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Slobodan Radojković


Honorable male and female colleagues, I would like to emphasize the importance of the Graphic Collective initiative to organize a symposium this fall on the topic: Printmaking on/ beyond the Edge, as a continuation of the international conference Printmaking on the Edge - Printmaking and its Border Areas in the 21st Century held a decade ago in Belgrade. The intention to make a cross-section and a realistic analysis of the position of this medium today, will certainly open new issues concerning the present moment. Let me greet the participants of the symposium and the Graphic Collective Gallery as the organizer and express my gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of this important event.

The situation in which the global cultural scene finds itself today, and which could be called a state that is continuously and irreversibly changing, is characterized by a general availability of information and transparency of events. Clearly, in the past, we as observers but also as protagonists did not have the opportunity for such a comprehensive insight into creative processes that took place at the same time or were interconnected. Undoubtedly, it is the Internet that has completely changed our private and professional lives. It was not difficult to get used to easy access the global information network. High-speed internet and the possibility to clarify the meanings of new concepts in a few moments, follow topics that interest us, witness cultural events in real time or get acquainted with the work of individuals, have become the basis of modern man's functioning. Information that enables a clear idea of the time we live and work in has become a necessity for all of us. New knowledge and the desire to establish cooperation connects generations of people around the world. At the same time, this kind of communication seems to suppress direct, personal contact. Although perceiving the real position of one's creativity, its character and direction is crucial for a personal stance, I believe that we will be able to find and maintain a balance between virtual and live communication.

A debate on artistic printmaking in printmaking workshops, cultural institutions, and professional circles is continually taking place. The printmaking medium is subject to changes conditioned, among other things, by technical and technological innovations. Also, printmaking production is influenced by the artists’ experience, critical stands and theorists and art historians’ attitudes. Thus, dynamic activity in the field of printmaking is inseparable from broad social movements as well as cultural patterns and needs of a society A participant in the previous gathering in 2009, the respected art critic Richard Noyce, then noticed how the world is changing fast and does not stop changing. If one perceives this fact as reality, the issue of being informed becomes almost crucial. Timely information is what inevitably shapes the poetics of the artist. Not being informed about current movements and suppressing communication as being less important, the impossibility of traveling, working together and exchanging experiences, undermines the very essence of creativity.

A pandemic caused by the Covid-19 epidemic and the extraordinary living conditions that resulted will mark this event. By paralyzing numerous activities around the world, it greatly influences art, creativity and the medium of printmaking. Numerous annual exhibitions, manifestations of biennial and triennial character or professional gatherings and workshops have not been held this year or their organization is uncertain. Nevertheless, artists have continued to work in their studios maintaining continuity while institutions are finding ways to be active by modifying programs and intensifying online activities.

If we look at the current printmaking scene in our country, we see constant change and development. The younger and middle aged generations of artists directly face and react to the challenges of the modern age when dealing with the technical and technological aspects of printmaking. A significant segment of their work is inventiveness in the realization of their art. They are ready to experiment, which is the very essence of artistic activity. The rich creative possibilities provided by computer programs which they grew up with are a common way of expressing themselves. In thematic terms, their prints are often a kind of reaction to current and burning issues in society. Numerous different artistic solutions and combinations are in line with the relatively short time required to process an image in a computer and print on a plotter, which results in a dynamic and rich production. It should be emphasized that a significant number of well-known artists of traditional orientation started exploring the field of digital prints. Being true to their own sensibility, they expand the context of activities by exploring the visual possibilities of this print medium.


     

Carlos Zerpabzueta, “Cordigode Macas”, print with acrylic paint on polyester foil, Anya Tish Gallery, Houston, USA, 2012
Matthew Shlian, Unholy 85 (Go Down Moses/ There’s Fire in the Woods), 2017. three-dimensional collage installation, lithography / four colors, 101x122cm, Tamarind Institute Gallery


Today, equally accepted as prints are: a print made in the classical printmaking techniques and a digital print, a three-dimensional object made of printed segments and matrices on which interventions are made with a tool or color and which is presented as a final idea or a screening of a video clip through transparent forms with printed content . Also, a printmaking procedure is considered to be a print on various papers with subsequent drawing and color applied, a print of a monotypic character obtained by printing a hand-made drawing from a Plexiglas plate. Thus, the openness of the print medium for different approaches is undisputable.

Certainly, the possibility of using safe materials (water-based printing inks, lithotin, non-aggressive thinners, natural-based adhesives) as well as the absence of highly toxic acids, makes it possible for a significant number of artists of traditional orientation to change their usual technical and technological approach. However, in reality, even more than three decades after the appearance of the mentioned harmless materials, artists in this country are not able to buy them, nor are printmaking techniques based on new technologies accepted as standard. Even if such materials can be found, the prices are many times higher than in countries with developed art material markets or the purchase procedure is complicated. The printmaking department at the Aarhus Academy of Arts in Denmark (Ǻarhus Kunstakademi, Denmark) has not practiced some classical printmaking techniques, involving the use of toxic solutions such as nitric acid and ferric chloride for more than two decades. They use alternative, harmless materials. Several fully equipped rooms for traditional techniques and working procedures exist but are not used. Of course, this institution teaches students all types of printmaking techniques and simultaneously raises awareness of ecology from the students’ first encounter with printmaking. I believe that the improvement of quality, availability of harmless print material, as well as the implementation of new approaches and techniques should become a reality in the art schools and faculties in our country. However, it seems that the situation is changing too slowly.

