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Vicky Tsalamata


Printmaking: A multifaceted art in the contemporary art scene

I have previous long bonds of cooperation and unique experiences with the city of Belgrade since 1998, when the Academy of Fine Arts of Belgrade awarded my work in the 5th International Biennial of Printmaking in Belgrade, and, as a result of such award, organized my private exhibition in Galerija Fakulteta Likovnih Umetnosti. (Gallery of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Belgrade University). Furthermore, in 2000 I participated as a guest artist in the 17th National and International Open Graphic Art Workshop, at the National Museum of Belgrade, a workshop organized for many years in a row by the art historian Vanja Kraut. Such cooperations have established strong bonds of friendship among the vast printmaking community in Belgrade.

After nine years since our meeting at the First Edition of this Symposium in Belgrade, titled “Printmaking at the Edge. Printmaking and its Borderline Areas in the 21st Century”, where several very interesting views and contributions on the progress of contemporary printmaking have been presented, once again we are called upon to define the new frame within which printmaking is evolving rapidly as a visual language. I believe that we are living an explosion of printmaking as a totally fertile visual language which is continuously evolving, through new narratives and a vast range of innovative procedures. In the light of new social, political, ecological, historical and religious circumstances, the artist becomes a spectator and an actor, choosing his own personal language to express himself. Printmaking has a preeminent position in this contemporary cultural scene and could be considered a phenomenon, reaching the limits of a new religion, with a continuously increasing number of faithful followers among visual artists. Temples, where printmaking today is a matter of research and continuous evolution, are all Art Institutions, Colleges of Arts, Faculties of Fine Arts and Universities worldwide, well known for their printmaking departments, international workshops and printmaking residencies.


Extroversion in Printmaking

The exchange of knowledge is very important in our day. Under conditions of an ever-moving reality in which we are living and creating art, a new sociocultural attitude is being formed with modern codes and the most distinctive feature of a transition from the private to the social, from introversion to extroversion. We should note the important role that for more than twenty years now plays the continuously increasing number of International Biennials and Triennials of Printmaking around the world, the International Workshops and Printmaking Residencies organized by institutions of education, museums and municipalities in Europe, U.S.A. and Asia.

Among the International Print Workshops of substantial reputation, I would like to mention the Curwen Print Studio at Linton Chilford Hall in Cambridge, now in London, and the Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop in Scotland, which are among the biggest printmaking studios in Europe, where experienced printmakers, acclaimed artists and young artists are experimenting on new forms of expression, exploring new horizons in contemporary printmaking.

I had the opportunity to work in both workshops: Curwen Studio Linton Chilford Hall, in 2010, where I experimented with the numerous possibilities of photolithography on zinc plates, and I had editioned a series of my work, the Utopian Cities, which is part of my project Cityscapes. The Curwen Studio is related to the development of the advanced lithographic printing process; its various collaborations with important artists during the 20th and 21st century have made their mark in the history of art.

The Edinburgh Printmakers workshop in Scotland is also a vibrant international hub of creativity, a place where artists share knowledge and expertise, while having the possibility to present their work in the vast exhibition space it offers. In 2006, I had the chance to work in that studio, experimenting with new ideas and possibilities of printmaking on polymers, acrylic printmaking and water-based intaglio and silkscreen printmaking, under the precious guidance of Alfons Bytautas and Alastair Clark, great artists-technicians.

The Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop was the only print studio, which for more than two decades has conquered and implemented all those innovative methods. Today it encourages artists to experiment with the new revolutionary method of actinism in printmaking, which is an intrinsic property in radiation that produces photochemical activity, enabling the development of techniques including photo etching, cyanotype, and photolithography.

I would also like to emphasize the role of international print residencies around the world, which are rapidly increasing in number and activities, such as programs of experimenting and research with the participation of many artists.

Print residencies become hubs of activity and meeting points where artists can exchange ideas and knowledge, while enabling them to edition their work. Some of the residencies are connected and supported by museums, municipalities and art institutions, aiming to encourage research towards innovative expressions and new visual ideas, in the field of graphic arts. They organize exhibitions to present to the public as well to art theorists and art historians the contemporary aspect of printmaking, through projects drawn up by artists in residence. In this spirit of creative connections there is also the idea of work exchanged among artists, apart from various offers to the Studio or to the host institution. Thus, new hubs for future collections are being formed, which I think will be an excellent material for anyone who wishes to study printmaking.

This extroversion of printmaking today is the main reason of its rapid evolution. Among the many new print residencies, I would like to mention the Guanlan Residency in Southern China, which was inaugurated in 2008 and is connected to the Guanlan International Print Triennial.

I would also like to focus on the importance of the Grafikwerkstatt Dresden, the Municipal Printmaking Studio in Dresden, Germany. It is a very well organized studio, well equipped with many etching and lithographic presses and a big offset printing machine. I had the opportunity to work there in the year 2018, on a series of works entitled Dream land, based on a poem by Edgar Alan PoeI have editioned my work using a combination of intaglio, algraphy and typography hand typesetting. My residency was part of a vast exchanging program between Grafikwerkstatt and art institutions; in my case the institution was the Faculty of Fine Arts Printmaking Department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.


