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Ljiljana Ćinkul

How a large community of artists is created*
On the occasion of the 7th International Print Biennial in Guanlan in 2019

A specific property of printmaking – its ability to be multiplied and easily sent – is a valuable communication feature that even today keeps this art discipline in the disjointed space of visual arts. The pulsation of vivid creative activity is affirmed by numerous international events dedicated to printmaking around the world, from the oldest Biennial in Ljubljana in 1955, through Krakow, Bitola, Tokyo, Belgrade, Užice, Split Biennials to this new-millennium one in the Chinese town of Guanlan. The reality of China’s economic miracle and opening to the world is followed by a revival in other areas, very notable in culture and art. A perfect illustration is the complex institution of the Biennial in the old town of Guanlan, near Shenzhen, which in the past 40 years has been transformed into a metropolis of the 21st century, with its new architecture and new organization of economy; and the proximity of Hong Kong can be seen everywhere.
In the spring of 2019, the Guanlan International Print Biennial had its seventh edition, and it has become a significant art stronghold in the past 12 years, which is confirmed by the fantastic numbers at the competition: 2,551 artists from 105 countries applied with 4,598 works. These record numbers are compared with those from10 years ago, when artists from 57 countries applied. The question was how to master such a huge competition material with the expected professional reception. The curatorial system of selection was adopted; the works were marked with numbers, and the 18 members of the international body voted following the system of 30 votes per a member; the votes were immediately computer processed and no one knew how the others voted. The works with more than two votes were shortlisted, and those with more than five votes entered the award selection. According to the Biennial concept, the exhibition was limited to 300 works, so in a special section of the catalogue, respecting this democratic system, a so-called shorter list was given; 577 prints that had remained outside the exhibition presentation during the second round of selection were reproduced.



What is characteristic was that the selectors had an insight into the works of the awarded authors and important artists from the previous six Biennials as a kind of guideline. In any case, the selection was strict and many works were rejected.
The high professionalism and enormous energy in the presentation are concentrated in the exceptional Museum of Printmaking, specially designed for such large events, whose construction was completed in 2014. This demanding and dynamic architectural structure, Biennial’s Home, in glass and concrete, was created following the needs of this event and its undoubted growth, and this, seventh, edition of the Biennial was the third one presented at home, in its own museum space.


Chayasit Orisoon (Thailand), Children of Tai Dam Parent, relief, 100x130 cm
Smorodin Artem (Ukraine), Face the Sea, relief, 65x95 cm

The opening ceremony itself was a cultural and aesthetic event. The representativeness of the ceremony, with the participation of the selectors of the Biennial, and the programme dedicated to Chinese culture and its tradition, along with the magic of effective illumination, left a strong impression of uniqueness. Twelve equal prizes were awarded to the artists – Ewelina Kolakowska and Olga Zukowska from Poland, Hiroya Yasukochi from Japan, Lang Lang, Liu Jing, Yu Ziliang, Wang Xiao and Zhu Shiwei from China, Rattana Sudjarit and Teerawoot Com-on from Thailand and Sandro Bracchitta from Italy. Certainly, they were participants of this ceremony, when the awards were given on the stage, and their works were presented separately in the Museum.
About selection? The works exhibited at the Biennial are part of a possible realistic picture of printmaking production in the world today. What a misunderstood amateur artist would say in lay terms, both realistics and modernistics. Speaking seriously, you gain an insight into the authorial concepts developed in various art schools, and the printing technology is of a high level, with adequate application of techniques and materials. Certainly, artistic values in a multicultural era are reflected in artistic philosophy and aesthetics. Such inexhaustible digital technology gives new generations a fresh expression and other narratives. In a few examples from this Biennial, the experimental spirit was obvious, and the possibility of the three-dimensional conception of a print in the form of installation. Some authors presented polyptych works, comic-strip compositions, op-artistic discourse, and all were framed, which gave them the final impression. By the nature of things and numbers, the most numerous participants were those from China. The personal impression was that the black-and-white or coloured woodcuts of large dimensions were the most convincing. Most often, their poetic discourse is close to figuration, and the realization is fascinated for its size. These prints almost call for association with the Austrian artist Hundertwasser and his not so large woodcuts, made in 20-30 colours, printed in the 1960s in Japan.
Compared to other world biennials, this one in Guanlan is, in the style of Chinese reforms, pragmatic and efficient.
A member of the curatorial team of the 7th Biennial raised the essential questions about the status of the art of printmaking: What does printmaking do and how does it work today? Let’s add the old dilemma: Modern or timeless?


Jan Moskala (Poland), Havoc, relief, 70x100 cm
Veliko Marinchevski (Bulgaria), Lotus Pond by Moonlight II, intaglio, 112x50 cm
Zhou Jie (China), Four Seasons - Spring, relief, 167x91 cm


Li Xiaoguang (China), Under Flower, relief, 90x120 cm
Zhang Hui (China), Stare at the Light - 8, lithography, 97x45 cm
Mychael Barrat (Canada), Brief History of Love, intaglio, 63x70 cm

The institution of the Guanlan Biennial, that consists of the Printmaking Workshop, the Museum and its collection, is being carefully built with the engagement of ideas, time, enthusiasm, money and human resources; besides exhibitions, this large system includes research, social activities and permanent networking.
The Biennial is not the sole impetus for modern Chinese printmaking to gain great influence abroad, not only in the country; there are also constant academic exchanges and international programmes, proven ways to achieve this goal. The story of the Chinese printmaking scene and the world is underlined by an excellent exhibition of young Chinese artists, held at another part of the Museum, in parallel with the central exhibition of the Biennial. The 400-page Biennial Catalogue, in which each of the 300 authors has their own page, is an ambitious project.
The condensed programme of this art event, the seventh edition of the Biennial, was complemented with a one-day Guanlan forum, where theoreticians and practitioners, invited from all over the world, conveyed their views in audio-visual presentations. The signer of this text presented Grafički kolektiv. In this large community of printmaking fraternity, our artists, Lidija Antanasijević, Dimitrije Pecić, Mina Rakidžić and others, also participate with their works, residential stays at the Atelier and membership in professional bodies and forums.

Ljiljana Ćinkul
*A Large Community of Artists, Print Biennial, Guanlan, China, Politika newspaper, Culture/art/science, Belgrade, July 6, 2019

Translation from Serbian: Vesna Strika


Yoshikatsu Tamekane (Japan), Four Seasons - Autumn, relief, 97x67 cm
Hendrik Faure (Germany), Dream of Reason, intaglio, 38x48 cm


Marija Anđelković (Serbia), States of Transition XV, lithography, 100x100 cm
Sohee Kim (South Korea), How to Spend a Vacation, intaglio, 40x50 cm

Ljiljana Ćinkul graduated 1976 from the Faculty of Philosophy (Department of the Art History), Belgrade. Since 1981 she is the Artistic director and the curator of the Gallery Graficki Kolektiv (Graphic Artists’ Association Gallery). Since 1977, she has been engaged in art criticism, writing art criticisms and essays on the visual arts for magazines and newspapers (Gradina, Umetnost, Književna reč) and for the Radio Belgrade 3, art program. She is the art critic of the Politika newspaper. Member of ULUPUDS and AICA. She is the author of study texts, author of exhibitions, reviews and forewords in catalogs, in the country and abroad. Participated in conferences, seminars and forums; member of numerous art councils and juries. More



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