Change is encroaching upon an art medium famous for its stagnant nature. Someone else has explained it with more eloquence and authority than I. “Printmaking in the twenty-first century…simultaneously relies on and explodes tradition; welcomes the incursions of other mediums and materials; and adopts traditional techniques into a larger practice to suit formal, technical, or conceptual concerns. This sense of fluidity is seen in other quarters, as publishers and printers adapt to the changing needs of both artists and the market, and as formerly codified roles are circumvented to allow for reinvigorated do-it-yourself production. Within these multiple channels of activity, there is both an embrace of tradition and an openness to expanding the boundaries, a desire to maintain and acknowledge print’s specificity and to position it within a larger discussion that will keep the print world — and the print people — central to contemporary art” (Suzuki 24). Suzuki, here, captures the irony of evolving printmaking. There are things to preserve and there are things to push forward — printmaking falls under both categories, and there is something almost eerily poetic about that.
My project has remained relatively unchanged throughout the course of this course; the motive behind it, on the other hand, have multiplied and become more energized. Among numerous other possibilities for increased artistic precision through computer-aided printmaking, is the potential for multi-layer stamps (meaning color). Running parallel to my digital road-less-traveled are the subjects of Patric Prince’s article, Imagining by Numbers: A Historical View of Digital Printmaking in America: “Printmakers have historically used ‘states,’ examples taken at long intervals along the final process, when analyzing and completing a work. When artists use the computer, they no longer need be afraid of alterations and worry about when a work is finished…this also changed the concept of a work-in-progress” (Prince 97). I found solace in these stories of artists who gained a valuable tool without losing what it is that breathes life into art. In order to not mislead the reader, I should disclose that Prince’s definition for “digital printmaking” is not the same as mine. To him, it is any work of art created on the machines, but he focuses on painters and other visual artists who decided to switch to computers when Macintosh’s desktop first came into existence in 1984. I like my definition better, and for one reason: my concept of digital printmaking facilitates limitations, and limitations breed creativity.
When there are restrictions placed upon a piece of art, the potential for innovation is often increased. This, I believe, is what first attracted me to relief printmaking. And pushing these limitations are what keeps it as a recurring theme in my life. It leads to artistic experiments I could have never otherwise conceived. Jennifer Smith’s critique of an art show at the Chazen Museum of Art that exhibited two prolific relief printmakers demonstrates the different directions these limitations can push people in. “This small show illustrates how printmaking diverged, some artists adhering to more traditional techniques and subjects and others moving in a more experimental direction. Take two prints with similar subjects, Hashiguchi Goyo’s Underrobe (1920) and Mitsutani Kunishiro’s Nude Woman on Blanket (c. 1935). Although only 15 years separate them, they’re worlds apart stylistically. Underrobe is meticulous and elegant in its composition. As a woman ties her patterned robe, the sash momentarily held in her mouth, the strands of her hair are remarkably detailed. The dusty red butterfly-and-floral pattern on the robe contrasts with creamy expanses of skin that are formed by unprinted areas on the paper, a nifty and economical design solution. Nude Woman on Blanket, although also a color woodcut, has a loose, free quality that makes it seem more like a lithograph. Both the flowing lines and the informality of the subject call to mind European artists like Matisse. Instead of Goyo’s fine detail, Kunishiro depicts his woman elementally: slits for eyes, a single slash for a nose, two lines for a mouth” (Smith 16).
Nonetheless, these two artists are still decidedly thinking inside the alleged box, while there are artists out there who have torn that box apart. In 2011, Erik Brunvand and Al Denyer developed a method of “micro-scale printmaking” where materials that would normally go into creating micro-chips are used instead for tiny, tiny printmaking. This takes unique factors typically revolving around developing hardware with no aesthetic value, and turns them into restrictions for a new art form. This is the model I would like to use for my project. Using the filament and the printer we have, along with the inevitable warping and dis figuration, my limitations are already more-or-less non-negotiable.
After thinking about all of the aforementioned thought-tangents, I look at the smiley face I printed as a toe-dip in the water and I see only potential. “Technical achievement in its true form is significantly a positive process. The excitement outweighs the apprehension, and I am ready to jump. And in light of all this, I must still admit that this project is a sidetrack rather than a leap forward. Because authenticity can not be duplicated. “[W]hen one’s desire for creative expression is dominated by imposed disintigrative techniques, practiced in isolation, expressions become inane and the technical process is a negative one” (Andrews 25).
Suzuki, Sarah. “Print People: A Brief Taxonomy of -Contemporary Printmaking.” Art Journal70.4 (2011): 6. Web.
Prince, Patric D. “Imaging by Numbers: A Historical View of Digital Printmaking in America.” Art Journal 68.1 (2009): 90. Web.
Smith, Jennifer A. “Two Roads Diverged.” Isthmus 25 Nov. 2011: 16. Web.
Brunvand, Erik, and Al Denyer. “Micro-Scale Printmaking on Silicon.” Leonardo 44.5 (2011): 392–400. Web.
Andrews, Michael F. “The Art of Creative Printmaking.” Art Education 17.4 (1964): 23–25. Web.