Apart from the said, it is the activity of individuals and their individual creative procedures that shape the scene in the sphere of printmaking. It owes its vitality to their commitment, mutual connection and exchange of experiences. Printmaking manifests its undoubted vitality with its openness to influences and readiness to keep up with the time. Finally, with its defined and clearly visible place in the global art sphere, it is inseparable from current creative trends.

Experiences of cooperation with numerous colleagues and joint activities in various workshops confirm the fact that a professional approach to the realization of prints and the quality of the work are essential, in fact imperative. Reputable universities and art faculties in the world or printmaking centers are institutions which cultivate the vitality of this noble art discipline. Since it is pointless to talk about progress in art, as one can only talk about changes, different approaches and new practices, the question arises how topical printmaking is and to what degree it is represented in printed and electronic media and the global network. Is the medium of printmaking neglected? Does printmaking need more media attention?

It is certainly not easy to answers these questions. Tradition, the level of education and the need of the population for culture, the existence of an art markets and infrastructure that accompanies artistic production, all of the above determine the state in which printmaking as a medium exists in a certain country. If we have all this in mind and want to analyze the media in our country, as well as the representation and presentation of information about events in the field of visual arts, the causes for the lack of wider interest are evident. Often, the need for culture and fine arts is linked to certain, narrow circles of devotees, those for whom creativity and permanent consumption of cultural events are spiritual food. They are a negligible target group for a significant number of media, especially in the province, so their program policy is in line with these unfavorable statistics. Television and newspaper outlets follow exhibitions and events related to printmaking with varying interest. Usually the media is informed and reminded several times before it decides to send a journalist or television crew to cover an exhibition. Even if a TV station covers the exhibition, it will often never broadcast the clip. The situation is significantly different in Belgrade, compared to other parts of the country, which is understandable due to the presence and activities of a large number of media of different program orientation, as well as the diverse offer of cultural events.

Despite such a media situation, it is quite clear that there exists a vibrant activity of individual, well-known printmakers and those of younger generations, as well as curators and organizers. They are the protagonists of the current printmaking scene in Serbia. Despite the frequent inadmissible lack of understanding from the authorities to support institutions and important projects, and negligible money from the budget allocated for culture, the continuous activities of enthusiasts who do and cultivate the art of printmaking somehow manage to keep it relevant. They patiently work on popularizing this medium and attracting a new interested public. Furthermore, the annual exhibitions of printmaking provide an insight into the production in this country. Every year, at the exhibitions, we notice the participation of young artists who bring new ideas and a diversity of poetic approaches.

Communication and connection via the Internet, receiving and sending information, virtual presence of an event in real time, are the basis of established relations between different generations of artists. Prints are thus a part of our daily lives, so much that every event or new work created in the studio becomes news in the global information space. The communicativeness of the print, its ability to be a part of the current moment and remain authentic, enabled it to have an autonomous field of action.

Unquestionably we live in an age of changed aesthetics and especially violated ethical norms. Both concepts are closely interconnected and their erosion can significantly disrupt the structure, intellectual levels and capacity of any society. Therefore, the continuous effort of the artists to maintain and cultivate these values within their art is of essential importance. If we start from ourselves and analyze the flows of our own poetics, it is necessary to interpret our work in an objective way. Using printmaking to express ourselves implies a disciplined attitude of the artist and respect for a certain sequence of actions and a whole series of rules of technical-technological character. Its uniqueness is reflected in the requirements for a precise realization but also an achieved readability of content.

I have already written and published a text about my impressions of my one-month stay and work at the Tamarind Institute of Lithography in New Mexico in 2018. Meanwhile, the time distance has contributed to a clearer impression of experiences from this important place. They primarily deal with my participation in the activities of the Institute based on a clear concept and high professional criteria. I would like to point out that the Tamarind Institute was founded a whole decade after the founding of the Graphic Collective Gallery, however both institutions have in common a rich tradition and an invaluable contribution to the art of printmaking. It means decades of existence, research and struggle to popularize specific ways of expression and to promote artistic values. Although there are indisputable similarities between the Belgrade Graphic Collective and the Albuquerque Institute, it is necessary to say, that the attitude of the society and officials in charge of culture towards them differs significantly. The high reputation of the Graphic Collective Gallery has been secured by studious activities such as a well planned management policy, establishment of cooperation with numerous international artists, analyzes of various artistic discourses, numerous programs, organization of solo exhibitions and traditional collective ones, selection of laureates for prestigious awards it has established: Small Seal, Great Seal and Griffon. At the previously held symposium, one of the foreign participants stated "how he thinks that this is a gallery that is one of a kind and unique in Europe", and claims ... “that there is no gallery in Britain that is even close to the Graphic Collective”. Judging by the attitude of the local public, this and similar statements are not sufficient enough to raise awareness of the importance of the Graphic Collective and everything it has done and does in its endeavor to improve the level of printmaking in our country. Related to this and having in mind the fact that the attitude towards art is a mirror of the spiritual state of a nation, the Graphic Collective should be seen as a signpost showing the direction in which society should move. I want to believe that the understanding of the role of art and culture in a society will prevail in my country, and that institutions such as the Graphic Collective, as well as institutions dealing with culture in cities throughout Serbia will not only survive, but will be treated in accordance with their importance in the future.

