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Ingrid Ledent

Ingrid Ledent’s text for the opening of the new litho studio in Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts

Aloïs Senefelder invented and developed lithography as the first radically new method of printing since Gutenberg’s invention of printing by movable type.
For a long time, lithography was the main method of commercial colour printing, until it was replaced by offset printing.
It is now a technique mainly used by artists to create fine art prints.
The process of lithography is difficult and complex, but it can produce an extremely wide and diverse range of marks, from very light subtle tones through to deep, rich, velvety blacks, which possesses a unique quality unachievable with any other printmaking process. The more an artist learns about the techniques involved in lithography, the more exciting the aesthetic outcome can be.
But in spite of the fact that I strive for technical perfection, it is my belief that technique stays inferior to the content and artistic appearance of an artwork. In my opinion, the mastery of technique does not automatically guarantee the creation of a piece of art but it is, certainly, a necessary tool. Technique is not the aim, but a medium to create artistic expressions and it is from this point of view that I try to use the traditional litho-techniques in a renewing and contemporary way and in combination with new technical possibilities.
There is currently a new, inspiring, tendency that can be seen among young artists. Many want to recapture the original ways of making prints. A revival of the traditional techniques is being explored.
Also, reproducibility, the main characteristic of printmaking techniques, is explored in different ways. It no longer solely functions in order to reproduce. It has become an experimental art medium, with the focus on the creation of a unique and contemporary art object.
In the past decade, thanks to many institutions, projects, events, activities,… a new culture of academic exchange and collaboration has been achieved in the field of “fine art printmaking” worldwide.
Reciprocity and communication have characterized a new international community of printmakers.

And it is fantastic to see that also in the field of lithography a young generation of artists and printmakers are exploring this medium with an innovative mind and new ideas.
Young people put their energy together to make research on old recipes, reanimate old presses, do research on the construction of presses, start new printshops, organize symposia,....
This tendency of constructive thinking and action, together with a contemporary approach in unlimited and experimental uses of technical possibilities will motivated innovation and will guarantee a promising future for lithography.
And that makes me happy.

Ingrid Ledent

I. Ledent, Mindframe, 2018, installation consisting of: video and audio projected on a painted red surface on the wall, time: 5' 39”, size: variable; lithographies on Whenzhou paper, glued on cardboard tubes, size: diameter approximately 2,5 m; Mindframe I / Mindframe II, lithography and digital print on Zerkall paper, 65cm x 165cm

I. Ledent, Mindframe I / Mindframe II, 2018, lithography and digital print on Zerkall paper, 65x165cm


I. Ledent, Mindframe (detail), 2018, lithography on Whenzhou paper, glued on cardboard tubes, size: diameter approximately 2,5 m

Prof. Dr. Willem Elias

Modernization in the “old” media

Even though ‘the new media’ have been the magic words for art from the nineties onwards, there are still old media that play a part in the creation of innovative art, such as printmaking, among others. The character of craftmanship, and the traditionalism that is fatally linked to it, make that these techniques are regarded by many as a little traditionalist. Therefore, the passion for collecting prints that have been made with such a method is quickly linked to the collecting of stamps, which are, for that matter, also very nice examples of graphic design. The beauty of these images is then equated to the aquarelle illustrations in children’s books.

But next to this traditional way of graphic reproduction, I am convinced that printmaking plays an important part, exactly because in the visual culture they are a unique medium with effects that are impossible to create otherwise. That is, after all, an important function of art: to nuance messages through a diversity of means and the way they are made. Remember that poetry means “making”. Something is “poetic” when more attention goes to the way the message is made than to the value of its information. If the “how” prevails, the “what” becomes loquacious and captivating in its multiplicity.


However, we cannot say that knowledge of printing techniques is very common. The term “graphics” is the broadest appellation, but some people do not even see the difference with a black-and-white drawing or a painting on paper, or they talk about “etching” or the “litho” without knowing the process. Therefore, I will give a short description of the technique that Ingrid Ledent uses. I also recommend everyone to go and take a look in a lithography studio someday, because it is a fascinating sight.

