No Flash

Victor Manuel Hernández Castillo

What is the position of Printmaking today, in 2020?

1. The 3 horizons of Contemporary Art-Print

• Digital techniques
• Traditional techniques
• Mixed and hybrid techniques

For centuries as well as today, graphic art has been a part of the human culture of each country; not only of artistic culture, but popular one as well. This is due to its proliferative and contagious functions, its democratic carácter, as well as to the inherent characteristics of the graphic form. As art in the ideological sense it draws inspiration from many sources, including popular and mass culture. Associated with writting and printing as well as with the new media of social communication, it is a form of transmission, and also an artistic form that acts as a source of visual aesthetic and stylistic communication.

When we ask about graphic art today, we are immediately presented with a vast amount of difficult problems to solve, including the most important one, which is the question of the autonomy of graphic art within contemporary art in the process of destroying any genre barriers.

Does graphic art retain its Independence even when you count projects that penetrate well beyond the traditional formula of the matrix and print work- projects related to recent experiments in contemporary art? So the question is, how is graphic art changing? What forms does it take at the moment?

From the beginning, the development and nature of graphic work has been associated with the development of communication media, due to its relationship with printing and reproduction. The development of media technology has always had a significant impact on the process of creation in graphic arts. Today´s prevalence of digital technologies is challenging the norms of the traditional workshop and has greatly expanded the possibilities of graphic art, often fettered by the purist, technical chains of traditional techniques. Contemporary graphic art similarly to the other visual arts undergoes constant transformations prompted by the increasing importance of technology and its influence on culture and the individual life.

Visual representation has entered a phase of complete digitalization, thus changing the traditional understanding of the notion of image. The image identity of graphic art is subject to constant redefinition. The encroachment of new media on its terrain has revaluated the perception and reception of a work of art. In the context of international biennials and triennials, the contemporary graphic have a different technical horizons for development of visual culture.

However, in the cultural and social transformations, the traditional techniques of PrintArt, they also indicate a promising direction towards a horizont of renewed forms and concepts as they say. The posibles directions for conceptual and techniques development, lead us to new evocative horizons. This dynamic development and vitality of traditional techniques in the context of contemporary graphic art, its ability to astonish us with the power of the imagination, and its variety of techniques and imaging methods.

The content expressed by the digital médiums, mixed with the traditional techniques in the actual printmaking language, which can just as well be a comment on reality, an individual experience, or rigorous intelectual calculation, captivates with its straightforwardness and its mutable, illuminating and surprising form.

Contemporary graphic art finds itself in an age of creative thought and action freed from technical constraints and is therefore and instance of a genuine diversity of hibrides techniques. It´s no surprise that in these conditions, the works going to the differents dialogs with the public, into a new discursive space. Hybrid and amalgamated techiniques are used by the printmakers making references and constructing various types of messages. Combining in one work digital techniques of image generating with etching, aquatint and template prints, the graphic artist balances very well their similarities and fundamental differences.

2. Has printmaking “crossed” the Edge of the medium or expanded/built a new field of action?

Prints have been stripped of their frames, deprived of protection in the forme of passe-partout, pinned to the vast black expanse.

Not all printmakers adhere to serially editioned conventional two-dimensional objects. In an iconoclastic gesture, characteristics that traditionally underpin the field can be seen to intersect with other forms of art practice. This is an expanded territory lying beyond the solander box with its contents of mounted prints and the discreetly framed image hung in a domestico or public environment. In certain countries, this gesture has socio-political ramifications as a disruptive discourse within an otherwise conservative art regime. Potentially, print installations can intervene as a critical action.

Traditional practices were evidente in their contemporary installation art. Such artists consciously took printmaking into a much broader field of practice, one that subverted style and on occasions, accepted awkwardness and crudity as well as expanding into the three dimensional space.

Whether maintaining a conservative practice or challenging the status quo, artists confronted the challenges represented in “dual” personal and cultural identity.

3. Print as installation

From its origins in sculpture, installation has taken on the principles of collage, made with traditional or digital technologies, it´s a juxtaposition and displacement, association and dissociation, using objects and representations together as part of its repertoire of effects. Installation is resistant to definition, consistenly surprising, the most open-ended of all contemporary artistic practices, perhaps even threatening to the established order. The graphic installation can have an ephemeral nature of much installation art. She claims that is made up of separate elements and is generally site specific.

