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Maja Simić

Printmaking on the Edge, 2020
Printmaking: Walking a Tightrope

Walking the tightrope, balancing between multi-originality and limited editions or between evaluation of form /technical skill and the content /idea, could end for printmaking with the expansion of digital networking .
The contemporary world of visual communications has had its origin in printmaking.
A work of art began its evolution as an independent ritual object whose value was in its uniqueness. The image is unique, enjoying it is exclusive. With the emergence of printmaking, a process began that led to today's network of mass visual exchange. From rudimentary beginnings, incisions in the matrix to computer algorithms that generate the inscription, printmaking has followed the changes of the civilization code.
Let us remember, printmaking is an artistic concept that materializes through the process of reproduction. Speaking about the historical significance of printmaking, we emphasize the democratic character of the media, the possibility to bring this visual form closer to as many people as possible, to convey the idea as far as possible.
From the beginning, printmaking has had a dual nature. It is a unique work of art, but unlike an unduplicated image, reproducibility is its unique value . The print is intended to be reproduced, its visual language corresponds to a technique which, by reproducing, does not give a reproduction but actualizes the original.
Although the specificity of printmaking lies in its reproducibility, however , due to the need to apply to printmaking the previously established system of evaluating a work of art, over time, the technological limitation of the media has been taken as a determinant of the value of an individual print. When we think about the commercial assessment of fine art prints, we find that, on the one hand it is a multi-original, i.e. it exists in several copies (in order to be different from a painting or drawing, which are unique), and on the other hand it must have a limited edition. So, what was initially a shortcoming (the line carved into the copper plate would lose the ability to retain color and make a good print under the pressure of printing), therefore limiting the number of prints, became a quality.
For centuries, the dual nature of printmaking, conveniently woven into the neologism multiple original, has produced two parallel directions in the development of the medium - one is the tendency to invent a technique that would enable unlimited reproduction, that is, actualization of the artistic idea, and thus the idea it carries, and the second is the assessment of the limitations of the technique, in order to preserve the so-called aura of the work of art, a value that emerges from its integrity, in the form of limiting the number of prints.
Discussions among artists and theorists about the boundaries of the field of printmaking emerge from that duality of media. Guided by multiplicity as the primary feature of this medium, the artists first defended the legitimacy of the lithographic procedure, then the serigraphic one and finally the digital printing procedure. Regardless of the open possibilities for printing the edition, there are guild/ethical rules established at international conferences.
At the Graphics at the Edge symposium held on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Graphic Collective, now more than a decade ago, Richard Noyce, speaking about the trends that "... pulled the expansion of printmaking out of the dark corners in which it has long languished”, in his book published in 2010, says: "The book will highlight individual artistic visions of strong moral engagement in which artists criticize social and political changes in the world, creating works that no longer languish in the farthest corner of fine arts, but boldly and decisively return the art of printmaking to the center of things. " We learn that printmaking, according to Noyce, was marginalized due to the absence of social engagement and that the opportunity for its reaffirmation could be in re-adopting the role of the bearer of political ideas.
If we start with the demand that printmaking should become part of the contemporary art scene, as a carrier of political messages about equality and freedom, we are late. Printmaking anticipated the communicativeness of engaged ideas that are not printed but screened and transmitted over the Internet. The post that is being shared, the designed statement, today is the bearer of that value of printmaking that stemmed from its multiplicity.
Printmaking in its initial idea /function supported the rhetorical feature of art, but today there is an opinion that it is not the most effective means of spreading political ideas. The question is, does limiting the print edition limit the possibility of extensive dissemination of political ideas while keeping one's activities in the safe field of art?
We can testify that in the last decades, art has abandoned the language of fine arts in its engagement and adopted a reduced language close to design, thus using the strategies of political speech.
Today, there are more effective ways to convey ideas, so printmaking should not be burdened with political demands. Since we can reproduce an idea indefinitely without materializing it in print, prints should not derive their value from real reproducibility, nor from the limitations of such reproducibility. Today, every image in the digital world can have a mass reception, regardless of the medium in which it was created.
But then what sets printmaking apart from related media, such as photography, painting or drawing? A photograph is a luminous record of a unique moment. When a printmaker uses photography in the creative process, his/her subject is not the moment that the photograph captures, but the photograph itself as an object or the content of the photograph that reflects the permanent properties of the photograph. The print differs from a painting or drawing by the artist's intention to create a work that is multi-original.
We should remember that the matrix is essentially a part of the process of developing a print idea; as the bearer of the specificity of expression of printmaking and that is exactly why the stance was adopted that monotypes or monoprints, regardless of the non-existence of editions, are also prints.
If nowadays, there is no longer an edition, and there is no need for a matrix, where is the print?
The print is in the experience of artists who were engaged in printing, i.e. a special expression that developed from the use of different matrices and the artist's intention to create a visual idea that is multiplied from the matrix.
The nature of printmaking is not determined only by an edition, its limitations and/or the existence of a matrix. Printmaking is in the language that has been developed, enriched and transmitted by printmakers for centuries, and that is why today a print can be a video clip and a performance, and an animation and a disappearing trace on the sidewalk.

Maja Simić

Translation from Serbian: Vanda Perović

Maja Simić (1975, Кikindа, Serbia) received her BA (2002), MA (2005) and PhD (2020) from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Department of Graphics, in Belgrade, Serbia. She is Assistant Professor at the Academy of Arts, University of Novi Sad, Serbia. Since 2001 her work has been exhibited in over 10 solo exhibitions and more than 140 group exhibitions in Serbia and abroad. She is recipient of many awards. Since 2003, she is a member of The Association of Fine Artists of Serbia (ULUS). More


M. Simić, 30 minutes, 2001.
M. Simić, Lower Tariff, 2001.
M. Simić, All for Art, 2001.


M. Simić, Good Morning, 2007.
M. Simić, Good Evening, 2007.

M. Simić, Trace, 2004.


M. Simić, On Dry Land
M. Simić, Izložba Anthropometries, Belgrade Sales Gallery, 2016.


M. Simić, Exhibition Corpus, Installation with plates, National Museum Kikinda, 2019.
M. Simić, Exhibition Corpus, Three Self-portraits, National Museum Kikinda, 2019.


M. Simić, Frame, 2019, video, 4'50''
M. Simić, Exhibition What is Graphics Today?, Body prints, Cultural Center Belgrade, 2019.



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