There are other techniques too. In printmaking, the use of printing processes can result in several quasi identical works of art. To do this, the artists have to go through a number of different actions. Not the woodblock nor the plate or the stone are the work of art, but the print. The word “print” can be traced back to the Old French “preinte”, which meant “the state of being printed”. The total of identically printed prints is the edition. This edition is numbered and signed by the artist. The different methods of working are grouped according to the way the printing form (wood, metal, silk or stone) is transferred onto the carrier (paper). In relief printing, everything that is printed is raised: the things that should not be printed are cut away. So, for a woodcut, everything that should stay white is removed. The print will then be black on a white background, the mirror image of the image that remains on the block. In intaglio, the ink is transferred from thin incisions to the paper. These incisions can be made in several ways, but the printing is always the same. Ink is applied to the plate and rubbed into the incisions. Then the surface is wiped clean. Through the pressure of the press, the ink is transferred from the recesses of the plate to the paper. The basis of serigraphy are the stencils. The ink is pushed through a screen. The covered parts of the mesh are impermeable, which means that the ink can only pass through the other parts.

Ingrid Ledent is a specialist in lithography. Lithography is the most common process of planography: the image and the ink are on the same level. The process is based on the mutual repulsion of water and grease. The artist draws with greasy material on a grained porous limestone. This image is fixed by treating the stone with a solution of gum Arabic and nitric acid. The stone is then moistened, but the water is repelled by the parts with the greasy ink. The stone is then rolled in ink. The ink only adheres to the parts that are not wet: the greasy parts. Then, paper and stone are run through a press and the ink is transferred to the paper. Again, the print is a mirror image. For every color, a new stone and a new printing have to be used.

Artists are increasingly using plate litho. The system stays the same, but instead of a stone, metal plates are used. However, Ingrid Ledent is faithful to the stone, but she does use a proof offset press to print her image. This print is made via a rubber blanket. This creates an image identical to the one on the stone instead of a mirror image.


I. Ledent, Mindstream of Consciousness, 2011, installation, lithography and video-projection, 107x225cm, lithography on Wenzhou mounted on wooden blocks, 225x225x2,5cm
I. Ledent, Sequences, 2013, installation, lithography, computer print, 2x200x120cm, video-projection on white sand, size: variable

The Belgian tradition

Copper engraving and etching, which in the seventeenth century grew into fully-fledged artistic techniques (a beautiful example is Rembrandt), were in the eighteenth and nineteenth century increasingly reduced to mere illustration and reproduction techniques. In the second quarter of the nineteenth century, they were largely replaced by steel engraving, which could print larger editions. But shortly afterwards, a strong countermovement came into existence, especially in order to revalorize the art of etching, while copper engravings remained in the sphere of the reproductive and the traditional. In the nineteenth century, lithography was mainly used for printing posters. By timely asserting itself as a fully-fledged artistic means of expression, the art of etching did not suffer much from the introduction of photography in the second half of the nineteenth century, while copper and steel engraving, on the other hand, were entirely supplanted as reproduction techniques.

In Belgium, Félicien Rops (1833-1889) and after him James Ensor (1860-1949) and Armand Rassenfosse (1862-1934) were the first to use the art of etching as an independent artistic medium again. Memorable names of the next generation are Jules De Bruycker (1870-1945) and Jos Verdegem (1897-1957) in Ghent, Floris Jespers (1889-1965), Joris Minne (1897-1987) and Jos Hendrickx (1906-1971) in Antwerp. Frans Masereel (1889-1972) is also part of this generation, but he was mainly a wood engraver. In the fifties and especially the sixties and seventies, screen printing and offset- or photolithography became very popular due to their enormous ability for multiplication. However, this very same ability later turned out to be a deficiency too. Although these techniques were supposed to democratize, it turned out that not everyone was interested in democratic art.

Nonetheless, these are the techniques that should be viewed as the first of the “new media” in printmaking. They are inextricably linked to the then avant-garde movement of pop-art, with Andy Warhol as the main practitioner. The Flemish variant, the new figuration, also eagerly used screen printing. At the Academy in Ghent, Pierre Vlerick and Willy Van Driel finalized the offset lithos.

