In this contemporary period, prints are gradually being withdrawn from public view. Though printmaking originated in China, the print process was transferred to the West via Central Asia. A long history and deep traditions allow us to have a rich and complete ancient history of prints. During the revolutionary period, the “print” became a “weapon” that created a new force. However, contemporary prints have gradually started to arrive back in the academies, becoming a creative form that relies on teaching to develop and is highly dependent on tools and the environment. Fewer and fewer artists engage in the printmaking after graduation. A poor acceptance and the low market awareness becomes the pain and regret of each printmaker.

Based on this, Prof. Wang Huaxiang who is in charge of the Department of Printmaking, CAFA put forward an idea two years ago, on the basis of the success of the First International Forum of the Printmaking Art School Deans at the end of 2015, it initiated and established the First International Academic Printmaking Alliance in 2016, and a large-scale exhibition of international printmaking was held at the Ancestral Temple Art Gallery in September.

This exhibition covers more than 28 countries and regions, invited more than 140 foreign artists and more than 80 domestic artists, featuring a total of over 700 prints and it was considered as a non-negligible grand event in the industry of prints. It both included the artists from the developed countries of art, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Russia, and the artists from remote developing countries which are rarely invited, such as Nicaragua, Serbia, Puerto Rico, etc., reflecting an international concern and international perspective. The works cover almost all categories and there are a large number of installation works extended by the concept of printmaking, although there are many exhibitions including the international exhibition of printmaking art, the printmaking biennial and triennial, etc., it is still a large-scale and high-quality international parade of prints.

Continuation of the Link: What Role Does the International Printmaking Platform Play? 

Along with the exhibition, the inaugural meeting of the “International Academic Printmaking Alliance” and the four thematic academic symposiums are also held in the same period, the meeting elected the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary General and seven members of the committee of experts, Wang Huaxiang was elected as the first chairman. For the printmaking industry, many similar organizations are scattered throughout China, though the precedent is for an academy to be the founder. It has a special meaning in the development of the teaching of printmaking. For the academy that is in line with the world-class universities with an international front-line attitude, the enhancing of the discipline construction and academic development with global vision is crucial to promote its development.

Su Xinping once talked about the significance of the “academy” in this organization, and it actually has a profound meaning. The academy is in the most important position in the development of contemporary printmaking, it emphasizes this background in the name of the alliance, first of all, it is a communication tool for new styles and new methods in the teaching of printmaking and people can draw lessons from each other. Secondly, as an academic exchange platform, it is through exhibitions and academic seminars that an understanding of the development trends of contemporary prints in various countries and regions can be established and common difficulties and problems faced by the international printmaking industry can be found solutions after discussions. Thus there is influence over the whole cultural environment of prints. Finally, with the holding of the large-scale international exhibitions and the activating of the printmaking creations, the “International Academic Printmaking Alliance” will offer more opportunities for exhibitions and possibilities of inter-agency cooperation.

The Road to Revival: The Future and Possibilities of Printmaking

Observed from a global perspective, printmaking has encountered a bottleneck of development. How to inherit and innovate the tradition, how to further exalt the skills of traditional printmaking, how to get freedom from the technical limitations of printmaking, how to be better combined with the trend of cross-media, technology and image making society? These are the same problems faced by the Chinese and Western industries of printmaking.

The inside view of printmaking evidences the development of printmaking which depends on the printmakers’ recognition of the print, which would give birth to the persistent love and the determination of an experiment. At the level of creation and experiment, the writer thinks that there are three directions which are worthy of deep execution: first of all, the research and inheritance of traditions, including the research of traditions, including folk printmaking technology and spiritual content; secondly taking printmaking as the  language for the media, leaving the technological limitations of printmaking unused, to ignore the so-called plurality and then the characteristics of “print” and “indirectness” will become the essence and aesthetics of the printmaking language; thirdly, an extension of the concept of printmaking, the integration of printmaking and the contemporary artistic context, social culture, including the study of the combination of prints and image technology as well as cross-media factors.

Outside of printmaking, the development of printmaking demands joint effort from the academy, cultural institutions, social cultural industries, to promote the communication of printmaking, starting with artistry and culture, to help people understand the unique value of prints, commonly influencing and infiltrating the public awareness of printmaking. For example, in the exhibition, the printmaking workshop and the folk craftsmen make prints, so that the masses can participate in the interactive activities, which is a good example. Just as Wang Huaxiang said “Let the prints go back to people’s daily lives. Get out of the ivory tower of professional circles, and serve the people wholeheartedly, and then the revival of printmaking is just around the corner.”

Text by Zhu Li, Photo by Hu Sichen/CAFA ART INFO

Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

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