The reality is that the budgets of the surrounding countries, as well as in some economically much more developed European countries, are decreasing and the financing of culture is becoming increasingly uncertain. The time of economic crisis, social and political upheavals directly and indirectly have negatively affected the overall artistic activity of the society. An ongoing pandemic has shown in a practical sense the extent to which an infectious disease can affect global life, paralyze people's activities, and finally bring into question the very existence of humans. The concrete results of the epidemic have also been reflected in the declining interest in works of art, disruption of the art markets, the inability to travel, establish new contacts and cooperation among artists.

Naturally, there is always a way an artist can sustain hope and his/her creative vitality. Apparently, printmaking quickly adapted to this unexpectedly dramatic situation. Works created in the print medium are communicative and suitable for exhibition. The possibility of sending prints on paper to organizers around the world has been extended to the dispatch of prepared files on the basis of which prints ready for presentation can be printed in the place of exhibition, in accordance with the requirements of the artist. Certainly, it is a much simpler and more practical procedure then e.g. transport of works on canvas or in sculptural forms. The print expresses the personal views of the artist in a direct and efficient way, conveys different poetic approaches and cultural patterns. Communication between artists and with institutions is intensified through applications, social networks and portals. To the extent possible, the works travel by mail and a significant number of printmaking manifestations have been moved from exhibition space to virtual space. Not the happiest solution, but at this moment the only possible way of exhibiting. Undoubtedly, the need of the audience for the ambience of the real exhibition space, the setting and the direct visual experience of art, will become a reality in the coming months.

My own experience of leading the Printmaking Workshop in Sićevo (Serbia) from 2006 to 2014, convinced me of the need for thorough preparations, good organization and precise implementation of planned activities. Participation of numerous artists - printmakers from our country, European countries, Canada and USA, has every time been a new challenge for the creative team of the Contemporary Fine Arts Gallery in Niš (GSLU), the organizers of this workshop. The efforts of this institution to conceptualize activities in Sićevo on the model of professional printmaking centers with tradition, such as the Belgrade Center for Graphics and Visual Research Academy or the Printmaking Art Colony in Smederevo (Serbia), are continuous. Also, colleagues close to this institution, with their experiences and concrete engagement, try to contribute to the quality of the workshop program in Sićevo. Establishing and cultivating contacts with participants from abroad (April Volmer, JoAnn Lanneville, Ulla Madsen, Marta Božyk, Élisabeth Mathieu, Michel Barzin, Roberto Gianinetti, Katherine Brimberry, Karen Kunc…) has resulted in a broader cooperation and search for a basic approach to innovative ideas. The Sićevo Printmaking Workshop, which was to be held at the end of June this year, was canceled for well-known reasons. The international character of the participants remains a well-established practice of this event.

The Niš Printmaking Circle (NGK), an association founded in 1994, is active despite exhibitions taking place at variable time intervals. Although it has organized five biennial international exhibitions of small prints and several guest exhibitions of artists from Niš in Bulgaria, Slovakia and Canada, this association survives only thanks to the fact that all engagement is based on volunteerism. For more than a decade, the activities of NGK have been supported by the Niš Gallery (GSLU), which provides professional and organizational assistance. The circle of artists in Niš dedicated to printmaking is noticeably increasing. Even after students graduate from art faculties, young authors continue their explorations in various techniques. There is a growing interest in obtaining printing presses, as well as a desire to participate and compete in important group exhibitions in the country and abroad. The organization of domestic and large international exhibitions will undoubtedly be the key events in the coming decades, which will profile new tendencies and the character of prints as an artistic medium. The artists’ inventiveness, a dynamic and authentic approach, will shape future works. There prints will be the outcome of exploration of the possibilities the printmaking medium offers while also opening opportunities for controversies about current processes and technological innovations. For decades now, the term print has not just meant a sheet of paper on which an image from a matrix has been printed. Within this context, new technical possibilities will continue to have an impact on printmaking, and significant and respectable manifestations, their authors and organizers, will certainly create space for an objective valorization of its significance.


Slobodan Radojković
Niš, 15 August, 2020

Translation from Serbian: Vanda Perović




Slobodan Radojković (1967, Niš), graduated at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Skopje, 1992. Post-graduate studies, graphic department, 1996, and doctoral studies, 2016, at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Arts, Belgrade. He is a professor, at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University in Niš, for graphic art and graphic art with technology. Member of ULUS 1993. More

radojkovic.slobodan@gmail.com
http://www.artf.ni.ac.rs/dr-slobodan-radojkovic/



 

 

 
 
 
 
   
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