4. The ethical, aesthetic and communicative role of printmaking and visual arts in the age of global change and crisis

Once the usual acknowledgement is made that ethics and aesthetics are one in that both have to do with values, it is customary to explore their differences rather than their affinities. The ethical, it has been pointed out, has to do with human actions, while the aesthetic is concerned with contemplation, with seeing or beholding something. Moreover, it is posible, we are told, to bypass the aesthetic in a way in which we cannot bypass the ethical: aesthetic awareness is rarely forced upon us and aesthetic situations do not seem to affect our lives significantly but ethical situations spring up around us like partridges and even if a person decides to ignore an ethical matter then that decisión is itself and ethical one.

From another point of view, the art experience is a type of aesthetic experience that also includes aspects, content, and context of our humaness. When something is made by a human, we know that there is some level of commonality and or communal experience.

We are also aware that beyond sensory and formal properties, all graphic artwork is informed by its specific time and place or the specific historical and cultural milieu it was created. For this reason it´s analize graphic art work through not only aesthetics, but also, historical and cultural contexts.

About my graphic-works in larges linocuts, making judgments of value requires a basis for criticism. At the simples level, deciding whether an print is considered art is a matter of finding it to be either attractive or repulsive. Though, perception is always colored by experience, and is necessarily subjective, it is commonly understood that what is not somehow visually pleasing - cannot be art. However, “Good” Art is not always or even regularly visually pleasing to a majority of viewers. In other words, an artist´s prime motivation need not be the pursuit of a pleasing arrangement of form. Also, art often depicts terrible images made for social, moral, or thought-provoking reasons.

In the actual context of global change and economic-social crisis, my horrific imagery in the large linocuts have the intention to connect with human emotion. It can arouse aesthetic or moral feelings, and can be understood as a way of communicating these feelings. For me, graphic art be considered an exploration of the human condition or what it is to be human. The lack of balance between technological and spiritual development engages graphic artists to develop social themes. In this problematic time, the importance of ethical human values can be the contents of a contesting graphique.

Judging the ethical and aesthetique value of an artwork is often partly intelectual and interpretative. It is what a thing means or symbolizes for us, that is often what we are judging. Assigning value to graphic art work is often a complex negotiation not only of our senses, emotions, but intelectual opinions, Will, desires, cultural and social preferences.

5. The role of printmaking in the context of my professional environment

Artistic expresión has been a companion of every culture throughout history. The motivation for this expresión has often been influenced by historical events surrounding the artists who produce it. Mexican graphicwork historically represented more than an expresión of historic events; it signified a quest for identity. The complex socio-political history of México sparked a desire to rediscover México´s pre-Hispanic roots. The result was the nineteenth century effort to define what it meant to be Mexican.


After this time, in the XXI Century, the contemporary printmaking of México is still an ideal medium for direct expresión and mass dissemination as it was in México during the XX CENTURY. The goal of political printmaking was a communicating ideas for to reach as many people as possible.

Thirty-five years of oppression and inequality culminated in the Mexican Revolution and the overthrow of the Dictator Porfirio Díaz in 1911. Fueled by the revolutionary spirit of idealism and popular nationalism, the country began to redefine Mexican Identity. These graphic artists considered printmaking and politics to be inseparable. Their goal was to educate Mexicans through art, history, national pride, and identity.

Like the murals, prints expressed concerns regarding social, political and economic injustices.

Mexican print artists worked together to establish print collectives such as the Taller de la Gráfica Popular (TGP), established in 1937, to inform Mexicans of what was happening on national level and in the rest of the World.


The TGP´s politically charged prints communicated pride in indigenous culture, a devotion to national identity, and a celebretation of Mexican heritage. Print artists used simple carving techniques to créate woodcuts and linocuts designs.

In the XXI century fine art prints have been a private art form, designed for connoisseurs and collectors, published in limited editions and hidded away in portfolios. The XX century saw the development of a more public role for prints, with the adoption of affordable processes such as linocut.

Since the XXI century in México, the new technologies have been swiftly co-opted for the fine art printmaking, but the traditional techniques have not been supplanted. A lot of printmakers, at the same time continue to explore the infinite path of traditional methods and in certain cases there are a Works made with combination of digital and traditional processes.

The Printmaking in México is often a collaborative activity and workshops and Collective Ateliers have played a crucial role in the development of artist´s ideas around print, where the printmakers have generated a range of imaginative print projects, collaborations, interventions and cooperative ventures. Also as a heritage of the Atelier of the Popular Graphic, many printmakers they use a print as a strategy for social and political engagement.

Printmaking, especially processes such as woodcut and linocut, which are cheap and relatively easy to produce and require Little in the way of materials or studio facilities, has also been adopted in our country as a means of preserving, or reviving traditional imagery.

Mexican artists convert to cheap everyday printed material to exploit the democratic potential of printmaking as a means of putting art into the public domain in a affordable and accesible form.