This modernization is not a purely technical problem. When people start thinking differently about art, creating a new artistic trend, the graphic arts are treated differently too. With some ingenuity, the graphic medium also appears to be suited for, among others, conceptual art, the environment, and even the happening.

Nevertheless, the old tradition of printmaking has continued very lively too. Some people limit themselves to play with the technique, bringing it to perfection. Some went to specialize in Prague, the Mecca of the graphic arts. Ingrid Ledent is part of the second group. Some of these artists brought back, not just a technical perfection, but also the Eastern European printing imagination. This never happened to Ingrid Ledent. Her stay in Prague was a technical perfection of her own conceptual language. The Czech Rudolf Broulim was one of the most important instructors, who taught many people. He emigrated to Belgium with his own printing studio, and he works with a number of Belgian artists, among them Ingrid Ledent.

She belongs to the group of artists who have created renewing images through the graphic techniques. Her artistic attitude is to first think plastically, and then choose for the medium of printmaking, due to the specific qualities connected to the medium.

I. Ledent, A whirl in time, 2012, installation, lithography, computer print, video-projection, audio, 195x100cm, lithography on Wenzhou mounted on wooden blocks, 100x300x2,5cm

A philosophical definition of graphics

Philosophizing, the most typical things about printmaking seem to me: (a) a lot of attention to the material characteristics of the metal plate, the stone or the woodblock, all of which leave different marks than the brush; (b) great care for the carrier (e.g. special types of paper); and (c) the fact that there are, in fact, two carriers: the image is first produced on a carrier that is not considered to be the work of art; only then it is printed on the “real” carrier. This has, of course, far-reaching consequences. It implies that an aspect of chance must be taken into account from making to printing. Additionally, an original print is always a “copy”. On the other hand, this offers opportunities for conceptual experiments, linked to reproducibility, seriality, suitability for citation, reproductivity; in short, all concepts that become debatable through the specific characteristics of the graphic technique.


I. Ledent, Durée, 2006, installation, lithography, computer print, lithography glued on wooden blocks and video/audio work
I. Ledent, Unfolded, 2013, installation, lithography, computer print, 4x102x225cm, floor work 105x520cm

New media

The most important characteristic of Ingrid Ledent’s work, is that she has not followed tradition faithfully, but without betraying it. By employing new media, she has made it possible for old techniques to survive. Even better: she has enriched these new media by refusing to renounce the traditional methods. When you see photographs of Ingrid Ledent working in her studio, it is hard to believe that the photos where she stands in front of her stone and the photos where she sits behind her computer are images of the production of one and the same work of art. The importance of the new media for her creations becomes clear when we think about what the concept actually entails. The things we started calling ‘new media’ in the twentieth century, are the result of a longing to connect everything, exactly because of the assumption that reality itself is a complex connection too. This is the starting point of Ledent. However, not settling for a work of art in only one medium (oil paint, bronze, …) is not enough to describe the concept of new media. After all, there’s also the mixed media. We can start talking about mixed media from the moment that a painter, for example, uses different kinds of paint, or when a sculptor merges several kinds of wood, metal, or rock. Experiments to add sound to an image through tape recorders also belong to this group.

A second characteristic of new media in its broadest sense can be said to be every work of art that makes the observer look, not “at” a medium, but “through” a medium. The artist thus uses an instrument to show reality. Through the “objectivity” of the medium, an entirely different reality appears than the one that is usually realized through the subjectivity of the artist. That is exactly what Ingrid Ledent does. She adds photographically objectified photos through computer manipulation to her image as an objective fact. She alienates them, and then looks for a way to be able to subjectify them again, or you could say: to humanize them.

A third characteristic is an interest in the passing of time. Graphic art is spatial and has as a fairly general characteristic that it stops time. The new media want to add a dimension. A number of technological novelties have made this possible in the twentieth century: film and video offer new possibilities for imagery and the computer as an operating system. Ingrid Ledent eagerly uses this. It allows her to develop an artistic reflection of the passage of time. The term new media also has a functional use. Apart from that, we can make a few distinctions in the field of art. Without keeping in mind the historic order, the landscape of the new media looks as follows. The computer offers the opportunity to create images through derivation and transformation. In fact, this method bears a close resemblance to the “Media Games”, which uses it in a playful manner.

