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Ahmed Modhir

Prints and the environment

Today we see very clearly the impact of our actions and discoveries of materials and ways of living. They are destructive and catastrophic actions on the environment and humans.
When I see the water in the plastic bottles for drinking, I wonder when we will buy our own bottles of oxygen hanging it on our backs in order to survive?
In 1981 I began studying at the Graphic Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Poland was in a very difficult situation economically and politically. Conditions affected all aspects of life. Among these aspects is the Academy of Fine Arts. In that period, we were learning and practicing graphic methods and techniques with classic materials known to everyone, for example the technique of engraving, aquatint, lithograph, silk screen, woodcut, linocut etc. All of these chemicals were dangerous to humans and the environment. These methods and materials were and are still used by the Academy of Arts all over the world. I was always very careful to work with techniques that use more of these dangerous substances.
I'm still working on finding materials or methods that are less environmentally harmful or harmless. I had finished studying in 1986 and stayed for an additional year at the academy. In 1988 I moved to Sweden and started my life as an artist practicing art outside the Academy of Fine Arts. Started in Borås, Sweden as a new member of the Print Workshop. I found nothing different in terms of the methods and materials used in the Graphic department in the Academy in Baghdad or Warsaw. I suggested to some of my colleagues to change or find less harmful materials to use in the workshop, I did not find anyone thinking like me to change some materials and ways to Non-Toxins. Woodcut was and is my favorite technique which is least harmful to health and the environment. I started working in the Print Workshop in Falun, Sweden in 1992 as the workshops Director.
At that time the workshop was a very dangerous place for work and those who were working there didn’t have any experience in the field of preserving the environment. It was fortunate for the workshop and printmakers when the Cultural Affairs Department took a decision to renovate and expand the workshop. I took it upon myself to reorganize the workshop and made it the first green workshop in Sweden.
In 1993, I began to organize the workshop in a way that is appropriate to work in, and that all graphic works can be executed easily and free of toxic substances plus clean air is maintained in the workshop at all times. The workshop has become 90% less damaging to the environment compared to the previous period.
How did that happen?
The main reason to make the workshop less harmful and environmentally friendly is my determination and belief in preserving the environment which I achieved through research on the use of alternative materials less harmful or without harm to the environment and humans as well as finding the right ways to use chemicals, which made a positve impact. However, some artists do not want or try to change their tools and hazardous materials in their work. The reason is their lack of willingness to deal with the environment and the lack of experience in the field of working with the prints.


It took me 20 years to get all printmakers at the workshop to use Non-toxin- methods and materials. During that period, I was able to provide instructions and information by publishing them in print magazines, through conducting my workshops in different art schools, and lectures in Scandinavia and the Middle East, visiting artists and students in Falun - in order for them to learn print methods that preserve the environment.
All information about the green workshop were very important and I successfully managed many workshops to change as much as possible to Non-Toxic.
All four print methods Relief print, Intaglio, Plano print and silk screen have many different techniques and materials. To have all equipments and do the work in the same building is not easy. So my job was to find the best area to allocate for the use of toxin materials which is necessary for some of techniques, like lithography. To solve this issue I had to find good ways to use toxic materials with very little damaging effects to the environment. For other techniques I found many materials which are non-toxic.
It means 90% in the workshop uses less dangerous materials and is a good place for work.
Computers have come in as tools to complement print work, and they do not count as a new printing method.
In every printing method and techniques, one can find digital ways to use in the four methods and techniques. Computers and digital tools are useful as knives and other traditional tools.
The new materials used in various techniques are not friendly nor are they less dangerous. It is necessary to find the right way for the use of these new materials such as solar plates or photo polymer. New water-base paints are certainly no less dangerous either. The right way to use all materials to reduce damage is by finding good routines and location. You have to reckon that you are in a workshop almost every day and the amount of these materials can affect your health if you are in a bad workshop. When we talk about Non-Toxic materials, one must think that the workshop is an environmentally friendly place and not just the materials.

Biennials and triennials

The graphic works of many graphic artists were created using the four common methods and techniques. We may notice some of these works are created with new materials. All works can be seen in many international print exhibitions. We also see works that were created digitally on paper or other materials. It is exciting to see so many works created with many different techniques and mixed media, such on paper or objects. There are also many international exhibitions that specialize only in one type of technique or method, like relief printing, lithography or a specific technique in the field of Intaglio, like (dry point, mezzotint) and so on. Popular is relief printing (woodcut and linocut,) which largely contributes to the collection of prints created by artists worldwide and joint exhibitions.
The catalogs published from these exhibitions are very important reference for documenting and disseminating these works among interested parties and the general public.
I do not believe that new tools and machines used for digital art have a negative impact on traditional methods and techniques, but rather help to strengthen graphic traditions with new creative works.
It is most important to keep the print tradition alive through education at art schools. No matter which tools, materials or methods to use for the creation of print, I believe that print is stronger by always using the four methods of print making with new materials which are less dangerous.

Modhir Ahmed
2020. Falun, Sweden


Ahmed Modhir (1956, Baghdad, Iraq), graduated from Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad, Iraq, in 1979, BFA. He received his Master of Fine Art degree from the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, Poland, in 1986, MFA. Computer Graphics- Skövde, Sweden, 1990-1991. He has been jury member for several international print shows. His work has been exhibited over the world in over 25 solo exhibitions – Warsaw, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Västerås, Falkenberg, Oslo, Ludvika, Lublin, Belgrade, Leksand, Bøvlingbjerg, Portree, Jarnac, Alexandria, Ichinomiya, Bialystok, Chamalières, and many group exhibitions. He received many awards in the field of printmaking including Guanlan International Print Prize, 2009, Guanlan, China, Triennial Prize of the 5th Egyptian International Print Triennial, 2006, Cairo, Egypt and 1st prize of the 11th Norwegian International Print Triennial, 1995, Fredrikstad, Norway. He is recipient of many international scholarships including Alfred Nobel Art Scholarship, in 2000. More



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