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What is Contemporary Printmaking?

By Loo Foh Sang

Contemporary printmaking refers to the original prints created with intrinsic value. The Third International Congress of Plastic Arts, held in Vienna in 1960, formulated the “declaration on original works of graphic art” which encompasses the knowledge about prints, the standards, code, and formulae, and procedures for the knowledge of artistic value and trade practice in graphic art. Part of the content is as follows:

1. The artists may use materials such as stone, wood, metal

and silkscreen as plates for printmaking; images shall be

printed on paper.

2. Artists or those under the supervision of their masters

should make prints from their original plates.

3. Signing prints by the artist is usually done in pencil. The

traditional practice is for the inscription to be placed under the image, with the signature and date or year on the right, the title in the middle and the number of edition on the left.

These regulations are adhered to in international print exhibitions, with the exception for monotype and monoprint works. All the participating artworks must be signed, dated and have the number of edition stated. However, as print has gained increasing recognition as a major art form in modern society, the above-mentioned stringent regulations on prints are gradually relaxed. Today even monoprint is accepted to the international print exhibitions. Monoprint, as the term “mono” implies, means only one print is produced.

Loo Foh Sang, Malaysian Culture Series, 47x68cm, Intaglio & Relief Monoprint, 1996

In recent years, collectors have become confused about the originality of prints in the art market. Some prints are duplicated copies or reproduction of original oil paintings, watercolour paintings, drawings and even photographs. The prints have edition numbers and signatures of the artists or their descendants. The original artworks undoubtedly have intrinsic artistic value; however when they are made into prints for commercial purpose with high return, this will affect the value of the original artwork. The public should be clear about the differences between this kind of reproduction prints and the original print created by the print-maker.

Towards the 20th century, the advancement in science and technology has changed the mode of living and thoughts of mankind.

Loo Foh Sang, A Stream in Autumn, 47x68cm. Intaglio & Relief Monoprint, 1994

The emergence of alternative prints in various media of art creation has expanded the boundaries of print-making; literally any art form which has the characteristic of indirectness and repetition is encompassed as print. Thus, prints today comprise of monotype, monoprint, mixed media print and multiple print. Multiple print includes movie, photography, video and installation. On the other hand, artists exploring mixed media print may experiment with various materials and technology such as video, computer graphics and pretty much anything under the sun for creating art. Hence, contemporary printmaking has marched into an era of mixed media in multiple disciplines. Print plays an important role among modern art media and the influence of print on other art forms is enormous

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