Printmaking is a valued artistic medium with unique technical qualities. It is a visual art form that has its origin in Han Dynasty, China. The earliest example of printmaking dates back during 206 B.C. to 220 A.D. which was a woodblock print on silk. Other than wood, printmaking is also done on fabric, metal and paper.
In order to make a print, an artist creates an image on a flat surface. The surface is then inked, and pressed onto paper to create an original print. By repeating the printing process, the artist is able to create multiple original works of art.
Printmaking techniques may be divided into the following categories:
Relief - where ink is applied to the original surface of the matrix, while carved or displaced grooves are absent of ink. Relief techniques include woodcut or woodblock, wood engraving, linocut and metal cut.
Intaglio - where ink is forced into grooves or cavities in the surface of the matrix. Intaglio techniques include collagraphy, engraving, etching, mezzotint and aquatint.
Planographic - where the matrix retains its original surface, but is specially prepared and or inked to allow for the transfer of the image. Planographic techniques include lithography, monotyping, and digital techniques.
Stencil - where ink or paint is pressed through a prepared screen, including screen printing, risograph and pochoir.
There is another type of printmaking called viscosity printing. Contemporary printmaking includes digital printing, photographic mediums or a combination of digital, photographic, and traditional processes.
Printmaking got popular as a medium of communication on its inception as it enabled artists to disseminate artwork to large number of people. Since it is affordable and suitable to printing, the invention of paper is a notable moment in the history of printmaking.
Modern prints onto paper protected from sun and moisture lasts for an incredible long time. Prints onto animal skins are to be maintained at a humidity level between 25% and 40%. Prints onto silk are particularly sensitive to any light including camera flashes.
Contemporary artists continue to use printmaking for its unique visual aspects. Today’s artist-cum-printmakers work with time-honored hand processes often in communal printmaking workshops that foster collaboration and innovation. In a way, they build on the rich traditions of their artistic forebears.
In the fifteenth century, Gutenberg’s printed Bible ushered in a whole new era of literacy. Albrecht Dürer dazzled his audiences with the exquisite detail and craftsmanship of his paintings, woodblock prints, and engravings. Two centuries later, Rembrandt’s mastery of the intaglio medium enabled him to create an important group of over three hundred printmaking plates.
About the same time, Japanese artists such as Katsushika Hokusai took woodblock printing to new heights. Later artists like Vincent Van Gogh was profoundly affected by the printmaking practice of artists like Hokusai. Among others who deserve special mention are Whistler, Blake, Goya, Picasso, Dali and Beckmann.
Experimentally, today an artist’s drawing and printmaking composition is based on the eco-system of nature that includes insects, birds, beasts, fishes, etc. This is initiated to make the common people conscious about the various evils of the living world viz. pollution, electronic waves etc. which are growing rapidly threatening the existence of the living beings.
The problems of the society are highlighted through this medium of art, printmaking. Artists collect data regarding lost insects, birds, beasts, etc. and the causes behind their disappearance. Then collaboration is sought with a Botanist to render this work a scientific approach as authenticity adds a dimension to any project of study.
The data are sketched out in order to create the compositions. In some cases, the preserved dead bodies are exhibited through installation works, in a way similar to those done in the Science Laboratories or Museums.
The main objective of this effort is to express a deep and firm message to the viewers and encourage them to step forward to solve these serious problems of pollution. Jyotirmay Dalapati, a contemporary Indian artist deserves special mention in this field.