaking is as old as the existence of the earth and has occurred naturally in the wilderness with every mobile organism living its mark in the soil, on trees, dead leaves, rocks and even on molten lava. For time immemorial mankind has utilised it to convey messages to each other, track down their prey or enemy, read tracks of their predators, about where they have migrated to in order to stalk them, decorate their bodies or tools with tribal markings to mention a few.

As the earth spun, printmaking became a commercial fine art form concerned with the production of images by varying methods of replication onto paper, parchment, fabric or other supports. The result fine prints, while not original in the sense of fine art painting or drawing, are considered nevertheless to be works of art in their own right, even though they exist in multiples. It remains to be seen whether the latest fine printing techniques alter this assessment.

Printmaking, which encompasses woodcuts, engraving, etching, mezzotint, aquatint, drypoint, lithography, screen-printing, digital prints and foil imaging is often a core component of fine-arts training courses, and today’s printmakers are grounded in most of these print methods. Prints are made from a single original plate or surface, called a “matrix”.

There are several different types of matrix, including : plates of metal, typically copper or zinc which are used for engravings or etchings stone, which is used to make lithographs, woodblocks employed for woodcuts linoleum, used for linocuts fabric plates used in screen-printing, and others.

Conventional fine prints are usually produced in limited editions sets, each print being numbered and signed by the artist.

There are three principal methods of printmaking, namely relief printing, intaglio printing and planographic (surface printing) although there are several variations within each method. In relief printing the background is cut down, leaving a raised image which takes the ink.

Materials usually used here are wood and linoleum. To make a relief print, the raised are of the wood or lino is inked and paper is pressed onto it to receive the inked impression.

Relief printing is used for woodcut, woodblock, engraving, linocut, and metal cut.

In Intaglio printing, a metal is used, and the selected image is either engraved into the metal with a tool known as a “burin”, or a plate is coated with a waxy acid-resistant substance called “ground” upon which the design is drawn with a metal needle. The plate is then soaked in acid which eats the areas exposed by the drawing to produce an image.

Intaglio is used for engraving, etching, mezzo tint, aqua tint, chine-colle and dry point. Intaglio uses the opposite process to woodcuts, in that the raised portions remain blank while the grooves or crevices are inked.

In planographic (surface printing), the whole matrix surface is involved, but some areas are treated to retain the ink.

The best known example is lithography, during which the design is drawn onto the matrix (stone) with a grease crayon. Ink is then applied to the whole surface, but adheres only to the grease marks of the drawing. Other surface printing methods include stencil printmaking where the image or design is cut out and then printed by spraying ink or paint through the stencil.

The plain graphic technique is also used for mono typing, digital prints, screen-printing and pochoir. Another print method is stencil-printing from which silkscreen printing (serigraphy) is derived.

Currently in Zimbabwe the various methods of print making are either less or none explored. It seems this is due to a combination of varying inhibiting factors that include the state of our economy which restricts affordability, lack of various tools and materials in the country, lack of knowledge on most of the established practitioners as they did not go through the formal training at tertiary colleges where a few of these techniques are taught and the bias towards such well locally established art-forms as painting and sculpture with possibilities of big bucks being fetched with minimum sales. Unfortunately nationwide there has not been strategies to curb this scenario especially when students leave colleges where there were some facilities. Only Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions Trust has been making consistent commendable efforts to promote the art of printmaking though with resource restrictions through their annual Month of Printmaking projects. They have been conducting printmaking workshops for both the upcoming and established artists accompanied by an exhibition in their Gallery at the Cultural Centre. Their printmaking efforts have been making inroads because of their dedicated highly qualified personnel in the art-form and their will to celebrate the art of print making with a galore of techniques .They form a critical opportunity for visual artists to interact, explore technical possibilities and network as they endeavour to promote the growth and development of the art of print making through the annual empowerment workshops

Currently they have sent out open call publicity in both electronic and print media for participation in their intended May 2015 Month of Print exhibition with the theme “Our Stories — EX-LIBRIS”.

The call has already confirmed participation from Namibia, Zambia and possibilities from South Africa and Botswana.

The closing date for submissions is March 27 and the show will run from May 15 the day of the official opening to end of June 2015.

The objective of the show is to bring out our oral stories through the visual arts in form of print making. The ex-libris serves to mark or iconise the story in the form of a visual representationinterpretation.

This interpretation serves as the icon for the story and also carries a caption or moto from the story.

Source : The Herald