The artist can measure up to the IT specialist in the matter of technology, which has led to some interesting results. In the case of the “Media Space”, the spectator is included in a virtual reality. The video tapes images. A first manifestation is the recording of the actions (happenings etc.) of visual artists. An artistic video can be made that way. When this video is a part of other artistic manifestations, it is called a “video-installation”. Ingrid Ledent regularly uses video in addition to her graphic work.


I. Ledent, Temporality V, 2012, lithography and computer print, 100x130cm
I. Ledent, In a Whirl, 2015, lithography and computer print, 100x138cm

An interpretation of the work of Ingrid Ledent

Ingrid Ledent is one of the artists who have learned to perfect lithography from Rudolf Broulim. She is not a technique freak. Printmaking to her is more than just making prints. She experiments with carriers. Ingrid Ledent likes to print on Chinese Wenzou paper, very much refined and adhered to a block of wood, versus paper on an outer wall, a garage door or a garbage container. It does not matter: as long as it is alive. For Ledent, graphics must be a public confrontation. She pulls printing techniques out of the sphere of the individual private collection and into the sphere of the happening, the communicative event. Lithography as a delicate, cherished print reverts to its original function: the mother of posters, an outstanding medium for including an entire community in an event. In this happening, Ledent shows herself. The symbols she makes are deeply routed in herself. She is actually present in her work, in a very concrete, even physical form. Eyes, ears, noses and lips are hers, they appear stylized and multiplied to a field. These small body parts are lined up. That way they make up, so to speak, the corporeal basis of the work of art as a symbol. This makes the communication very direct and personal. It is also a way of self portrayal. Next to a series of minuscules of her own body printed in red, she brings a black-and-white print on which that same body is embraced. Thus she expresses her communication with the friendly other. Ingrid Ledent has also taken part in projects of conceptual art, like e.g. “De Dato”, about the reproducibility of time. Therefore, she was inspired by the French philosopher Henri Bergson. She tries to capture the “duration”, time the way we experience it. According to Bergson, the present does not follow the past, but they exist at the same time: coexistence with the present that it has been. The past becomes present again as a virtual image. Every moment of our lives offers us these two aspects: it is present through our observation and virtual as a memory.

Ingrid Ledent induces this experience. For example, she has created a series of her own eyes through computer and video. But to this series, visual catches are added that stay on a subconscious level. That way, she created a multiplicity of images of eyes that will stick in the memory. Time was reproduced by a vastness in the space. The result was a graphic of 100 meters long.

As I said before, Ingrid Ledent incorporates her body in her images through computer. She accomplishes this through a multiple of the pars pro toto trope. Every used body part (nose, navel, etc.) is symbolic for a whole, she herself as a multiplicity of selves. Therefore, her work can also be classified under computer art. We should not underestimate the relation between computer and printmaking. A computer is a machine that guarantees diversity, multiplicity, variability, the ability to manipulate and everything that is indefinable. Or let’s say it in the words of the new media guru, Lev Manovich. In his bible The language of New Media, he sums up a number of conditions to be able to talk about new media: numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability and transcoding. But still, in most cases, at a certain time it will be the moment of the print. In se, the concept of the computer approaches the Platonic idea as the entirety of what is possible, the model of which reality is only a copy. But not even the computer can do without a copy, without a print. That is what the printer is for. One of the disenchanting moments of computer art is exactly the moment when the print rolls out of the printer. Is that it? sensory people wonder: artistically worthless paper and color inks of a dubious visual quality. A sort of brothel art, doomed to be kitsch. And especially stripped from all de potential variability of the computer itself. The openness that is linked to virtuality is now over.