Technical and conceptual developments have made printmaking a strong contender, an undoubted territory, within contemporary art

During the past two decades, printmaking has become part of the culture of digital rendering. The rise in new instruments, digital technologies, which are seen by some as a threat to the future of printmaking, have not replaced the traditional printmaking processes, on the contrary they have enriched the artist’s options and possibilities.

The digitalization of the image, which is one of the highest technological conquests in image making, in printmaking, the importance of the pixel manipulation related to the innovative use of photography, the new revolutionary method, known as actinism, which is connected to the evolution of photography, is linked to the new and dynamic attitude of printmaking as a multifaceted art, building up its new landscape in the contemporary scene. Nowadays printmaking seems to be ever present.

Printmaking is a contemporary art praxis open towards all aspects of art in today’s global art scene.


The social role of Printmaking: International Printmaking Biennials and Triennials

In the history of art, printmaking, more than any other art form, records and testifies social and historical phenomena in the history of mankind. Jacques Callot has created over 1.400 etchings that chronicled life of his time and the horror of war in the famous series of works entitled "The Miseries and Misfortunes of War", as well as Francisco Goya in his series, “The Disasters of War”.

Today, into the multicultural area of modern art, we find that printmaking is involved in contemporary issues, deep concerns on financial and moral crisis, which have emerged during the previous decade, such as the relation of man with the common faith of the world beyond borders and discriminations, population movements, immigration, dispersion and displacement, civil wars, war and trauma, loss, death, the danger of ecological disaster, everyday issues concerning the globe, in an everchanging community.

Here, more than ever, we recognize the role of international Graphic Arts Biennials and Triennials, which become information centers for the contemporary printmaking dealing with new conceptual concerns, innovated mediums and visual concepts.

Conceptual considerations of the artist demand solutions and creation of methods and techniques which often lead printmaking beyond its limits. An important factor for the evolution of printmaking is the way the artist of today looks into the world, creating his own perspective and proposing solutions for the visualization of problems that preoccupy him. New images of printmaking today refer to print installations, printed works in space, combination of printed matter and digital imaging, videos, print animation, photography, sound, motion. This is the pluralistic visual aspect of printmaking today that we get from international exhibitions around the world.


New experimentations in printmaking

I would like to report on the work of some artists in the field of expanded printmaking, such as Derek Michael Besant from Alberta, Canada, who works on large scale projects, print installations and other projects for public spaces, using photography and new technologies. In his work, The Dark Woods, he uses for his images UV thermal transfer printing, while in another thematic work of his, Drawing Conclusions, he uses lenticular and latex UV inkjet technologies.


Derek Michael Besant, In-Visible


Alexandra Haeseker, who is also a Canadian artist, creates print installations as well as outdoor installations. She experiments with the continual developing of inkjet technologies, combining traditional methods with the latest implementations of technology. In her printmaking installation, The Botanist’s Daughter, which was presented in the year 2020 at her solo exhibition for Edinburgh Printmakers, where she worked and completed her project, she shows vibrant hyper-real representations of plants and insects, using among other techniques the Actinic – Photography in her printmaking.


Alexandra Haeseker, Project, The Botanist’s Daughter 2020


The Belgian artist Ingrid Ledent, in her project The Continuous Living of Memory, combines lithography with digital print.


My recent projects

I am working on projects consisting of different series of prints. In my work I combine traditional and innovated intaglio processes, photography, photolithography and digital technology.
In the series: Life is wildly unpredictable, can we talk about it?, that I presented at the Krakow-Vienna Triennial, Constantinople, Falun Sweden in 2013, in Dresden, during my residency, and at the International Printmaking Douro Biennial in Portugal in 2018, I am dealing with the relation between Life as a human experience and life as Life of the Universe. I speak of the social exclusion, the political corruption and the economic fundamentalism. Those were issues that tormented Greece during the dark period of memoranda.


   

V. Tsalamata, Life is Wildly Unpredictable Can we talk about it? 100x140 cm


The series: Can We Breathe? is the main topic of the second part of the project, where I address the decline of values during the post-memoranda period. It was presented at the International Douro Global Print in Portugal, in the year 2017. It is a combination of microphotography and dry point, digitally manipulated and printed. I have used images of traces and cuts from my skin and selected traces from my etching plates, in order to identify the meaning of the trauma.


   

© V. Tsalamata, Life is like a slow deep Breath. Can we Breath??? 2017, 100x140 cm


Synapsis, the “invisible order” that embodies shapes is a print installation including a series of archival digital prints of large dimensions, combined with sculptures.
In this series I comment on the influence of social networks in our lives, the dynamic of those networks and the way they intertwine with human relationships; I also raise the issue of Internet and the ways it has enhanced the development of new types of connections that previously were not feasible.
This project is developed in two fields: Printmaking and Sculpture. For the sculptural series I have used stoneware clay. The project was presented in 2019 at the Global Print Douro International Print Exhibition, and in 2020, at the International Douro Print Biennial.