Many mexican printmakers promote the graphic artwork as vehicle for peace and justice and to encourage the voice of the artist in their respect and voice to reflect on their life, on their culture, on the problems they face as a society, and thus express themselves, their views and their beliefs.

México is best known for its strong tradition of printma-king started by the political artist José Guadalupe Posada, creator of the skulls, who used relief printing to produce popular illustrations. His work has influenced numerous latín american artists and cartoonists because of its satirical acuteness and social engagement. He used skulls (calaveras) and bones to convey political and cultural critiques. Among his most enduring Works is “La calavera Catrina”.


6. The importance of International biennials/triennials dedicated to printmaking

Printmaking has a distinct and decisive history in the world of art. Since the Renaissance, prints have enabled artists to disseminate their ideas and works throughout the world, since the capacity of printing to produce multiplied images, established a communication with a wider circle of people.

Due to the biennials and triennials, the international printmaking find its own place in art as a contemporary means of creation.

The international graphic events allow rethinking the codes, the numerous graphic formats, the established ones or those newly birth, and finding the way of conneting them.

The international graphic exhibitions provide valuable information not only from a formal point of view, but also from a semantic or a poetic one, within this discipline in continuous escape, where it is not easy even to realice to what extent it is imploding or expanding, and where it is often difficult if this was necessssary or relevant to distinguish the limits of the very engraved element itself. This contemporary escaped graphic art owns a drift between the production and the reflection, in the convergence between tradition and innovation.

The international graphic events allow to analyse the possibilities of graphic art to take up new spaces and means which enable the spectator to connect with the works in different ways, with the renovation of the exhibition formats and facilities.

The artists are constantly inquiring about, not only the concepts of artistic creation, but also the characteristics of the techniques, médiums, processes and relations within the contemporary graphic arts.

Lately in the International engraving salons, it has been observed, with the flood of the digital in contemporary art production, a growing tendency towards a return to the original principles and processes of the printmaking medium. International exhibitions such as biennials, triennials and various festivals devoted to the graphic arts are, much more so fan fairs, the best place to evaluate the state and pulse within the field of contemporary printmaking, whilst also being a Good opportunity for theorical discourse on art.

The fact remains that printmaking is a medium that, bound to a time consuming process and insight of a breadth of mechanical and chemical knowledge and skills, co-exists in contemporary artistic expresión.

Questions about the vitality of contemporary printmaking, its power, actuality, its boundaries and, ultimately, its manifestations, are constantly exposed in the International Printmaking biennials and triennials and in this evenements is very important to evaluate this discipline as a living part of the art system. Since there is a need for its continuous review and evaluation, as well as finding ways of raising its value in all segments of the art world.

Victor Manuel Hernández Castillo
México City, the 20th august, 2020.

Victor Manuel Hernández Castillo (1963, México City), Education: 1985- Visual Arts License degree in the National School of Plastics Arts, National University Autonomous of México, UNAM, México City; 1991 Magister Studies in the Faculty of Graphic Arts of the Academy of Fine Arts of Fine Arts, Cracow, Poland; 1992 Atelier Stypendium in the National School of Fine Arts, Paris, France. Post-Magister Studies of Painting in the Faculty of Painting, Academy of Fine Arts, Cracow, Poland. 2018-2021 Doctorat Studies in the Faculty of Graphic Arts , Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, Poland. Grant holder of National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA) México. More


V. M. Hernández Castillo, “SOLO... SOLO... TUYA”, 2006, linocut, 76x114 cm
V. M. Hernández Castillo, “LA AGRESIÓN A LA RAÍZ”, 2013, linocut, 76x110 cm


V. M. Hernández Castillo, “CADA UNO CONSIGO MISMO”, 2014, linocut, 68X98 cm
V. M. Hernández Castillo, “TRANSFIGURACIÓN”, 2017, linocut, 77x118 cm


V. M. Hernández Castillo, “EL SUEÑO REAL DE LA VERDAD CRUDA”, 2017, linocut, 60X85 cm
V. M. Hernández Castillo, “LA CONCIENCIA ME SIRVE DE GUSANO”, 2019, linocut, 79X118 cm


V. M. Hernández Castillo, “IDEAS – DIENTES”, 2019, linocut, 75X98 cm
V. M. Hernández Castillo, “SOY TODO SOPLO EN TIEMPOS DE PENURIA”, 2019, linocut, 75X98 cm



Graphic Collective Gallery, Dragoslava Jovanovića 11, Belgrade, Weekdays 12 - 20h, Saturdays 12 - 17h, Sundays closed
tel: +381.11.3285.923; tel/fax: +381.11.2627.785