Here it is that the experienced graphic artist, Ingrid Ledent, uses her sensibility of both hand and eye to keep the work enjoyable through the senses. The computerized image offers a possibility of repetition that is manually matchless. Therefore, computer is a useful medium. After all, a machine increases in usefulness as we have to use our hands less. The power of the repetitive element in the work is heightened by the quality of the lithographic art of printing. Moreover, this repetitive element is connected – and this is another aspect of the art of Ingrid Ledent – with her great love for the Oriental culture. Repetitiveness can be linked to the prayer wheels of religion. Sports and art (especially music and dance, but printmaking too) were created from the need to really experience religion. Repetition is a control over the doubt of whether or not we are alive. It is the illusionary road to certainty. It is also a way of living more intensely. It is the way to internalize the outside world. In that sense, the work of Ingrid Ledent possesses a spiritual dimension. Through serial repetition she tries to reach a unity, the synthesis of her own fragmented self, her “I” that spins around in the daily chaos. She searches her own center and she encounters it in the navel she want to connect as a microcosm to a macrocosm through a spiral. Often it is protected by friendly hands that frame the navel in a triangle, formed by the thumbs and the index fingers. This duality of the digital processing of body parts confronted with the image of real hands, make that a philosophy of the body can be found behind the work of Ingrid Ledent. This philosophy must be linked to a reflection on the new media. Ingrid Ledent is a part of a generation that grew up in a world dominated by analogue technology. Even though she incorporated the digital element in her work, she is still strongly connected to the estheticism of the analogue. The analogue, for her, refers to the warm touch, the direct contact between man and nature as a corporeal experience. Analogue media kept the world tangible, but the arrival of the digital media threatens to totally replace this tactile element with the numerical. This problem constantly recurs in her work.

Digital technologies as media use actual people as a medium too. They show man as the “medium of the media”. Digital media allow people access to the interzone, the vastness of the “in between”. Maybe Heidegger was the first who consistently pointed out the ‘in between-ness’ of man, more specifically in his notion of Dasein, ‘being-there’. Because what could ‘there’ be but an in between, a ‘being’ constantly in between a ‘being’ it has already been and a ‘being’ it has not yet been and must therefore always be ‘in the making’. It is this ‘in between’ that Ingrid Ledent tries to capture in her graphic oeuvre. Ingrid Ledent also adds memories, like Bergson who describes a past that also exists in the present. Or to use the words of Bergsons interpreter, Gilles Deleuze: the memory helps us build the illusion of a consistently unifying self. Rather than redrawing the past, memory makes it into a new present, connected to the present circumstances. This shows that memory is a more creative force to produce new things than a machine to produce the same. This could be the formula for the works of art in the display: “The continuous living of a memory.”

It is clear that Ingrid Ledent has realized a fully-fledged artistic expression with her graphics, an expression which has nothing to do with graphics as a means of democratically distributing art. It is an autonomous medium which offers possibilities in its technical materiality that we are unable to realize through other media.

Prof. Dr. Willem Elias

Ingrid Ledent (1955, Brasschaat, Belgium) studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, the UMPRUM in Prague and the National Higher Institute Antwerp where she obtained her MFA in printmaking in 1981. Since 1984 she is professor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. Since September 2017 she is distinguished professor at the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts. She gave workshops and lectures at many international institutions. Most resently at the Katowice Academy of Fine Arts, 2017 (Poland), the Musashino Art University in Tokyo, 2016 (Japan), the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, 2016 (China), the University of Alberta in Edmonton, 2016 (Canada), the Indiana University in Bloomington, 2015 (USA), the E. Geppert Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclav, 2015 (Poland).
Her work has been exhibited worldwide in over 20 solo exhibitions and many group exhibitions. She received 12 national and 14 international awards in the field of printmaking including the Grand Prix at the 3rd International Triennial in Prague 2001, the 8th International Biennial of Drawing and Graphic Arts Györ 2005, the 5th International Lithographic Symposium 2006 in Tidaholm, the International Print Triennial Krakow 2006, the 5th Splitgraphic International Biennial 2011, the Imprint International Triennial in Warsaw 2014 and an award at the Guanlan International Print Biennial in 2007 and 2017.
She is chairman of the International Adviser Board of IPOA (International Printmaking Organisation Alliance) based in Guanlan, China.



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