               

© V. Tsalamata: SYNAPSIS PROJECT. The “invisible order” that embodies shapes 2018, 150x100 cm

     

 

© V. Tsalamata: SYNAPSIS PROJECT. The “invisible order” that embodies shapes 2018, stoneware clay sculpture and installation


The pulse of printmaking in the heart of Athens

The city of Athens has been designated by UNESCO as the World Book Capital for 2018-2019.
Galleries, museums, academic institutions, artists, inspired by the world of books, organize important exhibitions of contemporary printmaking and art book shows.
Printmaking enjoys a better position than the past decade in Greece and particularly in the university centres of Athens, Thessaloniki and Florina. At the Athens School of Fine Arts, the Printmaking Department with its two Studios, A’ and B’, offer five-year courses aiming to a Diploma in Fine Arts - Printmaking (Bachelor of Arts).
Most printmakers have their own print studios.
Since the 70’s, Greek visual artists, printmakers have an international presence in Print Biennials including Ljubljana, Krakow, Warsaw, Tokyo, etc. In 2016 the Theogony Hellenic Ex Libris Society, which comprises of artists, collectors and art critics, became the 21st member of the International FISAE. Major cultural institutions collect prints for their collections, by both established and emerging young artists and present their acquisitions in temporary exhibitions. I would mention the National Gallery, the Municipal Gallery of Athens, the Cultural Foundation of the National Bank of Greece and the Alpha Bank. There are four private Printmaking Museums in the country.
Over more than five decades, printmaking in Greece has evolved into an autonomous field of contemporary art with its own rules and expression.


     

© V. Tsalamata. The Wall, print installation, floor space, 150x600 cm


The Municipal Gallery of Athens

The museum houses a rich collection of approximately 3,000 works, including over 900 prints. Regularly it presents some major exhibitions of contemporary printmaking. In 2019 it hosted the exhibition Japan and the Book- Ukiyo-e, featuring works from the collections of the Asian Art Museum of Corfu.


The Melina Cultural Centre of the Municipality of Athens

Since 2012 it has presented all editions of the Athens International Print Festival, organized by the Greek Printmakers’ Association, and hosted ex-libris exhibitions. In 2016 it has presented the major exhibition Athens School of Fine Arts, Printmaking Studio B’, sixteen years of research in printmaking, accompanied by a series of lectures and print workshops.


Printmaking Studio B’ of the Athens School of Fine Arts, 1999-2016.

I have had the pleasure of teaching as Full Professor of Printmaking and heading the 2nd Printmaking Studio of the Athens School of Fine Arts for 16 years, 1999-2016. During this years, the Studio B’ has defined itself by a wide range of visions and practices within the contemporary printmaking discourse. It has been a hub of research and experimentation with the use of innovative printmaking methods and the latest digital technology.


     

     

Printmaking Studio B’, Athens School of Fine Arts. Project: The Palimpsest Cities, 2015
© The Melina Cultural Centre, Athens, 2016. Athens School of Fine Arts, Printmaking Studio B’ Exhibition


The teaching staff has established collaborations with European and American universities. The Studio B’ is fully equipped for Intaglio Printmaking, Flexography, Polymer Printmaking, Silkscreen, Lithography, Photolithography and Typography. The educational activity comprised also many students’ thematic exhibitions, under professor’s supervision, in Institutions, Museums and Exhibition Centers.


     

© The Melina Cultural Centre, Athens, 2016. Athens School of Fine Arts, Printmaking Studio B’ Exhibition
Stoa to Bibliou Exhibition Space, Athens, 2018, Exlibris International Print Exhibition of the Theogony Society, 2019


Closing my presentation, I would like to share with you my belief that as we conquer a peak and cross its boundary, the horizon in front of us is widening and calls us for new great achievements, Behind the Edge.

Vicky Tsalamata
Emeritus Professor of Printmaking, Athens School of Fine Arts
September 2020




Vicky Tsalamata (Athens) Studies: Accademia di Belle Arti di Bologna, Italy; Master of Art in Printmaking, University College of London, Slade; School of Fine Arts, London; Paper Art, London College of Printing, London. She is Emeritus Professor of Printmaking at the Athens School of Fine Arts. She has had many solo and group exhibitions in Greece and abroad. She was Head of the ASFA 2d Printmaking Studio, 1999 - 2016, which during her teaching became a high standard center for experimental and innovative printmaking, including non-toxic and digital practices.
Awards: 1980 1st Printmaking Prize, VIII Concorso Internazionale di Pittura e Grafica, Città di Serra San Quirico, Ancona, Italy; 1985 1st Fine Arts and Letters Society Prize, Panhellenic Printmaking Competition, Athens; 1989 Printmaking Award “Artitudes“ 89, International Art Competition, New York, USA; 1999 Belgrade Academy of Fine Arts Award, 5th Belgrade International Printmaking Biennial, 1998-1999, Serbia; 2008 2nd Printmaking Prize, 1st Print Triennial Bridges between the Mediterranean and the Baltic, Helios Printmaking Centre, Municipality of Neapolis, Thessaloniki. More

tsalamata.vicky@hotmail.com
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